Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three-Mushroom Bourguignon

I recently attended the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA.  The town and festival were both a real treat.  The town center is charming and quaint with several interesting restaurants and boutiques in the immediate vicinity of the main strip.  Talula's Table is worth mentioning considering the notoriety the restaurant has achieved.  As explained in this Saveur article, reservations for the restaurant have to be made a year in advance for the sole table of the night to enjoy their solitary prix fixe BYOB dinner.  Kennett Square is known as the mushroom capital of the world because the surrounding region produces over a million mushrooms a week.  If you ever drive through this area during mushroom season, as I have, your olfactory senses will be assaulted with one of the most unpleasant odors imaginable.  For the sake of comparison, it's much worst than anything you might encounter on the New Jersey Turnpike.  The odor is caused by the composting of mushrooms, which releases moisture and ammonia.  This is a point of contention for many PA suburbanites in mushroom farming communities.

So, take a wild guess at the foods available at the Mushroom Festival.  Mushroom Ice Cream.  Check. Mushroom Soup.  Check.  Fried Mushrooms.  Check.  Mushroom Chili.  Check.  Grilled Mushrooms.  Check.  I even had a mushroom ice cream bar w/frozen slices of button mushrooms that was surprisingly good.  It was truly a mushroom lover's dream.  When I made mushroom bourguignon with portabello, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms, I was transformed back to the festival.  It's the perfect rich, comforting dish to highlight mushrooms.  The recipe below is adapted from Smitten Kitchen by way of The Taste Space.

Three-Mushroom Bourguignon


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/4-in slices
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/4-in slices
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1/4-in slices
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I prefer Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon Cubes)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, washed and peeled
  • Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish
  • Buttered eggs noodles, potatoes, or crusty bread, for serving


Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat.  Add all mushrooms to the pot and sear until they begin to darken, but not yet releasing any liquid--about three to four minutes.  Remove them from pan and set aside.  

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Toss the onion, carrots, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up to reduce it by half.  Stir in the tomato paste and the broth.  Add the reserved mushrooms, with any juices that have collected, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are fork tender.  Add the pearl onions and simmer for an another five minutes.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew.  Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.  Season to taste.

Serve the stew with buttered egg noodles, potatoes, or crusty bread.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives or parsley.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tipsy Apple Fruit Roll-Ups

Homemade applesauce is a comfort food.  It reignites those childhood memories when I would go crazy over a pot of hot, chunky applesauce.  Quite naturally, one of my favorite things to make with a batch of apples is homemade applesauce.  A huge perk to making applesauce is it's healthier than almost any other apple recipe (contingent on the fact that you keep the sugar additions to a minimum) and you have the versatility to eat the applesauce plain or incorporate it into other dishes.

The apples used in this recipe mostly came from a tasting of local Maryland apples at work.  Unfortunately, I don't remember all the varieties.  There was certainly a few Golden Delicious, a MacIntosh or two, a sweet variety, a tart variety, and one variety that turned out to be quite mealy.  Mealy apples are ideal for cooking and baking since most people do not enjoy eating them and the cooking process helps to break them down and release their natural juices.

Drunken Applesauce

When I make something like applesauce, I don't follow an exact process so I don't have an exact recipe.     So, here's a guide to my Drunken Applesauce:

  1. Wash, peel, core, and chop 6-8 medium apples
  2. In a large pot, combine apples, 1 cup water, a pat of butter, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp Allspice, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 3 tbsp cinnamon, 1/3 cup brown sugar,  1/4 cup regular sugar, 1/2 cup brandy, 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.  
Cook's Notes:  1.) If you use sweet apples, you can reduce or eliminate the sugar.  2.) While it's fine to use regular brandy (like I did), apple brandy is ideal.  3.) I usually add orange juice and orange zest to my applesauce.  I didn't have any on hand the day I made this, but I highly recommend including about 3/4 cup of orange juice and 1 tbsp orange zest.  

Tipsy Apple Fruit Roll-Ups

So, here's my 30-second elevator speech on the utility of applesauce.  Applesauce is often used as a substitute for oil in baking, a meal pairing with pork, and it is easily incorporated into a variety of sweet and savory dishes.  In the past, I've baked apple bread using applesauce.  I recently made one of my favorite smoothies--Pineapple and Apple Smoothie--with sliced pineapples, applesauce, pineapple and apple juices, and shaved ice.  However, I think one of the most distinct uses of applesauce is fruit leather.  

While I am calling these Tipsy Apple Fruit Roll-Ups due to the brandy and Triple Sec in the applesauce, all of the alcohol cooks off during the cooking process so they are actually kid friendly.  This is also a super easy, kid-friendly recipe.  The most difficult thing about fruit leather is preparing the baking sheet and cutting/rolling up the fruit leather afterwards.  

Tipsy Apple Fruit Roll-Ups

  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 2 tbsp key lime marmalade

Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature setting (170º for me).  Heat the key lime marmalade in the microwave for about 20 seconds or until melted.  Combine with the applesauce and set aside.  

Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat, nonstick aluminum foil, or plastic wrap.  I used plastic wrap with great results.  Use a spatula to spread the applesauce mixture in the baking pan into a thin layer.  Bake for 4 to 5 hours or until dehydrated and the mixture remains firm to a finger's touch.  

Transfer to a rack and let the fruit leather cool completely.  Peel off the mat/foil/plastic wrap.  Lay the leather on a sheet of wax paper with the smooth side facing down.  Use a pizza cutter, kitchen shears, or a sharp knife to cut the leather into strips.  Roll up the strips and store in a mason jar.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mexican Fiesta Tempeh Salad w/Queso Blanco

I tend to cook with music in the background or I'm jamming away with a headset.  My kitchen is lively and energetic.  In fact, every meal has its own soundtrack.  I become one with the music and the energy feeds my creative process.  Cooking is definitely not a chore for me, and I try to make it as fun as possible.

Here lately, I've become a total NPR junkie and I'd be lying if I said I was listening to anything else on the day I created this salad.   However, I must say that this salad has the spirit and soul of Ozomatli--the crafty Latin band that blends funk, salsa, hip hop, cumbia, merengue, and the soul of L.A.

Mexican Fiesta Tempeh Salad w/Queso Blanco


  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 package of tempeh
  • garlic powder
  • cumin
  • onion powder
  • 1 block queso blanco
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 bag romaine lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons pico de gallo
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • 1 bottle Southwest Chipotle Dressing*
  • 1 bag Sante Fe Style tortilla strips
  • 1 avocado
* I used this salad dressing as a base and enhanced the flavor by blending it with tamarind paste, olive oil, cilantro, pico de gallo, vinegar, and lime juice in the blender.


Preheat oven to 400ºF.  In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the garlic and chili powder.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the garlic just begins to turn golden.  Add the black beans and stir to coat with the garlic and curry powder.  Add the salt and pepper.  Stir to combine and turn out the black beans into a large, shallow baking pan.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crunchy.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Then, cut the tempeh into thin strips or cubes.  Season to taste with garlic powder, cumin, and onion powder, about 2 to 3 shakes per seasoning.  Heat 1 tbsp olive in the frying pan used for the beans.  Cook the the tempeh over medium heat until golden brown.  Set aside.  

Cut a strip of 1" thick queso blanco from the cheese block.  Cut into half.  In a frying pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium low heat.  Cook queso blanco on both sides until brown and crust forms.  Cut into smaller pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 2 handfuls of romaine lettuce (or enough for one salad), pico de gallo, cilantro, 3 to 4 pieces of tempeh, 1/4 cup black beans, and salad dressing (about 2 tablespoons).  Mix well.  Transfer to a serving plate.  Top with tortilla strips, fried queso blanco pieces, and avocado slices.  Enjoy!