magic mushrooms

I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the mushroom family. I searched through my recipe archives, and not one dish on here highlights mushroom as the chief ingredient. Not one. Unless you count the sloppy Joes from last year, and I still vote that those are more “beefy” than they are “mushroomy”. Also, I still vote that the cans of Manwich are f-ing awesome. Judge not.

So we’re back to this – a first, of sorts – a sandwich with a key ingredient – a big ol’ fatty chunk of a portobello mushroom. Watch out, people.

I’d like to also add though, that the pesto is certainly something to “shake a stick at”, too. Chris and I spent a good part of a recent Saturday morning cooking together for our second bout of our Turntable Kitchen subscription (the first included an excellent cioppino, if you missed the post). We rocked out to some lovely tunes (including Biggie Smalls! yes! and also some lesser knowns that I’m sure will lead to album purchases) and got our bags packed for one of our very favorite picnics yet.

If you’re in the Bay area when the sky is clear (which is most certainly a crap shoot in the summer, for sure), head over to Lands’ End, essentially the furthest you can go northwest in SF without falling into the ocean. Don’t steal our picnic spot, which is top secret, because it’s so awesome and we’ll go there as much as possible, but search carefully for lovely patches of land to plop down onto. You might have to do a little shimmie down some dirt to get to the spot, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.

If you aren’t in the Bay area, just go have a picnic somewhere else for cryin’ out loud. Picnics are fun almost anywhere, except maybe a swamp, or during high-tide, or a heavy sandstorm in the desert, but you know what I mean, right? Pack a hearty lunch and some snacks, too. You’ll want to stay a while. Also, pack some sunscreen, because I forgot and almost couldn’t focus on my Temper Trap concert later that night as a result of severe burning of the insides of my legs. Especially the right one.

I pulled through and enjoyed it, in case you were wondering…

Even if you’re a meat-eater, make sure this exact sandwich is packed – you won’t regret it. And toss in a small grain salad with some quinoa, farro, or even just peaches and lettuce. A soda? Or just some nice, cold rosé (we opted for both). If you have any treats stowed away in the freezer, this is a perfect time to take that out at the last minute, throwing it on top of all your other goodies because it was the best last-minute idea ever (in my case, it was a slice of that awesome Earl Grey cake).

At the end of the day, you’ll have a hard time figuring out your favorite part of the meal, because it’s all just ten times better, and so magical, when you’re eating it outside. And atop it all, the best part of that is the company (well…. maybe the view…if it was as awesome as ours!).

Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches
adapted from Turntable Kitchen; makes 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
pesto
1 c arugula
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1/2 c walnuts
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 c grated Manchego cheese
1/3 c olive oil
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

sandwiches
2 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
olive oil
arugula for putting on sandwiches, optional
1 fresh loaf of ciabatta bread

instructions
make the pesto. combine arugula through cheese in a food processor. add some of the olive oil and process until smooth, adding more olive oil by the tablespoon if needed. add a squeeze of lemon juice, then adjust taste with salt and pepper as needed. process one last time until smooth.

oil and preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. salt and pepper the mushrooms and brush lightly with oil. grill whole for about 5 minutes on each side, until tender. meanwhile, cut ciabatta loaf in half to create the top and bottom sandwich pieces. I like to scoop out some of the bread (which you can grind up and use for bread crumbs) so the sandwich isn’t so ‘bread’) slather pesto sauce onto the bottom of the bread (using almost all of the loaf, but save some for another use if you have a large loaf. you just want enough for the two mushrooms to cover, which will result in good-sized sandwiches but not ginormous.) and then add arugula, if using. put mushrooms atop arugula and then close the loaf and cut into 4 equal sized sandwiches.

Battle Citrus: Locked & Loaded


[left to right: citrus slushy, lemon-thyme cakes, hearts of palm + citrus salad, citrus-glazed chicken wings, beef sliders, hurricanes, ceviche, brown butter lemon popcorn, citrus tofu pie]

I’m not sure what’s going on with my immune system, but that thing has been made of steel since moving out to California. Not that I was ever a person who got sick often, maybe 2-3 times a year after leaving a job in pediatrics (those damn kids and their germs!), but still. So far, the sick count is a whopping zilch, zero, nada. I’m sure my time is coming, especially now with all this “cold” weather and rain, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Of course, it is officially citrus time, so maybe the extra doses of vitamin C will further combat any wonky sickness that might be coming my way. We’ll see.


[top left: blood orange crostata, bottom left: citrus cake, right: fried chicken wings + lemonade]

I almost titled this post the “anti-Scurvy” battle, but I had a last-minute change of heart. I like “locked and loaded” better, since what I mean here, is that we are now locked and loaded with vitamin C which is, in itself, anti-Scurvy. You see? Good. And it sounds more menacing, which I dig. Menacing, but at the same time totally pointless, since it would take a whole helluva lot of vitamin C deprivation to cause scurvy. Just ask the sailors.

Anywho, after what felt like an eternally long hiatus, we had Battle 3 of SF Iron Chef a couple of weekends ago, and Fancy Chef Winner Molly (too long?) chose citrus, which is an amazing selection for this time of year (clearly, because grapefruits are from Paradise, remember?). Back in Chicago, we had a Battle Grapefruit in early Winter, and it was also amazing – not nearly as heavy as Roots + Tubers, that’s for sure.

I honed in and focused on two things this time around: lemons and Meyer lemons. I almost made an amazing citrus cheesecake, but since Chris and I were stupid enough to do another juice cleanse that just happened to finish up on Friday, I couldn’t fathom making a cheesecake on Friday night whereby I could not stick my whole face into the bowl to lick the excess. Something tells me that might have canceled out three days of all those vitamins and nutrients.

[On a quick tangent though, we tried the juice cleanse through Urban Remedy this time around (they had a groupon back in December) and most of the juices were really tasty. Not sure if I’ll be doing another cleanse any time soon, but if I did I’d use them again.]

So yeah – lemons lemons lemons. First off was a quick spin on air-popped popcorn – I tossed it with a lemon brown butter sauce with lots of lemon zest. YUM. But the main recipe for me was the sliders. It worked nicely, because I was definitely craving some meat after three days of juice and two days before of vegan life, which I do not prefer. I made a Meyer lemon pesto for the topping and a Meyer lemon-herb butter that was shoved inside the patty and brushed atop the homemade buns.

Since we had our little shindig at Judy’s work (The Culinary Edge), we had full use of a professional kitchen, which brought back all kinds of memories of culinary school, like navigating through a foreign kitchen, walking into an entire refrigerator, setting up the sanitizing station for dishwashing, and of course – a shitload of food all around us. Good times. But it also meant I got to grill my tasty sliders right before service the Battle. They turned out just as I’d imagined – juicy, fresh, and ultra-lemony.

Sadly though, they weren’t good enough to win. We have yet another fancy food cooker in our group now (which pardon my sarcasm, I really do like having professional and non-professional cooks at Iron Chef, because it makes us all try just a little bit harder) and he AND his girlfriend took the 1 and 2. Dang. My buddy, Liz, pulled into the top three with her beautiful citrus cake though. It was my favorite of the night.

The Top 3:

1. Jeff’s fried chicken wings with spicy citrus hot sauce and lemonade
2. Dana’s blood orange crostata
3. Elizabeth’s citrus cake with lemon curd filling

I could have sworn the sliders were #4. Just sayin’. And yes, we finally remembered a group shot. And never mind that long, scraggly hair of mine – it was definitely time for a little trimmy trim trim.

So here’s the deal: there are a lot of components to this dish, but most are very easy. You can definitely purchase store-bought slider buns unless you want to make your own. I went the all-authentic route to rack up scoring points, but you don’t need those in real life, at least usually. The first “printable version” link is for ALL components, but you can also print out components piece by piece if you are using them for something different. The pesto goes well on anything, that’s for sure. So does the butter.

And yes, folks. I am aware that the links on my site are hard to click on. They do work though – you just have to oh-so-gingerly hover over them a couple of times. I have no idea why this is happening lately, but can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. Remember – gingerly hover. :).

update – I DID figure it out! apparently my Facebook plug-in somehow interfered with the workability of the links. go figure. anyway, that is gone and the links are back and working like a charm, so click away!

and speaking of clicking, check out Kenna’s post on her very own, inaugural Iron Chef Leelanau (Michigan). Kenna and I met through our blogs, and both went to the same culinary school at slightly different times. She and Michael attended a few Chicago Iron Chefs, and she moved from Chicago to Michigan (and had a baby. a baby during a move!) earlier this year. They had Iron Chef Battle Citrus too – what a crazy coincidence! Kenna also won her first Iron Chef with us (well, her husband claimed the dish…), so maybe that strong competitive streak is paying off for her, right Kenna?!

 

Beef Sliders with Lemon Butter & Lemon Pesto
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16 sliders

time commitment: 30 minutes (with components made in advance)

printable version (all recipes)

ingredients
2 lbs beef, 15% fat
lemon butter (recipe below)
salt and pepper
lemon pesto (recipe below)
16 slider buns (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
handful of baby arugula
2 small tomatoes

instructions
divide meat into 16 2-oz portions. stuff a 1/2″ cube of lemon butter into the center of each portion. shape each portion into a thin burger patty. season with salt and pepper.

heat grill to medium high. grill sliders for 3 minutes on each side. top with lemon pesto, tomato, and arugula on a slider bun and serve.

 

Lemon Butter

time commitment: 35 minutes (most is chilling butter)

printable version (butter only)

ingredients
3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper

instructions
using a fork, mix all ingredients together. place butter on a piece of saran wrap, roll into a log shape, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.

 

Lemon Pesto

time commitment: 5 minutes

printable version (pesto only)

ingredients
2 c basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c pine nuts
zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

instructions
in a food processor, combine basil through lemons and pulse until combined. slowly add olive oil until fully incorporated, finish by adding cheese and season with salt and pepper.

 

Brioche-style Slider Buns
adapted from GroupRecipes.com; makes 18

time commitment: 3 hours (most is inactive, rising time)

printable version (buns only)

ingredients
3 T warm milk
2 t active dry yeast
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
2 large eggs (1 for optional egg wash)
3 c bread flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, softened

instructions
In a glass measuring cup, combine one c warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg into another small dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl, if doing by hand), whisk flours with salt. Add butter and mix into flour, resulting in a crumb-like dough. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg into the flour mixture. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn on low-medium; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and once it comes together, dump it onto a floured surface and knead about 8-9 minutes by hand. The dough will be on the sticky side but try not to add more flour unless you absolutely have to.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 equal pieces (mine were about 1.6 oz each, if you want to weigh them). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. If using the egg wash, beat the second egg and brush onto the rolls before baking (I brushed some melted lemon butter onto mine). Once rolls have risen, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.