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.

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Enough To Make You Nuts

Since the grocery store trips were off-limits this week, the cooking has been a bit scarce. Last night, I had a bowl of cereal for dinner. The night before, Judy and I attended a GrubWithUs dinner at a weird restaurant. Tonight, I’m polishing off a hearty TV dinner, and I might dig into a couple of bites of that ice cream from way back when. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it’s still there either – let’s just say I’m making each and every bite count. (Update – yeah, that happened. And now the ice cream is kaput.)

But when a coworker brought in a bag of zucchini, despite the scarcity of food that caused me to resort to the microwave, I had dessert on the brain instead.

It’s normal to think of dessert when you have zucchini in your hands, isn’t it? Sure, zucchini fries are great, too, and so is plain ol’ raw zucchini with cheese, but let’s be honest – dessert is never a bad idea (except with okra, as evidenced by the Iron Chef America I just watched). My buddy Jennifer makes a killer gluten-free zucchini bread, and since we’re over half a country away from her now, I don’t get to partake in it. Quite honestly, it’s almost enough to make us move back – but not quite. I’m afraid I’ve already gotten too accustomed to the warmish weather and would freak in five minutes of Chicago summer humidity, and one minute on a February day (plus, we’re seeing them again in 14 days!).

When I volunteered to take a couple of green tubers (are zucchini tubers?!) from work earlier this week, I had two potential recipes in my mind. One is a zucchini cornbread I’ve had stashed away in a pile of recipe clippings for a while now, and while I do love my cornbread (there’s a story behind that), I didn’t see the sense in making it to eat with cereal. I prefer cornbread alongside fried chicken, or something that I can dip it in, and milk just doesn’t appeal. The other recipe was a breakfast/dessert quick bread thing – what you see here. I saw it on Tara’s site a couple of weeks ago (the same site that reminded me of the chocolate ice cream – a theme, perhaps?), and that, I thought, was perfect for two reasons. One, I could take a loaf to work the next day as a payback for free zucchini, and two, it made two loaves (quick bread recipes always do, don’t they?!) which meant the other got frozen, with the thought that it’ll come in handy next weekend when our guests are in town.

The downside to making rich, chocolatey zucchini bread at 10 PM? It keeps you up at night – you smell it cooking for the almost-hour, and when it comes out, you still can’t eat it because it has to cool. And by that point, it’s bedtime and your teeth are brushed (although that usually doesn’t stop me…). Of course, there’s also the ‘I already mentioned I was making this yesterday so I can’t eat it because I’ll feel guilty at work all day’ thing too. Then, the fact that you’ve filled up your tiny house with the smell of the stuff, so much so that it wafts into your room and into your face, even when it’s buried underneath the covers and your cat is sitting on your head, is enough to make you nuts.

Of course, most of us aren’t that dramatic, are we?

ps – we’re off to Sedona for a few days. I’ll be taking a tiny blog break, and when I’m back, I’m planning to cut back to weekly posts. We’ll see how it goes, but this twice-a-week thing is getting hard. BUT! I think it’s time for a meat-heavy recipe, so I’ll work on that over the next little while too. Sound good? Thanks. Now, go eat some zucchini ;). 

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread
Adapted, barely, from Seven Spoons; makes 2 loaves

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes (25 minutes active, 50 minutes baking time)

this is a relatively straightforward quick bread, which means you essentially mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another, then you combine. you don’t need a mixer or anything fancy, either. i’m guessing these would make great muffins as well, just that they’d obviously cook a lot less. as for the zucchini, since it’s a rather wet veggie, it’s not a bad idea to squeeze a little of the moisture into a towel, once shredded – don’t wring it out or anything crazy, but just a gentle squeeze or two will do ya fine.

printable version

ingredients
Softened butter or cooking spray, for pans
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c white spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 c cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
1 c chopped walnuts, toasted
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips (it’s ok if you eat a few…)
1/2 c olive oil
1 c well-shaken buttermilk
2 eggs
1 1/2 c turbinado sugar
2 t vanilla extract
4 c shredded zucchini (2 regular zucchini measure about 3.5 c, which is what I used)

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lubricate two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with softened butter or spray. Use a length of parchment to line the bottom and long sides of the pan, forming a sling, and lightly butter/spray the parchment as well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chopped walnuts and chocolate. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil and buttermilk. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Stir in the zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir until combined, taking care not over mix (you want to mix until the flour dissolves into the wet dough, but no further). Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake, rotating once, until a cake tester inserted into the loaf comes out almost clean, which should be around 45-50 minutes. Cool loaves in their pans on a rack for 20 minutes, then grasp the edges of the parchment to ease the bread out.

Banana-fana-fo-fuffins

I used to eat Luna Bars for breakfast every day. The chocolate-raspberry and caramel nut brownie were my two favorites, with the cookies n’ cream and the peppermint bars taking a very close 3rd and 4th, respectively. I used to buy 20 bars at a time, stocking up every 4 weeks and driving the checkout clerks at Whole Foods bonkers, at least the ones who rang up each flavor separately. I preferred the ones who cheated, gave me the “10% off case discount”, and rang them up all at once.

After the 1-2 year Luna phase (not to be confused with a ‘lunar phase’, which is related to the illuminated portion of the moon and is much less than 2 years…), I went into oatmeal phase and stayed there, switching between Quaker and Kashi brands, for almost a year. I grew tired of washing my oatmeal bowl at work every morning, and those days when I didn’t wash it, I felt icky and it was harder to wash the next time, further enhancing the annoyance. And plus, homemade oatmeal for dinner, laden with brown sugar, dried cranberries, and walnuts, is much better, and I like to do that once a week to keep the oatmeal vibe alive ;).

Then those granola bars, those lovely granola bars, came into my life. I make different versions of them regularly, recently using barley in place of oats (more protein & fiber) and dried blueberries for the fruit (which ain’t cheap, so that won’t happen often, that’s for sure). They are perfectly chewy but still crunchy, healthy but still somewhat sweet and tasty, and most importantly they are filling.

I’m still in granola bar phase, but every so often it’s nice to rotate something into the weekly mix, and generally that rotation includes muffins. I was inspired by a plethora of posts using bananas and chocolate chips over the past few weeks, including David’s banana cake and Kristin’s banana chocolate walnut cake, and set out to make a healthy breakfast version to use some bananas I’d frozen (cryogenic-style, to preserve their ripeness) a couple of weeks ago.

[For those of you turning your nose up, stop it. Right this instant. Those ‘naners are perfectly edible and when baking, the darker they are, the better. I like to let them get really dark before freezing them, as they’re most tasty at that point.]

I’m also recently turned on by non-all-purpose flours, and after a little research I surmised that bananas and spelt flour would be soulmates, or something. Ironically, I’d just bought some for a focaccia recipe (stay tuned, friends), so out of the freezer the ‘naners came and after a little thawing, straight into the oven they went, along with some spelt flour, some walnuts, and chocolate (banana’s other soulmate; it has more than one..).

The end result? Like I said, a match made in heaven, for certain.

Have any of you used spelt flour? And if so, what for?

Mo’ breakfast:
Tomato-Poached Eggs
Homemade Granola Bars
Oat Bran & Fruit Muffins

 

Muffins, Muffins, bo-buffins,
Banana-fana fo-fuffins,
Fee-fi-mo-muffins,
Muffins!

 

Spelt Banana-Chocolate-Walnut Muffins
Adapted from Wednesday Food Blogging

printable version

Did I mention these lil’ muffins are vegan? Probably not, since I’m not a vegan. It just sorta happened that way, as I was searching for ultra-healthy adaptations. And FYI, the flax seeds are a great substitute for eggs that provide loads of fiber and omega-3’s (1 T ground flax seeds + 3 Tbsp water (or other liquid) = 1 egg). Lovely even for us non-vegans.
ingredients
2 tablespoons organic flax seeds, ground
1/4 cup water
1 cup wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 c chocolate chips, optional
1 T dark Jamaican rum
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup walnut oil (or vegetable oil)

 

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside. Whisk ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl; set aside.

Combine spelt flour through chocolate chips in small bowl. Combine rum, bananas, sugar and walnut oil in a larger bowl, add flax mixture. Add dry ingredients, a half cup at a time, and stir until combined. Pour into prepared muffin tins and bake for ~30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean. If necessary, cover with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.

*Of note, various sites claim that, although spelt flour is not gluten-free, it’s tolerated by people with wheat allergies. Anyone know why?