Caramelized Garlic Mushrooms

I never gave mushrooms much of a chance until I became a vegetarian in my late teens. The strange, squidgy texture and the fact that my sister loved them, was more than enough reason to reject them outright.  But then one evening, during my decade long stint as a vegetarian, my mother served a mushroom barley risotto that revealed to me the sublime,  natural umami taste of edible fungus.  

This mushroom recipe is inspired by a vegan friend's mushroom cooking method.  The first time I saw her leaving the mushrooms to cook in mounds of garlic, for over 15 minutes, I thought for sure they would be burnt, dry and chewy.  Vegan leather anyone!?  But boy, was I wrong!  The abundant quantity of garlic mixes with the mushroom juices to create a sticky caramel coating that perfectly enhances the natural meaty, umami of the mushrooms.  This dish can easily make a meal served on some sort of mashed root vegetablethese kale mashed potatoes, or polenta.  It would also work as a decadent side dish for any type of meat, particularly steak.  Or it could be served as an appetizer with some toothpicks.  I ate it for lunch with a salad and a slice of focaccia and couldn't stop eating it.  I had intended to save some to eat with eggs at breakfast, but that didn't happen!   

8 oz whole cremini or other mix of mushrooms
1/2 head or 2 tbsp. minced garlic (I used 1 oz)
1/4 cup white wine or broth
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 -3 sprigs of thyme
3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast or parmesan

1.  Pull the stems off of the mushroom caps and discard or save to make vegetable broth.  

2.  Heat the olive oil in medium skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat, and add the garlic.  Cook, stirring constantly, for around 1 minute, just until starting to turn golden. 

3.  Add the mushroom caps, thyme and salt to the pan and coat with the garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes more and then add the white wine to deglaze and coat mushrooms.  If the garlic starts to burn, turn down your heat and/ or add the wine. 

4.  Once the wine has mostly evaporated, turn down the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the mushrooms occasionally and watching to be sure the garlic doesn't burn.

5.  Once the mushrooms are golden brown and coated in a sticky, garlic coating, sprinkle with nutritional yeast or cheese and let cook for 2 minutes longer.    

Enjoy in any or all of the above mentioned ways!  
Serves 1 to 2

Avocado Toast

Unlike my millennial-born offspring who were weaned on avocados, I actually remember my first encounter with the old "alligator pear" which didn't make an appearance into my mostly Scottish-Canadian diet until the early 1990's.  It was in grade 7 home economics class.  Our teacher, sporting her usual homemade floral dress and running shoes, brought in a variety of "exotic" fruits for the class to sample - fruits not regularly seen at our local big chain grocery stores.   So the class took a break from hand-sewing stuffed animals to sample an array of supposedly strange fruits:  avocado, plantain and pomegranate.  What our teacher failed to realize was that many of these fruits were staples for my very diverse group of classmates.  

Sadly, my first avocado was a total disappointment.  Overripe and brown, it tasted vaguely like the smell of rotting garbage.  It was years until I gave this beautiful buttery green superfood another try. 

These days avocado is a staple in our house.  In fact, I would go so far as to credit it with keeping my son alive for the first four years of his life.  It is heavily featured in smoothies, guacamole and, of course, on toast.  What I like about avocado on toast is that it's delicious (obviously) and that the high healthy fat content helps to keep elevenses at bay (i.e. second breakfast).  Put an egg on it and you're laughing all the way till lunch.  

 In order to avoid the garbage-like sensation of overripe avocados, I've included a few tips at the bottom for buying and storing them.  

1/4 of a large avocado spread on toasted bread of your choice (my morning preference is a slice of whole sprouted grain) 
A sprinkle of flakey sea salt (preferably Maldon)

Tomatoes (as many as you can reasonably fit!)
Spinach (fresh or sautéed)
Poached Egg
Crispy Fried Egg
Smoked salmon
Smear of coconut butter
Smear of cream cheese
Hot sauce
Sprinkle of smoked paprika
Or what about all of these possibilities on Food 52

Here are a few tips that have served me well when buying and storing avocado:  

  • Rather than squeezing, pull off the little stem nub at the top of the fruit to see what colour is revealed.  If it's lovely and green, then the avocado is perfectly ripe.  
  • You can pop a just ripe avocado in the fridge, but it tastes better if you bring it back to room temperature before eating.  
  • Store partially eaten avocados in the fridge with the pit still in, wrapped in foil.  
  • If you can, buy them at a good Mexican grocery store because the quality tends to be consistently high.