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

Sautéed Kale and Fresh Mozzarella on Toast

Last Sunday, as I struggled to cram a loaf of bread into the overflowing freezer, and fit the weekend's dinner party leftovers into a fridge full of wilting greens and cheese ends, I decided that this HAD to be a week of leftovers.   I'm not going to lie, this takes dedication and discipline for me.   Planning meals and trying new recipes is a major hobby of mine and I enjoy being inspired by what I find at my local markets. Defrosting meatballs or a curry I made whenever the date scrawled on the bag tells me I made it, never seems nearly as exciting as making and eating something new and freshly made.  But when dinnertime rolls around on a leftovers night, things do tend to be less hectic,  I have more time with the kids and less time in the kitchen, everybody is still well fed, and I am relieved to know that the lovely food I made weeks, or months ago is having a second life.   Motivated by these past few days of eating leftovers, I'm going to take a full inventory of the freezer this weekend so that hopefully when spring rolls around we won't be stuck with a freezer full of unseasonable stews and soups.  

I find the freezer is a much easier beast to tame than the fridge.  More often than I'd care to admit, wilted, slimy greens and little chunks of fuzzy cheese meet their fate on garbage day.   Sometimes I victoriously involve them in a meal preparation, but it's far more likely that  I will miss the window before they're past the point of no return.  Not this week though!  This week, those sad little bits and bobs inspired me to make one of the most delicious pieces of toast I've ever eaten.   I took my slightly droopy kale, sautéed it with some garlic and olive oil then I put it on a slice of multigrain sourdough bread (from Prairie Boy Bread) and topped it off with some chopped artichokes, a bit of burratta cheese and popped it under the broiler.  It took me less than 10 minutes and, in my humble opinion, it was a restaurant calibre meal.  If you're not familiar with burratta, it's a cream filled fresh mozzarella cheese that is truly decadent and delicious.  I buy it at the Santa Lucia cheese outlet here in Toronto (where the prices are amazing and you can buy hot, fresh ricotta!).  But you could easily use another cheese -  fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta, brie or a little chunk of whatever is in your fridge.  You could also use spinach, chard or whatever you have on hand in place of the kale.  The real point here,  is to take stock of the fridge and figure out how to eat things before they turn into garbage.  

(a.k.a. Not Garbage Toast) 

1 bunch of kale (if it's starting to wilt you can revive it with a 5 minute soak in tepid water)
1 clove thinly sliced garlic
a pinch of dried red chilis
1 tbsp olive oil
4 slices of fresh mozzarella or burratta cheese (or any other soft cheese you need to get rid of)
Good quality bread  (preferably sourdough, multigrain)

Turn your oven on to broil and turn on your kettle.  Remove the thick ribs from the kale leaves and put into a pot large enough to hold and cover with boiled water.  Once your water has boiled pour over the kale, add some salt and give everything a stir.  Leave for 2 minutes or until bright green.  Drain, squeeze out excess moisture and roughly chop into bite sized  bits.

Put olive oil on a medium frying pan.  Add sliced garlic and chilis to the pan and sauté until just golden, about 30 seconds.  Add chopped kale to the pan and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until warmed through and soft.   You could do this ahead and keep the kale in fridge for 3 or 4 days, reheating as needed.  

Toast 2 large slices of bread (or 4 small) and spread with butter or drizzle with olive oil.  Pile kale onto the toast and top with 2 or 3 slices of cheese.  Broil for a few minutes, until cheese is just melted.  

I added some chopped, oil packed artichokes which were delicious.  I think roasted tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, olives or smear of pesto would also work well.  You could also toss some shallots or thinly sliced onion into the pan to soften, before adding the kale.  

For an appetizer version, you could serve this on thinly sliced baguette crostini.  You could also omit the cheese entirely and it would still be delicious.   

Serves 2  (with enough kale to serve 4 or use another time) 

** This weeks leftover mission reminded me of a delicious recipe for fromage fort that I  made from Smitten Kitchen years ago.   Chuck all of your random cheese ends into the food processor and make a delicious spread.  Grab a baguette and, you're done.