Friday, June 18, 2010

Can't Get Enough...Shiitakes!

One might say that we are obsessed, but how could you not be? Growing mushrooms is the easiest project I have ever taken on. This time, we are trying out a mini shiitake farm from Far West Fungi. Larger, it will yield many more mushrooms than the BTTR ventures version. Far West Fungi inoculates a large block with spores and everything they will need to grow to maturity. The block is contained inside a plastic bag, sealing in the moisture and maintaining damp environs. Our farm yielded more than 10 shrooms in only a week. The vendors claim that it will re-grow 2-3 crops -- not bad for less than $20. I'm headed up to Sonoma County for some R&R with friends -- hoping to contribute these babies to our dinner. I'll post pics when I do!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eat More Pie

In the interest of being prepared for my new endeavors, I picked up a banana cream pie from Mission Pie last night. Really, it was all about research and had nothing to do with the intense cravings that I have been experiencing since first laying eyes on one a few weeks back. I swear. The bottom line is that the pie is now gone, tucked safely into our bellies, and it was well worth the splurge. Take a look for yourself. Warning: Viewing these photos may result in a spontaneous airplane ticket purchase and subsequent trip to San Francisco. Sweet Karoline will not be held responsible for any charges incurred.

Growing More Mushrooms

Earlier, we reported on our mini mushroom farm, provided by BTTR. Once we returned from the hoopla that was our last trip to Chicago, we busted open the second side and revisited the life of mushroom farming. This time, I photo documented the growth starting on the first day that they really began to resemble mushrooms. It only took 4-5 days before they were enormous! This batch yielded two giant caps and a few smaller. We harvested the larger ones and left the others to grow to maturity. We'll see how it turns out. The process is really fascinating and well worth the initial investment of only $15. Pick one up for the kids this summer; I guarantee they will be fascinated!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mindful Eating

The concepts of being mindful and appreciative of the gifts that this world has blessed us with are not new or novel. In fact, as we ride out this particularly charming period in time now being referred to as the Great Recession, folks are apt to remind you to be grateful for what you have at least once a day. So, despite the fact that it may seem redundant or overdone, I too am here to impress upon you the importance of being thankful for the little things in life that make you happy, put a smile on your face, or even simply help you live to see tomorrow.

A high school pal of my brother writes a blog called Dash of Stash. A tech guy by trade, Mike has developed a fondness for cooking, and he writes very eloquently of his kitchen adventures. Recently, he posted one definition of food appreciation, and I will admit that I wish more people shared his sentiments. It is definitely a site worth visiting.

Second, I found myself with an extraordinary number of hours on my hands during which time I had nothing better to do than surf the web - a habit that I rarely find time for. Please don't ask why I was granted such time, as I fear I might incriminate myself by sharing the answer. While killing time, I scrolled through a good number of Sheryl Julian and Devra First's contributions to the Boston Globe's blog, Dishing. One post, submitted by Devra, called attention to the story of Ed Murrieta, formerly the food critic of the Tacoma News, now living on an income that consists solely of food stamps. Murrieta, unable to find work, is living in a "rented" trailer that he pays for through work exchange. The silver lining (because why would I post a depressing story without a silver lining?) is that Murrieta enjoys the challenge of creating nourishing, palatable meals that are a pleasure to consume even when they contain items like canned "pork in juices." He says, "Mine is gastronome's quest to eat well, to maintain a nutritious diet, to satisfy my foodie cravings, and to help those who help me." Instead of lemonade from lemons, Murrieta uses the aforementioned canned atrocity to make poor man's rillete. Not bad at all.

Thanksgiving is not just for November. Take a moment each day to remember the little things that make life worth living.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I wrote this a little while back for Relish magazine, and while I did receive a check, I never saw the published, I thought I would share it with you (unedited, of course)...

An Overlooked Bulb
It was once believed that contemporary gourmands had to introduce the shallot to Americans. Julia Child described the unknown member of the onion family at length and often suggested mincing the white part of a green onion when the violet bulbs could not be found. The truth, in fact, is that cooks like Ms. Child re-introduced the shallot. Recipe collections dating back to the founding of this country contain countless entries which almost all call for “an Eschalot or two”. Yet, somewhere along the line, their use fell out of favor. Fortunately for us, they’ve been back for a while. Dry shallots (with papery skin like garlic) are available year round; fresh green youngsters pop up in the spring. Milder than their cousins, the cloves lend a subtle piquant nature to a dish. Roasted, they are sweeter and luscious. Raw, they are somewhat sharp and zippy. Often unnoticed, shallots are a gem on any plate.

Roasted Shallots

This technique yields two recipes from one. Adorn chicken or pork with the roasted shallots and garlic. Set aside two shallots along with the cooking oil to make a light vinaigrette, perfect for spring greens.

Makes 1 cup roasted shallots plus 1/2 cup vinaigrette

12 shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Toss together all ingredients except for vinegar. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until shallots are soft and caramelized.
3. Drain shallots; discard herbs. Reserve oil and 2 shallots; cool.
4. In a food processor, combine 2 shallots with vinegar. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the reserved oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Shallot Gremolata

A simple garnish, the combination of punchy flavors will perk up any beef stew, grilled steak, baked potato, or braised lamb. To top tacos, substitute cilantro for parsley and lime zest for lemon.

Makes 1/2 cup

5 shallots, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Zest of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients.