Tag Archives: mushrooms

Small Triumphs: Polenta Gratin with Kale and Cremini Mushrooms

First of all…wow! Thank you all for the support, encouragement, comments, and words of wisdom. “I’m not writing in a vacuum! There are people out there! Hooray!” Thanks to you all, Old Spice Man generated more hits in one day than any other post, save for when Food & Wine re-tweeted my Short Ribs (which I was embarrassingly excited about.)

But enough whining and philosophizing about The Writer’s Process…let’s get back to the food. And damn good food at that.  This year we had the pleasure of participating in Hand-Farmed Organic‘s first community supported agriculture (CSA) project. We signed up for a half-share, which proved to be plenty for two of us, so every other week Casey would drop by our house at the end of the day and deliver a wax covered cardboard box brimming with beautiful vegetables. Perhaps the only one more excited about its arrival than I, was this guy, who proved to be a veritable vegetable lover.

Happy Dog

His Royal Highness, the Duke of Tacoma, 10 mos old

Duke would eat just about anything…carrots, squash, and what quickly became his favorite…the radishes which he would bat around the house, sneak up on, and dive bomb from the top of the stairs until it rolled under the couch at which point he would flop down and look at his lost treasure beseechingly until Matt or I caved and got it back out for him.

In each and every box there were delicious fruits and vegetables…and then there was the kale. The freaking kale that just kept coming and coming and always seemed more bountiful and plentiful than the week before. I tried making Kale Chips like my friend Karla, but they weren’t nearly as good as hers…I made a Kale and Gruyere Frittata, but there’s only so many of those you can eat, and once or twice I guiltily yard-wasted the kale when the new box arrived and I still hadn’t done anything with it.

Up until last night it was Kale: 10, Erina: 0.

Photo Compliments of handfarmedorganics.com

Until last night, when trying to think of a starch I could make for our friend CJ who is wheat intolerant I stumbled across a polenta and spinach gratin. I love all gratins (I mean, what’s not to love, creamy unhealthy deliciousness), and thought there’s no reason I couldn’t substitute kale for spinach.

It was outstanding. The polenta in the tube couldn’t be easier, and the recipe calls for 8 cups of Kale, which totally cleaned out my supply and rendered me obnoxiously triumphant.

The perfect side to a yummy fall dinner.

Polenta Gratin with Kale and Cremini Mushrooms
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms (5 cups)

1 large shallot, minced

8 cups kale, center stems removed, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (I used rice flour)

3/4 cup beef stock (or vegetable stock)

1/2 cup whipping cream

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

One 18-ounce log of prepared polenta, cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat for 3 minutes. Add the kale and cook over high heat until the kale has wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the kale and mushrooms evenly in a 2-quart baking dish.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour over moderately high heat. Add the stock, cream, and nutmeg and whisk until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and pour over the kale. Arrange the polenta slices on top of the kale in overlapping concentric circles, pressing to submerge the polenta slightly. Sprinkle the Gruyère on the polenta, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Uncover the polenta and broil 6 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes, or until golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 Make Ahead The unbaked gratin can be refrigerated overnight.





Filed under Comfort Foods, Entertaining, Make ahead, Seasonal Cooking, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Googling for Dinner: Shaved Fennel Salad with Criminis and Parmesan

Shaved Fennel Salad with Criminis and Parmesan

Shaved Fennel Salad with Criminis and Parmesan

There are many reasons to love the Internet:

  • Surfing Petfinder.com for a puppy that I should definitely not get
  • Online shopping at JCrew.com for shoes I definitely don’t need
  • Reading the NYTimes about current events I absolutely ought to know more about

But without fail…another reason for loving the good ‘ol World Wide Web is that after a weekend of a tad too much partying (thinking dancing until 3a with my lovely friend and neighbor, Ila) and not enough productivity I’m able to look in my fridge, see that for dinner we’ve got an old fennel bulb, some crimini mushrooms, and a hunk of Parmesan and immediately be offered a plethora of dining ideas.

I ended up going with the Shaved Fennel Salad from the oh-so-lovely Orangette blog by Seattle’s Molly Wizenberg. If you don’t read her…you definitely should. Just don’t compare me to her…that would be too sad.

This salad is surprisingly good and a wonderful compliment to the other things I had in my fridge and cupboard; grilled chicken breast marinated in a coconut dressing and toasted quinoa.

Make it on a Monday night when you’re wishing you had a weekend to recover from your weekend.

Shaved Fennel Salad with Criminis and Parmesan
Adapted from Orangette
Serves two with just enough left over for lunch

1 medium fennel bulb
3 or 4 small crimini mushrooms
2-3 TB good-quality olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
Coarse sea salt
A hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare the fennel by chopping off its feathery fronds (I always feel sad throwing away such a beautiful part of the vegetable, but c’est la vie). Give it a rinse under cool water and dry completely. Carefully trim off any brown or tired spots, then thinly, thinly slice, preferably with a mandolin. Arrange on a large platter and top with olive oil.
  2. Wipe off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel and trim the bottom of the stems. Thinly, thinly slice (probably with a knife this time) and arrange on top of the fennel and top with the lemon juice.
  3. Coarsely grate the sea salt over and then coarsely grate the Parmesan. Top with cracked black pepper and enjoy!

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Filed under Health Conscious, Salads, Vegetarian

Screw patience: Roasted medley of spring vegetables served over angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, tossed with a cilantro pesto


Roasted spring vegetables

Roasted spring vegetables


I have spent my entire life wishing I was a more patient person. But try as I might, I am inherently impatient and intolerant of things that move slowly.

I’m impatient with people who are slow walkers. I loath slow talkers. I despise inefficiency and elevator doors that take seconds to close feel like eons to me. Despite constant admonitions from family, friends, bosses, and co-workers to just “slow down, Erina” it’s something I really struggle with.

So, it will come as no surprise that when it seems time for Winter to be over and Spring to arrive I am as impatient as ever. I long for the days of short skirts, endless nights, swimming in the Lake after work, and reading in the back yard while soaking up the sun and drinking a gin and tonic.

Sadly, as it is March in Seattle, we are not there yet.

When my impatience for the season changing reaches its height I often find myself cooking foods that represent the season ahead.

This pasta dish was inspired by a refrigerator full of vegetables from Spud and no plan for what I was going to do with them. It’s not the quickest recipe (ironic, I know), but it’s very yummy, very healthy, totally affordable and shouts ‘Spring is here’ better than I ever could.

Roasted medley of spring vegetables served over angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, tossed with a cilantro pesto

A very hearty, pretty dinner, good for a crowd. If you prefer a vegetarian option just skip the chicken sausage. Serve with a dry Riesling.


Roasted medley of spring vegetables served over angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, tossed with a cilantro pesto

Roasted medley of spring vegetables served over angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, tossed with a cilantro pesto


1. Vegetables: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl (which you can later use for serving) toss a medley of spring vegetables that suit your fancy. They should be bite-size, but still substantial. If you are doing a mix of vegetables that will vary in how long they take to get tender, vary your size a bit so everything is done at the same time. For this recipe I did butternut squash (cut into small cubes), carrots, mushrooms, onions, and asparagus. Toss with just enough olive oil until glistening. Season with coarsely ground salt and pepper.  Transfer to a 9×12 glass baking dish. Pop in the oven and cook for about 1 hour (flipping each 20 minutes) until vegetables are firm-tender. If you feel like the vegetables are drying out you can add a bit of water to the bottom of the baking dish about half way through the roasting.

2. Cilantro Pesto: In a food processor or blender (you know which one I used…), blend until smooth 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 cup firmly packed cilantro, 2 TB lime juice, and 2 cloves garlic. Set aside.

3. Pasta: Cook angel hair according to recipe. Before you drain reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

4. Chicken sausage: In a large skillet head 2 TB olive oil until glistening. Add chicken sausage that has been cut into 1″ pieces and cook until slightly carmelized and browning. Set aside pan, reserving the oil and fat generated from cooking the sausage.

5. Assembly: In the large bowl you used to toss the vegetables originally return the now cooked vegetables. While still hot from the oven toss with half the pesto to thoroughly coat the vegetables. Add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid, remaining pesto, sausage, and reserved oil and toss until well coated. Serve with generous portions of coarsely grated Parmesan.

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Filed under Pasta, Seasonal Cooking, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Cupcakes Make My Butt Big

Warm Mushroom Salad

Warm Mushroom Salad

My friend’s 20-month old daughter came home from daycare the other day and declared, while having a snack, “Cupcakes make my butt big.” Half an hour later while sipping a juice she made a similar proclamation: “Juice make my butt big.”

Now, all women have clearly thought these things to themselves occasionally, and have maybe confessed these thoughts to a good friend, but the fact that they were coming out of the mouth of a child not yet even two was understandably shocking and upsetting. A quick call to the daycare determined that the staff there had undertaken a “Biggest Loser” challenge and weight was very much on the minds of the caretakers. Admittedly, weight and body image are things that everyone struggles with, and some more than others, but the demonizing of food is something I vow to try to avoid in my children, for as long as possible.

Food should be celebrated and enjoyed. A chance to get people together, where they may share the mundane reports of the day coupled with the big dreams of the year.

Which is not to say that every now and then a few low-cal additions to the meal plan isn’t a good thing.

This Warm Mushroom Salad is a wonderful mix of indulgent and healthy. Easy to make and very pretty to serve it makes both a great lunch or a pretty salad when entertaining.

Warm Mushroom Salad (adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten)

1 lb cremini mushrooms

2 TB butter

6 TB olive oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 bunches fresh arugula

8 slices prosciutto

3 TB sherry wine vinegar

Chunk of Parmesan

8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and julienned

Remove the mushroom stems and slice the caps to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

In large saute pan heat the butter and 2 TB of the oil until bubbly. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper to pan and saute for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing frequently. Reduce the head to low and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through.

Meanwhile, arrange the arugula on 4 places and cover each portion with 2 slices of prosciutto. When are mushrooms are cooked, add the sherry vinegar and the remaining 2 TB oil to the hot pan. Spoon the mushrooms and sauce on top of the prosciutto. With a vegetable peeler make large shaving of the parmesan cheese and plan on top of the hot mushrooms. Sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes. Serve warm.

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Filed under Health Conscious, Salads, Uncategorized

Culinary Marriage Counseling: Chicken Marsala with Cremini Mushrooms and Sage (for two)

I am admittedly bossy, opinionated, and very confident that I’m usually right. While this has served me well at times, it is not always the most productive strategy for one’s marriage. Take last night for example. Tucked in bed, leaving the next day for a business trip, and having been working long hours and seeing little of Matt we offer to do our patented back-rub trade. I went first and provided what I considered to be a top-notch 10 minute experience (being bossy, opinionated and confident, I am known to time our back rubs). We then swapped and as Matt was getting started I felt that he wasn’t living up to his potential (in the back rub department). He seemed distracted, uncommitted, and lacking focus. Determined to help improve the situation I offered the helpful suggestion, muffled from my face in the pillow, to “really get into those muscles”. I accentuated my tone with a drawl/growl that I considered to be both encouraging and tough, just as a veteran coach would do. Matt stopped rubbing, I popped my head up from the pillow like a prairie dog and we both burst out laughing.

Why I thought I could or should critique his back rub is beyond me. I’m afraid to admit I’m not much better in the kitchen. I am notorious for looking at whatever he’s chopping or simmering or poaching and ask pointed questions such as, “You think you want to cut the chicken like that? Huh..um..okay.” or “I think it calls for thickly chopped mushrooms, doesn’t it? Those look a little thin, don’t you think?”

Pending on Matt’s mood he will either acquiesce, blatantly ignore me, indulge me by answering, or leave the kitchen.

I’m working on being less of a tyrant in the kitchen as I often do enjoy cooking together. That said, some meals and their preparation are better suited for two. This Chicken Marsala is a great option. He works on the chicken and mushrooms prep, I begin the cooking, he makes the rice and veggie, I finish the sauce and dinner is done.

Sometimes, it is better cooking with two.

Serve with brown rice and steamed broccoli. Makes excellent leftovers.

Pairs well with a medium red wine such as a Sangiovese.

Chicken Marsala


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into thirds and slightly flattened)

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish

1 cup sweet Marsala wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoon butter


Place flour in a shallow bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, shaking off excess. I’ve found that you want the chicken pieces to be relatively thin so that they cook nicely without the outsides browning too much.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chicken, and cook until golden on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm (reserve skillet).

Add mushrooms, shallot, sage, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until mushrooms are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and cream; simmer over medium-high until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter; season with salt and pepper.

Top chicken with mushroom sauce, and garnish with sage.

Adapted from Everyday Food.


Filed under Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Uncategorized

Not your Grandmother’s Beef Stroganoff

There are those dishes that we associate with our youth. Things that our parents served that we perhaps clamored for, maybe grumbled about, or just tolerated. Beef Stroganoff was something my mother used to make, although I don’t recall particularly caring for it. The other night as I was flipping through The Bon Appetit Cookbook I found a recipe that looked just right. Upon careful inspection I realized that stroganoff is little more than beef, mushrooms, cream, and pasta. All things I adore. And so, I set out to make the ultimate Beef Stroganoff.

This recipe puts my mama’s to shame I’m afraid to say. The Beef Tenderloin Tail is a perfect way to get an indulgent cut of meat at a fraction of the cost. I used Cremini mushrooms but you could certainly make the dish fancier by making it with assorted wild mushrooms.

The end result was tender, medium-rare meat, simmered in a mushroom, cream sauce with a hint of sherry. The flavors were perfect together and it found just the right balance of being rich, without being heavy.

Serves 4-6
Present on top of wide egg noodles that have been tossed with butter.
Pair with a rich, bold red wine such as a California Cabernet.

Beef Stroganoff

2 1/2 lb well-trimmed beef tail tenderloin roast, cut into 2 x 1 x 1/2 inch strips (you may have to specially  ask your butcher for this, but it is delicious and about half the cost of straight tenderloin)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1 lb mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 cup beef broth

2 TB Sherry or Cognac

1 cup creme fraiche or whipping cream

1/2 TB Dijon mustard

1 TB chopped fresh dill

Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat until very hot. Working in two batches, add meat in single layer and cook just until brown, about 1 minute per side. Using tongs transfer to a plate and reserve juices. Drain any additional oil from pan and wipe out pan with paper towel.

Mushrooms and Shallots

Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Adding shallots and saute until tender, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Add mushroom and saute until mushrooms brown and juices evaporate. About 10 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring the mushrooms so they don’t brown too much. Add broth, then Sherry. Simmer until sauce thickens and just coats mushrooms, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche and mustard. Add meat and any accumulated juices from plate. Simmer over medium-low heat until meat is heated through but still medium rare, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top egg noodles with beef and sauce…ENJOY!


Filed under Comfort Foods, Uncategorized

The Outcast

The day I decided to start a food blog I was making Mushroom Bisque.

Having resolved that my food processor (heretofore referred to only as FP) was utterly too high maintenance, I was determined to use the blender. As the blissful 6 TB of required butter began to melt and sizzle away I triumphantly tossed the onions into the blender, casting a nasty glance at the aforementioned FP.

Perhaps a word about how the FP became the kitchen pariah is in order. For one, it lives in the back of a cupboard that I find impossible to get to. Despite the fact that we’ve lived in our house for two years our kitchen cupboards are still without handles requiring a sort of Pilates like maneuver to open, where one grabs the door with their toes and thrusts it backwards hoping not to fall over or ruin their pedicure from 7 weeks ago.

Secondly, the FP had betrayed me. One quiet night while making broccoli soup I poured my mixture into it, and without warning, it began pouring out the bottom. Burned fingers, a messy range, and lost liquid were the causalities. That said, my mother had always implemented a strict 3-stike policy so I decided the FP had just been having an off night. Cleaning it up, tucking it in for the night, and assuring it that I wasn’t angry I didn’t think much more about it.

The next time I went to pour something delicious into it, it did precisely the same thing. Shouting all kinds of expletives and jumping up and down I gave the FP the kind of exasperated and incredulous looks my mother used to give me when I’d march down the stairs dressed in little more than a bandana and hoochie shorts, declaring myself ready for A.P English. As my perfectly stewed tomatoes oozed all over my kitchen counter and I hollered, my lovely fiancé declared to me, “Of course it’s oozing it…you went over the line.” ‘The Line’. As though there is some sort of food processor golden rule that we are supposed to be aware of. As I glared at him he tried to point out the error of my ways. While I’m loath to admit it, he very well may be right (he usually is). Despite this, I considered the FP grounded as it undoubtedly wasn’t capable of handling the responsibilities I was prepared to bestow on it.

The series of tragic FP events had left me attempting to chop onions and mushrooms in the blender. Certainly I could have just “finely chopped” them myself, but I am a lousy chopper. I get bored, things get inconsistent, and I end up throwing massive hunks of whatever into the recipe with hopes that it will somehow mysteriously become the perfect little cubes that other cooks seem capable of creating.

While the blender wasn’t really as efficient as the FP, I considered myself brilliant as I moved things from blender to pot, stirring the mushrooms and onions into the butter, cooking until that delicious smell started, and removing from heat (feeling quite smug that ‘removing’ for me only meant turning off the burner since we have a gas range). Next went in the flour and beef bouillon at which point we were ready to put the whole mixture back into my star pupil, the blender.

Pouring it in, and clucking with pleasure that it all fit (it would NEVER have all fit in the FP), I went to hit the pulse button. Entirely unprepared, the top of the blender went flying as my beautifully simmered and incidentally scalding hot, mushroom bisque raised to the top of a blender like a full moon tide. Bisque went flying, more yelling commenced, and the dogs came running to see how they could help. A bit of bisque landed in handy proximity to my lips and a quick smack determined that it was actually pretty damn good. A few more pulses (this time firmly held down by yours truly and a dish rag that had also joined the pariah ranks) I blended the last of it, and poured it back into the pot. A bit of heavy cream, truffle oil, a splash of sherry, and we were in action.

Sitting down to the table, and sipping a glass of yummy red wine, I decided, I think I’ll start a food blog. And thus, is how this begins.

Mushroom Bisque

6 TBSP butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
3 TBSP flour
1/2 tsp. meat concentrate (this is the kind of thing I never have, so skipped it)
1 1/2 cups stock or boullion
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup whipping cream

+ for that extra bit of deliciousness a splash of sherry and/or truffle oil is divine.

1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add finely chopped onion and stir over moderate heat until onion is transparent. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, another 4 minutes.

2. Remove the mixture from the heat and blend in teh four and meat concentrate. Add the stock slowly, stirring constantly. Add the bay leaf and pepper (Note, if you prefer a thinner soup, add more stock. A thicker soup, less).

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. (This is the point when I re-blended everything to get that delicious creamy bisque. Remove bay leaf and stir in cream. If desired, garnish with croutons before serving. Makes 6 servings.


Filed under Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Soups, Uncategorized, Vegetarian