Tag Archive: Mushrooms

Inbre(a)d

Empanadas

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

Argentina is known far and wide for its beef, and aficionados will argue the fine points of cooking and presentation at any asado. Yet probably no other item from the country’s cuisine engenders quite so much passion as the defense of one’s favorite empanada. Arguments range from “my grandmother made criollas that your grandmother wasn’t fit to crimp” to “my favorite place has the most perfect… baked, fried, cut beef or ground, potatoes, olives, eggs, onions, or raisins, included or not… and I’ll take you there and prove it.” Culinary historians carry on about the origin of this bread enveloped pastry, tracing it back to Galicia in Spain, or perhaps to ancient Persia. To hear some of them natter about the subject, we’d need carbon dating to settle on their origin.

It should come as no surprise to find that every culture on the planet has some similar dish – from Middle Eastern fatays, to Asian pot-stickers, to the Scandinavian or Cornish pasty, to a classic savory turnover from France or an Indian samosa. Yet, there is something uniquely Latin American about the empanada. The dough is not unique in the pastry world, most often made from simple white flour, eggs, water, and lard or suet. The fillings range from beef to pork to chicken to fish to vegetables. The spices vary in accordance with local favorites throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean. The additions are too numerous to consider. Yet there’s something about them, when one picks them up, hot and juicy, that fits the Latin culture.

Argentines would argue that theirs are the best. Certainly there is a wide variety of regional styles, thankfully most of them are available here in Buenos Aires, including examples from neighboring countries, removing the need to hop on a colectivo and travel province by province to sample them. Here we can find garlicky, spicy catamarqueñas, chock-full of potatoes, green onion packed salteñas, (not to be confused with the Bolivian salteña version which is a whole different thing), white onion filled sanjuaninos, touches of tomato and various cheeses in the tucumanas, salmon and tuna from the shore or packed into Chilean styles, lamb and wild mushrooms from Patagonia, pumpkin based Venezuelans, and finely ground goat or lamb meat in the arabe styles. Cheese filled, corn filled, vegetable laden, or a wide variety of meats abound. Local shops may offer specialty versions, and it is worth seeking out something like smoky pancetta and plum, or spicy sausage and green onion, or even an Italian knock-off like a napolitana.

I’m going to guess that most people aren’t going to take the time to make and form their own shortcrust or puff pastry, and there are plenty of tapas available in any supermarket that work just fine. Here’s one of our favorite, lighter fillings that never fails to wow visiting friends.

Patagonian Style Mushroom Filling

400 grams mixed mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 small chili pepper, chopped
25 ml olive oil
25 grams flour
120 ml fat free or reduced fat milk
salt, pepper
Smoke flavoring (or use smoked salt in place of the plain salt above)
oil

Put the oil and flour in saucepan over low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Warm the milk (a minute in the microwave is just fine) and add to the mixture, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring continuously, until it thickens. Set aside.. Saute mushrooms, chili and onion in oil until browned. Combine with the white sauce (bechamel). Add a couple of drops of liquid smoke flavoring and then season to taste. Let cool before using. Place a heaping tablespoon onto each empanada tapa and then fold over and crimp to seal. Bake in a 180°C oven for 15 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Salsa!

Outlet Radio Network
January 12, 2005

Salsa!

Visions of whirling women in bright colored skirts, men dancing their way across the floor, dressed to the nines. Not that kind.

Salsa is simply a Spanish word for sauce. Now, in our nortamericano daily parlance, we usually use it to denote a somewhat fiery red or green sauce for dipping tortilla chips into. Often we see it on restaurant menus to refer to some chopped blend of vegetables, fruits and spices that accompany a dish. But we keep going back to that dipping sauce in our minds.

For me, however, as a chef, I tend to think of salsas in terms of what a Mexican chef might call a salsa cruda. That is, a chopped blend of raw or barely cooked ingredients that is used as the sauce on a dish. And the couple of recipes I’m going to give you aren’t going to relate to Latin American cooking. They’re just a couple of my current favorites that I hope you’ll try out and enjoy!

I was reading my favorite cooking magazine, Australian Gourmet Traveller (one of the best written consumer food magazines out there, even if the vocabulary takes some getting used to), and came across a reference to a fascinating sounding veal dish. No recipe was provided, so I experimented and came up with this little gem that we all fell in love with.

Veal Scallops with Meyer Lemon Salsa
Serves 4

1½ pounds of thinly sliced veal scallopini
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large seedless cucumber
3 Meyer lemons (not regular lemons, Meyers are sweet lemons from Florida)
2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh oregano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and dice the cucumber. Remove the peel from the lemons and carefully cut out the individual segments of the lemons, then cut each segment in half. Add the oregano and the extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for at least an hour.

Season the veal scallops with salt and pepper. Saute them in a mix of the butter and olive oil (or just use one of the new “butter flavored” olive oil spreads), until lightly browned. Serve topped with the salsa, which can be left room temperature or slightly warmed. If you’re not into veal, this salsa works just as well on thinly pounded chicken breasts, or even a sauteed slice of tempeh!

Beef Fillet with Radish Salsa
Serves 4

Okay, it sounds strange, but it is oh, so good!

4 beef fillets, each about 6 ounces
2-3 limes
1 bunch of icicle radishes (these are pure white and sort of long and skinny radishes)
a dozen or so fresh mint leaves
2 serrano peppers
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel the limes and coarsely chop the peel. Mix the peel, the juice of the limes, and a bit of salt and pepper to make a marinade. Rub the beef all over with this and let it stand in the refrigerator, occasionally turning it to recoat, for at least 2 hours.

In a food processor, pulse the radishes (greens removed), the serranos (seeds and stems removed), and the mint leaves, until you have a coarse mixture. Add olive oil, and the salt and pepper to taste, and let sit for at least an hour.

In a very hot pan, sear the beef fillets on both sides, and then put the whole pan into a hot (500°F) oven. Let it cook for about 5-10 minutes depending on how done you like your beef. You can always stick the pan back in if you check a fillet and it isn’t done enough.

I like to serve this one by slicing the fillets and fanning them out on the plate and then topping with the salsa.

For the non-beef folk, try this one with portabello mushroom caps, just don’t over cook the caps in the oven, five minutes is usually plenty of time.


I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Greatest Threat to America…

Outlet Radio Network
April 2004

The Greatest Threat to America…

I have just returned from a week in Las Vegas. Sin City. Gambling Capital of America. Crowded, noisy, a trifle on the grungy side, too much neon, too much spandex.

Home of the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

There is, perhaps, no greater evil threatening America. The words all-you-can-eat bring out the worst in people. How so? Thank you for asking.

First, the eating all you can part. I have watched friends push away half-eaten plates of pasta, steak, well, anything, at fancy restaurants where they were shelling out three-figures for dinner. Comments like, “oh, I couldn’t eat another bite”, and “it’s just so much food”, and “it’s so rich” echoed across the table. I watch with amazement as some of these same folk belly-up to the steam table for their third and fourth load of deep-fried, cream sauce laden, over-cooked mediocre slabs of unidentifiable victuals. “I’m gonna get my money’s worth!” seems the cry of the day.

I myself was guilty of consuming a stack of three chicken-fried steaks with biscuits and sausage gravy at breakfast one morning. That was, of course, after the pancakes, fruit, yogurt, bacon… oh, and save room for dessert at the end. Dessert? At breakfast? Oh, why not, a slab of apple pie is just fruit, right? So much for last month’s anti-cholesterol efforts… thank god I’m only in Vegas for a few days.

Second, woe betide anyone who gets in the way of one of those spandex clad neon-phytes enroute to the mound of recently thawed shrimp cocktail. When I went up for my first dozen they had just put out a basin the size of a small bathtub mounded a foot high with the pink and white critters. By the time I’d reached the end of the steam table there were scraps left and two hefty visitors were slashing at each other with tongs for rights to claim the last few. I was passed by a gentleman who had two dinner plates heaped as high as he could with crustacea.

A few years ago in May, I hosted a dinner on Mothers’ Day. The old adage always was that the best thing you could get mother on that day was a reservation somewhere. In my family, the budget tended towards take-out and fast food. So, for that dinner, I reinterpreted a collection of classic take-out fast foods – and made ‘em all you can eat style. It was a simple parody of culinary gems from Taco Bell, Arby’s, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s.

With apologies to Micky D’s for stealing their obviously trademarked, registered, copyrighted, servicemarked, and probably patented McMuffin name, I present the modern, updated, and actually probably decent for you, Mushroom McMuffin.

Mushroom McMuffin
Serves 4

4 large biscuits, english muffins, crumpets, or something similar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced

4 portobello mushrooms of roughly equal diameter to the biscuits
1 cup of chicken stock
¼ pound of asiago cheese
4 quail eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

I’m not going to tell you how to make the biscuits. Use your favorite recipe, buy the Pillsbury ones in a tube, pick up a pack of Thomas’ – it’s all good.

Combine the garlic and olive oil and let sit for a few minutes. Split open the biscuits and brush with the oil mixture. Toast in a warm oven until they are just lightly golden.

Meanwhile, separate the mushroom caps from their stems. Take the stems, chop them coarsely, add to the stock in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is reduced by half. Strain, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Season the mushroom caps with salt and pepper and saute in olive oil (you could also grill these if you have a grill) until they are soft, lightly browned, and smell wonderful.

In shallow bowls place the bottom of each biscuit. Top with the mushroom caps, then carefully crack open the quail eggs and top each cap with one (uncooked). Shave asiago cheese over the whole thing, add a little more salt and pepper, and lightly spoon the mushroom reduction sauce around each. Eat. Oh, you should have made more…

I matched this dish with a slightly off-dry Vouvray, a Chenin blanc based white wine from the Loire Valley. It was a delightful combination, and the whole thing somehow seemed better than an Egg McMuffin and burned coffee.


I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Edible Complex

Outlet Radio Network
January 2004

The Edible Complex
(a love-hate relationship with my mother’s kitchen)

The holidays are a great time to reflect on home, family, career, and the direction of my life. No really! I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my family this year. I was thinking back to my mother’s kitchen…

~~~~flashback~~~~

They were slimy. I remember it quite clearly. They were really, really slimy. Oh, and brownish grey. Not greyish brown, which would almost have been acceptable. They were brownish grey. And slimy. Did I mention that?

If like me you grew up in the decade of folk rock and worrying about Vietnam (as a place to be sent in tacky khakis as opposed to visiting it with your new boyfriend), you might have an inkling of what I’m talking about. Remember I’m a chef.

Give up?

Mushrooms.

Remember them? They came in cans. They were slimy. They were brownish grey. The 60s were a time when mothers everywhere were cooking things that came out of cans, out of boxes, out of new plastic pouches that allowed some mythical jolly green giant to preserve his veggies for later consumption “just like fresh”. You can still see those mushrooms at many pizza places.

I loathed them. My family knew for many years that I hated mushrooms. In fact it wasn’t until visiting an aunt during my college years that I had actual, fresh mushrooms. There she was in the kitchen (my aunt, not the mushrooms, well, actually, they were there too), whipping up a stir-fry of green beans and freshly sliced mushrooms.

Now mind you, it isn’t that I didn’t know what a mushroom looked like. I’d seen them in the grocery store. But my mom wasn’t one of the people buying them. Neither were the moms of any of my friends. But here was my aunt with a package of them, slicing and cooking! I waited for them to turn slimy. And brownish grey. They didn’t.

So what’s a boy to do? I politely tasted them. Oh my. These were good!

It turned out they came in many edible varieties. Okay, I knew that theoretically. I just hadn’t know they didn’t all turn out, well, you know…

I started experimenting. Did you know that peas actually do come in pods? It’s not just an expression. And there are things you can do with them that don’t involve butter sauce. Carrots can be had in ways other than sticks and candied! Hell, veggies aside, did you know that meat can be cooked in ways that don’t involve Shake ‘n Bake, cans of Campbell’s Soup, or Hamburger Helper?

Now don’t misunderstand. I loved my mother’s kitchen growing up. I learned how to cook there. And, for the time, and for someone who had given up her career to raise four kids, she was quite progressive in the kitchen. She taught us all how to cook. Admittedly much of it involved cans, boxes, bottles, and frozen packages, but it was a start. We didn’t grow up on “fast food” – not that there was as much of it then as there is today. I probably only ate at McDonald’s half a dozen times prior to adulthood.

And, in truth, other than having a list of foods that I grew up hating (didn’t we all?), I loved eating what my mother cooked. It’s more of that whole hindsight thing. I discovered later on that I hadn’t needed to grow up hating so many foodstuffs. I suppose that’s part of what reflecting back on family is all about…

~~~~end flashback~~~~

So what’s this all lead to? I have friends who hate certain foods. In fact, I could point to almost any of my friends and they could list off the things they hate. Many of these they’ve hated since childhood. I’ve had the good fortune to bring some of them over and re-introduce them to these childhood foods, or go out to dinner and do the same. Cooked fresh, and perhaps cooked well for the first time in their lives. Okay, sometimes I have to double-dare them to re-try the food, but it’s worth it.

If there’s one of those little menu items left over from your early years. One of those things that your mother made over and over again trying to get you to like it. And, very possibly made badly because, well, if like mine, they started out with bad or mediocre ingredients… perhaps it’s time to give them another try? Oh, and I still pick the slimy, brownish grey mushrooms off my pizza slices…


Simple and easy to prepare, this recipe will get you over that loathing of mushrooms. If it doesn’t, well then, you just don’t like them!

Mushroom Sauté

2 lbs mixed mushrooms (3-5 varieties would be great)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of butter
¼ cup of olive oil

Cut mushrooms into bite sized pieces. Heat oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until they are slightly browned. Add the white wine, soy sauce and cream and continue heating until the liquid starts to simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat down to low, and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes – the liquid should thicken into a gravy-like texture. Remove lid, add pepper to taste (you probably won’t need more salt with the soy sauce in the dish). Serve ladled over thick slices of country bread.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a side course.


I started writing food & wine columns for the Outlet Radio Network, an online radio station in December 2003. They went out of business in June 2005.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pumpkin Pie Pot Lucks

GENRE
December 1993

Hungry Man
Pumpkin Pie Pot Lucks

Getting Over Overeating and Overworking

There is a stretch of road up ahead. It doesn’t lead to the Emerald City and it’s not paved with yellow brick. It leads elsewhere and is paved with good intentions. You set foot on the roadway. Your head fills with visions of relatives not seen since your last passage popping up like earthworms after a storm. The long road home, the Holiday Highway, get your kicks on Route 666.

This dark and twisting path winds its way from Roast Turkey to Popcorn & Beer, passing through Pumpkin Pie, Baked Ham, Plum Pudding, and Latkes. A fleeting festival opening on Thanksgiving and folding with SuperBowl Sunday. The former being one of the two important proclamations Abraham Lincoln made in 1863; the latter, apparently, some sort of sports event.

Two food traditions permeate the holidays. The first is overeating. By everyone. Repeatedly. All those months at the gym, all that stretching and bending, touching your toes, crunching your abs – gone in a binge the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Roman Empire. Tradition number two is overwork – usually by mom or grandmom – slaving away like Lincoln never did issue that Emancipation Proclamation.

Pigging out at the groaning board is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. I’ll save dieting for a future column. On the other hand, overwork can be handled by returning to the original traditions of most of these holidays. Everyone who comes to celebrate contributes to the food table. Potluck.

For most of us, potluck conjures up images of social events that our parents dragged us to. Places where the food consisted of cold, greasy chicken, eighteen casserole dishes of everyone’s favorite baked bean and potato salad recipes, and much too much green jello mold with fruit cup. Does it have to be that way? I think not. Even if you know you can’t cook, you know you have friends who can. Get out those invitation cards and get busy.

Whether you’re hosting dinner for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s, or even Human Rights Day (December 10th for those who aren’t sure), it’s time to put your foot and your whisk down. As host, take on the main course. It’s usually the least transportable. Turkey, a ham, roast chicken, fish, baked cauliflower, a walnut and mushroom roast. Your guests bring everything else. It makes for a communal event, everyone feels, justifiably, like they contributed. You’d be amazed at the wide range of cooking talent displayed.

In the best of all worlds, you’re not always the host. Sometimes someone else gets to clean their apartment, before and after the party. If dinner isn’t at your place, what do you bring? A casserole? Not one of those tuna and noodle things with cream of mushroom soup and potato chip crumbs on top. Maybe a mix of fresh vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. Or layers of eggplants and squashes with cheese and herbs. Dessert? Pies, cakes, brownies, fruit marinated in liqueur.

One of my favorite dishes can be used as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a main course: Garlic-Mushroom Sauté. It’s simple, tasty, and your friends will be begging for the recipe. Just smile and tell them to subscribe to GENRE. Maybe that path home won’t look so foreboding after all.

GARLIC-MUSHROOM SAUTÉ

2 pounds of “wild” mushrooms (mix several different varieties like portobellos, chanterelles, shiitakes), sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup of good olive oil
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup soy sauce
a couple sprigs of thyme (or ½ teaspoon dry thyme)

You will need a large, covered frying pan to hold all the mushrooms. Sauté the chopped garlic and thyme in olive oil until the garlic starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the wine, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Let the mushrooms cook for about five minutes until soft and cooked through. Uncover, turn the heat back up, and add the cream and soy sauce. Stir to coat and let the sauce thicken slightly. If you’re bringing this to a holiday dinner, place in an oven-proof dish and reheat before serving. Makes enough for 4 main-course or 8 appetizer/side dish servings.

In keeping with the custom of quaffing quantities of spirits along with holiday gastronomic delights, I thought I’d offer the most traditional of all holiday libations: the Egg Nog – slightly updated, of course.

EGG NOG

12 eggs
1 pound sugar
1 quart Jamaica Rum
1 pint Peach Brandy
3 pints heavy cream

Separate eggs (yolks from whites, not from each other) and beat yolks with the sugar until frothy. Slowly add cream and then liquors, stirring constantly. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold half of them into the yolk mixture. Pour in a punch bowl and float the remaining egg whites on top. Try not to imbibe at one sitting!


Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail