Tag Archives: Mushroom

Mizuna and mushroom salad with poached egg

You guys. How has no one ever told me to put a poached egg on a salad before? I feel cheated.

To be fair, I should have figured this one out long ago. I put runny eggs on just about everything else in my life, so why not a salad? Particularly this salad, which combines tangy greens, pan-fried oyster mushrooms, and a warm rice vinegar dressing. Add the golden richness of the egg yolk, and suddenly something alchemical happens: the whole thing becomes crunchy, chewy, sweet, tangy, gooey, rich, wolf-it-down-and-mop-the-plate delicious. This is the kind of salad that impresses people. It makes an entrance. I love it so.

The idea for this salad came from salade lyonnaise, the righteous French assemblage of frisee lettuce, bacon, and egg. I learned about this recently, and it stuck in my mind. The original salad involves a couple elements I’m not crazy about: bacon, obviously, and though I like frisee’s wacky texture, I don’t usually enjoy how bitter it is. So I made a couple of swaps–mizuna and basil for frisee, and oyster mushrooms, crisped in a pan, for bacon. It worked like a charm.

Mizuna is one of those greens that I’d heard about, but never actually sought out. Then, at the farmer’s market on a warm September Sunday, I saw a basket of lanky bunches and decided to pounce. It’s a Japanese green, supposedly related to mustard greens, but much more delicate and less aggressive. The flavor is a bit like arugula, but not quite so peppery. What really drew me to it, though, was the texture: crisp and feathery, with juicy bits of stem here and there. The greens wilted obligingly under the warm dressing, and tickled up here and there through the richness of the egg yolk. I’m sure you could make this salad with other greens, but the mizuna really worked gorgeously. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and take it from me: you’ll want to have some bread around to mop up the leftover dressing once the greens are gone. The combination of vinegar, shallot, and egg yolk–sharp, sweet, and fatty–is really plate-licking good.

mizuna mushroom salad

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Mushroom barley soup with kale

I’ll be honest. I don’t really get the whole kale thing. Yes, it’s dark and leafy and pulsing with iron. Yes, kale chips are tasty (although, so is almost anything else, if you toss with oil and salt and roast it to a crisp). But I’m really not convinced that kale is the hot, trendy, it-girl food of the moment. I’m just not a huge fan, no matter how delicately it’s sauteed or how vigorously it’s massaged.  Eating a kale salad, to me, is like chewing the rough end of a bottle brush.

Now. With all that said, I’ll be the first to admit that kale has its place in the world. Say, for example, in this soup.

Mushroom barley soup is a classic on its own–and with good reason. As in so many great Eastern European foodstuffs, the mix of hardy grain and earthy fungus is a source of comfort, a taste of home. But with a mess of kale leaves cut into ribbons and wilted into the pot, it becomes something else entirely. The broth softens the kale’s brushy edges, making it tender and supple. Suddenly, a stodgy old favorite becomes a hearty winter meal in a bowl, fortifying and warm without the attendant weight or guilt.

This is the kind of soup that demands a good gutsy broth. For the photographed batch, I raided my freezer for rich, chestnut-colored turkey stock, made from the carcass of my family’s Thanksgiving bird. If I didn’t have that, my first choice would probably be beef stock; normally I don’t go in for big cow flavor, but beef loves both mushrooms and barley so much that it seems like a natural. If you prefer a vegan soup, just swap out the stock for a strong vegetable broth–something dark and mushroomy, I would think.

Yes, kale has its place. Keep your massaged bottle-brush salads; I have my soup bowl.

mushroom barley kale soup

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Cheesy mushroom lasagna

I made this lasagna as dinner for our New Year’s party. And it made my boyfriend believe in lasagna again. His exact words? “I used to think that lasagna was gross. But this is, like…actually good.” Followed by, “I think this is the best lasagna I’ve eaten in maybe…ever.”

This, my friends, is a lasagna to be reckoned with: decadent, woodsy, gooey, salty, cheesy, meaty, dense. It’s also an elaborate project. There are noodles to prepare (more on that in a minute); a head of radicchio, sliced and roasted; a pile of mushrooms, sauteed to golden-edged limpness and doused with white wine; a pungent, garlicky white sauce; and four–count ’em, four–different cheeses. This is an all-afternoon Sunday kind of meal, for showing lots of love or making a great impression. And if you persevere, you will be rewarded with the richest, tangiest, most profoundly savory mushroom lasagna you’ve ever tasted.

Because this is a special-occasion dish, the mushrooms matter. You could use a jumble of fresh wild mushrooms, if they’re available and affordable. They weren’t when I went shopping, so I cheated. I used a mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms–in this case, a pound of creminis and an ounce each of dried shiitakes and dried oyster mushrooms, soaked in hot water until pliable. The dried mushrooms are damply intense, the fresh ones are meaty, and together they’re dark and murky and altogether perfect.

Oh, and about those lasagna noodles: I know you’re supposed to boil them first. But I don’t like the slippery wateriness that sneaks into many lasagnas that way, and besides, I don’t have a pot big enough to fit the noodles without cracking them. So this time, I took a cue from my dried mushrooms: I laid the lasagna noodles flat in a pan, covered them with boiling water, and let them soak while I prepped the other ingredients. The result? Supple, completely intact noodles that reached the perfect al dente texture in the oven. I’ll never boil a lasagna noodle again.

cheesy mushroom lasagna

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