Wednesday, April 04, 2007

FREE FOOD.....for thought!

Have you noticed the new food consciousness going around? People seem to be thinking more not only about what they eat, but where what they eat comes from. Not only how it was grown/raised, but who actually got their hands dirty in the process. For me the big epiphany was reading Michael Pollan's bestselling book Omnivore's Dilemma, which I think everyone should have on their must read list. Here in Portland we have our own quarterly reminder in the form of an amazing little magazine called Edible Portland. In their words, "The goal of this magazine and website is to be a resource that makes eating, growing, and enjoying our local abundance an everyday pleasure." I think we can all get with that. Not only is it an informative, very well put together magazine featuring local producers and their stories, but they also get local restaurant chefs to come up with recipes that use local, seasonal produce. I've sampled a few of these, and have yet to be disappointed. I particularly remember a sensually rich, stunningly good wild mushroom and hazelnut soup (recipe below) that simply blew me away. And for those of you outside of PDX, their sponsoring organization, Edible Communities, has "Edible" publications in many cities around the country. The crazy good part is that this will cost you....nothing. Here in Portland they are available for free at New Season's Markets and a few other outlets, or if you are afraid you might miss an issue, you can also subscribe. A small price to pay for that little bit of your mind that gets opened up to new possibilities. Not to mention a very satisfied stomach!
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Mushroom and Hazelnut Soup with Sherry Cream
from Heather Staten, chef instructor at In Good Taste Cooking School
serves 4-6

-2/3 cup Oregon hazelnuts
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 large shallots, finely minced
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-1 pound button or crimini mushrooms, stems removed and sliced (save stems for mushroom stock)
-1/4 pound wild mushrooms (chanterelles, porcini, or shitake are all good)
-1/4 cup Amontillado sherry or Marsala
-4 cups mushroom or chicken stock (see notes at bottom)
-salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes until they are lightly toasted and their skins begin to crack. Remove from oven and put hazelnuts in clean dishtowel. Rub vigorously to remove as much skin as possible. When cool, grind the nuts in a food processor and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the mushroom slices and sautée 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Deglaze the pan with sherry or Marsala. Add the mushroom stock and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree the soup and nuts together in a food processor or blender (see notes at bottom) in batches- process a long time until the ghazelnuts are completely smooth and integrated into the soup.

Sherry/Marsala Cream:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sherry or Marsala
Finely chopped tarragon, chives, or parsley to garnish

Whip the cream, and add the sherry or Marsala. Serve dolloped on top of the hot soup and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Mushroom Stock:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped coarsely
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 leek, rinsed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 8 ounces mushrooms from preceding recipe
6 cups water

Heat the olive oil in a large 4 quart saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and leek and sautée over medium-high heat until the onion is well browned, about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sautée another 5 minutes. Add all the remaing ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered for 45 minutes. Strain through a sieve.

** Cook's notes: First, this recipe looks like a lot of work, but it really isn't that hard and comes together quite easily. Secondly, I would definitely make the mushroom stock and skip the chicken stock option. It is very easy and is crazily aromatic. Lastly, use a blender if you have one. The soup will come out velvety smooth, more so than in the processor, which is exactly what you want.- bb

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