Since starting this blog well over a year ago, I have become an amazingly easy person for whom to buy gifts. My friends give me food—ingredients they think I will enjoy using in my kitchen and, sometimes, trying out on them. If you cook for those you love, your loved ones will shop for you. Works for me!
For instance, this Christmas, I received gourmet oils and vinegars, homemade canned apple pie filling, home-brewed hard apple cider and the decedent and exotic ingredient I’m featuring today: Mushroom Jerky, a smoky and rich vegan delicacy even my carnivore husband loves.
Leo Sulentic (Remember Leo the local mushroom grower?) gave me a precious bag of his newest creation for Christmas, and, of course, it came with a challenge: “Let’s see what you can do with this.”
Never could resist a challenge… So I bought about four cups worth of his big gray oyster mushrooms, dug some frozen cauliflower out of my freezer (Oh the freezer was one of those easy-to-pick gifts, too, remember. Yeah, I’m sure you do.), lined up a few lemons, my favorite seaweed for extra smoky flavor, a couple of carrots, some fresh rosemary from my windowsill and high-quality toasted sesame oil (also a gift) and went to work. The result is an elegant, creamy, vegan soup that now tops my list of Green Gal Best Soups of all time. See what you think.
- One-half cup olive oil, divided into two quarter cups
- Four to five cups sturdy mushrooms such as oysters, shitake or portabella, chopped
- One-quarter cup dry sherry or dry white wine
- One-half cup diced carrots (about 3 small or one large, scrubbed but not peeled)
- One large yellow onion, diced
- Two large garlic cloves, minced
- Four to five cups cauliflower florets and stems (about one large head)
- Four cups vegetable stock (homemade or commercial)
- A few sprigs fresh rosemary
- Two tablespoons fine-chopped dried dulse seaweed (My favorite is Main Coast Organic Dulse.)
- One-quarter cup fresh lemon juice
- Zest from one large lemon
- One-quarter cup mushroom jerky
- Toasted sesame oil or, perhaps, truffle oil, if you have it
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat one quarter-cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms with a dash of salt and sauté until tender, about five to 10 minutes, depending on the variety of mushrooms you are using. The gray oysters, large portabellas and shitakes take a little longer (and taste way better) than the button variety. During the last couple of minutes, add the sherry or wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any mushroom bits that have stuck. Cook until the alcohol burns off, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the remaining quarter-cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and a dash of salt. Sauté for three to four minutes, until the vegetables have begun to sweat and are glossy.
- Add the cauliflower and a dash more salt. Continue to cook until the cauliflower becomes tender, maybe another three or four minutes if you are using frozen, five to eight minutes if you are using fresh.
- Add half the prepared mushrooms, the vegetable stock, rosemary sprig and dulse with another dash of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered for about 45 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
- Remove the rosemary sprig, but don’t worry if some of the little leaves are now floating in the soup. They’ll be just fine left in. Using an emulsion wand or a blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy.
- Add in the remaining mushrooms and the lemon juice. Reheat gently just until hot.
- Garnish with lemon zest and mushroom jerky. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil.
Star Ingredient: Mushroom Jerky
In addition to the incredible flavor of Leo’s jerky, is the even more incredible story of its harvest. You see Leo uses up the stems for this—what would normally be thrown away because it’s just too tough to eat. What was once compost is now haute cuisine. LOVE it!
Then there are the health benefits of mushrooms. Check out Organic Facts or Leo’s go-to source Dr. Joel Fuhrman for good information on why mushrooms, cooked traditionally or dried into jerky, are a great choice for your health and should be part of your menu every day.
Hey! Where’s the jerky?
So, I sense you are sort of frustrated with this post. You don’t have a friend named Leo who lives down the street, grows amazing mushrooms and gifts you jerky for Christmas. No worries. It may not be Leo’s jerky, but good healthy sources of mushroom jerky can be found by shopping online or—even better—searching for a local grower near you. You can search The Mushroom Company’s Newsletter section “Farms online” to find a sustainable source of mushroom jerky near you. You can find cool family-owned, generations-old online sellers like Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. However, I’m pretty partial to Leo’s, myself, and am in the process of convincing him to market his delicacy beyond his local borders. Stay tuned on that one—you might be able to get Leo’s mushroom jerky no matter where you live! Wow.
Inspiration comes from everywhere in my life these days, especially from Delicious Living Magazine and their recent issue, filled with helpful information on going green and improving your health. Their recipe for Cauliflower Buffalo Bites and amazing waste-not-want-not Celery Leaf Walnut Pesto just might replace your traditional Buffalo Wings and dip at the next party. Well, it’ll be a nice alternative for your vegetarian friends, anyway. Be brave!
See you shroon….