They say that a picture is worth a thousand words - in this case it just made me hungry.
It started with a blog email with a fabulous picture of brown, breaded mushrooms tossed with bright green herbs piled high on a platter of toasty bread. As I gazed at the picture, I could just smell the deceptively simple aromas and taste its earthiness, all drizzled with a rich olive oil. I knew that this was a dish I just had to make.
I made sure that I had the ingredients on hand. Keeping with my favorite cooking style, there was nothing out of the ordinary (the anchovies were optional, after all) and I only had to make sure that I had the mushrooms. Next came the question of when. We are a pretty busy family and this was a dish I wanted to savor cooking, with ample time for listening to music, sipping a glass of wine and puttering about the kitchen. Again, nothing too fancy here, but I was looking forward to some relaxation in the kitchen, rather than the far too common harried meal prep of the weekdays. It looked as though Saturday night was my best shot and I planned my afternoon around setting the stage for this bit of cooking.
The week flew by and Saturday was upon us. Somehow it filled up with various things and while I felt very accomplished, as late afternoon rolled around it wasn't exactly the relaxed atmosphere that I had had in mind. Determined to make these mushrooms, it also occurred to me that I didn't really have a plan as to what to serve with them. A grilled steak would have been delicious, along with a salad of local lettuce and end-of-season tomatoes, but my lack of planning nixed that. Instead, I found an acorn squash and decided that it would be easy to roast that as an additional side and figure out the rest later.
Later came quick. I had prepared the mushrooms which were now baking in the oven and had a roasted squash. Now what? Fortunately, instinct took over - why not make roasted squash soup and serve with the mushrooms and bread on the side? After all, the mushrooms would serve as a vegetable and the bread croutons.
With a few pantry ingredients as well as an apple out of the grab-bag that our crisper becomes in the fall when we are getting the Scott Farm heirloom apple CSA, I managed to put together a delicious squash and apple soup that went perfectly with the tangy mushrooms and semolina bread croutons.
Here are the mushrooms and bread that were so photogenic they became a near-obsession. They tasted just like I thought they should and as with many dishes originating in Italy, an extra drizzle of olive oil is particularly perfect.
Baked Mushrooms, Broken Bread adapted from Guy Mirabella via Leite's Culinaria
1/2 cup grated Pecorino (I used Parmesan)
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (I buzzed mine in the food processor)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
Splash (big or small, according to your discretion) brandy
1 pound small to medium cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut to similar size if need be
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loaf semolina bread (or other crusty, flavorful bread)
Preheat the oven to 400°F
In a bowl, combine the Pecorino, bread crumbs, garlic, herbs, and lemon zest. In another large bowl, combine the lemon juice, anchovies, 1/3 cup olive oil, brandy, and mushrooms and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Add the cheese and herb mixture and toss once more.
Spread the mushrooms onto a large, lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with foil so there are no gaps and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until tender, another 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the mushrooms. Try not to over-bake as this will cause the mushrooms to dry out.
In the meantime, tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and place them on another baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and lots of pepper. Place it in the oven with the mushrooms for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking, or until the bread is golden and crisp on the outside but still a little soft in the middle.
To serve, place the bread on a large platter and spoon the mushrooms and their juices, if there are any, over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more parsley, rosemary, and thyme
A very versatile soup, feel free to add a bit of minced garlic for more flavor or some maple syrup for additional sweetness.
Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Apple
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut an acorn squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and place, face down, on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake about 1 hour, or until soft and easily pierced with a fork.
In a heavy pot over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 2 of a large onion, chopped and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, but not brown. Add 1 large sweet apple, peeled, cored and chopped and cook briefly. Pour in 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add 1 2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until apple is softened.
Scrape the cooked flesh of the squash from the rind using a spoon and add to soup. Process soup until smooth, using an immersion blender, counter blender or food processor (watch it - it's hot!). Add 1 2 cup milk or cream and additional stock, water, or even cider to taste.
These two dishes not only complimented one another on the palate, but also visually on the plate. Had I been thinking, I should have taken a photo to share, helping to capture one's imagination as much as mine had been, while adding another recipe to the mix.