Every winter season should have its own favourite mushroom dish. Last January it was the winter portobello stew; this January I think it might just be this creamy triple mushroom gemelli. Rich, creamy, saucy, and earthy, with a hit of spice, it warms the soul on a chilly day. I haven’t decided whether the triple mushroom refers to the three main kinds of mushrooms I used – shiitake, enoki, and cremini – or to the three mushroom-based components of the dish – mushroom roux, mushroom sauce, and the crispy mushroom topping. But who cares? It’s all good in the name of comfort food, especially for funghi-lovers the world over.

Crispy mushrooms

8 oz wild mushrooms, enoki, baby king, shiitake, cleaned and chopped

2 – 3 tbsps olive oil

1-2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

sea salt and black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

small bunch thyme, leaves picked

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a mixing bowl so the mushrooms are well coated with olive oil and balsamic. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through, rich in flavour, and crispy in texture.

Mushroom Gemelli

1 small handful dried porcini or other dried mushrooms

2 tbsps flour

1 tbsp olive oil

4 or 5 cups mixed mushrooms, shiitake, cremini, portobello, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, coursely chopped

1 1/2 cups soy cream (a soy-based cream available at any specialty shop)

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp white miso

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp cayenne

1/8 tsp turmeric

chopped fresh rosemary

sea salt and pepper

parsley for garnish

1 lb pasta, gemelli, fettucine, or another other shape of choice

Grind dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder until the consistency of a fine powder. Mix with the flour and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add chopped mushrooms and saute until they begin sweat and brown a little. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and cooked through but not brown. When the garlic and mushrooms are done, sprinkle them with the flour and porcini mixture. Stir well until the flour is well moistened and the mushroom powder is fragrant. Keep stirring and scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan for 2 – 3 minutes.

As the mushroom mixture cooks, mix together the cream, red wine, tomato paste, miso, nutmeg, cayenne, turmeric, and rosemary. Start to slowly add the liquid ingredients to the mushroom mixture. You want to create a smooth, creamy sauce so add the liquids about 1/4 cup at a time stirring well as you go along. Let it simmer for a few minutes while you add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. When the pasta is done, toss with your creamy mushroom sauce and top with crispy mushrooms and a healthy dose of parsley. Serve piping hot and raise a toast to a job well done.



fregola sarda mista

June 19, 2011

Some of you may not have heard of Fregola Sarda. I hadn’t until I saw it on a store shelf last week and decided and I had to buy it. Fregola is a tasty Sardinian pasta made out of coarse semolina. The pasta bits are toasted after they are dried, changing the color and creating a nutty flavor that I think could become quite addictive. It cooks like pasta, you can use it like pasta, but it has a totally different consistency (aka “mouth feel”) that makes it an interesting alternative to the regular pasta we get in the habit of using. I did a simple “mista” version with grilled veggies, olive oil, balsamic, and herbs. I will make it again. And again. And again.

1 package Fregola Sarda

1/4 cup olive oil

6 tbsps balsamic vinegar

variety of vegetables including fennel, peppers,onions, zucchini, grilled and chopped

slow roasted tomatoes

fresh herbs (basil, thyme etc.), chopped

sea salt and pepper

Cook Fregola Sarda according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, grill vegetables. Chop veggies finely along with herbs. When Fregola Sarda is al dente, drain, and put in a nice big mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add grilled vegetables, chopped herbs, and slow roasted tomatoes. Toss. Add sea salt and vinegar to taste. Serve warm or keep in the refrigerator for a nice summer-y picnic lunch.

aglio olio

May 30, 2011

It’s astounding that I’ve had this blog for over a year now and I’ve never posted aglio olio. This is a mainstay in our household, especially when we’re tired or the cupboard is bare. This past week we had a family emergency to deal with so by last night the cupboard was really bare. And I mean really bare. So Andrew whipped up a batch of this simple, elegant, tasty, elemental dish and we left the table feeling satisfied and nourished both physically and emotionally. You could pick up the recipe almost anywhere but the fact that Andrew was trained in the fine art of aglio olio preparation while living in Tuscany just makes it feel that much more authentic.

1 pound spaghetti or spaghettini

2 full (small) buds* garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup starchy pasta water reserved from cooking

salt and pepper

Cook spaghetti or spaghettini according to instructions. When done, drain and set aside, reserving some of the pasta water (Andrew says from the bottom of the pot, not the top of the pot!).

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Saute garlic until just tender and aromatic, but not too much. Add a little of the pasta water to make a simple sugo (sauce). Add pasta and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*By buds I mean the full 7 or 8 cloves you find in a bud. It’s not called aglio olio for nothing.

The kids love pasta so we tend to serve it at least once a week. We usually do what’s easiest which, for us, is to grill a bunch of veg on the BBQ and toss with olive oil, tonnes of fresh chopped herbs, and sometimes some crumbled feta. If there is leftover chicken or sausage, I serve myself and then add the meat to the dish after the fact.

I decided last night to be a little bit more adventurous and try something new so I came up with this mushroom ragù alla bolognese. There’s something about bolognese sauce that strikes a cord in the dead of winter – it’s hearty, and warming, and comforting. But all that ground beef? Mmmm, not so much. And even though the kids bugged me about my “meatless meat sauce” it got full thumbs-up and plates were licked clean. Literally.

2 tbsps olive oil

2 large onions, diced

3 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

5  cloves garlic, minced

4 – 5 cups of mushrooms, various including portobello, cremimi, and shitake), chopped very finely

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 glass red wine

2 tsps organic cane sugar

2 bay leaves

lots of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano parsley) or dried if you don’t have fresh

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent and soft. Add carrots and celery and sauté until cooked. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, another 2 minutes or so. Add finely chopped mushrooms (I chopped mine in a food processor to speed up the process and make sure they were chopped enough). Sauté until mushrooms have sweated and most of the moisture has cooked off.

Once veggies are nicely cooked, add glass of red wine. Let simmer for a few minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaves and herbs. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for awhile. I didn’t have much time so only simmered for about 15 minutes but longer would be better as all good sauces need time to meditate, get to know themselves, and sink into deeper levels of harmony. 1 hour or more would be ideal. Along the way, add salt and pepper to taste until it’s perfect.

Serve over spaghetti or tagliatelle. You could serve it over any pasta but really it should be spaghetti or tagliatelle as is the tradition in Bologna. They take their pasta/sauce combos very seriously and I gotta say, they have a point.

I got this from my brother-in-law, Eric, the other day who works for Kindred Spirit Catering. My sister raved about it so, naturally, I asked for the recipe so I could try it out and bring it to you, my trusty readers. Eric is a total natural with food and makes some mean, unpretentious fare. I’ve written about him before as he’s the creator behind the Parsnip and Celery Root Puree (with cardamom and vanilla I might add!), and the one who roasted the unbelievable lamb last Christmas. I tried this one last night and it’s a keeper for sure. It’s healthy, it tastes good, it keeps well, it’s got a nice balance of sweet and spicy, and it lends itself well to substitutions (for example I used fresh shelling peas from Prince Edward County instead of edamame; fresh arugula instead of spinach). Cook this, enjoy, and feel like a million bucks. Thanks Eric!

1 package of soba noodles

2 cups edamame, shelled

1 cup wakame seaweed

1/2 cup green onion, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 Thai basil, chopped

1 cup alfalfa sprouts

1 cup baby spinach

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 tbsps sesame seeds


1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tbsps sesame oil

3 tbsps tamari soy sauce

1 cup olive oil

1 tbsp ginger, minced

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tbsp sweet chili sauce

Cook soba noodles according to the instructions on the package. Refresh under cold water. Steam edamame beans in boiling water for 1 minute. Refresh under cold water. Soak wakame seaweed in cold water for 5 minutes until it expands and becomes soft. Drain thoroughly and squeeze out excess water. Combine with other salad ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly to mix evenly.

For the vinaigrette, place all ingredients other than the olive oil in a food processor. Turn machine on and slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture. Drizzle salad with the vinaigrette and toss gently. Top with cilantro or parsley and serve.