Main dishes, Recipes

Dried Mushrooms

I can be lazy. I admit it. I wait for sliced mushrooms to go on sale, and then I buy lots of them, rinse the residual compost (or whatever—I don’t want to think about it) off them, drain them, and shake them onto the dehydrator trays. Easy peasy.

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It only takes about 20 hrs. to dry them. I put some in yesterday afternoon, and by this morning, they were done.  I don’t have to slice them, and I’ll always have mushrooms on hand for my gluten-free Eggplant Lasagna.  And if you haven’t tried that dish, you should when fresh eggplant is available again.  (I just planted the ones I started from seed in March into the greenhouse planting beds!)

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You can make the lasagna without mushrooms, but they do add a texture and earthiness that I think enhances the flavor of the whole dish. Dried mushrooms are also great in soups or stews or dishes like Creamy Polenta with Mushroom (and Meat) Fricassee.  (Don’t be afraid to try various meats in this dish.  Beef stew meat will work perfectly well, as will any red meat.  I just happened to use bear meat.) This is a hearty dish for fall and winter that will reward you for taking the time to dry mushrooms when they’re on sale.

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You can substitute dried mushrooms in any cooked dish that calls for fresh mushrooms.  I always rehydrate the mushrooms for about 5 minutes in a bowl with enough warm water to cover them, then add both mushrooms and liquid to the dish.

The beauty part about drying mushrooms? The dehydration process intensifies the flavor of white button mushrooms. You know how the chefs on the food channels always say something like: don’t buy white button mushrooms because they have no flavor? (Yeah, they always want you to buy the expensive mushrooms, don’t they?) Well, dried white mushrooms have lots of earthy, mushroom flavor. And while they’re drying, your kitchen (or wherever you park your dehydrator) smells like you’re making the most incredible mushroom sauce.

Dried mushrooms last practically forever. Well, for two years, at least. Look at the label on the jar on the left. Those were dried almost two years ago, and they’re still perfectly good.

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Time to fill up another jar.

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condiment, Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing for Spring Greens

I love those fresh greens from my garden and greenhouse:  spinach, lettuce, kale.  I’m picking them now, a little late because I didn’t have my usual volunteers (I’m blaming the drought for that) and because my surgeries kept me from getting into the garden and greenhouse as early as I usually am in spring.

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But now it’s time for fresh salad, and to go with those lovely, fresh spring greens, you need a special salad dressing.  I have one.

Some years ago (2013 to be exact), I made some raspberry- and blackberry-infused vinegars from my own homemade apple scrap vinegar and the pulp from my jam making.  I must say, those vinegars turned out beautifully, but I have not used them as much as I thought I would, so I still have some in the fridge, two years old but as delicious now as when I made them.  So to honor my fresh spring greens, I dug up my recipe for berry vinaigrette salad dressing.  Last time I wrote about this, I used my raspberry-infused vinegar, but this time, I used the blackberry-infused vinegar.  And all I can say is:  WOW!  Here is the recipe, with links to instructions for making your own infused vinegars.  I hope you will try this recipe, because I know you’ll enjoy it.

Raspberry or Blackberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds

(makes about ¾ cup)

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of minced onion (I like red onion in this)

¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar or blackberry-infused vinegar

2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup

½ teaspoon dry, powdered mustard or prepared Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey or agave one teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.

Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey or agave, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.

Update:  When I started looking for recipes for raspberry vinaigrette salad dressings, I noticed that they all contained poppy seeds.  I have nothing against poppy seeds, but I don’t keep them in my kitchen.  However, I do have chia seeds on hand and am working on ways to incorporate them into more dishes (oatmeal and puddings, for example).  So I thought, why not?  At the time I decided to put chia seeds into this vinaigrette recipe, I didn’t know that chia seeds release a substance that thickens liquids.  This actually makes them perfect for a salad dressing, because they keep the dressing thick and emulsified.  In other words, they give the mustard, the traditional emulsifier for dressing (emulsification, put simply, is the smooth mixture of fats and liquids) a helping hand. This salad dressing won’t separate on you the way most vinaigrettes do.  And the chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, good for your heart and other body parts, so it’s all to the good to incorporate them into as many dishes as you can.

Eat your spring greens with some delicious berry vinaigrette dressing with chia seeds.  It’s all good for you!

 

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