Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shitake Mushrooms from Sharonview Farms

 Fresh Shitake Mushrooms Just Picked from the Log

Somebody brought logs to the Waxhaw Farmers' Market on Saturday. Not just any old logs, but four-foot long hardwood logs all propped up neatly in a row, and adorned with the most beautiful shitake mushrooms I've ever seen. Teri (the proprietress of the booth) invited me to pick the mushrooms, and I could barely contain my be the one to actually harvest these perfect mushrooms, and then TASTE them. Ohhhhh.....I barely made it to the car before tearing open the cute little mushroom-decorated brown paper bag and popping a tantalizing treasure into my mouth. Meaty, tender, sweet, earthy essence....everything store-bought mushrooms had ever promised but never delivered. I will never again be satisfied with harvesting from the grocery store.

Having a supply of mushrooms this fresh and to be able to pick them is a rare privilege, one that I just had to share with you before the harvest season is over. You can meet Teri or her fiance, Nasi, at the Waxhaw Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings, or call them at Sharonview Farm at 843-602-8593. The farm is at 4114 Crow Rd., Monroe, NC 28112, and if you'd rather use email, their address is Oh, and you don't have to pick the shitake if you don't want to, they will be happy to pick them for you. If you're a personal chef or want to order a larger quantity for your restaurant, they'll make arrangements for you to get what you need. If you live far away, check with them because maybe they'll even be able to ship them to you. Better get 'em before they're gone! (Recipe for Chicken with Shitakes &; Capers in the next post!)

Sharonview Farm
4114 Crow Rd.
Monroe, NC 28112

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fiesta Vegetable Soup

An end-of-the-garden soup!

Ever hear of nopalitos? They are the leaves of the prickly pear cactus, and I never in a million years would have known what to do with them until I visited friends in Mexico a few years ago and was introduced to them in soups, stews, salads, and even juices. Our Mexican friend said that according to folklore, napoles (the cactus leaves) help to prevent bladder cancer. I just think they are a tasty addition to many dishes. A bonus is that they are very low in calories and fat free.

I'm so glad that you can purchase nopalitos already cleaned and jarred, because I really don't think I'd take the time to find them fresh, remove the spines, and peel them. You can find them in jars (see above photo) in Wal-Mart and almost all the grocery stores, and all you have to do is dump them in a strainer and rinse the salty brine off, and they are recipe-ready. Today, I even diced some up and added them to tuna salad, and it was delicious. They don't have a strong flavor, just add that salty kind of bite that capers add to dishes. Oh, and in this soup they look like green beans. I doubt anyone will notice there are cactus leaves in your soup!

Fiesta Vegetable Soup

1 T. olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 medium green bell peppers
2 medium red bell peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock (this is a vegetarian dish if you use vegetable stock)
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked, 1/2 inch dice
2 c. napolitos (from jar), rinsed well, drained, and coarsely chopped
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
2 tsp. salt
6 dashes liquid smoke flavoring (you can leave this out, but I think it adds something important)
Garnishes: shredded cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream or Greek yogurt

Coat the bottom of a 6-8 quart heavy bottomed stock pot with thin layer of olive oil. Heat to shimmering, then add onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs and spices. Saute, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom, till vegetables are tender.

Add two cups of stock and tomatillos; simmer for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients; bring to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are tender and soup has thickened a bit. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve. Garnish as desired. Serves 8
Freezes great!

(About 350 calories per serving without the garnishes.)