Today we’ll be talking about mushrooms and polenta- two things I really, really disliked as a little kid. It’s weird the way your palette changes- sometimes your brain doesn’t keep up with your tastebuds and you continue to turn your nose up at certain things, until one day you get brave enough (or tricked into) trying them again. More than once I have been caught off guard by the deliciousness of something that I had, in the past, completely written off.
I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about acceptance and being open and not holding tight to judgements based on first impressions. Let’s all reflect on that. It’s probably a good thing to remind ourselves now and then…
I have always loved how food can be a great uniter across cultures… but if I get started on that, I’ll end up writing an essay and frankly- we’re here to talk about food.
So, back to me being a picky eater. If you’ve ready my About Us write-up you’ll know that there is absolutely no food that I won’t try at least once, and very few things I will not try a second time (just to check again). As a teenager, I was never good at sports (i.e. I played no sports ever and Phys.Ed. was my most dreaded class), so I tended to over-compensate in other ways. I was academic and artsy, so to prove my toughness and grit among my male friends I would be the one to eat the extra-hot chilies, or the whole eyeball from the roast lamb head, or the shot of pure moonshine.
Maybe I wasn’t trying to be tough, maybe I was just trying to be the ‘cool girl’ à la Gone Girl, or a variant of my favourite Indiana Jones gal (my equivalent of a Bond girl growing up), Marion Ravenwood. Whatever it was, now that I’m older and wiser and more comfortable in my own skin I can see how screwy socialized gender norms can be. (And I can still love Marion Ravenwood for the badass character she was.)
Eesh, stop going on rants, Finn! This is not the place to air your grievances over dysfunctional gender attitudes. Tumblr is. (and I do love tumblr, so very much)
Clearly I’m in an ranting mood today, which is funny since I’m actually in a very wonderful mood, all things considered (rainy Tuesday morning). Multiculturalism, feminism, food! It’s a lot to take in first thing.
So, I taught myself to like mushrooms, along with a wide range of other things that had previously offended my tastebuds. I think the first time I ever enjoyed a mushroom was at a friend’s house. His mum had made some very fancy soup with fresh morels on top and, not wanting to be rude, I nibbled away at the offending bulb in my dish until- oh man, this is actually really good. This is really good!
Morels are one of my favourite mushrooms, and it was still a while before I dove headfirst into loving the bolder shitakes or porcinis, but it was a good start. First came soups, risottos– things where I could appreciate how delicious the mushrooms actually tasted without being accosted by their unique texture. Nowadays, I love the texture, too. And that’s what you call, an acquired taste. 🙂
I used a variety of mushrooms for this dish, courtesy of my local Ponderosa Mushrooms. They do a wonderful ‘chef’s mix’ which combines brown and white shimeki, maitake, oyster, crimini, chanterelle and other seasonal favourites (and no, they didn’t sponsor this post, but maybe one day I will be cool enough to warrant corporate sponsorship). A pre-made assortment makes dishes like this really easy, but you can use any kind(s) of flavourful mushroom in a pinch.
Other than the mushrooms, everything in the recipe is a pantry staple so it comes together really quickly and easily. Ultra impressive, flavourful and satisfying- a vegetarian delight.
Finally, I know I spent this entire write up talking about the mushrooms but polenta, I’m sorry we fought when I was little. You’re cheap and easy in all the right ways (ha), and I love your gluten-free pizazz. Let’s have breakfast next weekend and invite a poached egg. Good plan.
|Balsamic Sautéed Wild Mushrooms Over Goat Cheese Polenta|| |
- 200 g mixed mushrooms- chanterelle, oyster, crimini, brown shimeji, white shimeji, maitake, etc.
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tsp butter
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup corn meal
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup goat cheese, crumbled
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft, stirring frequently. Add thyme and cook for another minute or so. Add mushrooms and balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add corn meal and stir well. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir until the polenta is the consistency of oatmeal, approximately 5 minutes. Add salt and goat cheese and stir until well combined.
- Serve polenta immediately with mushrooms and balsamic 'gravy' over top.