New Year’s Eve Leftovers for Lunch

Well 2013 shot by like a rocket. My great aunt once told me the older you get the faster time goes. As I near 70 I can testify she was spot on with that observation.

I thought I’d try again at keeping Anniespickns going. One would think that a retired person would have tons of time to write and take pictures but I haven’t found that to be true. It’s more like I have found sooooooo many things that peak my interest and take my time that Anniespickns has suffered.  Sometimes the interest has been there but it gets replaced with something even more interesting. So, it’s a new year, a time, they say, for new beginnings.

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New Years Eve I cooked a rack of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach for myself. The rack had about eight bones so I naturally had leftovers. After a beautiful bike ride along the river, in sunny upper sixty degree weather today, I came home hungry and ready to eat some leftovers.  I knew I had a few brussels sprouts in the fridge so I decided to saute some in olive with a few shitake mushrooms, sweet Maui onions, and a clove roasted garlic as an accompaniment to the leftover lamb. I also treated myself to a glass of Pinot Nior, also a leftover. Hard to drink a whole bottle of wine by one’s self even on New Year’s Eve.DSCN6544I really love brussels sprouts prepared this way they are quick and delicious. Just cut off the end stem, remove the outside leaves, cut them in half and slice thinly. Don’t overcook them, just saute them lightly. Sometimes I thinly slice bacon, saute it until almost crisp, then saute some onion in the bacon fat, add the slivered brussels sprouts and quickly saute them. In my book there isn’t much that doesn’t taste good with a little bacon.

Other ideas for brussels sprouts can be found at:

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts

Monday’s Two-fer

Slow Post For A Quick Stir-Fry

There is much talk these days about “slow food”, but this is about “slow posts”. I have been trying for over a week to get this posted. I didn’t have trouble getting to the Farmers’ Market to shop, that’s part of my Sunday routine. I bought the shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, scallions, and more green garlic so I could try a recipe I had found for Ginger Fried Rice. I made the recipe. It was delicious. I even got photos taken but what didn’t happen was finding the time to write and put the words and photos together. I’m sometimes amazed how long it takes.  Do you have weeks where it seems like you go from Monday to Friday in just one day instead of five?

Shiitake mushrooms are, in my opinion, simply the best. I love the flavor and the texture finding them even meatier than a Portabella. I guess the edge the Portabella has is its size. I’ve never seen a Shiitake that comes even close to the Portabella in size and I’ve never tasted a Portabella that comes close in flavor to the Shiitake.

Also known, as Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom, shiitake are the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. They also have an ancient history being recorded in Japan back to AD 199 and in China there are written records of them during the Sung Dynasty (AD 960-1127). During the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), they were prized not only as a food but also as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost life energy and prevent premature aging. Today they are still touted for their curative properties and extracts from the mushroom and sometimes the whole dried mushroom, are used in herbal remedies.

Prior to 1972 it was thought by the USDA that the species was invasive so cultivation was not allowed in the United States. In 1982, Gary F. Leatham published an academic paper based on his research on the budding and growth of the Japan Islands variety; the work helped make commercial cultivation possible in United States.

Today,  mushrooms have become popular in many other countries as well. Russia produces and also consumes large amounts of them, mostly sold pickled, something I have never tried. There is a global industry in  production, with local farms in most western countries in addition to large-scale importation from China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere.  A lot of the imported mushrooms come to us dried. They have a very rich flavor but I prefer the texture of the fresh ones.

The fried rice recipe I made was a variation on one I found on epicurious.com.

Ginger Fried Rice with Shiittake Mushrooms and Asparagus

Makes 6 side-dish servings

2 tablespoons plus 1-teaspoon vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten with 2-tablespoons water

1 ½ tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I recently read that you can freeze ginger root and just grate it into a recipe and that’s what I did this time and it works great. You don’t even need to fool around with peeling it)

3 scallions, white and green parts chopped separately

3 green garlic, white part and tender light green parts sliced thinly  (optional)

½ lb asparagus cut on the diagonal into 1” pieces

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

½ lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced (you could substitute dried shiitake that have been soaked and drained, or you could try crimini but the flavor and texture of either of these will be very different than the shiitake. I definitely wouldn’t recommend using the white mushrooms.)

3 cups cold cooked white rice (I use a short grain white which tends to stick together more than the long grain but it worked just fine.)

½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds (not sure how many I added probably a tablespoon or two)

Heat a wok or a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot. Then add ½ teaspoon vegetable oil and swirl around wok/pan. Add half of egg mixture and swirl pan to coat bottom with a thin layer about 5 inches in diameter. When egg crêpe is set, about 45 seconds, transfer with a wide metal spatula to a plate to cool. Make another egg crêpe with remaining egg mixture. Roll each crêpe into a cylinder, and cut crosswise into ¼ inch-wide strips, then unroll. (This was so simple to do and I loved the way it looked and tasted. If you don’t want to make the crêpes, scramble the egg and water mixture)

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add ginger, white part of scallions, garlic and salt and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shiitakes and s and stir-fry until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble rice into wok add asparagus pieces and stir –fry until rice is lightly browned and asparagus is still crisp tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add scallion greens, egg strips, and sesame oil, tossing to combine.

I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute broccoli for the asparagus. Just keep the pieces cut into sizes that will cook uniformly, or steam the broccoli separately then add at the end with the scallion greens and egg strips. I think I would also like to try this with bok choy as the vegetable. This is an easy meal to prepare, as with most stir-fries the longest time will be spent in preparation.

If you give this one a try let me know how you liked it and what substitutions you made.

Spaghetti Squash with Thai Yellow Curry

All this cool, foggy weather has had me thinking about one of my favorite meals, Vegetarian Jungle Curry, from Lemon Grass Asian Grill. I can almost taste the crisp, tasty seasonal vegetables and tofu, served over rice and  topped with the most yummy Thai yellow curry sauce. Usually when I have this craving I swing by the restaurant. But today while I was driving around doing errands I got to thinking about the leftover spaghetti squash I have in the fridge and how it might be pretty tasty with some Thai yellow curry. Boy was I right. Tonight, I sautéed some garlic, yellow onion and crimini mushrooms, steamed some broccoli and placed it all over the leftover spaghetti squash. Then I poured on the Thai yellow curry. OH MY! I think I found my favorite way to have spaghetti squash.

Last year Mai Pham, owner and chef of Lemon Grass Restaurant and Lemon Grass Asian Grill, here in Sacramento, started marketing Thai Yellow Curry, Thai Green Curry and Lemongrass Ginger Marinade concentrates.  Since her yellow curry is the one I crave, I was thrilled to know that I could buy the concentrate. It’s now a staple in my pantry.

Tonight’s recipe was yummy and it satisfied my craving, but I can tell you that Mai’s version still calls out to me and you can bet I’ll be suggesting one of  her restaurants the next time I meet a friend for lunch.

If you’re from the Sacramento area you can purchase Lemon Grass Kitchen concentrates at either of the restaurants, they’re also carried at Corti Bros., Whole Foods, or Nugget Markets. Corti Bros also has online ordering.

Farmer’s Market shopping list:

Spaghetti squash

Broccoli

Yellow onion

Crimini mushrooms

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

I recently found this article in The Huffington Post. It’s a good guide to winter vegetables having both pictures and recipes.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

The Huffington Post 12/13/09

It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut of using the same ingredients and the same recipes again and again. If you shop at your local farmers’ market, however, you have a great opportunity to try something new. Most people think farmer’s markets are only for summer, but there are many that are open year round and offer great winter produce. Buy some fresh, seasonal produce and discover delicious new flavors. Here, our some picks for wonderful winter vegetables, complete with recipes you can make tonight.

The Freshest Mushrooms You’ll Ever Find

Last month my sister  Gwen and I headed up to Salt Point State Park to meet up with a group from the Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA) for a mushroom foray. A first for both of us.

I will be the first to say that I know nothing about foraging for wild mushrooms. The closest I can come to any experience with wild mushrooms is when I was in high school and we lived on a ranch in the Capay Valley. Sometimes, during the rainy winter months a friend would drop by our ranch with a gift of freshly gathered wild mushrooms. On those very special times my mom would sauté the mushrooms with some butter and serve them with a nice pan-fried steak. Oh my. Ranch grown, aged beef and wild mushrooms. A rare treat indeed.  Another memory, and probably the one that spurned this trip, comes from the many trips made to Sea Ranch. Often as I traveled to Sea Ranch on a misty winter day, I would often notice lines of cars parked along side the road throughout Salt Point State Park. For a long time I wondered why so many people were parked where there weren’t trailhead markers or apparent day use areas. Later I found out that those folks were foraging for wild mushrooms. Really, I said to myself. How interesting. So, when I recently found out that SOMA hosts a monthly foray I was determined to give it a try. And, I can tell you it was all I had hoped for and, much more.

Getting an early start from Santa Rosa, we traveled west along the Russian River to the coast. The weather was perfect, sunny with no detectable wind. Our luck continued, weather wise, as we headed north up beautiful Highway 1 to the meeting place in Salt Point State Park. When we arrived we found the parking lot full of folks of all ages. There were even families with children and grandparents in tow. Probably close to one hundred people were all gathered. All  prepared with their “Ten things to bring on a Foray” (from the SOMA website). All ready for a foray in the woods.

  1. Collecting basket or paper bag with handles
  2. Wax bags or small paper bags to separate species (no plastic!)
  3. A 10x hand lens or small magnifying glass is always helpful for identification
  4. Water bottle and a snack
  5. A notebook, pen, and a small Mushroom field guide is always useful
  6. Small digging tool or knife to get at the mushrooms
  7. A whistle is handy to locate your fellow foragers if you get off trail or turned around!
  8. Hat and/or rain gear as weather demands
  9. Some brown soap or similar disinfectant for the inevitable tangling with poison oak
  10. A potluck dish (for after the foray), and a good appetite

After a little intro, we broke into groups based on how far, and how vigorously  you wanted to hike. We chose a group that was taking a gentle walk, the leader had recently had knee surgery. Our gentle walk headed up hill at an excited clip and as we walked we started noticing folks fanning out into the forest, to the left and right of the trail. We saw them looking under brush and seriously hunting for mushrooms. So, Gwen and I headed out too. We had no clue what we were doing, but we were looking for mushrooms and you know what, we found them everywhere. And, there were more kinds that you could ever imagine. Gwen picked what ever she found. I photographed everything I found.  At one point, as I wandered through the beautiful forest setting, I came upon another gal on her quest, and she shared a wonderful find with me. She had found some chanterelles and she allowed me to harvest them. Three beautiful “edible” mushrooms.  My day was complete.


We wandered around amongst the trees enjoying the sounds, scents and scenery, for a couple of hours, then we started working our way back down the hill towards the picnic area. When we arrived there were other small groups who had brought in their finds and had started laying them out on the picnic tables. Group after group arrived and the tables became loaded with mushrooms in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. Soon the knowledgeable fungi folk, from SOMA, were checking out the finds to deem which varieties were edible and which were definitely not.  We found it all so fascinating. The identifications and discussions continued. Others who were more interested in eating than discussing started to organize the potluck and soon eating became more popular than the discussions. We had thought there might be some mushroom cooking, but that didn’t materialize. The dishes brought were varied and delicious. One, very wonderful, soul even brought some abalone to share. First I had had in many, many years.

Satisfied with what had been an incredible day we packed up our little collection of specimens and headed back to Santa Rosa.

During the mushroom season (from September to May), SOMA leads monthly Saturday morning Forays, usually at Salt Point State Park. They meet at 10am at Woodside Campground public area. Check out their website for specific dates.

I Love Onions!

I can’t imagine cooking without onions. They are one of the basics I always keep on hand. During the winter months I use both the red and yellow dry-skinned onions. I pick onions that are firm and have papery skins that crackle. Onions that smell moldy or that feel soft, especially at the neck are to be avoided.

Here’s a quick little recipe I made tonight using onions, some leftover shitake mushrooms, a little chard, leftover grilled chicken and brown rice. I love throwing together this kind of quick meal. First I slice the mushrooms and brown them in a little canola oil. Then, I add the sliced onion and chard stems, and sauté them until they were just crisp-tender. Next, I add some shredded chard leaves and a little chicken stock, cover the pan and simmer it until the chard is wilted and the onions and chard stems are tender. In a soup bowl place some leftover brown rice and diced leftover grilled chicken, cover it with a plate and warm it in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Just before serving I add a little sesame oil to the onion/chard/mushroom mixture, toss it, then place it on top of the chicken and rice. Quick. Satisfying. Nutritious.

Ingredients to look for at the Farmers’ Market:

Dry-skinned onions

Mushrooms

Chard, spinach or beet greens

Organic short grain brown rice

Organic, free-range chicken

Leftover turkey? How about a Pot-au-Feu?

Photography: Randy Mayor

The day after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start thinking of making some turkey soup. A few years ago I ran across a recipe for a Turkey Pot-au-Feu. This is not your typical turkey noodle soup. In fact, it doesn’t even have noodles. Pot-au-Feu is a simple French dish of meat and vegetables simmered together. This version has lots of wonderful fresh winter veggies, from the Farmers’ Market, combined with tender chunks of leftover turkey, all floating in a rich broth. The finishing touch, fresh picked thyme from the garden. I love serving this with a hot crusty loaf of garlic Asiago bread and a glass of wine. This is the perfect after Thanksgiving dish.

Turkey Pot-au-Feu

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 cup quartered crimini mushrooms

½ cup chopped carrot

½ cup chopped leek

½ cup chopped peeled rutabaga

½ cup chopped peeled turnips

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

½ cup dry white wine

4 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth (or homemade turkey broth)

2 cups leftover cooked turkey, chopped (light and dark meat)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ teaspoon salt

Dash of black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs

1.  Heat 1 ½ teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until golden. Remove mushrooms from pan.

2.  Heat 1 ½ teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add carrot and next 4 ingredients (carrot through garlic); sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook until reduced to ¼ cup (about 1 minute). Add mushrooms, broth, turkey, chopped thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Serves 6 (1 cup size servings)

What to shop for at the Farmers’ Market:

½ lb crimini mushrooms

1 medium carrot

1  medium leek

1 rutabaga

1 turnip

garlic

fresh thyme