Magic Mushroom

We´ve been eating a lot of mushrooms lately. Not the fancy kinds, the ones you expect people to swoon over when summer ends and fall begins, no just your regular button and chestnut ones. Both for health and budget reasons, we´re eating less meat these days. After coming home from our trip to the US, it felt like there was pork fat and ground beef coursing through my veins, and please don´t get me started on the rest of the porkfat that has landed straight on my hips. So, we´re eating a bit more frugally, trying to cleanse the system and balance the checkbooks.

I know mushrooms are the vegetarian cliche (it really is too bad that almost every restaurant with a vegetarian main course on their menu does something with ´stuffed portobello mushrooms´), but, as is the case with most cliches, it did not become a cliche for nothing. Mushrooms are such a perfect addition to vegetarian dishes, with their, dare I say it, meaty texture and nutty, concentrated flavor. Here are 2 things I did with them recently.

Mushroom halloumi omelet
very simple: little cubes of fried halloumi, mushrooms, prepared the way I always do (pan fried over high heat with no added fat, until they are shrivelled up and lost all their liquid) and some chopped parley on an omelet

Tomato mushroom soup

For Sunday dinner, I don´t usually have specific plans. The fridge and pantry present me with some stuff and the challenge for a lazy Sunday afternoon is to come up with something easy but good. Yesterday, I had:
a can of chopped tomatoes
a bag of spinach
half a pound of mushrooms
a couple of potatoes
onions, pecorino cheese, eggs, fresh thyme and parsley

This could have gone many ways (a tomato sauce for pasta, and then this great salad on the side?
Spinach quiche, tomato bulgur? Tomato risotto perhaps? Forget about the tomatoes and use the spinach and mushrooms as a pasta sauce?
It was a chilly day, so soup felt right, and I wanted to move away from my beloved spinach-mushroom combo for once. So I made this tomato mushroom soup, added some dried porcini for extra mushroom flavor, and used the spinach for a little frittata to serve on grilled bread with the soup.

Tomato mushroom soup
serves 2 for dinner, 4 as a first course

a 400 gr. can of chopped or whole tomatoes, pureed (tomatoes with juice)
250 grams button or chestnut mushrooms, very finely chopped
a small handfull dried porcini (about 7 grams)
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 small potatoes, peeld and cut into small dice
a tsp of fresh thyme, chopped
olive oil, a splash of balsamic, a splash of soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper
fresh parsley to serve

Soak the dried porcini in boiling hot water to cover.
Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat. Add half a tablespoon of olive oil, then the mushrooms. Cook them over high heat untill they start releasing their liquid and become brown and nutty. When the liquid has evaporated, turn down the heat, and when the pan has cooled off a little, season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, then deglaze the pan with a cup of water. Turn off the heat.

In a another pot, heat half a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the onion over very low heat until it becomes soft (do not let it brown). Add the mushrooms to the pot, the potatoes, the thyme, the soy sauce and the tomatoes. Lift the porcini from the hot water (don´t throw away the soaking liquid!), chop them up and add them and the soaking liquid to the pot. Add another 1-2 cups of water until the soup is the desired consistency. Add plenty of salt and pepper, a bit of sugar, bring to a simmer and let cook gently until the potatoes are done and the flavours have melded together. Taste for seasoning, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and about a table spoon of olive oil. Serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

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