Warm Portabello Salad

We all (probably) have a food out there that we really just do not enjoy. For me, I find mushrooms to be just unappetizing in every way. Periodically I try to eat them, but often find they return to my (very short) list of foods I avoid.

How then can you explain the mystery when in my produce box appeared this large almost romantically beautiful portabella mushroom? It sat in my fridge for 3 days. And every time I opened the door it seemed to be calling out to me, begging for my attention. One day, I couldn't take it any longer and I gave in. But, how would I enjoy this mushroom when half way through I knew it would once again feel slimy, taste dirty and remind me of its manure filled origin.

The only solution was to add as many of my favorite foods, while still highlighting this mysterious fungus.

First step: butter. I knew the taste would be a challenge therefore adding a bit of butter might help me to dive deeper into the mushroom. After I sliced the mushroom paper thin, I lightly sautéed them in a drizzle of coconut oil with just a bit of butter. The slices of portabella were ecstatic as they danced with the two fabulous fats, but I couldn't stop adding flavor. Thyme, white wine, and then as if a glorious cherry on top I splashed the mess with balsamic. It was a powerful punch and the sizzle and puff of smoke were almost overwhelming.

As the mushrooms melted with flavor I threw a large pile of one of my favorite, bitter greens, arugula into the middle of a salad plate. Once the portabella was satisfyingly hot I spread it onto the greens and watched them sigh and wilt slightly under the heat. I then shaved long slivers of parmesan cheese and a handful of crunched up fresh walnuts to decorate the top. My artwork was complete, but now for the taste by my worst critic... myself!

I loved it. The mushrooms are vinegary, but almost caramelized, the arugula bites back with bitterness that is sweetly met by the walnuts, which complement the rustic charm of the parmesan. So simple and yet my mysterious mushroom craving was finally met. Now, when I talk about mushrooms, I say I prefer not to eat them, unless of course they are in my Warm Portabella Salad.

Warm Portabella Salad
Serves 4-6

2 large portabellas, rinsed & dried to remove the dirt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other high heat vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 cups argula and/or spinach
¼ cup walnuts, broken into pieces
2 ounces parmesan cheese, peeled

To begin, lay the portabella on the rounder side and slice thin. In a medium skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once it becomes hot and liquid-y add in the butter. As soon as the butter starts to sizzle, spread the mushroom slices in the pan. Allow to sizzle on one side for 4-6 minutes until it is lightly golden. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Continue until all slices are sautéed. When the pan is full of the cooked up mushrooms, add in the leaves of the fresh thyme and the white wine. Allow the wine to absorb for about 1 minute and then toss in the balsamic vinegar. Take care not to inhale the balsamic fumes.
Arrange the arugula and/or spinach on plates or in a salad bowl. Drizzle the balsamic sauce and portabellas on top of the greens, sprinkle with the walnuts and top with the Parmesan strips.

Here are a few other dishes for those who LOVE mushrooms:
Earthy Fig, Chicken & Mushroom Salad - I love the idea of adding Figs!
Bacon, Mushroom, Asparagus Salad -and adding bacon is always a good idea for masking a least favorite food ;)


Black-Eyed Peas & Collards

I have spent very little time in the Southern states and I am always intrigued by the beautiful and well-established food culture that seems so foreign to my palate. I have cooked for a lovely Southern couple for quite a while now and at the start they commented that my cuisine is more California then Southern and if there is an opportunity to put fat or sugar in a dish- I should go for it. You have to enjoy that license to cook!

I love the idea of black-eyed peas and the simplicity of preparing them even from scratch. I am came up with this recipe when I was following a detox and needed a clean, vegetable-bean dish that felt hearty and filling. Since I am no longer on the detox I occasionally toss in a few ham chunks, but without them this dish is Vegan. To give a smokey flavor I add in one of my favorite spices, smoked paprika which I buy from the lovely Savory Spice Shop. I am sure my clients would tell me without the ham hock in this dish more 'Californian' but what can I say- I spent a few years there and maybe Black-Eyed Peas needed a little West Coast love... or interpretation.

Black-eyed Peas unlike other beans do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. You can throw them in a pot rinsed & dry, cover with water and cook up for 45 minutes to an hour. If you want to speed things up a Pressure Cooker makes beans cook up like pasta- since it is only about 10-12 minutes in a pressure cooker.

Creole Black-eyed Peas with Collard Greens

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black eyed peas or 2 cups cooked black eyed peas
15 ounce can diced roasted tomatoes
1 (generous) teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tbls fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces ham, cut into chunks (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat drizzle in the olive oil, sauté the onion and celery for about 5-6 minutes until tender. Add in the remaining ingredients, except the spicy cayenne, hot sauce and black pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then start adding the spices seasoning to your desired taste. Stir in the ham chunks if using. Serve with the collard greens on the side.

Collard Greens

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced fine
1 bunch of collard greens, rinse of all of the dirt, shake dry & slice into short strips
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and garlic. Warm up and once the garlic starts to sizzle slightly (usually soon- so be ready) toss in the collard greens and sauté until the greens have just wilted.

Complete this meal with a side a cornbread! Maybe try out this Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Cornbread.

Here is a Black-eyed Pea Soup with Collards that looks lovely as well!