Salt, Time, Smoke

Crispy Chive Flatbread with Oyster Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Beets and Feta Cheese

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In support of Ministry of Mushrooms’ Mushrooms Go Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, I am offering up a recipe that includes many of the healthy foods recommended to reduce risks of certain cancers including breast cancer. Better late than never, is jumping in the pool here in the last week of the month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so many different food media outlets have been debating about the health benefits and possible cancer risk reduction properties of certain foods. Certain foods such as leafy greens, whole grains and seeds are often recommended to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Also studies have indicated a connection between eating mushrooms and lowering risks of developing certain tumors.

For this dish I grabbed several of the foods from the pantheon of ‘super foods’ that are densely packed with many different nutrients. Chia seeds, for example, have more omega 3 fatty acid than flax seed. I add this and wheat germ to the pizza dough to make the flat bread. The wheat germ adds another huge dose of folic acid, fiber and minerals. The garnish of oyster mushrooms, roasted beets and mustard greens provides your body a bevy of vitamins and minerals, essential to a healthy diet.

However, I’m not really qualified to debate this topic. I’m just the cook. So I’ll teach you how to work with these ingredients to make really good tasting food.

I have a few tricks I like to use when cooking for my son to sneak in nutrition-boosting foods. I like to keep a bag of chia seeds, quinoa and wheat germ around to add to soups and sauces. This flat bread recipe produces a nice thin flat, crispy bread. It has a cracker like consistency and the chia seeds provide a pleasant crunch and nutty flavor. The wheat germ affects the texture less than a whole wheat flour might but still adds loads of nutrition.

First, this crispy chia seed and chive flat bread could be used for a number of purposes. Use it for hummus or eggplant dips or as a pizza dough.

Start by making the dough

3 cups type ‘oo’ flour
1 cup warm water, plus extra
1 tbsp dry, active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp chia seeds
Parmesan for garnish
3 tbsp chives

Combine the yeast with the warm water to activate. Add chia seeds to same water and allow to sit until bubbles begin to appear.

Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend together. Add water to dry ingredients and mix together by hand. Add more water only as needed to bring the dough together. Once incorporated, knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Place dough in a floured bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise for about 20 minutes and gently punch down the dough to remove the large air bubbles. Allow to rise for another 30-40 minutes until it has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the other ingredients

2 small bunches mustard greens, cleaned and chopped
2 cups oyster mushrooms, cleaned and torn
3 red beets, peeled
12 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cloves garlic, whole unpeeled
feta cheese for garnish
canola oil or palm oil

Preheat the oven to 175c/350f. Carefully slice the peeled beets into even 1/4″ slices. Add to a roasting or cake pan with the whole garlic cloves and whole shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the oven, stirring occasionally until the beets are knife tender.

Preheat a sauté over medium high heat. Once the pan is nice and hot add enough oil to just coat the pan. Add the oyster mushrooms in one layer and allow them to sit undisturbed until they begin to color on the bottom side. Then add a small amount of garlic, a small nub of butter and season with salt and pepper. Toss several times and remove to a plate to cool.

In the same pan over medium heat add mustard greens, garlic and salt and pepper. Slowly wilt down the mustard greens, stirring constantly until most of the water is cooked out but they retain their firm texture. Return the mushrooms with to the pan with the greens and heat them back up together.

Roll out the flat bread

Preheat oven to 225c/450f. With a small amount of flour for dusting, roll out the flat bread to about 1/8th” thickness. Dust a sheet pan with a little flour or wheat germ and lay the rolled dough out on it. Brush generously with olive oil, and season with a little salt and black pepper. Next grate some fresh Parmesan over it and sprinkle with chopped chives (I like to use the white part here).

Place pan in the oven and bake until bubbles form and the bread begins to toast, about 7-10 minutes, then remove from oven.

Garnish flat bread

Lay down beet slices over the flat bread and then follow with the oyster mushrooms and mustard greens. Then sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over the top and garnish with the roasted shallots from the beets.

Return to the oven until all ingredients are hot and the feta softens. Remove and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with chopped chives. If toasted properly it will hold all of the toppings without buckling under the weight and will have a wonderful crispy texture.

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French Food for the Soul-Beef Bourguignon

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I told you I am a confessed francophile and I stand before you unapologetic. This one is a fundamental of French cuisine, much like coq au vin or escargot.

Beef Bouguignon was historically a country or peasant food. As the name indicates it originates from the region of Burgundy which lies south of Paris between Dijon and Lyons. Burgundy is best known for its wines, which are in my opinion the best in the world for both white and red. However its contributions to French cuisine are numerous, including escargot, Dijon mustard and Jambon Persillé.

This one is a rather labor-intensive process, especially if you make your on stock for it. I know it’s a lot of work so I’ll provide a couple shortcuts for the slackers to cut back on the time. So let’s move on to the basics for preparation.

Several cuts of beef will work just fine, like chuck or even short rib. Look for a braising cut that has good marbling. I realize that most reading this are probably not going to make their own beef stock. I will post on the topic of stocks at a later date to persuade more of you to do this but for now if you want to use a packaged low-sodium beef broth it will substitute ok. It will just have a little less soul.

Also the garnish, in classic French cuisine, is known as garniture grande-mère. It’s a combination of mushrooms, lardons (thick pieces of bacon) and glazed pearl onions. Glazed pearl onions can be rather labor and technique intensive to pull off for many home cooks. If you are uncomfortable with the process you can simply roast them in a hot oven with salt, pepper and butter.

Many modern interpretations of this dish, including Thomas Keller’s, use potatoes in the recipe. My rigidly traditional French inner-grandmother will not permit this though. Traditional Beef Bourguignon is always served with noodles.

Beef Bourguignon

1 kg (2 lbs.) beef chuck or any braising beef

1 bottle dry red wine

6 oz. bacon slab

2-3 white onions, large dice

2-3 carrots, large dice

1-2 celery stalks, large dice

3-4 garlic cloves, whole

1 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups veal or beef stock

1 bunch fresh thyme

1/2 bunch parsley

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

canola oil

salt and black pepper

for the garnish

25-30 pearl onions or shallots

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp sugar

500 g mushrooms (I used Ministry of Mushrooms oyster mushrooms)

2 shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

300 g fresh pasta, such as fettuccine or tagliatelle (or make your own)

Cut your bacon slab into thick strips or lardons.

Cut your beef into 1 1/2″ cubes, drain and dry the meat on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

In an oven-proof Dutch oven cook your bacon lardons until brown and crispy. Remove and set aside in a large bowl.

Add canola oil and begin searing your beef in batches until it is brown on all sides. Once all the meat is browned set aside with your lardons. It is very important to brown the meat well because this is what will give color and flavor to your stew later.

Reduce the heat to medium add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Preheat oven to 325f/175c.

Add tomato paste and red wine. Cook until reduced by 50%.

Return your beef and lardons and add your stock. Tie the thyme (reserve about 5-7 sprigs for later) and parsley stems (reserve the leaves for garnish) together and add to the liquid. There should be enough liquid to barely cover the beef.

Bring to a simmer, skimming off any fat or scum that rises to the top then cover and put in the oven.

Let braise in the oven for about 1 1/2-3 hours or until the meat is very tender. When it is complete remove the meat then strain the sauce through a sieve. Check the sauce for seasoning and consistency. If it’s too thick add water. If it’s too thin reduce.

Brown and meaty!

While this is going prepare garnish.

Add your peeled pearl onions or shallots to a sauté pan. Add butter, sugar and enough water to cover about half way. Cover this with a lid or parchment paper and cook on low heat. Add water as needed and cook until a paring knife passes easily into the onions. When they are finished, reduce the cooking liquid and glaze the onions with the liquid. Or, if you don’t feel like doing all of this, just toss them in salt and pepper and roast them in a hot oven with butter.

Preheat another sauté pan on high heat. Add canola oil and cook your mushrooms in batches. Allow them to sit still in the pan and caramelize. Once they are brown on one side add butter garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and toss.

Caramelized oyster mushrooms

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package, or if you’re like me, make fresh pasta dough and roll them out by hand. When the noodles are cooked, toss them in butter and chopped parsley.

My hand-rolled country noodles were a labor of love

When all is complete, plate your noodles first then spoon on generous heapings of braised meat and garnish with the mushrooms and pearl onions. Add a little chopped parsley for color.

Now there is only one wine that can grace the table alongside Beef Bourguignon, and that is Burgundy. Look for a full-bodied Burgundy that can stand up to this hearty dish such as a Côte de Nuits.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Well that’s because it is and that’s why we have people like me. Need help? Give me a shout!

Chicken and Oyster Mushroom Red Rice Paella with Roasted Vegetables

I spent about 30 minutes contriving a whimsical presentation. I hate myself.


Since living in the Philippines I have had more paella than I had collectively my whole life. I really do love the dish but sometimes get the urge to change it up a bit. My friend Marco Lobregat from Ministry of Mushrooms (more on this later) asked me if I could create a recipe using his mushrooms, to which I happily agreed. Somewhere in there I missed the part where it was supposed to be a healthy recipe. Hmm…kind of a tall order for a cook who specializes in melting animals and then putting them back together again. I was really thinking of a heart-stopper. At any rate I took the challenge and here it is.

Organic Philippine red rice

I decided to use a local red rice instead of a refined rice, inspired by my visit at Mamou. Both red rice and oyster mushrooms are loaded with minerals and antioxidants and are very good for you. The only fat used is extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to substitute what you like and what’s available to you especially for the garnishes. The same could be done with seafood or with eggplant instead of asparagus. Quail eggs are purely optional but damn tasty. Here are the ingredients:

Serves 4-6 people

For the broth:

40 g dried mushrooms

1 large carrot, peeled, large dice

2 stalks celery, large dice

1 medium onion, large dice

3 cloves garlic, whole

3 bay leaves

chicken bones and trim (see below)

leek tops (see below)

10 whole black peppercorns

several sprigs fresh thyme

several parsley stems


For the rest

1 whole small chicken

1 cup red rice

125 g fresh oyster mushrooms (larger pieces can be torn)

1 medium onion, small dice

1/2 cup leek bottoms, small dice

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 lb asparagus (approx)

10 small whole tomatoes

10 whole shallots (sibuyas tagalog)

10 quail eggs, boiled

fresh parsley, chopped

fresh thyme, whole

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

Everything on the right is for the broth. I removed the breasts from the bone because they're more valuable in the broth. I left the wing on the breast to the first meaty first joint, but the rest of the wing goes to the broth

First chop all of the vegetables for the broth and add them to a stock pot. Then break down your chicken as above and add it to the vegetables and cover with water. Add  the herbs and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes skimming and scum or foam that comes to the surface. Strain out the solids and reserve the liquid in a sauce pot. Take out about a cup of the reconstituted mushrooms and roughly chop them and reserve. You will have extra mushrooms now, which will be great for a soup or pasta.

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Preheat your oven to 200 c or 400 f. One a sheet tray or roasting pan, align all of your tomatoes, shallots and asparagus so they are segregated and not mixed together as they will have very different cooking times. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop the in the oven, removing each one as it finished cooking. Set aside.

Next preheat a paella pan on medium-high heat (if you do’t have one an ordinary sauté pan will work fine). Season Add enough extra virgin olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan and add your chicken skin-side down. Cook until golden brown. With the exception of the drumsticks, I only cook the chicken pieces on one side at this stage to crisper and brown the skin. Once the skin is brown remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the fresh oyster mushrooms to the hot pan. This is where it gets tricky. Don’t do anything. Don’t move them and don’t season them. If you do either they will release moisture and turn grey instead of a nice brown. Once they brown you may add salt and pepper a couple whole sprigs of thyme and stir. They will cook quickly so pay attention. When they have browned and softened, finish with chopped parsley, remove and set aside. Bring your broth to a low simmer.

Now add the leeks, onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the red rice and toast slightly, stirring constantly. Add about two cups of the hot broth and lower heat to a simmer and add your reserved reconstituted dried oyster mushrooms. As it dries up add more broth. Now open a beer and relax because this is going to take a while. As it cooks the liquid will thicken so make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Keep stirring and adding liquid as needed. If you run out of broth, that’s ok, just use water.

Once the rice begins to soften, add your chicken back to the pan skin side up. Simmer in the liquid until the chicken is cooked through. Remove again until the cooking of the rice is complete.

Red rice takes a while to cook and it’s kind of hard to overcook. I cooked mine for about an hour. Once the rice reaches the desired texture you can start garnishing your paella. Arrange the chicken, vegetables and quail eggs however you like and allow the liquid to dry up and the bottom to crust.

The lazy method

Like I said, the red rice takes a while. So if you want to make it easier just add it to your rice cooker with a 1:1.5 ratio of rice to water and cook as normal. When the water dries up it will be par-cooked and still hard. Then add it to your paella pan just before you add the broth. This should save about 20 minutes of hands-on time.