Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mycelium rumbling

There are few things as delicious as a good mushroom. Last week, I was honored to be a part of my friend Jonathan's "test kitchen" dinner party, which featured some of the most delicious fungi I have ever sampled. That's not just the prosecco talking, either (though there was plenty of that, chilled, on hand.)

I've known Jonathan -- local cookbook author and lover of all things farmers market -- for a handful of years now. He's the real deal: a man who talks to farmers in detail about their crops, who talks at length with market shoppers in search of new recipe ideas or cooking tips, who talks to me for hours about making food more fun and accessible to everyone. My people, this one. For years I've known he hosts regular recipe testing gatherings at his house, yet last Tuesday night was the first one I'd joined. I'm wondering why the heck it took me so long. I have no good answer to this question. What I do have is another great recipe, courtesy of Jonathan and the good folks at Mycolumbia Mushrooms -- James and Natalia were our culinary co-conspirators for the evening, as we brainstormed, chopped, and tasted our way through the evening, along with my gentleman friend, Harlan.

Actually, we made a few different recipes -- chicken and mushroom dumplings with three trial dipping sauces (all delicious), a spinach salad with oven fried mushrooms, a seared steak with sauteed oyster mushrooms and bleu cheese (who knew I liked bleu cheese that much?), and, the one I begged the recipe for afterwards, a hearty mushroom and barley soup. My tummy was rumbling for it for days. This weekend I'll be picking up ingredients to make more....

Mushroom barley soup
Recipe notes courtesy of Jonathan Bardzik


  • 3 oz dried oyster mushrooms soaked in 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 TBSP butter -- I'd brought some leftover from the day's classes, handshaken by 1st graders
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup uncooked pearled barley, rinsed
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 TBSP yellow miso -- I'm obsessed with this stuff, be warned
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 lb fresh pea tendrils, tough stems removed
Miso butter: 
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP yellow miso -- see what I mean?

Place dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 20-30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain mushrooms through cheese cloth, reserving both mushrooms and liquid.

Melt 2 TBSP butter with 2 TBSP olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add barley and cook an additional 5 minutes to toast, stirring occasionally.

Add mushroom liquid and cook approximately 1 hour until barley is tender. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. Separate reconstituted mushroom stems and caps. Shred caps  with a knife and thinly slice stems. Toss with remaining 2 TBSP olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until mushrooms are deep brown and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

Add mushroom stock and miso to the barley mixture and simmer for 5 minutes longer allowing flavors to blend.

Remove soup from heat and stir in pea tendrils. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of rice wine vinegar.

Make miso butter: Melt butter and yellow miso in a small pan over medium heat. Whisk together.

Serve soup garnished with miso butter and toasted mushrooms. OMG, so good!!

This spring is so wonky lately, it's actually, strangely, soup weather again. So get yourself out to the farmers' market to get your oyster mushrooms and get cooking! (What's that? Oh! Mycolumbia will be at the 14&U market and the Bloomingdale market on alternating Saturdays and Sundays this season... starting this weekend!)

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