By Roberta Bailey
Lately I have been focusing on connections. I have been reading about mycorrhizal relationships between plants and fungi and thinking about the deep connections between our ecosystem and our mental and physical health. Our culture tends to isolate things in order to study them, from insects attacking a plant to an animal’s role in the wild to a disease in the body. Much of the focus is on differences, but awareness is growing of the interconnected microbiome that surrounds us and thrives within us – at the same time that we strive to thrive within all of that biome. We are learning to look at as much of the whole as we can fathom.
Beneath our feet a vast network of interconnected fungi relates symbiotically with plants. As Michael Phillips says in his book “Mycorrhizal Planet,” “It is the coming together of one fungus with the root system of one plant.” The term mycorrhiza always refers to this conjoined structure. Plants connect with the fungi, and the fungi bring nutrients – and dozens of other benefits – from farther afield back to the plant roots. In return the plant feeds photosynthate sugars to the fungi.
The forests and fields are all interconnected and communicate with each other. When we eat food from our garden with a tiny bit of soil still on it, we consume beneficial bacteria and fungi. The land feeds our gut, our internal biome. It brings new meaning to the need to walk out into the garden and feel the earth beneath our feet. It is a deeper relationship than previously imagined.
We are all interconnected in beneficial ways. I hold that premise with every step I take. It helps me open my heart. It helps me nourish my land, my neighbors, my community.
Here are a few recipes using mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of fungi. Consider making a dish to share with your neighbor.
Mushrooms in Soy Sauce
Makes 2 cups
Adapted from “Asian Pickles” by Karen Solomon
6 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp. dried chili flakes (less if sensitive to heat)
1-1/2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
fresh ginger root (about 1/3-inch piece), finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, sliced into thin rings
1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms
Place a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile mix marinade by combining all ingredients except mushrooms. Set aside. Wash, drain and trim the mushrooms. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Cook the sliced mushrooms in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander. (Save stock for other projects.) Rinse mushrooms in cold water to chill and to stop the cooking. Drain well and add them to the marinade. Mix well. Let sit at least one hour. Will store up to one month, covered and refrigerated.
Makes 2 cups
Adapted from Smittenkitchen.com recipe
1 oz. dried porcini or wild mixed mushrooms
1 c. boiling water
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter
1 c. diced yellow onion
1/2 c. shallots
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 lb. mixed fresh mushrooms
1 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/4 c. Madeira, Marsala or sherry, or 1/2 c. white wine
Soak dried mushrooms in boiled water for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms, chop finely and set aside. Strain and save soaking liquid.
Cook onions and shallots in olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat until edges are browned. Turn heat to high and add fresh mushrooms (chopped roughly, with tough stems discarded), thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté until all liquid has evaporated. Add wine and cook until liquid has evaporated. Add rehydrated mushrooms and soaking liquid. Cook until liquid is almost all evaporated. Add more seasonings to taste and stir in 1 Tbsp. butter.
When lukewarm, blend or process the mixture to desired consistency. Chill for a few hours before serving with crackers. Keeps in refrigerator for five days.
Mushroom Spinach Soup
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s New York Times Cooking recipe
6 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1-1/2 lb. mixed, chopped mushrooms
1/2 lb. shallots, finely diced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground allspice
2 tsp. sea salt, more to taste
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lb. baby spinach
fresh lime juice, to taste
plain yogurt (optional)
Heat 3 Tbsp. butter or oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and half the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and repeat with remaining butter, mushrooms and shallots.
Return all mushrooms to the pot and add tomato paste and spices. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in 5 cups water and the salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add baby spinach and cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Coarsely purée soup in an immersion blender or food processor. Add lime juice. Thin with water and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve with dollops of yogurt.
Mushroom Squash and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Eatingwell.com recipe
1 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 tsp. and 1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/8 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz. white baby bella or cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 Tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. water
6 c. chopped curly endive, frisée or chicory
3-1/2 c. chopped dandelion greens, any tough stems removed
Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400 F.
Toss squash, 2 tsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds and 1/8 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Spread squash on a large baking sheet.
Toss mushrooms in the bowl with 2 tsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds and 1/8 tsp. salt. Spread mushrooms on another large baking sheet. Combine 2 tsp. sesame oil, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. dry mustard and 1/4 tsp. salt in the bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Nestle the chicken among the mushrooms.
Place mushrooms and chicken on lower oven rack and squash on upper rack. Roast, stirring or turning once halfway through, until mushrooms are browned, chicken is cooked through (14 to 16 minutes) and squash is tender (18 to 24 minutes).
Combine remaining 1 Tbsp. canola oil, 2 tsp. sesame oil, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard with vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup (or agave) and pepper in a blender; purée until smooth.
When vegetables are done, transfer half the mushrooms and any juice from the roasted chicken to a blender. Add water and purée until almost smooth.
Place greens in a clean, large bowl. When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop or shred into bite-size pieces and add to bowl along with the squash, remaining roasted mushrooms and dressing. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.