Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shortcut to Mushrooms!

Spring vegetables are so easy to prepare in California, it's practically obscene to call it cooking. Asparagus come in so sweet and tender to the local markets, all you have to do is rinse them off.

I remember as a young woman first learning to cook in my very own kitchen, having to ask a coworker how to prepare asparagus. We'd never had them in my family of origin. I don't know if that's because they were among those "exotic" vegetables that my Michigan- and Ohio-born parents never ate, or if they were among the long list of fibrous foods that irritated my father's stomach ulcer. At any rate, my coworker's instructions included a burdensome amount of scraping, paring, and scrubbing. They then had to be steamed, feet down, in a tall basket within a tall pot, with their toes in 1" (precisely) of boiling water.

Happily, I have learned better since. To do our asparagus now, Dan and I often simply break the toe-end of the stalks off where they naturally "snap", rinse them well in cold water, and toss them into a skillet of simmering water for about 5 minutes then rescue them, shake off the excess moisture, and plate them with butter. If they're large and tough, Dan peels them about the ankles but I just snap them off higher up. Nothing is wasted anyway, since we compost everything.

Mushrooms are even easier since I learned this trick: Don't wash them when you bring them home. Instead, keep them loosely wrapped in the crisper drawer and when ready to cook, take them in the plastic bag, fill it with enough water to cover the 'shrooms, twist the top tightly and shake the bag vigorously for a few seconds. Dump them out into a strainer or colander and rinse quickly with cold water. Spin them in a salad spinner if you have one, or blot them with paper towels if you don't. Slice them into 1/4" slices and put them immediately into a hot (360) skillet with 1-2 T. melted butter and about 1 tsp. olive oil. Keep them moving but do not stir because this will bruise them! If you want a really savory treat, add a bare splash of Worcestershire sauce about 30 seconds before taking them off the stove. They're great with red meat when prepared this way.

Incidentally, that was one recipe my mother did teach me to make, although I was an adult before I liked them!

Dan grilled these steaks out on the patio to make our Saturday dinner perfect. Is it any wonder I'm crazy about weekends?

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