Quick, Creamy Mushrooms with Frisée

It’s fair to say that the food I make is heavily influenced by the weather. Take this past Saturday, for example. On Saturday the fog in New York was thick enough to erase the view from my apartment, rendering the landscape milky white. I suppose I prefer to see the city obfuscated by a white of hazy, rather than snowy, precipitation, but the damp chill in the air makes me yearn for a comforting meal all the same.

With the intention of creating a bit of comfort in mind I headed into the kitchen early Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t really planned on being at the stove that day, at least not after breakfast, so when I set my mind on cooking a little lunch I had to scavenge for ingredients leftover from meals past. Searching the fridge, I found wild mushrooms, bought the prior day before that evening’s plans changed, as well as some frisee that never made it into salad and a single remaining vidalia onion. I also happened upon a half bottle of local organic cream, the surplus of a failed pastry attempt earlier that week. Between those finds and the garlic and herbs that are constant fixtures in my pantry, I was set to create something amazing.

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When you have great ingredients to work with, beautiful meals come together with little effort. As much as I try to plan meals that are inventive most of the time, my best efforts are always those that come about haphazardly, like this one. Creating meals out of necessity with limited supplies is what brings out my creativity, forcing me to think outside the box of what I know has worked in the past to create something new out of the ingredients I have now.

This meal is the product of such creativity. The mushrooms are cooked down to a gentle earthiness with the onion, garlic, and rosemary. They are joined by the frisée, which provides a bright vegetal counterpoint to the mushrooms’ fleshy tenderness. Finished with cream, the dish has a milky resemblance of the fog outside. Rather than being dreary and cold, though, each bowl has a rich warmth, and brings the soothing comfort needed to brighten a gloomy day.

Quick, Creamy Mushrooms with Frisée

Serves two as a main dish, or four as a side

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For crunch, I sprinkled toasted almonds over the finished dish. The traditional way to toast nuts would be to heat them in a low-temperature oven or in a pan over moderate heat until they smell fragrant but are not yet burnt. The much easier way is to zap them in the microwave for a minute, stirring halfway through. Don’t tell a real chef I said to do this – it’s super uncool – but it totally works.

I did this dish a complete injustice by not eating it with a hunk of toasty bread. Bread isn’t really something I have around my house much, but if you have some on hand you’re going to want to use it as a spongy mop for all the delicious cream in the bottom of the bowl.

Ingredients:
2 cups mushrooms, preferably a mix of wild varieties
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 vidalia onion, sliced in half vertically and then thinly sliced horizontally into half-moons (you could alternatively half an ordinary onion, a few scallions, or even a leek)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 head endive frisee – strip enough leaves to equal about half the volume of mushrooms (save the remainder for salad another day)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

Sautee the mushrooms: Place a saucepan or pot over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms. Season aggressively with salt and pepper – mushrooms require a lot of seasoning, and the cream added later will somewhat mute the dish, so you might need to compensate with more salt than you would normally use. Allow the mushrooms to cook for five minutes or so, in which time they will give off a lot of water and begin to collapse.

Add the aromatics: After the mushrooms have wilted a bit, add the onion, garlic, and rosemary. Cook for another minute or two until they become fragrant and the garlic turns lightly golden. Add the butter.

Stir in the frisée and cream: Add the frisée and cream, and bring to a simmer. You want to wilt the frisée a little bit so it loses most of its crunch. After two or three minutes the cream will have reduced. Stir to ensure that the cream is thoroughly mixed with the butter and olive oil.

Serve: Serve warm, garnishing with the toasted almonds.

 

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I’ll Make My Lunch To Go

I’m blowing up on Instagram. Seriously. Cooking With Bells On officially has, wait for it… nineteen followers. That’s right, of the service’s 200 million odd users, nearly twenty of them (twenty of you) have boldly clicked “Follow” and become pioneers in the Insta’ With Bells On movement.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I am genuinely surprised by how much I find myself liking this particular social media platform, one which I resisted using for so long. It’s been a few days now that I’ve been posting as Cooking With Bells On’s intrepid iPhone photographer, and in that time I’ve made a special effort to preserve moments I might otherwise allow to pass. I’ve captured evidence of my mid-day cappuccino quests*, sniped images of loitering kitchen appliances, and shot outtakes of my adorable schnauzer in the morning. And I’ve diligently collected photographs of the food coming out of my kitchen, too, because I know that’s what you really want to see.

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Of the food-centric Instagrams I’ve shared, those involving pictures of my daily lunches have accumulated extra attention, with consistent “likes” and responses from my small but dedicated army of followers. Given this attention, I thought I’d go ahead and share with you just what I’ve been making in my kitchen lately for this meal.

Lunch, as I make it for myself, is generally a humble meal, cobbled together of leftover vegetable scraps and pantry staples. I make an effort to make the meal as nourishing as possible, though to tell you the truth this isn’t a difficult task, as the ingredients I like to keep on hand tend to be of the delicious and good-for-you variety anyways. And, while I do savor the time I take to prepare something good in the morning, I never really use more than a few minutes to put it all together. It’s a simple task, though one worth finding delight in.

*I’m on a mission to visit all of the coffee shops listed on the New York Times’ The Scoop app. So far, I’ve checked off 27 (or 35, if you include places I visited but were later retired from the list) out of 112.

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Salmon Avocado Salad (In a Jar) with Endive

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The only real condition I have for making lunch is that I be able to carry the finished product with me in a small jar. Back in the day, this restraint made good sense for a girl carrying her lunch to the office. Now office life is history to me, and the logic for lunch in a jar is kind of gone, too, but for some reason I still prefer to make my meal this way.

This recipe is just a framework for how I make lunch, and you should feel free to get creative with it. Here I used salmon as a protein, though I use canned sardines just as often, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs or leftover chicken instead. I almost always include avocado, which I like for its flavor, texture, and color; but the other vegetables included change depending on the season and what I have in my fridge. Two things you shouldn’t leave out are fresh herbs and citrus. Both play a huge role in brightening the whole thing up, which becomes especially important if you plan on eating several hours after you’ve made the lunch.

A note on home-made mayonnaise: it is totally optional in this dish, but I’ll go ahead and say that I am pro-mayonnaise, especially when it is home-made. I could really geek out over how good this mayonnaise is for you, what with its bounty of egg yolks and healthful oil. But I’m not here to be on a “don’t-fear-fat” soapbox. I do recommend that if you make it, try to use a more non-inflammatory fat, such as MCT oil or macadamia oil, but you could also go the conventional route and use a neutral-tasting oil such as grapeseed or canola oil. You could also use store-bought mayonnaise, but where’s the fun in that? If you decide to omit the mayonnaise (which I often do, anyways), I suggest bulking up the lunch with some salad greens and just using some oil and vinegar as dressing.

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Ingredients:

Mayonnaise, preferably home-made (see recipe below)
Mustard
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup (or more) diced vegetables: golden beet (used here), or: radish, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, carrot, etc.
Salmon, fresh and cooked (leftovers) or canned (I used about 1/4 of a 14.5 oz can here, saving the leftovers for another day’s lunch)
1 tsp fresh herbs, chopped: dill (used here), or: tarragon, basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, etc.
1/2 a lemon, zest reserved (optional)
1 endive, washed and outer leaves removed

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To make lunch in a jar: Stir together a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise with one spoonful of mustard and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper in a small jar. Add the diced vegetables, salmon, herbs, and lemon juice and zest (if using). Mix to combine. Trim bottom inch of the endive to separate leaves. Twist lid onto jar, pack up endives, and head to a park or sunny corner of your office to enjoy.

Home-made Mayonnaise

The miso here is a new addition for me. Miso pretty much makes everything better – saltier and more complex – and I highly suggest using it if you have some around.

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Ingredients:

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup neutral oil: MCT oil (used here) is usually found in the supplements section of the store (or Amazon.com) and has the dual merits of extremely neutral flavor as well as superfood status, or: macadamia oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil.
1 tbsp white miso (optional)
1/2 lemon, or less
Salt

To prepare mayonnaise: Using a blender (or an immersion blender with the jar in which you intend to store the mayonnaise), combine the egg yolks, oil, and white miso. Add lemon and salt to taste. The finished mayonnaise will taste rich, but balanced.

A Few Links to Share

  1. Black radishes have shown up at my Whole Food and farmers markets.
  2. The scotch egg at The Fat Radish (NYC) is renowned, and rightly so. At home, I’ll recreate it with this recipe.
  3. Now that Cooking With Bells On has an Instagram, I’m using these tips to make my photo’s top notch.
  4. These acacia paddles are beautiful, functional, and long-lasting – one of these days I’ll upgrade my wooden spoons.
  5. I’m excited about the upgrade to my favorite running shoe, the Nike Free 3.0. (I’m on my 5th pair!)
  6. J.Crew and Casey Neistat made the coolest video on traveling with style.