Magic Mushrooms

by Anne Maxfield on May 14, 2015

Accidental Locavore Magic MushroomsThe Accidental Locavore was reading a recipe on Pure Wow for crispy mushrooms and it sounded so simple and good that I had to give them a try. What better excuse than people coming for dinner, and it would be a nice change or addition to the usual cheese and charcuterie. They couldn’t be simpler, but you do have to give yourself about an hour for roasting them.Accidental Locavore Prepping Mushrooms

  • 1 ½ pounds cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and ends trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 large clove finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Flaky salt, like Maldon, for finishing

Accidental Locavore Roasting MushroomsPreheat the oven to 375°F (I used the convection setting). Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to combine.

Pour the mushrooms onto the baking sheet, then spread them out evenly (don’t overcrowd or they won’t get crispy). Roast until the mushrooms are very brown and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes.

Let the mushrooms cool slightly, then garnish with parsley and flaky salt, if using. You can serve the mushrooms warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Crispy MushroomsMy verdict: When we were cleaning and prepping the mushrooms, my friend Laura and I decided that a pound wasn’t going to be enough, so we went out and got another small container and ended up with about a pound and a half. I added the fresh garlic and thyme – any fresh herbs would work as well. So, we roasted them and roasted them, tossing them occasionally, and they got beautifully dark brown and smelled great! However, after about 70 minutes in the oven, they weren’t crispy (or anywhere near that) and our guests had arrived, so we pulled them out. They were fabulous—seriously roasted, with the garlic and thyme adding to the great mushroom flavor. I would definitely make them again, but wouldn’t expect them to be crispy. Maybe if you sliced them you could achieve crispiness (which might be an experiment for the next batch). We did end up with a few leftovers which were equally delicious chopped into an omelet and sliced into salads.

 

 

 

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A Presidential Dinner

by Anne Maxfield on May 11, 2015

Accidental Locavore Dinner in the White SuiteFollowing the tour of Golf Adriatic, the Accidental Locavore and company went on to explore the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic. Entering the recently built hotel, the lobby is a big open expanse with an inlaid floor and many chandeliers. Downstairs is a large and luxurious spa, with a host of top-notch services. After touring a standard room and junior suite (both lovely, with lots of high-end finishes and the latest in electronics), we went up to the top floor to the white Presidential Suite (the other one, at the opposite end of the hotel is the Black Suite). It’s massive and very white, with columns draped in Swarovski crystals, white couches, white marble everywhere–you get the idea. The floor-to-ceiling glass opens up to an almost equally gigantic terrace. Had it been clearer out, we would have been able to see across the Adriatic to Venice, but we happily settled for the coast of Slovenia.

When we turned around and went back inside, we found a large table set for dinner. It turned out to be the surprise we’d been hearing rumors about all afternoon.

Marko, our guide from the Istrian Tourist Bureau, had worked for the hotel and managed to get Istrian Master Chef Zoran Čobanov of the hotel to prepare one final feast for us. Chef took many of the local products we’d been eating all week and elevated them to the stratosphere!

Accidental Locavore Amuse of RicottaIt started with an amuse of fresh ricotta with three spears of wild asparagus and half a strawberry. The ricotta was creamy and delicious and the slight bitterness of the asparagus was tempered by the sweetness of the cream and strawberry.

Accidental Locavore Tuna CarpaccioFrom there we moved on to the “real” menu. First up was one of the most beautiful presentations of tuna carpaccio I’ve ever seen! Three bars of tuna were centered in a large white bowl surrounded by three drops of beet sauce on the left and three drops of carrot purée on the right. Topping the tuna were some micro greens, dehydrated olives and drops of lime jelly. I was hesitant at first; as you all know, beets are not on my hit parade, but I just ignored the drops on the left and focused on what turned out to be a dish that you just never wanted to finish!

Accidental Locavore Asparagus Soup With Ice CreamFollowing that was a light and refreshing asparagus soup. Making it unique was the Grana Padano ice cream, slowly melting into the soup. It was like the best combination of cheese and cream, but better, way better!

Accidental Locavore Istrian FritajaThat was followed by what was described as an “Istrian new fritaja with black truffle”. I guess that the easy way of describing it would be to call it a deconstructed version of scrambled eggs with black truffle, but that is really an injustice. You were presented with another large white plate with a small dark knob in the center of a creamy, pale yellow sauce, surrounded by truffle shavings. There was a sprinkling of local sea salt and off to the side, some caviar. The knob was actually a mushroom hiding the yolk of an egg. When you cut into the mushroom the yolk was broken and then you spooned the caviar in and mixed it all up. In a trip filled with amazing meals, this is the dish I’ll be dreaming about!

Accidental Locavore Sponge With FishWhen we got through swooning over the fritaja, there was a fish course with a piece of Adriatic fish, toasted and served on a “sepia ink sponge” with tiny clams. Although it doesn’t sound as divine as the rest of the menu and for some the idea of eating a black sponge seemed daunting, the sponge turned out to be an airy piece of bread dyed black with squid ink and topping a perfectly cooked fish filet and sweet clams. Adding a drizzle of the local olive oil made this seemingly simple dish as wonderful as the previous courses.

Accidental Locavore Lemon CreamTo cleanse our palates, the fish was followed by a smooth and refreshing frozen lemon cream. Palates cleansed, we moved on to dessert. What was simply described as “Chocolate cake with olive oil” was anything but!

Accidental Locavore Chocolate DessertRiding on a trail of cream sauce was a chocolate ball, dusted with cocoa. There was a single raspberry, a drop of blueberry sauce, a greenish disc of olive oil and a swirl of the thinnest chocolate cookie. The ball consisted of a chocolate cookie topped with mousse and surrounded by a hard chocolate shell. Taking a taste of each of the elements with the centerpiece, just gave new dimensions to this grand finale.

While this truly memorable evening was created just for us, I’ve been told that some of the dishes (including my favorite–the fritaja) are available in the hotel restaurant Kanova. Or, for an extraordinary evening, you can book the suite, have them recreate our amazing dinner and take your after-dinner drinks in the suite’s rooftop hot tub overlooking the lights of the Adriatic coast. Živjeli!

 

 

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Creamed Spinach With Garlic Confit

by Anne Maxfield on May 7, 2015

Accidental Locavore Creamed SpinachThe Accidental Locavore thought this version of creamed spinach would be great with a roast beef I cooked recently. I love garlic confit, it’s great for so many things (toss with broccoli or spinach, salad dressing etc), and since you just use the cloves for this recipe, I tossed some extra in the oil (my new hack for peeling a lot of garlic is at the end).There was also a taste test between fresh and frozen spinach, so check out the results at the end. Serves 4 generously. You can make all the parts ahead of time and refrigerate. Baking and resting takes about 40 minutes.

For the garlic confit:

  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled (or more for other uses)
  • 1 cup olive oil

Cream Sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt

Spinach

  • Olive oil, for greasing and sautéing
  • 2 pounds spinach, stemmed
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Accidental Locavore Garlic Confit PureeMake the garlic confit: Put the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan, and cook over very low heat until the garlic is softened and golden, about 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve, reserving the oil for another use. Transfer 3 cloves of the garlic to a blender and if you added extra cloves, save them, refrigerated, for another use.

Make the cream sauce: In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the cream with the cornstarch. In a saucepan, bring the remaining cream to a simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the cream is thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt. Add the cream sauce to the blender and puree with the garlic until smooth.

Accidental Locavore Prepped Creamed SpinacgMake the spinach and finish the dish: Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 1 1/2-quart gratin pan. Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a very large sauté pan and, working in batches, sauté the spinach until just cooked. Transfer to a colander. Squeeze out as much water from the spinach as possible. Using paper towels, blot any excess water. Coarsely chop the spinach and transfer to a bowl (you should have about 3 packed cups). Add the cream sauce and mix well. Season with salt. Spread the spinach in the prepared dish and top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: I love creamed spinach and this was really delicious! It was nice and thick, with the breadcrumbs giving it a nice crunch. I would definitely make it again. Frank seemed to think this was a lot of work, but I just did it in stages. First the confit, and while that was cooking I did the spinach. Later on, I made the sauce, put it all together and popped it in the oven while my roast was finishing up. You wouldn’t need to make the garlic confit and it would still be good, but as I said in the intro, it’s a great thing to have in the fridge, so why not? While this recipe calls for cooking fresh spinach, I made one dish with fresh and one with frozen. The guests didn’t know which was which. One person preferred the frozen spinach, the rest of us went for the fresh, but everyone said there wasn’t much of a difference. The next time I make this, unless there’s fresh, local spinach available (which should be a big difference in taste) I’ll definitely use the chopped frozen stuff. A large bag would be more than enough for this recipe. And the hack for peeling a lot of garlic fast? I rubbed the cloves between two of my silicone GIR lids! The garlic confit that I didn’t use for the sauce I puréed with a little of the oil and it’s in the fridge waiting for some unsuspecting broccoli.Accidental Locavore GIR Lids

 

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The Zen of Wild Asparagus

by Anne Maxfield on May 4, 2015

Accidental Locavore Wild AsparagusSometimes something simple makes you step back and focus. For the Accidental Locavore, it was hunting wild asparagus in Istria. There, wild asparagus are everywhere, but if you’re not looking you can easily walk past acres of them. Our hunt started in Golaš, by the winery San Tommaso. Accidental Locavore San Tommaso WineryWe got a briefing from Goran and Janja on how to pick them (snap off from just above the ground) and learned that the harpoon-like tool he picked up wasn’t for asparagus, but snakes – never a good sign!

Accidental Locavore Wild IrisWandering out towards the woods, we passed by beautiful clumps of iris, growing wild by old stone walls. Further out in the countryside, Goran showed us what to look for. Usually there are feathery clumps of greenery, like its cultivated cousin. Then you have to really focus in and look for the elusive spears. In the wild, asparagus is well camouflaged. It blends in and looks like grass. Accidental Locavore Another Wild AsparagusI don’t think I ever found a green spear, just purple ones because they stood out a little from the rest. Goran and Janja just cruised along stopping every couple of feet to pick a stalk or two. After a while, when you’ve really begun to focus in, it does become easier and then you start to see them everywhere. Luckily, the same could not be said for snakes!

Accidental Locavore Goran With AsparagusWhen we had a nice bunch we headed back to the winery to prepare them. Once rinsed, Janja told us to snap off the tips and the next section (about an inch or two). That made a nice bowlful that was split between two dishes. Sneaking a nibble, I noticed that they were much more bitter than the larger, cultivated ones we get, but still tasting like asparagus.

Accidental Locavore Istrian BaconFirst up: scrambled eggs with wild asparagus, bacon and Parmesan. The asparagus was cooked in the fat from the bacon and set aside. Once the (dozen) farm-fresh eggs were scrambled the bacon and asparagus were added back in and topped with cheese. Paired with a Malvazija, it was a well-deserved and delicious dish!

Accidental Locavore Scrambled Eggs With AsparagusNext up: risotto with wild asparagus. This time, onions were sautéed in local olive oil and the rice added. Much stirring and twenty minutes later, the asparagus went in and a sprinkle of Parmesan finished off the dish. The rice was perfectly al dente and the asparagus gave a nice, slightly bitter bite to the dish that was offset by the cheese. A Terran, the local red grape, was the perfect accompaniment.

Accidental Locavore Risotto With AsparagusWe don’t often get to forage for our food and thankfully we don’t need to. However, sometimes it’s good to put aside the big city malaise of going, going, going and take time and regard the surroundings. Who knows what you’ll find?

Accidental Locavore San Tommaso WinesIf you’re interested, San Tommaso does tours and other lunches when asparagus aren’t in season. Pasta with truffles and charcuterie are some of the other choices. They’re flexible and Janja will work with you to make it memorable (but the asparagus are a really good reason to go in the spring!).

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