Roasted Maitake Mushroom Noodle Soup

This all began when Trix Render of Willow River Gallery and Restaurant asked if I would like a large Hen of the Woods mushroom.  Trix is both an extraordinary chef and talented painter. Her restaurant, tastefully decorated with paintings and art work, is one of the most civilized dining establishments in Honesdale; comfortable and just reeking of European ambiance 😀  Of course I said yes, as I would to an offer of any mushroom.  I’d never heard of hen of the woods nor eaten it before but I was excited.

The mushrooms grow at the base of trees in the forest and are also known as sheep’s head, ram’s head and maitake in Japan.  I must say I was vaguely intimidated, especially after talking to Phillip, Trix’s fellow chef, who thought that my idea of oven roasting the mushroom would dry it out too much; we really wrangled over that!  Having roasted mushrooms many times before and detesting overcooked mushrooms, I just couldn’t believe that the maitake mushroom would be any different.  Still, Phillip is a chef and I, although stubborn,  am not.  Stubbornly, I decided to roast a small portion of the mushroom as a test.

I gently shook off as much dirt and debris as the mushroom was willing to release, carefully rinsed it in cold water with a spray nozzle, then left it to drain upside down until mostly dry.  I lined a small roasting pan with aluminum foil, sprayed the foil with olive oil Pam, cut off the tops of 2 large un-husked cloves of garlic and added them to the pan.  I then seasoned the mushroom with salt and pepper, liberally sprayed it with oil, added it to the pan, tucking the garlic cloves underneath, then roasted it in a 450 F oven for about 20 minutes, turning once.

My husband and I ate the mushroom as a snack, pulling off the crispy, juicy, long stemmed “fans” of mushrooms with our fingers.

My inspiration for the next step in the “what to do with this big mushroom” adventure came from both Olives for Dinner, a vegan site,  and my neighbor and friend Anne Lynch who rhapsodized about her love for mushroom soup.  Inspired but by no means mind snatched, I immediately went rogue, making a tasty Japanese stock with dashi,  white miso paste and soy sauce.  I picked the mushroom fans from about two thirds of the large piece added them to the stock, simmering for about 5 minutes.  I then brought the stock back to the boil and added some lo mein noodles (could have been any asian noodle), cooking until they were tender.  I ladled the noodles and mushrooms  into 2 large bowls, sprinkled with slice scallions and we ate the soup immediately.  So good!

I froze the other third of the roasted mushroom for addition to other Asian dishes I’m most likely to make.  Thank you Trix and Anne!




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Italian Style Peppers and Onions

Unlike the monopolistic, corporate suppliers of produce to U.S. supermarkets,  I don’t think our government realizes how much their Pennsylvania constituents depend on Mexico.

The only bell peppers, garlic (not good), avocados and tomatoes I could find in the supermarket here were all from Mexico. I know local farmers grow these items because you can see them for sale at roadside vendors’ tables in the summer.  Winter is coming.

My experience has been that if you have peppers, onions and garlic whatever meal you make with them will taste good, not just Italian.  Omelette, yes.  Gumbo, yes.  Pot roast, yes.  Anything!  You don’t really need a plan.  Just start sauteing them in olive oil and something will pop into your head.  If it doesn’t, don’t worry, just grab a piece of bread and eat them like that 🙂  However, my husband  “don’t play that.”  So…

BREAD and MEAT with peppers, onions and garlic.

Italian Style Peppers and Onions

4 tbsp olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, slivered

2 large onions, sliced

2 large green bell peppers, cut into strips

2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the vegetables and saute until the onion is soft and the peppers are a little over crisp tender.  Shake in some crushed red pepper if liked.











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Ibushi Gin

Japanese cuisine fascinates me because of it’s attention to presentation as well as flavors and it’s unique style of food preparation.  I’m not talking about sushi which is, and rightly so when prepared by master sushi chefs, the very expensive epitome of the elegance and flavor that is Japanese cuisine.  Of course they had me at the word “kanji” when I realized that in order to prepare bento boxes, I would have to purchase a satisfying amount of new cookware and serving pieces 😀

Now I’ve discovered the Japanese world of Donabe cooking!  A donabe is a clay pot made for cooking over an open flame, one of Japan’s oldest cooking vessels still in use today. What excites me is that, with the aid of a small butane burner you can cook at the table and serve the food directly from the pot into attractive bowls or plates.  The above clay pot is a donabe ibushi gin or smoker with three smoking racks.  A handful of wood chips is placed on top of aluminum foil on the bottom of the pot, the loaded racks are then added, the pot placed on the gas burner until the chips begin to smoke, the top put in place and allowed to heat for about 2-3 minutes, the gas turned off and the smoking is finished in 20 minutes.

Trying something new is always both exciting and nerve-wracking, at least for me.  And the Japanese are so clever, what if things went wrong ?!  I mean I bought the cookbook, “Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking”  and everyone was just standing around smiling, beautifully dressed (no splatters) and every hair in place.  It looked challenging!  But hey, how hard could it be to succeed at cooking with a pot whose use was first recorded in the eighth century?  Not at all hard.

I raided the refrigerator for boneless, char sui marinated ribs, soft boiled eggs, chillies, yellow wax beans, asparagus tips and red bell pepper.  It bothered me that some sort of seasoning of the vegetables and meat was not required.  Still, I couldn’t help but lightly sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper.  Next time I’ll go further, adding Asian inspired rubs for meats/fish, flakes of aromatics for the vegetables and perhaps marbling the eggs in soy sauce before smoking.

The meat, eggs and vegetables were perfectly cooked and delicious with a delicate smokey flavor.  I tossed some leftover rice noodles with sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and scallions as an accompaniment (sounds French) or side dish and passed soy and tsuyu sauces as dips.

My husband praised the cooking method and ate lots.  That’s what I like to see!




Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Kitchen tools, Main dishes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Mushrooms in Port Sauce

It’s mushroom season in France with dozens of varieties of mushrooms.  Envious, I trolled the stores here and found these crimini mushrooms. I wanted to make these with sherry but ruby port was all I had.   Still good. The mushrooms are great as a side dish or main with bread, but I made them to go on top of my husband ridiculously large Porterhouse steak.  Sure it was bovine but at the price, he didn’t care 😀

Mushrooms in Port Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup ruby port

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil until the onion is vaguely soft.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute until  the mushrooms begin to release their moisture.  Add the port and boil down until the liquid is reduced to half.  Voila!


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We got back to the States on August 31st.  It’s truly a shame I didn’t have time to post the last meals we had in France.  I didn’t have a lot of time and felt a bit down about leaving, especially with harvest season coming on.  Because of health considerations, so far I can only stay gone for 3 months.  Next year we will leave here on August 31st for a 3 month stay for two reasons.  Seafood and produce is at it’s best then and the those pesky French laborers will be back from vacation and we’ll be able to get some things done on the house.

Good news is that we saw Willie Nelson and Van Morrison in Hershey, Pa (not far from here) on September 10th.  We thought we’d better get that done before we or Willie and Van buy the farm 😀  Great concert.  Yeah Willie’s really old but we know all the words to his songs and he hasn’t forgotten how to play the guitar 🙂  Van is Van and we hope to see him in Ireland one day playing with his Irish musicians.

While we were in Hershey, we took the opportunity to hop over to Allentown, Pa to the Evergreen Asian Grocer to pick up supplies before we came back to the “deep country”. What a great store!  It’s so unfair that we don’t have more Asians in this part of Pennsylvania.  Asian people, it’s pretty here!  Come on down!

Of course I made my favorite spicy, garlic aubergine dish first.  That always cheers me up 🙂  I’m getting some Japanese Donabe cooking pottery which features steaming and smoking.  Can’t wait.



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Portuguese Feiijoada

The Coco de Paimpol beans are out and I look for every excuse I can to cook them.  Our neighbor Tonio, of Portuguese persuasion, inspired my rendition of this rich, bean stew.  A while back I made a Spanish stew similar to this but I couldn’t find fresh Spanish blood sausage and used a dry blood sausage instead.  While the dry sausage slices tend to keep their shape during cooking, the fresh blood sausage slices break down a bit and add to the richness of the sauce.  While not as visually attractive, the flavor is incomparable.

My favorite thing about shelling fresh beans is sitting at the picnic table, chatting with neighbors and, in this case, my husband who is painting the outside of the house.   This is a very easy recipe and I found the meats at the local Portuguese store.  Really thick slices of smoked bacon,  Portuguese chorizo and morcela, onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and oregano from the garden.

We’ve been visiting the weekly markets in various neighboring towns.  The Pont sur Yonne market is a favorite.  Completely outside, this market is set up in the town square, surrounding the ancient Roman Catholic church.  We always find good things here including a nice glass of wine 🙂  This time we purchased some locally made sausages that were perfect for the beginning of this meal with some French and Italian bubbly.

I’ve purchased fresh bean seeds to take back to plant in Honesdale.  I don’t think I’ll be able to find the meats there but I’m sure I’ll think of many things delicious to make with the beans.  I’ve missed this pot.

I’ve been cooking but not posting regularly because of the interminable renovation of our house.

We had this apple tarte for dessert, even though it’s peach and apricot season.  My husband loves apple tart and since he went to the store…..

Portuguese Feiijoada

4 cups of shelled fresh, white beans

2 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves, whole

Olive oil

1 Portuguese chorizo sausage, cut into chunks

1 fresh morcela sausage, cut into chunks

1/2 pound grillaudes/thick bacon or smoked ham hock, cut into chunks

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 cans diced tomatoes

5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp piment d’espelette


Brown the sausages and grillaudes in some olive oil until brown.  Remove and set aside. Add the chopped garlic and onions to the pan and cook until the onions are soft.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and piment d’espelette, then cook for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the meats and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the beans, just to blend and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

The beans should still have shape but be creamy inside.  Serve with country bread.
















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The Spice of Life

As an adult, I’ve always looked for variety in the food I eat; bored by the “Wednesday meatloaf” of childhood, I first found interest and inspiration in the ethnic foods of the U.S.   Travel broadened my food horizons in both ingredients and methods. Since this exposure I have never been satisfied with the “beef, chicken or fish” options.  Food snob?  Well, yeah. These small and flavorful French mussels are called “bouchots”.  Once you have the little black, you’ll never go back 😀  I’ve cooked these Mediterranean style with shallots, bell peppers, butter and a Bourgogne Aligote.  Hell Yeah!  Served in Castelnaudary cassoulet pottery, this just managed to serve six.  There was not one mussel left!

In France, chicken tastes like chicken and nothing else does.  I go for the yellow skin chickens and no matter how you flavor them, the original flavor of the chicken is still detectable.  This is Korean style marinated, then roasted on a rack in the oven.

These thick slabs of fresh bacon are a summer, French favorite on the grill and they are delicious.  You can buy them pre-rubbed with spices or, to get the American thing going, buy “au naturel” and rub them with your favorite pork rub.

I first met or paid attention to the flat, romano green bean in our farmer’s market here in Sens, France.  Really, you can eat these plain after a little steaming but of course I didn’t stop there.  Lardons, shallots and tomatoes gilded this lily of a vegetable.

I do have Quails R Us just outside of Honesdale, PA for my supply of fresh quail eggs, farm chickens and their eggs.  That’s a blessing and I can make my Korean quail eggs with garlic and chillies in the U.S. as well as France.

Brie, spinach and smoked turkey pannini with potato soup.  My husband and his cousin Jimmy have been painting and repairing the house for most of the week, barely having time to stop for lunch.  Today was a market day and I put this quick, easy meal together after loitering leisurely through, stopping for a coffee and a chat after 😉  Today is my birthday and I bought myself a “hella” expensive purse 😀




Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments