Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Great Website, and an Appetizer

Hi Everyone,

I have recently been contacted by a gentleman from Australia who has traveled fairly worldwide and has a wonderful concept for his website. It is all about bringing cultures together through food. All sorts of ethnicities are included, and he is attempting to include such things as where bloggers buy their food for these ethnic cuisines, not counting large supermarket chains. He is also interested in "street foods", something I was highly interested in, when I lived in Guatemala, though I never took photos of any of it, back then. If anyone is interested, I did list his website at right, and here: I urge everyone to at least check out his website and if anyone can help with fleshing out the categories, and adding some great street food photos to that section, I am sure it will be greatly appreciated. Food brings together diverse cultures. This should be celebrated.

Having lived in Guatemala for 12 years as a new young wife (long ago), I came in contact with so much new and interesting food I had never seen or heard of before, and this journey led me to a lifelong interest in ethnic cuisines and different foods and spices. That has brought me to where I am today. I constantly look for new ideas, new spices, new combinations. At times I have lived in places where many wondrous ethnic shops are available and at others not so much. But it has been a lifelong joy when I find a little ethnic grocery, where entering the new sights and smells just transports me to another place. The smells are just amazing.

When we lived in Justice, in the greater Chicago area, there was a little Greek/Italian grocery we frequented. Sadly I cannot recall the name, or exactly where it was located, but walking in there, the smell of the barrels of olives or huge chunks of Feta cheese were immediately noticed, as well as many other interesting foods not seen in a grocery chain store. In Guatemala I recall loving the typical candies like Canillas de Leche, or just the candied fruits like figs and oranges, or candied vegetables such as squash or sweet potato. We often stopped at little stands outside someone's house where we ate things like Pipian de Pollo or Res, or Tripa. We bought Pupusas and curtido. We often stopped for freshly roasted corn on the cob, rolled in cream and then in Queso Fresco. Those memories will never fade.

Black Cardamom, closeup
Green Cardamom
I wish now that I had had the foresight to get photos, no matter that they wouldn't be of great quality. Alas, the memory alone must serve. For now though, I made another recipe today that is just spectacular. It has been something percolating in my mind for some time, but when our friend Richard was visiting recently I was giving him some of the less-known Indian spices to smell. He is very inventive when it comes to pairing flavors, and after smelling the black cardamom (not to be confused with green cardamom, he commented that the smoky earthiness of the cardamom should go well with the earthy flavors of mushrooms. And I thought, "Duh! Now why did this never occur to me?" It is just wonderful to have others with great ideas like that. So today, I finally got down to trying it out. I had wanted to revisit a recipe I had played with a couple years back. It was mushrooms, and meant to go onto toasted bread. However, I burnt the bread so badly, the whole thing was a bust. You couldn't even taste the mushrooms for the burnt bread, though my husband valiantly ate them anyway. True love, there!

A few days ago I made some Multi Grain and Seed Bread that turned out just spectacular, so I used that bread as the base for these Mushroom Crostini with Sherry and Rosemary. This would be perfect on thinly sliced baguette. The recipe makes about 3 1/2 - 4 cups worth and will top at least 24 little baguette slices. This should make 24 appetizer servings or 12 servings as a first course. A nice earthy wine would go well with these, such as a Pinot Noir, or a Carmenere from Chile.
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

Mushroom Crostini with Sherry and Rosemary

1 baguette, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing on the bread
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked 20 - 30 minutes in 2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced and rough chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 pound "baby bellas" or cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of the pepper mill
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 black cardamom pod, seeds removed and crushed, pod discarded
1/2 cup Fino Sherry, or dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 - 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet and add in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium low, cooking the onion slowly, tossing often, for about 15 minutes, or until nicely golden. Add in the garlic and sliced mushrooms with the salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown slightly. about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the shiitakes from the hot water (discard water) and cut out the hard stems. Slice them in half, then thinly slice them across. Add the shiitakes to the skillet with the cardamom, rosemary and Sherry. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring, until all the Sherry liquid has evaporated. Add in the cream off the heat and stir to combine. Set aside.

Broil the olive oil brushed baguette slices very close to the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip them over and brown the other side. Remove from oven and pile on mushroom mixture and top with grated Parmesan. Broil for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.