Friday, May 18, 2012

Grilled Marinated King Oyster Mushrooms and Roast Tomatoes over Lemon Pesto Polenta


Oh lord of delicious things, I have outdone myself this time. Finally, you've blessed me by granting me a really good idea!

The real credit goes Madura Farm's mushrooms from Monday's greenmarket in Union Square. I stopped by to browse on Monday, after a particularly brutal dental cleaning. I might not have gone by the market, had it been one of those gorgeous days that attracts crowds. But, as it was drizzling and still fairly early, I tested my luck at finding something interesting.

The greenmarket can be a bit cut-throat at times. If the wrong person catches you eyeing an item too long, it might get snatched up before you can blink. I was reminded of this Monday, as I noticed some fine-looking baby bok choy - and some guy busted in front of me and started grabbing them like they were going out of style. I had a moment of panic, but he stopped at 5 or 6, and there were a few left.

The main reason for my interest in the bok choy was a stack of beautifully fat King Oyster Mushrooms at Madura Farm stand. Knowing there were only a few, and probably no more, I was rushing to glean a recipe idea from the other produce stands. I hurriedly collected some Asian-ish ingredients like the bok choy, some radishes, turnips and scallions.

Two phallic mushrooms and $14 later I was jotting experiment ideas into my iPhone. I have some of my best inspiration on the subway, and I know if I don't write down the ideas that they will be gone forever when the doors open.

I had a good start with the Asian ingredients, but seeing as I had two very expensive mushrooms I wasn't going to spend them all in one night. I wasn't worried about the bok-choy mushroom dish - it would be the beginner recipe. The next one would be something new, fused with the more familiar: Italian.

Tossing the Kings with peasantly pasta seemed a bit simpleton... so I continued to challenge my inner database. Ah! Polenta! It's been far too long since I played with polenta. And how about a few of my other favorite ingredients: lemon, basil, pine nuts and tomatoes. How can we go wrong here?

King oyster mushrooms over polenta
It was not wrong at all. I took time crafting a plan. A tasty marinade to engorge the meaty mushrooms. Polenta just flavorful enough to devour alone, but mild enough to fade into the background and let the mushrooms shine. And roasted tomatoes to add juicy sweetness, and cover up for any flaws in the rest of the execution.

It was a wonderful combination. The King Oyster Mushrooms loved being grilled - this method was far better than searing. They remained plump with tart juices, and meaty without being tough or chewy. The polenta was as planned - a basic with just a twist of flavor. The tomatoes, as always, brought the whole thing together, along with a very important dash of good aged balsamic vinegar.

Tip for time management in the following recipe:
First, heat the oven for the tomatoes to 425F. Then, marinate mushrooms. As they set, roast the tomatoes. Remove tomatoes and grill the mushrooms, setting both aside when cooked. 


Make the polenta at the very last minute, so it is still creamy when served. It will need your full attention, so as not to overcook it. You can always pop the mushrooms and tomatoes in the microwave for 30 seconds if they've gotten too cold. 

Grilled Marinated King Oyster Mushrooms
4 servings


Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms
4  medium sized King oyster mushrooms (5" long, approx 2"thick - about the size of a standard pepper mill) , cut lengthwise into 1/4" thick strips


1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 C white wine
2 tsp sea salt (grey salt works well, if you have it)
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 T lemon juice


Whisk together marinade ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the sliced mushrooms in a  large zip-top bag and pour the marinade in. Close the bag and gently move it around to get the marinade all over the mushrooms. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.


Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, place the mushrooms with tongs. Cook about 2 minutes on the first side, and 1 minute on the 2nd side for nice grill marks. Remove immediately.


Roast Tomatoes
4 servings


10 small Campari tomatoes, halved (these tend to be deliciously sweet, and worth the money) 
OR 20-25 cherry or grape tomatoes, whole
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt (grey salt works well for tomatoes)






Heat oven to 425F. Place tomatoes on an aluminum foil lined sheet pan and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 25 minutes. 


For cut tomatoes, you want them to be just starting to look exhausted and wilted, and a little wrinkled, but still juicy. For whole cherry or grape tomatoes, remove from the oven as soon as some start to burst open.
Juicy roasted Campari tomatoes
Lemon Pesto Polenta
4 servings


1/4 C lemon juice
8 medium basil leaves
1 small clove garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper


2-1/2 C vegetable stock
1 T olive oil


3/4 C quick cooking instant polenta


2 T pine nuts
1/3 C grated parmesan cheese *optional, omit for vegan


1. Puree together first 5 ingredients in a blender or small food processor. Set aside.


2. Bring stock and olive oil to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add polenta and reduce heat to low. Whisk or stir in quickly.


3. As soon as polenta is dissolved in stock, quickly add the basil puree. 


4. 3 minutes from adding the polenta, remove from heat. Stir in pine nuts and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.



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