Following In His Light & Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

This weekend my hometown of Kennett Square, PA has closed down its main streets in anticipation of 100,000 visitors. MushroomFest2015 is in full swing celebrating its 30th year with vendors, music, food, contests and entertainment. Several months ago I was asked to be a “celebrity chef” and do a cooking demo in the culinary tent. I was flattered and replied with an enthusiastic, “yes”, but as the date drew near I grew more nervous and anxious about my ability to do such a presentation. I love this town and I love the festival which is run by volunteers, but I was so scared about falling on my face that I honestly thought about backing out.

how about that?

how about that?

Never did a cooking demonstration before and unfamiliar territory is typically frightening. How was I going to cook, on a stage, and entertain a crowd á la Food Network Star? It wasn’t something I could practice.  In addition, I had to follow the famous and charming Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani. Not too much pressure. Did I really say, “yes”? Truth is I am no Food Network Star. Further, other self-doubting thoughts were taking up space in my head, but then it hit me why I said “yes”. I promised to follow in his light. Channelling my inner William and celebrating his fearlessness, I mustered up the courage to step out of my comfort zone and win over the crowd with my mastery of mushrooms.

teaching about mushroom blendability

teaching about mushroom blendability

It’s all part of the journey. Following in his light. Transforming myself. Its typical of grievers to take on some of the traits of those they have loved and lost. William has helped me conquer quite a few fears and I am ever so grateful for that. Luckily the demo went well. Surprisingly well. No fanfare. Just being myself. The crowd was engaged. They were laughing and cooking with me. It was like being in my own kitchen. Cooking what I like and loving when I cook. The audience members asked questions and they learned. They clapped and I even got a few hugs. Thank you to those who stopped by and to my son for giving me the courage. I love and miss you every single day.

He is cheering me on

He is cheering me on.

Now here is the fan favorite recipe. It is the perfect appetizer for not only the mushroom lover, but also for those who can’t eat shellfish. Mushrooms are very similar in texture to shellfish. I have had people bite into these and ask if it is an oyster or shrimp.Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or try the one I suggest here.

yup, they are mushrooms

yup, they are mushrooms

Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms with Sweet Asian Chili Sauce

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup lime-flavored seltzer water

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I like Bob’s Red Mill )

1 cup fine dry breadcrumb

18 oyster mushroom caps

vegetable oil ( for frying)


Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

½ cup red pepper jelly

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1-teaspoon Asian fish sauce or soy sauce

In a mixing bowl, whisk flour, salt, ginger, pepper and seltzer until smooth. Combine coconut and breadcrumbs in a large zippered bag. Dip each mushroom in batter letting excess drip back into bowl. Drop mushroom into bag and gently shake to coat with coconut crumbs. (At this point the mushrooms can be placed on a rack in the refrigerator until ready to serve.) Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 350°. Fry mushrooms, in batches, 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce, in small saucepan over low heat, stir all the ingredients together until jelly is melted and blended.

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

Finally, here is a mushroom fun fact. Like humans, mushrooms are the only fruit/vegetable that when exposed to ultra violet light make their own Vitamin D.

Good Grief: Lasagna Two Ways

Joyful activities. We need them. Remember what makes you happy and start filling up your bucket. Celebrate you and you celebrate those you have loved and lost. “Good Grief” in the blog title. Whenever you see it, going forward, something joyful will follow including, as always, a most delicious recipe and maybe a bit of a surprise. These are “no more tears” blog posts.

stop & smell the roses

stop & smell the roses

First, the fun surprise. It is a D.I.Y. project perfect for this time of year known as lasagna compost gardening. It is a no-till (aka no back-breaking work) method of turning a sunny grassy area into a new garden. “Lasagna”, in this case, refers to the layering of nitrogen rich green material like grass, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and manure with carbon-rich brown elements like cardboard, dead leaves, straw and newspaper. Continue alternating green and brown layers, watering in between, until the pile measures 2 to 3 feet.

6 months later you will be ready to plant your new garden

6 months later you will be ready to plant your new garden in a loamy soil loaded with earthworms

Now for some real lasagna. This is one of my favorite recipes from Epicurious. As always I tend to tweak things according to my taste. For instance, I did not have porcini mushrooms, so I used dried shitakes and I used a large enough skillet to cook all the button mushrooms, zucchini, onion and garlic at once. Make the filling the day before to stream-line the whole process.

wild mushroom lasagne

wild mushroom lasagne


Wild Mushroom Lasagna

For mushroom filling
3 cups water
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
2 pounds fresh white mushrooms
2 large zucchini (about 1 pound)
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons Sherry
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
4 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
eighteen 7- by 3 1/2-inch sheets dry no-boil lasagne (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound freshly grated mozzarella (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)

Make filling:
In a small saucepan bring water to a boil and remove pan from heat. Stir in porcini. Soak porcini 20 minutes. Lift out porcini, squeezing out excess liquid, and reserve soaking liquid. In a sieve rinse porcini to remove any grit and pat dry. Chop porcini and transfer to a large bowl. Simmer reserved soaking liquid until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Pour liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into bowl with porcini.

Quarter white mushrooms and in a food processor pulse in 3 batches until finely chopped. Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Chop onion and mince garlic. In a 12-inch heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and cook one third white mushrooms with 2 tablespoons Sherry, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they begin to brown. Add mushroom mixture to porcini. Cook remaining mushrooms in 2 batches in butter with remaining Sherry in same manner and add to porcini mixture. In skillet cook zucchini in 1 tablespoon butter until tender and stir into porcini mixture. In skillet cook onion in remaining tablespoon butter, stirring, until softened. Stir in garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir onion into mushroom mixture until combined. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Make sauce:
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes and whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, mustard, and salt. Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to room temperature before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 375°F. and butter a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.

Assemble lasagne:
Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, making sure they don’t touch each other. Spread one third filling over pasta sheets in dish and top with 3 more pasta sheets, gently pressing down layers to remove air pockets. Top pasta sheets with one third mozzarella. Continue layering in same manner with sauce, pasta sheets, filling, and mozzarella, ending with mozzarella (dish will be filled to rim). Spread remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with Parmesan. On a foil-lined large baking sheet bake lasagne in middle of oven until bubbling and golden, about 45 minutes. Let lasagne stand 20 minutes. Lasagne may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring lasagne to room temperature and reheat before serving.

Divorce & Happy Wedding Soup

fresh Kennett Square mushrooms

fresh Kennett Square mushrooms

“For better for worse.” What better test of a marriage vow than the death of a child? Seriously, is there anything worse than that? It’s clear that a child’s death places a tremendous strain on a marriage. Distress, guilt, anger and confusion are the norms, in addition to the blame game and misunderstood grief responses. One would think parental bereavement is ripe for conflict. Add to this an author (Harriet Schiff in 1977 The Bereaved Parent) who reports that up to 90% of marriages end in divorce following the death of a child and divorce seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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