Pardon me while I gloss over what is considered the biggest meal in American culture to focus on… fungus. Oh sure, said like that one might cry rivers of misery at the thought of eating mushrooms (but in a psychedelic twist, you might consider swimming down that river in a rainbow colored wetsuit—that is, if you were delving into those mushrooms, which I do not advocate). But in recent times I have turned to the remarkable assortment of questionable vegetation to get my husband to eat something that isn’t rice.
I certainly am not knocking the grand tradition that is our Thanksgiving Rituals (distrustful as I am about the origins of such appreciative holidays). I could eat sage-onion stuffing (recipe courtesy of my friend Z) for eons, and never let us forget the accolades I bestow on the greatest gourd of all, the pumpkin! And let it be known, I did confront and beat into submission a Thanksgiving dinner fit for 6 hungry palates (Alya cooked a turkey ALL-BY-HER-SELF… her FIRST-TURKEY-EVER, mind you! Nerves were scattered like spilt salt by the end of it all). But that will have to wait until another post, another time, hopefully in the month of December because I know I have been egregiously lagging with my posts.
And that is another Reason why I share with you my mushroom exploits—I have reverted to them multiple times in the past few weeks, it felt wrong not to share. It all began with a country called Ethiopia… and the fabulous culinary establishments in DC whose purpose is to bring this great cuisine to my salivating tongue all the curious society.
On our anniversary weekend we made n excursion to an Ethiopian restaurant, and during that experience fell absolutely in love with the divine gift that is Mushroom tibs. Naturally, once I returned home I had to do some research on it, and while I am sorely lacking in the department of traditional Ethiopian spices, I did find a recipe that called for a fair substitution/alteration of flavor, coming remarkably close to the glory of the sautéed delicacy. And so the Mushroom has become a fairly regular guest at our dinner table—which is no problem for me since he’s such a fun guy (Ohhh insert catcalls for lame jokes here).
- 1 ½ – 2 cups white button/crimini mushrooms sliced or chopped in chunks (your preference)
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 tsp garlic, minced (or paste if you don’t have fresh garlic)
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- ¾ tsp garam masala
- 1 Lime
- Optional: 2 jalapeno peppers or 1 green bell pepper, sliced (seeds removed)
I am discovering that, most of the time, the best recipes are so simple both in ingredient list and in production. Not all, but most. Since I got married, I have become much more familiar in the science and nuances of the kitchen realm. You don’t just fry onions, you consider time and temperature for the result you want. You check the consistency of a dough as you mix it, you learn when is the best time to add a spice to a frying concoction, and so on. Going by recipe is useful, important for learning and broadening horizons, and quite necessary for both the novice and the professional, but nothing will be gained if you don’t take the time to listen to your food as it splutters and sizzles, and register what it all means. And so, you learn that a simple recipe on paper expands into atomic complexity on the skillet, depending on how you approach it.
That being said, this is a simple recipe on paper, but the complexity lies in the development of flavors by the end of it.
So, begin with the mushrooms: add 2-3 tbsp (extra light) olive oil to a skillet at medium-high heat, and add the mushrooms. You have to start with the shroomies to get all the water out of them first. Watch as the pan slowly fills with water and steams, and eventually cooks out, leaving browed shrunken mushrooms in its midst. When the water has nearly disappeared, add the garlic and let it melt into the mushrooms. This entire process will take a good 10 minutes or so, so be patient.
Once water is gone, add the onions and fry with the mushrooms on medium heat. Don’t let them burn, so make sure to turn the heat down just a bit, and stir it occasionally. Here add the spices: garam masala and chili powder (I say chili powder because I don’t use cayenne, but a hotter one from Indian grocery stores. Use whatever you got!), and salt. Usually I go easy on the salt, and just add it completely at the end if needed. And usually it is needed because the husband doesn’t think I ever put enough, though for me it’s just fine. Oh the struggle. You may also add the peppers at this point if you have/want them.
When the onions have softened enough to your liking, add the tomatoes and let that cook and reduce down until “oil separates from water completely” and the tomatoes no longer look or taste strongly like them. J I have no other way to describe this process to you. Reduce to a simmer and cover, letting it cook, for about 5 minutes.
Eventually the mushroom dish will have a nice dark gravy (you can add more water if you like it with more sauce—just add a bit more spice to accommodate that addition). Squeeze lime generously around and add more salt if you like now.
I am personally not a fan of garam masala usually, it has too strong and overbearing a taste—but somehow when absorbed by mushrooms the taste is divine. Perhaps the texture and subtle flavor of the mushroom just complements the strength of the masala, toning it down and enhancing its subtleties. Who knows. Whatever the case, it works so well together I shan’t complain.
This is a perfect dish with either rice or bread. If you want to make it “saucier”, it also works as a lovely gravy (which I did in fact do for Thanksgiving—yum!). Whether you munch on it with authentic injera, or drizzle over fragrant rice, it will delight the tastebuds and have you whispering sweet melodies for the Ethiopian culinary arts.