By Nancy Olah
Back in the 1970s-1980s, every vegetarian owned a copy of The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. One of my all-time favorite recipes from that cookbook was Mushrooms Berkeley. Over the years, I have made a lot of different variations, including my Beef and Mushrooms Berkeley included in Fool a Carnivore.
Last Saturday, some truly gorgeous oyster mushrooms at the wonderful stand run by Rosemary Pete at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market called out to me. I knew that I had to use these fresh and lovely ‘shrooms to re-invent Mushrooms Berkeley – one more time.
While some see these gorgeous pale yellow mushrooms as “oyster shaped,” I actually think they look a bit more like angel’s wings. Either way, they look and taste heavenly!
I know that lots of people say that cleaning mushrooms by giving them a dunk in water is acceptable. My take is that you can easily waterlog these delicate jewels, because they soak up water like a sponge. My suggestion is to clean them one at a time, using a mushroom brush or a slightly moistened lint-free towel (although a paper towel will do in a pinch). I know that this sounds like a lot of trouble, but when these beauties cost $8.00 per carton, I want to treat them with the respect they so richly deserve!
Here’s my method:
After I cut off the bases and separate the petals, I wipe each mushroom with my mushroom brush (or moistened towel), and look closely at the gills to make sure that there aren’t any insects lurking there. If I see dirt, insects, or anything else that shouldn’t be in the gills, I pick it out with a toothpick. I cut off the stems (reserving the ones that are tough for stock, and chopping up the ones that are still tender), and leave the mushrooms whole for this recipe. If I’ve used a moistened towel instead of a mushroom brush, I give them a gentle pat with a dry paper towel to make sure that they are completely dry before I begin cooking them. One more tip – if you can’t cook with them the day you buy them, you can store them for a day or two in a tightly closed paper bag in your fridge. But I need to warn you – it’s really better to cook with them the day you them!
Another tip – I defrosted the Gardein Beefless Tips so that I could cut them into smaller pieces, which distributes them well throughout the dish, giving a beefy flavor to every bite and augmenting the delicious oyster mushrooms, which have a meaty flavor all their own.
Although I have usually served my Beef and Mushrooms Berkeley over rice or some other grain, I had a hankering for pasta and decided that some lovely Tagliatelle Nests by Delverde would be an improvement . . . and it was!
We served this with a 2013 organic Tempranillo from Spain. Casa Rojo Nature was only about $10 at Earth Fare, and was wonderful change from the Cabernet Sauvignon I usually serve with Mushrooms Berkeley. It’s a great value on an organic red wine. Since I eat mostly organic food, I decided that the wine I drink needs to be organic, too!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or use Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, if you are vegan)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion), finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cut in medium matchsticks
- 2 mini yellow peppers, cut in small matchsticks
- 2 mini orange peppers, cut in small matchsticks
- 2 mini red peppers, cut in small matchsticks
- 8 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, bases cut and reserved for stock, petals separated and left whole, and tender portion of the stems roughly chopped
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 ¼ cups red wine
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons Annie’s Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp. Better than Bouillon Mushroom Base
- Freshly ground black better and a little sea salt, to taste
- 9 ounce package Gardein Beefless Tips, defrosted and each piece cut in half
- 8.8 ounce package of Delivered Tagliatelle Nests (No. 82)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Heat a large skillet, and add the butter and olive oil. Sauté the chopped onion for 5-6 minutes until translucent and softened.
- Add the peppers and sauté for 3-4 more minutes and then add the prepared mushrooms. Cook uncovered over low heat for about 5 minutes and then add the dry white wine.Cook uncovered for about 4-5 more minutes.
- While the veggies are cooking, bring a large pasta pot of water to boil, and begin making the sauce. Mix the bay leaves, red wine, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, Better than Bouillon, freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt, and pour it over the simmering mushrooms, onions and peppers. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, as the sauce begins to reduce and thicken.
- When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and cook the Tagliatelle Nests for about 6 minutes, until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining the tagliatelle in a colander and returning the drained pasta to the pot.
- check the sauce and make sure that it has cooked down enough to beautifully coat a spoon.
- Pour the mushroom mixture over the tagliatelle, toss well, and add a little pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce.
- Garnish with parsley and serve right away in warmed pasta bowls.