There’s a great farmer’s market in Dewey Square on Tuesdays and Thursdays all summer and throughout the fall. Since Dewey Square is right outside the South Station T stop where I pick up the subway, this makes it supremely easy and convenient to quickly grab some fresh and local produce on the way home, and unless I have somewhere to be after work, I usually try to take advantage.
While this is always fantastic, today I really struck gold:
These lovelies are maitake mushrooms, also known as hen of the woods. While they’re popular in Japan for their medicinal properties, these fungi are also really, really delicious. The name hen of the woods is apt because the mushroom has this wonderful meaty flavor and chew. Finding them was super exciting because they’re one of my favorite mushrooms and I don’t see them around that often. They’re rather expensive, but I find a little goes a long way with mushrooms, so I bought enough for a solitary dinner since the man was working late and hurried home with my prize.
I’d already been thinking about making barley tonight, as a change from rice…but what else to serve with the barley and mushrooms? I didn’t want to make a risotto – I wanted the mushrooms to shine on their own. And then I remembered that we had some beets in the fridge! Barley, beets, and maitake – the perfect fall meal!
Cooking the barley was easy enough – into the rice cooker it went, with 2 cups of water. For the beets, I decided to slightly modify the Beet Crisps recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and slice them a bit thicker – they were not so much crisps as individually roasted beet slices. Into a 400 degree oven they went, coated oil and, once they were flipped, dusted with salt, pepper, and curry powder.
Finally, it was time to cook the mushrooms. I decided on simply sauteing them following the general outline of a recipe found online. My big change here, besides quantity (the mushrooms weren’t $29 a pound, but they weren’t so far off that I was going to buy that much of them!) was that I lacked the fresh herbs. I didn’t plant thyme in the garden this year, and my rosemary is somewhat…lacking. So I winged it with dried and hoped Marco would forgive me.
Maitake smells absolutely outstanding when sauteed. Don’t start dinner when you’re too hungry or you’ll be sorry.
When the mushrooms were drained of their excess oil, I put it all together on the plate. The beets saved the meal from being too drab.
The earthiness of the mushrooms played nicely with the sweetness of the beets and their slight curry mustiness. The barley came out beautifully – fully cooked and tender but still chewy. A lovely fall meal – local, seasonal, and totally meat-free!