Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wild mushroom soup with amaranth-sunflower-spelt bread

Sometimes meals taste better than they look…this is one of those. My ongoing mission, now that October is over, is to use up some of the stuff in my refrigerator and freezer. It is a testament to my culinary packrat-nature that I had all of the ingredients for the amaranth-sunflower-spelt bread on hand and ready to go…I was a little unsure about it; it seemed so health-foody, but in fact it was sweet and really delicious, more of a crumbly corn bread than a biscuit. Anyway, it was the first time I had ever tried amaranth, though I have had a little bit of it around in the freezer for some time. At the start of this post is an image I took through my super-macro lens; the amaranth grains are in the bowl of a teaspoon.

Here's the recipe of what I made with it, which I found on Google Books and typed out (with a few very small changes) for me, and now for you:

Amaranth-sunflower-spelt bread
from The Angelica Home Kitchen: Recipes and Rabble Rousings from an Organic Vegan Restaurant by Leslie McEachern

1 cup water
1/2 cup amaranth
3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup soy milk
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup

Place 1 cup water and 1/4 tsp sea salt in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add amaranth, lower flame, and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes or until water is absorbed. Curious about what it looked like then? (As always, click for more detail):

What was it really like? Well, strange, frankly. The overall texture was slimy, but then if you bit into a spoonful, the little grains would pop. The taste is quite pleasant. In the bread, this worked well, it seemed to act as a binding agent like ground flaxseed, but as a side dish on its own don't get any fancy ideas about amaranth, just take my advice and say no.

Preheat oven to 350F. Spread the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Whisk together the whole spelt flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, and remaining sea salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, amaranth, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup.

Lightly oil a 9 x 9" round pie plate (I used the same cast iron skillet I had roasted the sunflower seeds in). Pour in the batter and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sunflower seeds. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Some of the other things I needed to use up were mushrooms, so I found this very macho recipe, which I have rather significantly adapted, to include kale and cannellini beans:

Wild mushroom soup

2 tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 pound of any mushrooms, sliced, the wilder the better (okay, mine were just shiitake and oyster mushrooms, from the Asian market)
1/2 large chopped onion
1/4 cup dry sherry or Madeira
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup soy milk

3 large stalks of kale, stemmed and chopped

1/2 cup cannellini beans
salt and pepper

Melt the Earth Balance in a soup pot and add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté for five minutes or so until the mushrooms are wilted and release their moisture.

Add the sherry, thyme, bay leaf and flour and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking for another five minutes or so stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot.

Add the stock, soy milk, chopped kale and cannellini beans and simmer for another 20 minutes or so. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve as is or if you prefer puree all or part of the soup (I pureed part of it with a stick blender).


This all was served with a simple salad of baby greens and avocado, with the Honey-ginger dressing from Rebar which, and this is a first, didn't fully come up to my expectations, so I had to add to it the juice and zest of half a lime, after which it did:

Sweet ginger dressing
adapted from Rebar's Modern Food Cookbook:

4 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp corn syrup, mirin, agave nectar, or maple syrup
5 tbsp rice vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1/2 lime
pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil

Combine all of the ingredients except oil in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Slowly add the oil in a thin steady stream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Heavenly!

This was altogether an excellent meal, it felt old-fashioned and sixty-ish so to me quite comforting (I was born in 1964 but maybe you know what I mean) and physically and spiritually nourishing. I'll be taking leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and am already looking forward to it.

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