As you may have been able to discern from my seasonal seed giveaways, I am addicted to gardening. I’ve tried my hand at growing many a vegetable, fruit, and flower, but up until very recently, never had I tried cultivating a fungi. I was always intrigued by the idea of growing them. My Theio Niko had a large mushroom-growing heap in his backyard that I remember being covered with mushrooms, and when I thought about how expensive many types of mushrooms can be when purchased from the store, growing them at home made a lot of sense. This inexperience in fungi-growing was remedied when I got my indoor brown oyster mushroom growing kit from Gourmet Mushroom Products. It arrived as a little white log, about 4 inches in diameter and 10 inches tall, with a large and perforated plastic baggie, a sponge, and detailed instructions
To start growing them, you cut two little x’s in two sides of the log and place the log standing vertically on top of the sponge in a bowl filled with a couple inches of water. You place the plastic baggie over the log and make sure that it touches the water at the bottom of the bowl, and then place the bowl in an area that gets lots of fresh air and indirect sunlight. The window by my desk was a perfect location, and after about a week, I had a nice little brown oyster mushroom colony growing! HUZZAH!!! Once I harvested the mushrooms, I read through the directions again and saw that I could dry out the log for a few weeks, and then repeat the process again for more mushrooms. Which I did promptly.
So now I’ve had a couple more harvests of mushrooms, and I couldn’t be happier about my new fungi growing experience and fancy produce bundle. If you’re looking for a fun holiday gift for a foodie or gardening fanatic, I’d highly recommend this kit. It would be a great project to do with kids, too, because of the quick turnaround between “planting” and harvesting. And at $16.95, it doesn’t break the bank, either. Not to mention the loads of tasty mushrooms you end up with.
I used my mushrooms to make this rich little vegetarian pasta dish. A creamy oyster mushroom sauce paired with Devo’s wild mushroom & sage olive oil (my personal favorite for bread dipping), asiago cheese, caramelized shallots, and cencioni pasta created quite the dinner for Jeremy and myself. Cencioni pasta is a very thick oval that’s rough on one side to help trap the sauce in it’s crevasses, which it does quite nicely in this dish. It was slightly sweet from the shallots, but had a hearty and earthy flavor from the dairy and mushrooms. Overall, a delicious and filling vegetarian meal!
First, begin the process of caramelizing the shallots. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with the teaspoon of sugar in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot pieces and stir so that the shallots are coated in the butter and sugar mixture. Lower the heat to low and continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes. If the shallot pieces appear to be drying out and getting crusty and hard, add a teaspoon or two of water to the pan and stir. Once the pieces have turned golden, remove them from the heat and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms in the butter for about 7 minutes until they turn a deeper, darker brown. Add the milk, wine, and sage, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should thicken a bit. After the 20 minutes have passed, whisk in the cornstarch until completely combined, then mix in the salt, and set the mixture aside.
Prepare the cencioni pasta according to the directions on the package, (note, this pasta takes a bit longer to cook than your usual pasta because of its thickness, so make sure you taste a piece before removing it from the stove top to ensure that it’s done). Place the pasta in a large bowl and toss with the Devo mushroom
& sage olive oil, mushroom sauce, 1/4 cup of the asiago cheese,
and half of the caramelized shallots. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and
caramelized shallots over the top and serve immediately. Makes about two