The REAL Magic Mushrooms, brought to you by the Seasoned Spoon Café

As many of you know, our café has a mandate to focus on local cuisine. This means we eat with the seasons, supplemented by whatever we manage to dry or freeze in the warmer months.

In southern Ontario, this means the pickins are slim this time of year, although thanks to the hard work of our summer sourcers, we do get to enjoy the occasional roasted eggplant and pepper quiche, pesto pasta, or corn chowder.

However, freezer space and staff hours only go so far, and as good locavores, here at the Spoon, we’ve learned to get real cozy with root vegetables.

So, what can you eat this time of year? Actually, quite a lot, it seems.

Once you’ve embraced the limitations of our climate’s growing season, learned how to prepare some of these complicated-looking vegetables, and really started to appreciate the distinct and earthy flavours of winter’s offerings, seasonal eating in the winter starts to seem a lot more exciting!

Cabbage, carrots, beets, leeks, apples, squash, turnip, brussel sprouts, even organic kale through local vendors like Chick-a-biddy Acres… the list goes on! And there are so many ways to approach these lovingly grown vegetables.

One elegant edible you can enjoy all year long is actually not a vegetable in the true sense: the mystical, munchable mushroom. Wikipedia describes this lovely food as “a toadstool – the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus.”

And through a basic understanding of its growth, I know that it loves to propagate in dark and moist conditions.

At the Spoon, we are grateful that these sweet, funky little food-creatures are able to grow year-round, and send praises to Andrew MacIlmoyle and his family for continuing to sell them to us so you can enjoy them!

(What could be more magical?)

Among the many wonderful ways to eat mushrooms, the classic risotto is one of the more common ones.

They’re awesome as a hearty portabello sandwich, delicious in a French onion soup, and great in omelettes, stir-fries, and quiches.

However, because creamy (and cheesy, if that’s where your taste lies) is the name of the game this winter, we’re going to share with you an easy-to-make risotto recipe… as long as you promise you’ll still come by to enjoy ours!

Mushroom Risotto

You’ll need:
– Cooking oil
– 1 onion, diced
– A splash of white wine
– 1 cup Arborio (*important!) rice
– 6 cups tasty (homemade?) veggie stock
– 4 cups sliced mushrooms (get them from Andrew!)
– 2 cloves minced garlic
– A splash of balsamic vinegar
– Salt, pepper, and thyme to taste

Coat the bottom of a large deep pan with oil and sauté the onions on medium heat until soft. Add a few pinches of salt, and splash a “glug” (real measurement!) of white wine, if you have some. Add the rice to the pan and stir it around for a few minutes—it will get just slightly golden. Turn the heat down to medium-low.

Start adding your stock to the rice mixture, about a cup at a time. You need to pay attention to risotto as it cooks—it does require your attention. As you add the stock, stir quite frequently as the rice absorbs the liquid.

While the rice is cooking, heat another pan on the stove, adding a splash of cooking oil. Sauté your mushrooms until they are brown and juicy, adding a tablespoon or so of thyme leaves, along with some salt and pepper.

Don’t let your risotto dry out; keep adding stock, and watch as it gets nice and creamy. (This is the magic of Arborio rice!) Taste it—you’ll know when the rice is cooked to your liking, usually al dente (with a bit of a bite).

When it’s done, stir the cooked mushrooms into the risotto, drizzle with balsamic and parmesan if desired, and serve hot with a lovely side salad. Delicious!