Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mushroom, toad stools and fungi... oh my

I was going to tell you that there was a troll in my garden ... because that is my originally imagined explanation for the mysterious holes in my garden but actually there were little burrowing critters in my garden and you should know that I tried really, very humanely to encourage them to move along.  They couldn’t or wouldn’t read the writing on the wall and I lost my sense of humor when several of my treasured plants began to disappear.  To make a long story longer than it needs to be, I’ll tell you that my champion said “I’ll take care of this for you” and I was so weary that I didn’t ask questions.  Low and oh, my...his solution was to throw what looked like dynamite gas down the holes and kill the critters where they live.  Oh, sure, that ended my critter problem but do you really think that I am going to dig there and come across the creepy remains of some hairy, scare-y dead critter carcass?  “Not I ” said the girly-girl.  On to plan “B”.  I needed a garden element alternative to plants to serve as a place holder and mushrooms came to mind.  I seem to always have a bag of concrete mix lying around my garage because I over purchase so I that don’t run out in the middle of a project.  Of course I have lots of plastic plant pots because I kept replacing the specimens those darn critters were eating.  I also have sand and if you don’t you can pick some up at the local hardware store or do as I do and take some from the local park.  We also need a gargantuan nail stake from the hardware store.  They may call them something else there but don't you get all technical on me, ok?  The point is to get a large thick nail, bolt, or section of re bar to serve as a sturdy stem base.  After gathering your supplies but before you begin, I highly recommend that you read the instructions first.  You'll need to work in an area where you can leave your project undisturbed while drying.  This project can be made with hypertufa.  Find Tufa recipe found at this site under Mud Wrestling (June10, 2009).
  1. Sand cast mold: Using plastic 4” plant container, tape drainage holes to seal, then fill half way with sand and moisten sand with water until damp enough to pack sand against walls of container.  Shape into a cone for mushroom.  
  2. Stylize ideas
    1. using an index card make stripe indents
    2. take a knife and trace a jagged spiral pattern into sand 
    3. pencil eraser to texture indents on the surface adding very tiny pebbles, leaves or other organic matter to make an impression in the cement.
    4. Press a simple cone shape or round shape into the sand and carve and sculpt after cement has set up some.
    5. Make a round toad stool, you can also dig a hole in the ground and follow same instructions.
  3. Mix a small batch of cement and pour into your sand mold cement, add a large and long nail to center that will become a sturdy stem later
  4. when cement mushroom base has set up some, add a semi-dry cement around nail to form stem.  No need to make it stick straight either, try an undulating or hourglass molded shape here.
  5. Allow to dry undisturbed 24 hours or as needed. Unearth and gently brush sand or soil away with an old toothbrush or paint brush and viola. 
Finishing touches:  One idea is to create a cluster of cement mushrooms and "plant" atop of a mound of almost dry cement and allow to set like the ones below on the left.  Plan ahead and create an indention into the cap by adding packed sand into an area that later use will accommodate succulents to grow atop the mushrooms such as in middle photo. Scrape the mushrooms or add more concrete to the unearthed pot mushrooms to get a product similar to the mushroom on the right.  Consider adhering moss or using a sponge to dab on color/s with patio paint. If you prefer more color mushroom, then by all means paint. =)  

Hungry?  This hard work calls for food.  This little wonderful mushroom, rice, lentil timbale (kitchen geek term) is prepared in little ramekins to be eaten with a fork or used as an appetizer spread along side your favorite crackers.  I adapt a previously adapted recipe for these Mushroom Timbales  for a simple and delicious vegan dish that is both hearty and elegant.  Don't go getting squeamish on me because this dish includes tofu which is a source of protein and calcium.  Tofu is a staple in Asian cuisine that you will find in the produce section of your regular grocery store.  Tofu is made from soybeans which have been indicated as a Japanese longevity secret

1 large finely chopped onion, I like red onion
2 large slices bread (may be gluten-free) I use a whole multi grain type
2 cups mushrooms, quartered (about 10 large), button mushrooms are fine choice
1/2 cup silken tofu (light, firm or extra-firm Mori-Nu, preferred)
3 cloves garlic, quartered
1 tablespoon sherry
2 tablespoons water
1 cup lentils, cooked or favorite cooked bean such as white beans or black beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (dry will substitute)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
3 tablespoons cornstarch, or arrowroot
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked wild rice or brown rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sliced mushrooms for garnish (optional) use a very eye pleasing mushroom such as a spread of Enoki*, or a plump straw mushroom. *I find enoki in Asian markets.

Make ahead: 1 cup cooked lentils (from about 1/2 cup dried) and 1 cup rice (about 1/2 cup before cooking)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 6 ramekins with cooking spray and have ready a large baking pan that will hold them (9x13-inch should work). Place one nice-looking mushroom slice in the bottom of each ramekin.
  2. Saute the onion in a non-stick pan until it softens. Set aside.
  3. Place bread in food processor and pulse until you have crumbs. Add mushrooms, tofu, garlic, sherry, and water blending until fairly smooth. Add lentils and process again until smooth. Add the tomato paste, herbs, cornstarch, and salt - processing until well-blended. Add the onions to the processor and pulse to incorporate taking care not to over-process in order to retain some texture.
  4. Scrape contents from food processor into a bowl and stir in the cooked rice. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Divide the mixture among the oiled ramekins and smooth the tops with a spoon. Set the ramekins in the large baking dish and add hot water to the dish, being careful not to splash it into the ramekins.
  6. Bake, uncovered, until tops are brown and crusty and middles seem moderately firm when pressed with a finger--about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges and invert the ramekins onto serving plates. Serve with your favorite mushroom gravy.
Note: If you plan to serve these later, keep the timbales in the ramekins, covered, and reheat in their water bath for about 10 minutes. Or (guessing now) microwave each for about a minute before serving.


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  2. I will begin this project and plan to also make the mushroom timbales for my Vegan friends! Thank you.

  3. Well did you happen to make mushrooms from all these ideas? Do you have posts on your blog about the different ways you tried? thanks