Winter got you down? Tired of the cold and dreariness of it all? I understand. This mushroom and brie soup will wrap you snugly in its velvety smoothness and help sooth the Old Man Winter blues. It won’t make it so you can slap on a pair of Tory strappy sandals and show off your perfectly pedicured feet but I guarantee you will feel uplifted and heartened. And, besides, spring is almost around the corner. All right, maybe not quite around the corner, however, it will be here soon enough. In the meantime, tuck into this soup with a great book or movie and treat yourself kindly. This recipe calls for three pounds of mushrooms and that’s three pounds of any kind of fresh mushroom that floats your boat. I love using one pound of shiitake, (that’s all I can afford), and two pounds of button mushrooms. I purchase the button mushrooms whole and leave the stem on when roasting them. The stems of the shiitake should be removed prior to roasting due to the fact they are tough as leather. I pinch them off and discard them although some people save them for mushroom or vegetable broth. I’m not one of those people. Shiitake mushrooms are loaded with flavor; they’re quite woodsy and smoky; and I find button mushrooms to be earthy and meaty. It’s a marvelous combination. Because this soup is so luxurious and rich, I find a double cream Brie to be perfect. Triple cream tastes wonderful but is considerably more expensive so I leave it up to you. This mushroom soup is ample enough that, truly, the only addition one could possibly want is some hot, crunchy bread to dip and sop. I typically serve my mushroom soup with hot-out-of-the-oven garlic bruschetta. Yum! And the soup gets better overnight so pack up a couple of thermoses, share some with your coworkers and they’ll love you forever.
Cream of Roasted Mushroom and Brie Soup
- 3 pounds fresh mushrooms, mixed is great but pull off any woody stems
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
- 2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 3 generous tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 8 ounces Brie cheese, rind cut off
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°.
- Place mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil over the mushrooms, toss them with your hands until they are completely covered with the oil and spread out in an even layer.
- Roast in the oven until they begin to brown, about 45 minutes.
- In a heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium high heat.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are clear.
- Add the garlic and thyme and stir.
- Add the flour and stir well. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly.
- Add the wine and chicken broth and stir until the flour has been incorporated completely and there are no lumps.
- Add the roasted mushrooms, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to puree to your liking. You can also blend this in a food processor or blender.
- Add the milk and Brie and stir until the cheese has melted.
- Taste for any needed salt and pepper and serve.
How did this black, foul mood get started? When my little eyes fluttered open at 5:45 a.m., I was not unhappy. Then again, I wasn’t thrilled either. But something, something, got under my skin, right up next to me and by the time I had reached worked I was enraged. I felt murderous. On the way to work, my anger was just boiling over. The first time I can remember feeling that I’m-out-of-control-and-I-really-don’t-care sensation was back in the eighties when I was living in Atlanta and my then boyfriend was catting around behind my back. Again. And not bothering to cover his tracks. I had gone home for the weekend and, upon returning, stopped by his house, unannounced. He wasn’t home, but I could see there had been some weekend company. As Dad would say, “a little nocturnal activity”. The signs were everywhere and I was livid. Crazed. Unhinged. And someone was gonna pay. I was a smoker then, and as I paced and swore and paced some more I ended up in his walk-in closet. He fancied himself a stylish dresser. NOT. Without a moment’s hesitation I took my cigarette and burned a large, but not immediately noticeable, hole in every piece of clothing in that enormous closet. Cigarette after cigarette, I chose to burn holes in the armholes and back collars of suit jackets. The cuff or elbow of a shirt. And the crotch of every pant. Natch. Lord, did that feel good!! Sweaters, belts, shoes, everything. I mean, he REALLY did deserve it. He made absolutely certain I saw his collection of girl’s names and phone numbers in the junk drawer in his kitchen. We had decided not to see other people. Cocktail napkins, matchbooks, deposit slips, torn scraps of paper, they were everywhere. He was just hateful. He was a runner and when he left the house to go on a run, there was always a blue jay that would swooped down and attacked him. I’d see that bird and think, “Good. Hope he pecks your eyes out.” Even that bird knew he was evil. Behind his back, my friends called him “BC”, short for “Black Cloud”, or just plain “Larry the Loser”. Can you not mess with me? And why DO we put up with it? But I don’t remember anything like that happening today. And yet, here I was in a dark, dark mood. Hurtling down Bayview bitter and resentful. I thought about what I’d prepare for dinner if I could have anything in the world. That ALWAYS makes me feel better. I came up with appetizers. I wanted three of them. And no meat. So, here’s what we had for dinner and what kept me out of prison. Tyrokafteri, spicy-hot feta dip. Melitzanosalata, roasted eggplant salad, but it’s more like a dip. Hand sliced mushrooms sauteed with garlic and fresh mint, ALL on whole wheat crostini. It was heaven and now, after a glass of red wine, life is much better!
Greek Roasted Eggplant Salad
- 3 medium to large, unbruised eggplants
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar, red wine vinegar is also fine but balsamic is too dark
- 4 handfuls of chopped walnuts
- salt and pepper to taste
- Set oven to broil, high broil if you have the choice. Line a small baking sheet with tin foil, for easy clean up, and place clean, whole eggplants on baking sheet. With eggplants as close to broiler as possible, broil for 30-45 minutes, depending on size of eggplants. Turn every 15 minutes or so, for even broiling.
- While eggplants are in oven, add all other ingredients to food processor.
- When eggplants have cooked completely, remove from oven to cool. With a sharp knife, make a slit from stem to bottom in skin. When cool to the touch, carefully squeeze liquid from pulp. Using a spoon with a relatively sharp edge, I use a soup spoon, scrape out all the pulp and put in food processor. Process mixture until smooth, scraping down sides of processor every once in a while.
- Taste for seasoning. Between the seeds of the eggplants and the walnuts, the mixture will still have a lot of texture. This can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. It can be served as a side or as an appetizer. The eggplants can also be cooked on a grill, just keep your eye on them and don’t forget to turn them occasionally.
Sauteed Mushrooms with Fresh Mint and Garlic
- 2 16-oz. containers large, white, button mushrooms, thinly sliced and sliced by hand
- 4 or 5 large garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves only, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Heat a large pan on medium high heat and add olive oil then mushrooms. As the mushrooms cook they will begin to release liquid.
- Add garlic and salt and pepper. Stir so mushrooms cook evenly.
- Cook until mushroom liquid begins to evaporate and then add mint. Allow some of the mushrooms to brown on the bottom of the pan, but be careful not to burn them. They will darken to a beautiful chestnut color. Serve on top of crostini with cold glasses of pinot grigio. This is good hot, cold, or at room temperature.
In our house during the winter months, Friday nights mean one thing. Homemade pizza for my family and lots of brown likker for me. My husband and son are Greek Orthodox and years ago requested that I not serve meat on Friday so they could take communion on Sunday. Okay. I can do that. To honor their request, I began making pizza every Friday night, salsa or classic rock blaring from the kitchen radio. I love the Allman Brothers. The kitchen door’s always open since you have to jack your oven up to at least 450° and it gets some kind of hot down here in South Florida. And on the counter, on a pretty little napkin, will be a faceted, crystal DOF with 6 or 7 ice cubes cracking and popping around two fingers of brown. My, how I love that stuff. Anyway, it’s Friday, so before I begin pouring, and you know I will, let’s talk pie. Pizza dough is quite simple if you allow yourself enough time and space. The dough is versatile. I use several different types of flour from all-purpose to whole wheat to white whole wheat depending on my mood or what I have on hand. If you choose a heavier flour you need to make a few adjustments. First, I never use just whole wheat. The end result is heavier than a door stop. The ratio I use is equal parts, 1-1. The exception is white whole wheat. I’m using it tonight and I’ll use a full 3 cups. I think King Arthur makes an exceptional product and you can find it at all leading grocery stores. I make the dough first since it needs a good 1 1/2 hour rising time so while it’s rising in a warm corner, I can keep on working. I use one of two different kinds of sauce. My red sauce consists of tomato puree, salt and pepper. What I don’t use, I freeze. If I choose fresh tomatoes I add draining time. After they’ve been chopped finely, I drop them into a colander in the sink, sprinkle with just a little bit of salt and go on prepping my toppings. Tonight I’ve decided on chopped plum tomatoes with shredded fresh basil, grated mozzarella, slivered onion and turkey pepperoni. I know. That’s meat. But with the Greek festival coming up Jimmy doesn’t always make it to communion especially if he has a festival meeting on Sunday and he always does. And James is back at school in North Carolina. Go Heels. Back to toppings. I love chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of fresh dill, crumbled feta, chopped Kalamata olives, a little scattered mozzarella, some cooked, drained spinach and a swath of good olive oil. Remember, cut all vegetables a uniform thickness and take comfort in knowing the combination of pizza toppings is infinite. P.S. Mint is outrageous with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and grated fontina. I’m just sayin’.
Pre-heat oven 450°, 500° if it goes that high
- 2 cups tomato puree
- salt and pepper to taste or
- 8-10 ripe plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- fresh basil finely chopped, to taste
- salt and pepper
- 3 cups flour, your combination of all-purpose, whole wheat etc.
- 1 cup water at 115°
- 1 packet yeast or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Toppings: any of the following
- fresh mozzarella
- crumbled feta
- grated fontina
- zucchini slices
- fresh tomato slices
- kalamata olives
- sautéed mushrooms
- feta cheese
- kefalotiri cheese
- mizithra cheese
- onion slivers, sautéed
- freshly basil, chopped
- fresh mint, chopped
- fresh dill, chopped
- fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- hot pepper flakes
- the ubiquitous bagged shredded mozzarella
- turkey pepperoni (fabulous. tastes exactly the same as conventional but not greasy)
- turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
- Combine ingredients for tomato layer and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with yeast and warmed water and mix well. Add olive oil, mix well and add rest of flour. After mixing in bowl until incorporated, turn on to counter and knead until silky and smooth…5-8 minutes. Coat with a little olive oil, return to bowl, cover and put in warm corner to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- While dough is rising, prepare sauce of choice and cut any vegetable or herbs for toppings.
- When dough has doubled, punch down (yeah. hit it.) and divide into two or more parts. Whatever strikes your fancy and let rest for another 15 minutes.
- Dust baking sheet or pizza paddle with cornmeal and shape the dough by flouring lightly and flattening the dough with your finger tips and the heels of your hands. Shape into disks, stretch and flatten to desired thickness. Don’t worry if the dough tears, just pinch back into shape and keep on going. Shake baking sheet occasionally to keep dough from sticking and add cornmeal as needed.
- Add sauce or tomatoes, toppings and slide into oven.
- Bake 10-15 minutes depending on toppings. Just look at it . You’ll know when it’s ready. Slice and enjoy!