It’s November, somehow. Not quite sure when or how that happened.
Not enough to say it’s been windy and raining. The air and sky seem sentient. Discontent and disappointed in us for making them this way, they thrash against the windowpanes and refuse to let us sleep at night.
On the other hand, there are mushrooms! Dozens of them dotting the pasture and woods behind our home, moving in and taking over the raised beds that just a few weeks ago were still home to the last of the tomatoes.
Mabel, our feisty little mallard, doesn’t know what to do with herself, darting through the wet grass to nip off their heads and nibble the stems back down to the dirt. Who knew mushrooms were a delicacy to ducks? You learn something new and delightful every day. Or maybe it’s just Mabes.
Browsing the web I came across this little piece in Nautilus where a microbial ecologist reflects on Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mushrooms.” Do I like Sylvia Plath now, having never cared for her too much before? Not quite sure how that happened either. Or maybe it’s just this one poem.
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!
We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.
Creamy Vegan Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Ducks and poetry aside, I made quite a delectable mushroom soup by combining my favorite elements from a few other recipes and making it vegan, of course. I don’t normally inflict my amateurish concoctions on innocent people–but this one’s worth contriving a blog post for.
Nutritional yeast has a creamy texture and, when toasted, becomes wonderfully nutty and savory, deepening the delicious umami profile of this wonderful wintery-time dish.
In fact, mushrooms can deliver some much needed vitamin D in the dark and dreary winter months! Similar to humans, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D after exposure to sunlight. When I have the time, I like to place sliced mushrooms on a sunny windowsill or countertop for a few hours before cooking.
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup flour (or sweet rice flour for gluten free)
- 16oz mixed mushrooms (I used crimini, shiitake & portobello)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
- 5 cups water, vegetable broth, or preferred vegan broth (I like Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
- 1 tbsp Hungarian style sweet paprika (or Hungarian style half-sharp paprika for more of a bite)
- 2 tsp dried dill
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper (or more or less to taste)
- Leaves from 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp soy
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 tbsp red or white miso paste
- Soak raw cashews in half a cup of hot water and set aside (this is especially important if you don’t have a powerful blender).
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, gently toast the nutritional yeast and flour over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally until the yeast is slightly browned and smells nutty. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe out the pot then heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Arrange mushrooms in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until browned underneath, about 3-4 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown all over, about 5–7 minutes longer. Don’t rush this step–caramelization equals more umami flavor! Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a plate, leaving oil behind (if there is too little oil left, you may need to add a touch more to the pot).
- Lower heat to medium. Add onion to pot and season with a little salt. Cook, stirring often, until very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Don’t let garlic burn–aim for golden brown and slightly softened.
- Add wine and cook until almost completely evaporated (about 1 minute).
- Add the flour-nutritional yeast mixture to the pot, stir to coat the onions, then slowly whisk in a cup of broth (or water). This ensures a smooth mixture without any clumps of flour.
- Add remaining broth/water and return mushrooms to pot. Add herbs, spices, and soy sauce. Bring soup to a gentle simmer.
- Transfer 2 cups soup (including some mushrooms) to a blender. Drain cashews and add to blender along with miso. Purée until very smooth and creamy.
- Stir blended mixture back into soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have married, 10–15 minutes. Season to taste. If soup is too thin for your liking, you can thicken with cornstarch. Or, if the soup is too thick you can add a little water or plant-milk (oat milk, soy or almond milk would work best).
- Serve hot with a dollop of vegan sour cream and a rustic country bread or sourdough.
Soup will keep for up to a week, refrigerated. I have not tried freezing–I imagine the texture of the mushrooms would change a little when thawed. If you prefer a silky smooth and creamy soup, it’s perfectly fine to puree the entire soup in batches–it’s fantastic either way!