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Author Notes: I found Curly and Carole Anne the same way I find a lot of the stories for The Perennial Plate, searching the internet. When I stumbled upon banjo-playing mushroom farmers, I immediately fell in love. Then I learned that their operation is all organic, and the farm is way out in the Ozarks -- even more of a reason to make the drive.
And oh what a drive! It took us on all types of dirt roads, over several streams and to the land where GPS and cell phones cease to exist. Even though we had only spoken on the phone briefly, we were greeted like old friends, and what followed was three days of shiitake talking, cooking and eating. But what really struck me was less about their innovative style of growing mushrooms on logs in quantity all year round, and more about their discussions about what "local" means and how that can affect sustainable family farms. —The Perennial Plate
For the mushrooms
- 10 large shiitake mushrooms (reserve stems if using for stock)
- 1 bulb green garlic, minced
- 1/2 bunch oregano, minced (reserve stems if using for stock)
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (or rice vinegar with a bit of honey)
- salt to taste
- Remove the stems and marinate the mushrooms with the herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar for as little as an hour, or overnight. I did it for the length of time it took to cook the soup.
- When the soup is ready, grill the mushrooms. The way I like to do it is to char both sides -- just so it has a bit of color. Do this on the hot part of the grill, and then set them aside to finish cooking through. Try a mushroom to to see if it is done.
For the soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bulbs green garlic plus stalks, chopped
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- vegetable stock (or stock made using mushroom stems)
- 4 cups watercress
- a little water
- To make a stock using the stems of the shiitakes, roast them in the oven at 400 degrees with an onion until they have a bit of color. Then add to a stock pot, cover with water, add the oregano stems from the mushroom marinade as well as the watercress stems. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Then use with the potatoes.
- Saute garlic in the olive oil with salt until translucent. Add potatoes and cook until halfway done (about 10 minutes) add vegetable stock and simmer until potatoes are cooked through. Puree and season.
- Puree watercress with a little water.
- Combine the potato puree with the watercress, and garnish with the sliced mushrooms. This dish can be served cold as well (in fact I recommend it!). Also, a little bit of nice olive oil on top would be good, and a few shavings of Parmesan!