How to make healthy choices every day

Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto Pool

 

When we committed to going to the ocean, I immediately felt the thrilling sensation that washes over me when I stand at the intersection of land meeting water. I smelled brine and dampness. I saw certain patterns and colours; light sand against dark water, wet stones, seaweed, driftwood, and feathers.

This was the second recipe I created for the dreamy on-location photoshoot with Christiann Koepke back in October (you can see the first one here). The inspiration for this dish came first in fact, fast and furiously. Just thinking about the seaside brought this recipe to me in a wave of total inspiration. I wanted the ingredients to reflect the elements in this environment, and for the final result to be a visual meeting of land and sea.

Now I’m not super into “fake meat”, but there is something undeniably satisfying about tricking someone into thinking a vegetable is flesh. Tee hee. Plus, Rene Redzepi does it all the time, so maybe it puts me in the cool cooking club too? Yes? Anyway, I knew something on the plate had to look like seafood, and I had my sights set on scallops. In my first cookbook, I made “scallops” out of leeks, and wanted to try something different, so going through the rolodex of tube-shaped white veggies in my mind, I fell upon king oyster mushroom stems. Naturally. Browned in ghee and well-seasoned, I knew that these morsels would look exactly like mollusks, and taste deceptively meaty.

A pool of herbaceous, vibrant green pesto, would be the land, and the perfect resting place for my mushroom medallions. I combined flat-leaf parsley and spinach to create a bright yet balanced sauce that complimented – rather than overwhelmed – the rest of the dish. But with all this creaminess, I knew that I also needed to include something for textural contrast, so toasted hazelnuts became the beach stones, along with fried capers, which added a bite of seaside brine.

This dish is surprisingly easy to make, and it is the prefect main to serve for family and friends that you want to spoil a little. It looks impressive, but it’s a cinch to get on the table without gluing you to the stove. The pesto can be made a week in advance (although the fresher, the better), so that the only thing you need to do before serving is cook the mushroom and capers, and warm the pesto a little. I love cooking the capers and mushrooms in ghee (recipe here) because it’s just so darn delicious, but the pesto is vegan and if you want the entire meal to be so, simply swap out the ghee for expeller-pressed coconut oil, which is refined for high heat cooking and has no tropical aroma.


Beta-glucan Goodness

Edible mushrooms are both medical and nutritional dynamos. Collectively, they not only provide us with plant-based protein, vitamin D, and a whole host of minerals, but most excitingly a group of polysaccharides called beta-glucans. These complex, hemicellulose sugar molecules enhance the functioning of the immune system by activating immune cell response and stimulating the production of white blood cells. These compounds also effectively mobilize immune stem cells in your bone marrow, and exhibit anti-tumor properties, so they’re often used supplementally in cancer treatment protocols.

Beta-glucans help to lower cholesterol, as this type of fiber forms a viscous gel during digestion, which grabs a hold of excess dietary cholesterol, prevents absorption by moving it through your digestive tract, and eliminates it. Through your poop! This same gel also slows down your digestion, which in turn stabilizes blood sugar, and minimizes the release of insulin.

King oyster mushrooms are of course a good source of beta-glucans, but you can get them in other places too: barley, oats, sorghum, mushrooms like shiitake, reishi and maitake, as well as seaweed, algae, and dates.

 

I wouldn’t put king oyster mushrooms in the “specialty” category of fungi, but I also know that they’re not available at every grocery store, so if you can’t find them, substitute with any other kind of mushroom you like and forgo the whole “scallop” charade. The dish will still turn out delicious, I promise.

If you want to change up the herb in the pesto, try basil instead of flat-leaf parsley. Cilantro could also be delicious, but potentially overwhelming, so use more spinach in that case. And instead of hazelnuts in the pesto and garnish, try almonds, pecans or walnuts. Yummm.

I like to serve this with a big hunk of crusty bread on the side to mop up any leftover pesto in the bowl. It also helps to have some good olive oil and flaky salt around for this situation, just sayin’. If you’d prefer the grain route, steamed brown rice, quinoa, or millet could be a decent accompaniment too. And if you want to go completely grain-free, roasted sweet potato, winter squash, or pumpkin would be totally lovely.


We’re home from Bali now, settling back into life in the cold Canadian winter. It feels good to be here, especially after a satisfying few weeks in the sunshine, hosting two glorious retreats. Now it’s time to ground and focus on the year ahead. I’m very excited for 2019 – so many exciting things to share with you, just on the horizon.

I hope you’re all well out there, and enjoying a vibrant start to the new year. Sending love and gratitude out to you all, always.

xo, Sarah B



13 thoughts on “Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto Pool”

  • First off I was totally fooled and thought those mushrooms were scallops. Secondly love the term “pesto pool”. And lastly this looks delicious and can’t wait to try it! Quick question: I can’t always find King Oyster mushrooms here in the northeast; are there other mushroom varieties that you think work well with this pesto?

  • I’d really like to make this, but it seems not quite as filling to make for a main meal, which is what I’m about. Do you have any inspired, Sarah B-worthy grains or accompaniments you would choose to make this a more filling and complete meal? Perhaps quinoa?

  • Can you please explain why not to wash mushrooms?
    When I think about the many pickers, packers, employees, store customers etc. who may have touched them, some with skin diseases; or bleeding, infected cuts; or who didn’t wash their hands after using the toilet; or who just smoked, therefore touching a cigarette, which repeatedly goes into their mouths, or who spat on their hands for whatever reason, or touched filthy money or the filthy handle of their shopping cart, etc., etc., and about the raccoons and such who may have peed on them and deposited ringworm, I cannot imagine not washing. I have heard the just brush off dirt before and it seems rather unsanitary, even when organic, which here in the US does not mean 100% pesticide free. I would appreciate your input!
    Thanks

    • Tal,
      I appreciate your concern. This article speaks to the culinary reasons not to wash. https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/mushroom-common-mistakes

      As an organic farmer I cannot stress enough the importance of the trust that can be developed between producers and consumers. Mushrooms should always be well cooked to make them digestible (and tasty). That will remove 90% of any issues a consumer may have with contamination. Simply washing in water may not really remove any pathogenic contaminants anyway, as the mushroom will absorb some water and thus potentially other contaminants. My advice is to find a local mushroom grower, ask to visit their grow space to assure yourself of their quality practices and spend the extra money, locally, on the best damn shrooms you can eat and trust. That or wash your mushrooms and be willing to suffer the consequences of a soggy lot.

      • The claim that we can’t wash mushrooms because they soak up water has been debunked again and again. Try it your self, weigh the mushrooms before and after you wash and dry them and there won’t be any difference whatsoever. Check out seriouseats.com for the real science on this.

  • Thank you for this simple but delicious mushroom recipe. We are fortunate here in South Australia for the variety of mushrooms come in abundance. My wife is not a fan of mushrooms but I can say she did enjoy how I mirrored your recipe. Thank you for sharing. We are off to Bali in July as well. Loved the professional photography which accompanied your mushroom recipe.
    Cheers,
    Frank

  • Thank you for this recipe and the presentation is incredible. I plan to prepare this as an appetizer for company this weekend!!!!

  • I just loved it, I’m not only going to give it 5 stars. But, I’m going to share it with all my website’s followers on the social media. Thank you for giving me something useful to share it today!

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