Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oyster Mushroom Soup--not Only for Vegans

Growing up in Poland I lived among boringly homogeneous people who ate and liked the same, mostly traditional Polish food. There were of course different ways of preparing the same dishes but I do not recall meeting anyone who would not like cabbage or beets or certain traditional meat meals.

It all has changed when I left Poland and especially when I came to the US and started making friends among people coming from different cultures and regions of the world, each of them having grown up in their own culinary traditions. I became acquainted with exotic cuisines and learned many new dishes and included them in my menu.

But somehow, this experience of growing openness and culinary syncretism, runs against the trend that I have been recently noticing with an increasing frequency that more and more people declare themselves being subject to very specific food restrictions or, at least, culinary reservations. Just last month I heard so many times "I do not eat meat. I do not like red meats. I do not eat pork. I am not crazy about chicken. I do not like fish. I avoid dairy products. I am vegetarian. I am vegan."

Can you imagine to have ten such guests over for dinner? I do not cook meat often but at the same time my vegetarian dishes, and especially desserts, often contain at least one egg and some cheese, or milk. Preparing a vegan dish seems to be the only way to meet all these constraints, and to be absolutely sure, it should better be gluten-free.

With this reflection in the back of my mind, I reminded myself about a soup that was often made in my home when oyster mushrooms suddenly became very popular in Poland. I liked it then very much because of the taste of marjoram that is used in that soup. It is a very Polish accent in that light soup, which is also perfect for such a cold day as today.

Oyster Mushrooms Soup

1 lb oyster mushrooms,
4 medium carrots,
2 celery sticks,
one small leek,
2 medium potatoes,
1 tsp salt,
4 cups of vegetable organic stock (you may not need it if you use organic vegetables or bought them at a farmers' market),
1 tbsp dried marjoram,
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil.

1. Wash mushrooms and cut from the stem into separate pieces. Slice them across the gills
2. Wash the leek thoroughly to get rid of all the sand that is between the leaves. Slice it into thin slices.

3. In a frying pan heat oil and add the sliced mushrooms. Fry them for 3-5 minutes mixing all the time, until water evaporates. Add leeks and cook everything for another 3 minutes, until the leeks become softer and transparent.

4. Peel off carrots and potatoes. Cut carrots in thin slices and potatoes into small cubes. Slice the celery sticks.
5. In a large put 2 cups of water, add vegetable stock with tsp of salt and bring it to boil. Add celery sticks to the boiling water. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, and then add carrot. Cook together for about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook them for 15-20 minutes, until they become soft.
6. Add fried mushrooms and leeks to the pot. Season the soup with marjoram pepper and bring it to boil. Let it simmer for about 3 minutes to infuse all the flavors.

I like to serve it with a white baguette.

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