Saturday, July 4, 2009

Vegan Scallops and Morels Au Gratin

I've pitter-pattered around the issue of my past experiences with hallucinogenic mushrooms. I've alluded, evaded details and maybe even told a little white lie here or there (which, thankfully, didn't make my already Jewish nose grow any larger).
The time has come for me to air my dirty laundry:

I used to love magic mushrooms.

I fervently denied that my marijuana would become the "gateway" to sampling other mind-altering goodies. I refused to end up as the DARE program poster child that's twenty pounds underweight and living in a trailer park with track marks, knotted bleach-blonde locks and nine screaming children. But curiosity is deeply rooted in the rebellious teenage psyche. After hearing of the psilocybin "wonders" my friends experienced, I eventually let down my guard.

It was 6 years ago today, to be exact, that I had my first experience with magic mushrooms. On the Fourth of July in 2003, my friends and I ran rampant around the golf-course adjacent to my childhood home. We had epiphanies, drew unnecessarily deep meaning from the patterns of the fireworks, and realized it was just "All Good, Man!".

I won't go too much further into detail, but my interest in psilocybin mushrooms increased over the next two years. I became convinced that if had enough journeys to the realm of "truth", I'd eventually learn how to feel that sense of peace and connectivity in my typical unaltered state. Six years, one stint in rehab and several years of 90% sobriety later, I now know the deep naivety of my teenage brain.

Yes, I've actually grown up. I've learned there are no quick-fixes to the ups and downs of life. They just plain need to Exist...and I need to okay with them. Sure, I have a little fun once or twice a year...I just take much more satisfaction from reality-induced clarity than the kind produced by a substance.

My love for mushrooms has grown right by my side, though. Instead of being concerned about how they make me feel, I'm much more concerned with how they taste. Following a three-day search that definitely felt like a drug hunt, I was finally able to score a pound of 'shrooms. And not just any 'shrooms, but the highly-coveted, rare, delicious morel mushroom. After trips to at least 4 special grocery stores and over 5 phone calls, a nice man in the produce department at the West Hollywood Whole Foods hooked me up with a pound of this gold:

Expect a series of recipes with these little gems over the next few weeks. I'm going to use them all, even if I spend the next four days over a hot oven in the middle of July.

For the Tofu Scallops, I used a 50/50 blend of Plain and Garlic Pepper Tofu from a fantastic purveyor of fine soy products called Tofu Yu in Berkeley. Their artisan tofu is some the best I've ever eaten. I wish they were available a little closer to home.

Vegan Scallops and Morels Au Gratin

  • 1 batch Tofu Scallops
  • 8 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 TBSP White Vinegar, divided
  • 1/3 cup Vegan Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Vegan Margarine
  • 1/4 cup sliced Almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp Mellow White Miso Paste dissolved in 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tsp Garlic Juice
  • 1/4 cup Vermouth
  • 1 tsp Vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp White Pepper
  • 1 cup high fat Soy Milk (SoyDream works best)
  • 1/2 cup Celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cleaned and diced fresh Morel Mushrooms (About 5 Mushrooms. Sub Portobello if not available.)
  • 1/2 cup White Button Mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 additional TBSP Vegan Margarine
  • 3 TBSP Unbleached White Flour
  • Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Vegan White Cheddar Cheese**
  • 1/8 cup finely grated Dr. Cow's Tree Nut Cheese
**I used Cheezly's Vegan White Cheddar. If this isn't available to you, substitute 1/2 cup grated Vegan Mozzarella combined with 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder and 1/4 tsp Onion Powder.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the Tofu Scallops in an airtight container, then pour 4 tsp of the lemon juice, 1TBSP of the white vinegar, a few drops of the garlic juice and sprinkle a touch of salt over them. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

Place the 1/2 cup of vegan bread-crumbs in a shallow bowl. Melt the first 1 tsp of vegan margarine, then pour over the bread-crumbs and stir to combine. Spread the bread-crumbs out evenly on a baking sheet or sheet of heavy aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven still on, and set aside to cool.

Take a large saucepan, then add the Tofu Scallops with marinade (aka the lemon juice and vinegar that they were sitting in), the remaining 6 tsp of lemon juice, prepared white miso broth, garlic juice, vermouth, vegan Worcestershire sauce, salt, and white pepper. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Allow the Tofu Scallops to simmer for about 8 minutes.

Drain the Tofu Scallops, reserving the pan juices, then set the Tofu Scallops and reserved pan juices aside.

Whisk the soy milk and second TBSP of white vinegar together, then set aside.

In the same large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 TBSP of vegan margarine over medium heat, and saute celery, onion, diced morels, and white button mushrooms until all the vegetables are soft.

Sprinkle with unbleached white flour, then gradually whisk in the soy milk/vinegar blend and reserved pan juices. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Taste for salt and pepper.

Place an even amount of Tofu Scallops into 4 ramekins or one medium casserole dish, then spoon an even amount of the saucepan contents into each ramekin (or pour it all into the casserole dish).

Combine the vegan cheeses with the buttered bread crumbs, then sprinkle over tops to cover completely.

Bake for about 20 minutes in the 350 degree oven, or until heated through and bubbly.


dana welsh said...

Yours is my favourite foodie blog - you are able to share juicy bits about yourself which makes your blog the brilliant combo of personal and readable + great recipes

Jes said...

OH morels...they are so goddamn delicious. But for the $25/lb price tag here, I just can't justify it. The recipe sounds brilliant though--artisanal tofu? who knew!

Brittany said...

i love shrooms and i want this dish in front of me right now! eeeeeeeee!

JennShaggy said...

Thank you! It's kind of like my art therapy without the hippie-dippy instructor ;)

quarrygirl said...

these food pictures are incredible, i am actually drooling forrealz. you are making me crave cheezly hard.

BY THE WAY...we did go to whole foods (fairfax and santa monica) at around 4pm on friday, and the morels were ALREADY GONE. i guess peeps love mushrooms!!

thanks for the laughs and food porn.

The Voracious Vegan said...

Love the story and LOVE the recipe! You are a genius, this is a seriously inspired meal!

Lauren said...

haha love that you can be so honest on here .. we all have our loves and our past loves, now don't we ? ;)
i wish i liked the taste of mushrooms though..the recipe sounds really good!

trina said...

Oh la la, this sounds delicious.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I haven't had morels OR that tofu! What is wrong with me?!