♦ Shaina Moves Out…Shiitakes Move In

Dear Shaina,

IMG_2132I am having a hard time cooking for two these days.  It’s not about the quantity or finding recipes for two. I have always defied portion controlled cooking, opting instead for cooking massive amounts, thereby creating opportunities for drop-in company, future freezer meals, leftovers and creative repurposed new delicacies.

It’s more about having the will to cook for two. It hardly seems worth it.  When you were home (or even not always at home) it seemed more compelling to have a meal on the table with all the essential elements…protein, vegetable, grain, fruit. I am perplexed at how even one additional person at the table can make such a difference to my efforts in the kitchen. I haven’t done any serious cooking since you left.

Shaina off to Israel 100213.

I throw a salad together and add some tuna.  I make an omelet…with a lettuce and tomato salad…and call it a meal. I take a veggie burger out of the freezer and sauté some onions, add some cheese and…a salad…and that’s dinner. No exotic nuts and spices and healthy grains, no unnameable vegetable curries or pates, no roasted garlic infused vegetables scorching my oven…and not one single leftover.  Everyday is a blank food slate to be filled and I just can’t seem to rise to the occasion.

The mushroom log is my only saving grace. I am so glad you have a picture of the log when it was still…well, just a log!  It was definitely the best buy of the summer…and the best food(?) purchase ever! I check on my little log every day (more like 3 or 4 times a day) and forward pictures to you of its daily growth spurts.

Shiitakes Are Born!  Day 1 to 5

Shiitakes Are Born!
Day 1 to 5

It makes me feel like a part of you is here sharing this fungal birth experience with me. I tell my log story to anyone who will listen and whip out my iPhone to proudly display its progress. I feel like a new parent.  Not quite overbearing and hysterical (your words), but a little like a nutcase!

I have to admit…I miss you…and haven’t quite gotten used to your absence.

The mushroom log is a fine distraction and my sole source of cooking inspiration…for the time being.  How much can you do with 15 shiitake mushrooms anyway?

Ready for Harvest

Ready for Harvest

I know I’ll start cooking again…at some point. Thanksgiving/Chanukah will force the issue, if nothing else.  In the meantime, it’s a good thing your Dad is so easy to please when it comes to food.


My shiitake mushroom omelet with English Cheddar and fresh basil served with tomatoes and farmer’s market bread made the perfect Sunday brunch.


The garden fresh arugula and mustard greens that I tossed together were the ideal platform for the Persian cucumbers, purple onion, pine nuts and the last of the okra roasted… topped with, of course, sautéed shiitake mushrooms .

The last of the summer okra

The last of the summer okra

I threw on some home-made herb dressing and a little fresh grated parmesan and actually produced a recipe worthy salad! Maybe I am inching my way back into the cooking world…or maybe I just need more than one other person to cook for.


By the time we see you in Israel, you will be settled into student life, babbling in four different languages, friends with every fruit and vegetable vendor in the market and have a collection of strangely filled jars.  I can’t wait!!




Arugula and Mustard Greens Salad
Garnished with Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 4-6

These are approximate amounts.  Modify to your tastes and appetite. Arugula and mustard greens have a little bite and make for a very interesting salad.  Other lettuces can be substituted or added.

Herb Dressing

  • 1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh minced garlic to taste (1/2 tsp or more)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


  • 5 ounces of Arugula
  • 5 ounces of Mustard greens
  • 2 Persian cucumbers thinly sliced
  • 1/4  red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound fresh okra sliced in rounds (optional)
  • 5-7 shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
  • olive oil, salt and pepper

Blend all dressing ingredients together and let sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb all the flavors.  Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Toss lettuce, cucumbers and onion together in a large bowl and set aside in the refrigerator.


Place cut up okra in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 400º on bake or 375º on convection bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.  They can be turned once for even browning. When done, set aside to cool at room temperature.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and add sliced shiitake mushrooms. Sauté on one side until they release moisture.  Then move them around and turn over until they are seared on both sides , but still tender.  Salt and pepper to taste. set aside at room temperature.

Right before serving the salad , assemble all ingredients.  Sprinkle the roasted okra over the lettuce mixture. Add the mushrooms and pine nuts.  Drizzle with salad dressing and toss.  Add parmesan cheese if desired and serve immediately.


Really Yummy!