There are few things more enjoyable in life (t0 me at least, I am a simpleton, what can I say) than attending one’s local farmer’s market, and taking in all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the market. Oh. What a wonderful experience that has been for the past few years of my thriving domestically geared cooking life. Back when I lived in London I whole-heartedly looked forward to my Fridays and Saturdays to Borough where I would graciously accept those dainty, creamy, indulgent cheese samples. Or making sure to snap bits of delectable brownie as I browsed what I wanted for lunch, to purchase to cook for dinner, or discovered what was new, fresh, and exciting at my many favorite, and still needing to be explored stalls.
These days, I’ve been the loyal patron to a… well.. much more “colorful” market,lets say. The produce is fresh, lovely, and local, as it should be. The market stall owners, friendly, informative, and bring bounties of goodness to share, and I adore them. Albeit…you do have to avoid the interesting market-goer(those who frequent the Civic Center and Market Street) or two, and turn the blind eye to a few more than interesting looking dogs . Oh, and lets not forget, one shouldn’t pay too much attention to that random clucking that could come from the paper bag hanging innocently from the tiny arm of the elderly Asian woman next to you. Really, it all just builds the market’s character!
Even with all this madness, my market, better know as “The Heart of the City Market,” has many stalls of which I find myself returning to, but one of my favorites is “The Mushroom Man”. Before you say it, no not that kind of mushrooms (I do realize I live in California and what the assumptions might be). Not only is he friendly, knowledgeable, and utterly exudes his love for the little fungi, he is quick to share a tip or two with his loyal, and new, customers alike. A few weeks ago, I got the chance to return the favor to my purveyor, and shared with him a couple of a-mazing recipes that I have used my delicious purchases in. One of the tops, however, came from Delicious Magazine (Volume 6, Issue 5), an Aussie food print, that I can’t get enough of (if only it wasn’t $10 a month, yikes!). Jamie Oliver, another favorite of mine, but more so in the cooking department, shared this lovely recipe. I can’t get enough of it, and I hope you can’t either! So come on folks, give the fungi a try( sorry, sorry, I know, its bad, but I had to do it!).
- 8 thin slices of quality ciabatta
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, cut sliced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced
- 4 to 6 pieces of bacon, (depending on your love for its porky goodness, and its thickness) roughly chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 4 to 6 good handfuls of mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, trumpet, chanterelle, brown, chestnut, shimeji, king, swiss… you get the idea 🙂 )
- 1 dried chili or 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 125g Taleggio(or you can go with what Jamie recommends – Scamorza(Smoked Mozzarella) or buffalo mozzarella)
- 3 handfuls of arugula, washed and dried
- 2 handfuls of watercress, washed and dried
- 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper to season
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Heat a grill pan over medium high heat and toast the ciabatta slices until they are browned, and a bit charred. If you do not have a grill pan, broil the slices of ciabatta under the broiler before you preheat your oven to 350. Once cool enough to touch, tear the toasted bread into reasonably sized chunks (around the size of a quarter or bigger) and place in a large bowl. Toss with a fair drizzle of olive oil and a seasoning of a good pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
Take a large casserole dish, drizzle with a wee bit more olive oil, and place your seasoned bread bits inside. Set aside.
In the same bowl you used for your bread mixture, add the onion, garlic, bacon, and thyme leaves. Lightly toss. Tear the mushrooms into the bowl, keeping the little guys whole, crumble in the dried chili (or chili flakes) season, and toss everything together well with your hands. Sprinkle the mushroom mix evenly over the bread bits, give one light toss, and tear your bits of cheese evenly over the whole lot. Add one last smidge of olive oil on top (olive oil is good for you people! don’t fret here!).
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until the cheese is beginning to melt gloriously, and the mushrooms are almost on their way to crisping. While the mushrooms bake, get your greens with giving them a wash, and creating a tasty light dressing for them by adding a 1/4 tsp of mustard, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a good tbsp or 2 of olive oil, some salt and pepper into a clean jar. Close the lid tight, shake, vigorously (as if it were a frothy martini!) and set aside until the bake is ready.
When all is ready, drizzle a bit of your new dressing over your greens, and serve!