Fall is plenteous mushroom season. Mushrooms, both fresh and dried, are available all year round, but fall brings out the best of the best with a myriad of varieties. Whether you cook with fresh or dried, the healthy components of mushrooms provide a compendium of antioxidants, no matter what the season.
Shiitake mushrooms boast antioxidants more powerful than many other plants. Specific to mushrooms, these antioxidants are being studied for their antiaging health benefits and are even being cited by some as “master antioxidants.”
Balsamic vinegar comes in varying degrees of sweetness. This dish requires a rich, flavourful balsamic, not too acidic. Add a pinch of dark brown sugar, if needed, for a full-bodied flavour.
In this recipe, dried mushrooms are an excellent alternative. Simply soak dried mushrooms in hot water until plumped. Strain, using soaking liquid in the recipe in place of stock, or reserve for a soup. Pat plumped mushrooms dry before using in your recipe.
In medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in polenta or cornmeal, making sure to remove any lumps. Turn heat to low, and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 more minutes, stirring every few minutes until it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and begins to firm up. For creamier polenta, add a splash more water. When done, remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and butter, if using. Cut firm polenta into shapes, as we’ve done here, if you wish.
Meanwhile cook mushrooms. In large cast iron frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp (15 mL) grapeseed oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half the mushrooms and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Repeat with another 1 Tbsp (15 mL) oil, adding shallots and garlic along with remaining mushrooms, and sauté until mushrooms are golden. Transfer to bowl with first batch of mushrooms.
Deglaze pan with wine or water, scraping base of pan. Add rosemary and cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a brief boil and cook until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Whisk in balsamic. Return mushrooms to pan, folding in until glazed. Season to taste with additional balsamic, salt, and pepper, if you wish. For extra glossy richness, stir in butter.
To serve, spoon creamy polenta into shallow serving bowls and top with braised mushrooms. Drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil, if you wish. Season and garnish as desired.
While sablefish’s texture and fat content stand up admirably to the heat of the grill, this firm fish is also delicious poached. For this recipe, sablefish’s luxurious taste is combined with a light fragrant broth of lemongrass and ginger punctuated with the heat of Thai chili. Sustainability status Sablefish, also known as butterfish or black cod, is a rich and satisfying fish, plentiful in omega-3s and sourced sustainably from the Pacific Northwest. Skin and bones Sablefish has large pin bones. Ideally, your fishmonger will remove them, but if not, before you begin, locate them along the fish’s centreline and, using a pair of needle nose pliers, grasp them firmly to remove. You can leave the skin on for this recipe, which may help the fish hold together a little better while cooking, but it can be tricky to peel the skin away from the cooked fish and discard before plating. I opted to remove the skin first and simply keep a close eye on the cooking time, being careful to remove the fish from the poaching liquid before it flakes apart.
These mildly spiced salmon tacos served with sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds will bring a party together. Make a small quantity of salmon go further when you pair it with a fresh red cabbage slaw featuring citrus and cilantro. Drizzled with some bright lime yogurt, the flavours come together perfectly. Sustainability status Wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska are considered among the most sustainable, as the fishery is subject to limited harvests. With salmon stocks in decline, supporting managed fisheries such as these can help maintain populations into the future. That may also mean eating salmon less often than we do now. Salmon is a favourite Salmon is the most popular variety of fish in Canada and the second most popular in the US.
B12-rich mussels are a very good and economical source of protein and iron. Steamed mussels are a classic way to enjoy seafood—and so is this rich, aromatic broth of tomato, fennel, and saffron. Be sure to allow saffron to fully infuse to get the full flavour benefit, and finish off the dish with the fragrant fennel fronds. Sustainability status Farmed mussels are considered highly sustainable due to their low impacts on the environment. They are easy to harvest, require no fertilizer or fresh water, and don’t need to be fed externally, as they get all their nutritional requirements from their marine environment. Mussel prep Selection: Look for mussels with shiny, tightly closed shells that smell of the sea. If shells are slightly open, give them a tap. Live mussels will close immediately. Storage: Keep mussels in the fridge in a shallow pan laid on top of ice. Keep them out of water and cover with a damp cloth. Ideally, consume on the day you buy them, but within two days. They need to breathe, so never keep them in a sealed plastic bag. Cleanup: In addition to being sustainable, farmed mussels tend to require less cleaning than wild mussels. Most of the fibrous “beards” that mussels use to grip solid surfaces will have been removed before sale. But if a few remain, they’re easily dispatched: grasp the beard with your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward the hinge of the mussel and give it a tug. Afterward, give mussels a quick rinse and scrub away any areas of mud or seaweed, which, with farmed mussels, will require minimal work.
The delicate flavour of shrimp is highlighted with just a touch of lemon and a hint of mustard, while radish and celery give some fresh crunch to this dish. Eat it in lettuce cups, on top of greens, or served on whole grain bread for a filling snack. Sustainability status Both wild and farmed shrimp can be sustainable depending on where they’re caught and how they’re raised. See our article “Sea Change” for more information about choosing ethical shrimp.