Comfort food can offer comfort even in the cruelest of times. This Sherried Mushroom Pilaf is loaded with nutty grains, greens and delicious mushrooms for creamy comfort in a bowl.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
~T S Eliot, The Waste Land
Come April, I always think of the opening line from “The Waste Land,” “April is the cruelest month.” If it seems especially cruel in this time of coronavirus, so it did almost a century ago when T. S. Eliot wrote it. His seminal poem evokes Europe’s blasted geographical and emotional landscape following World War I. Read the whole poem here.
We’re facing another kind devastation with this pandemic. As we shelter in place, we, like Eliot, mix memory and desire.
We remember other Aprils; Easter and Passover and Ramadan with family and friends.
A friend, a seminary drop-out, usually loves Easter service. He’s pretending it doesn’t exist this year. He’s holding on to Lent until we’re through this. You don’t have to be like him — and I hope you aren’t. I wish you and your family a sweet Easter.
Spring coaxes forth life. Lilacs grow from what seems like dead soil. Woody, tangled roots come back to life with spring rain. We will come back, too. So do everything you can to stay safe and healthy. Practice the six Ss:
- social distancing
- sheltering at place
- stop touching your face (harder than we realized, yeah?)
- stock up on the immunity-boosting, happiness-inducing produce of spring, including tender greens, fresh berries and mushrooms.
Sherried Mushroom Pilaf
Mushrooms and sherry are a tapas classic. Here they pair with rice to become a more significant side dish or vegan main (nice with a green salad or Catalan spinach. I’ve switched up white rice, the grain of Spain, for its nuttier relation, wild rice (which is actually not a grain at all, but a grass), and added some kale for extra goodness.
Sherried Mushroom Pilaf
- 1/2 ounce dried mushrooms such as shiitakes
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms chopped fine
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large onion minced
- 2 stalks celery chopped fine
- 2 cups wild rice
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/2 bunch lacinato kale tough central stems removed
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- handful of flatleaf parsley chopped
- 1 good sprig thyme leaves
- Pour dried mushrooms into a small saucepan. Cover with1 cup water. Bring to boil, then cover, remove from heat and let the mushrooms sit and soften for a few minutes.
- Strain mushroom broth into a large pot. Chop shiitakes and set aside.
- Bring mushroom broth to a boil over high heat. Pour in the wild rice and 3 cups of water or vegetable broth. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the rice simmer for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Add the kale and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, so the color remains vibrant. Drain and rinse well in cold water to rid any clinging grains of salt. Blot dry. When cool enough to handle, give the leaves a good chop, so they’re of a size comparable to the chopped mushrooms.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, garlic and chopped celery. Sauté the vegetables until softened, translucent and fragrant. Add chopped fresh mushrooms, cook for about 10 minutes or mushrooms are soft and fragrant. Stir to keep mushrooms from sticking. Pour in the sherry to deglaze the pan.
- When the rice is done, drain off any excess liquid. Add rice to the pan of sautéed mushrooms. Stir and stir in the rehydrated chopped shiitakes, the chopped kale, the chopped parsley, and the thyme leaves. Season generously with sea salt and pepper.