Why did people in Ancient Egypt call mushrooms “the plant of immortality”? Did they truly believe that eating mushrooms would make them immune to human frailties, deceases, and ultimately, departing this world? Not really. They never had a chance to see for themselves because the pharaohs loved mushrooms so much that they declared it royal food, not to be consumed, or even touched, by anyone but the royal family. Well, the royal cooks had a hand in it, too, I imagine. Thus the pharaohs, who were considered “living gods,” were assured of an ample supply of mushrooms, and the concept of exclusivity was born (based on http://www.foodreference.com/html/art-mush-history417.html).
In time, belief in the mystical properties of mushrooms grew – well, like mushrooms! – to the extent that palaces and temples were adorned by mushroom-shaped columns covered by hieroglyphics extolling superior abilities and inhuman strength of mushroom-eaters. There is a theory that some of those pharaoh treats were made with “magic mushrooms,” or hallucinogenics, so no wonder all kind of weird stuff was happening there!
King Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, the inventor of ballet, high heels, and absolute monarchy, had a more pragmatic approach. He ordered mushrooms cultivated and set aside special caves near Paris for this purpose. No “magic mushrooms,” only edible ones, but a variety of types and flavors, which has spawned an entire branch of French culinary art.
So when I found some fresh beautiful mushrooms on sale at a farm store I frequent, I started looking for a recipe featuring mushrooms as a main ingredient rather than a welcome addition to meat, poultry, or other vegetables.
The one cook book I decided I was not going to use was this one! OK, Beautiful People, I just couldn’t resist it.
I started by sauteing some diced onions. I figured it couldn’t cause any harm since I’ve always known mushrooms and onions to be friends.
Next, I sliced a couple of garlic cloves as thin as I could manage without adding fingers to them. The blurriness of this photo is due to helpful efforts of my cat Barmalei. As usual, he is under the table, nudging my elbow.
As the garlic and onions were getting a suntan together, it occurred to me to throw some curry leaves into the mix. Eureka! This channeled my thinking process in the direction of curry-related flavors and sent my feet in the direction of a cabinet where I keep Indian spices.
Forgive me, all my Indian food experts, but my hand picked a jar with Garam Masala on its own volition. I suppose there is something magic in those mushrooms after all! Cumin, cinnamon, and paprika came into it by a conscious decision, and a pinch of salt was necessary.
I thought it looked pretty good already, as my mushrooms were absorbing the flavors of spices together with their own juice. However, it was too brown for my taste. It needed a color accent, something fresh. So I threw some cilantro on top.
It only took a few minutes for it to be ready, and I had a prefect accompaniment for my Sweet and Savory Black Bean Patties (to see the recipe, please click here). It was just as good cold, as an appetizer, or warm on top of greens for lunch the next day. That’s magic!
- 1 lb fresh mushrooms cut in large chunks
- 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, diced
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 5 – 6 fresh curry leaves
- A pinch of cinnamon
- A pinch of cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (or any combination of spices you prefer)
- A dash of red paprika
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro and more to garnish
- Saute diced onions in lightly misted with oil deep frying pan or dutch oven.
- Add sliced garlic and curry leaves. Saute on medium heat until onions are golden brown, garlic is translucent, and curry leaves are soft.
- Add mushrooms, add spices, and mix. Cover and saute for a few more minutes until mushrooms are soft and brown. Stir occasionally.
- Add chopped cilantro, mix, and turn off.
- Served garnished with more cilantro.