Farmers and cooks sometimes argue about whether tomatoes and peppers are fruits or vegetables, but what we should really be arguing about are mushrooms. We call them vegetables but, as fungis, they are part of an entirely different biological kingdom than any vegetable. In fact, according to genetics, fungis are more closely related to animals than to plants, so an oyster mushroom is closer to an actual oyster than to a potato!

Beloved delicacies in Japanese, French, and other cuisines around the world, the full diversity of mushrooms have generally not been available for in America. Champignon caps are a longtime pizza favorite and Portobello burgers had their day in the early 2000’s, but now a full mushroom bloom is underway with all varieties imaginable.

We’re excited that City Commons members can get in on that bloom, with the help of our friends Deana and Chris of the Mushroom Factory. The Mushroom Factory grows indoors in a newly acquired warehouse, north of Hamtramck. Instead of growing in soil like plants, the fungis grow out of sterilized bags of sawdust or straw. It is an especially practical way of growing food in the city, as they are able to grow in a minimal space, harvesting bountifully year round. You’ll see their mushrooms on the menus of restaurants all across metro Detroit, on the shelves at The Farmer’s Hand…. and in your City Commons CSA for the next two weeks!

Deana and Chris in The Mushroom Factory

This week’s share:
Mixed Oyster, Elm, and Shitake Mushrooms – Mushroom Factory
Eggplant – Fields of Plenty, Iroquois Avenue Farm, and Fisheye Farm
Sweet Peppers – Food Field
Tomatoes – Iroquois Avenue Farm, Occupy Yourself, Food Field
Lettuce – Iroquois Avenue Farm, Fisheye Farm
Kale – Occupy Yourself
Sweet Potato Greens – Food Field, Occupy Yourself
Dill – Occupy Yourself

Saag Paneer with Mushrooms
This healthy and flavorful dish incorporates your sweet potato greens, which you may not have cooked with before. A vegan version could also be prepared by substituting firm tofu for cheese and coconut milk for the half and half.

40 minutes to prepare and serves 4-5

Rice, preferably Basmati
1 bunch Sweet Potato Greens
1 bunch Kale
1 clamshell mixed Mushrooms
1-2 medium Heirloom Tomatoes
8 ounces paneer(available at South Asian markets) or a firm block of Feta
3-4 cloves of Garlic
1-2 fresh Hot Chilis, or 1 Tbsp dried Chili Flakes
1/4 cup Half and Half or Cream
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar
Olive Oil or Ghee
Garam Masala

After you’ve started the rice, mince your hot chili and combine with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of tumeric in a bowl. Slice paneer or feta into bite-sized cubes and toss into oil, careful to keep cubes intact. Feta will have plenty of salt already, but paneer is often unsalted so add a pinch of salt if using paneer. Allow the cheese to marinate.

Remove stems from sweet potato greens and kale. Adjust the recipe’s portions as you will, but keep in mind that a big pile of greens will cook down substantially. Chop the greens finely. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet or pot. Add chopped greens with lemon juice or vinegar and a pinch of salt, then cover. Mince garlic and stir in as greens steam. Stirring regularly, let the greens begin to darken in color before adding half and half, garam masala, cumin, and a pinch of tumeric. Simmer at a low heat.

Remove the base of your mushroom stems, where they attach together. This part of the mushroom is tougher than the rest. The base of the stems are a great ingredient in stock, but will be too gamy for this recipe. Larger mushroom caps can be sliced into strips. Smaller ones can be prepared whole.Heat a smaller skillet with a minimal amount of oil and add mushrooms once hot. Season with salt and pepper. Tossing occasionally, the mushrooms should begin to sear and soften after 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms but leave skillet on the stove.

In the same skillet, dump in marinated cheese with oil and all. Scrape and turn cheese only after it begins to get crispy on its bottom edges. Don’t allow it to melt but also don’t stir it so aggressively that the curds break apart. After 5 minutes, the cheese cubes should have gotten a golden or brown crunch on several sides.

Serve the greens, cheese, and mushrooms with rice. A few slices of salted heirloom tomato will add a splash of color and sweetness to the otherwise savory dish.

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