Though it is far from summer here in upstate New York, I was leafing through the redoubtable Elizabeth David's "Summer Cooking" (NY: Penguin, 1987) for some recipe inspiration and was attracted by her recipe for Mushrooms Cooked in Vine Leaves. I had mushrooms and I have several jars of brined vine leaves made from our enormous grapevines, so I was intrigued to make this dish.
I usually used my vine leaves to make dolmades, those seductive and silky stuffed grape vine leaf appetizers that are also perfect as a light meal paired with a salad. However, David's recipe lured me with her siren line "the great point about this dish is that the vine leaves make cultivated mushrooms taste like field mushrooms". Now that kind of kitchen alchemy was attention getting.
The dish was very easy to prepare. Basically, you line a casserole dish with fresh grape leaves blanched in salted water or brined grape leaves. David recommended rinsing the brined grape leaves and then adding salt later in the dish, so I thought I would not rinse my leaves and wash that tasty brine off and then skip the salting later on. This worked.
Then you wash and trim some mushrooms, place them stem side up in the casserole, slice up a couple cloves of garlic and add them and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with black pepper or any herb you might like to throw in. (I think rosemary would be great for next time). Another covering of vine leaves goes on top, then you cover the casserole and bake in a slow oven for 35 minutes to an hour. I baked my shrooms at 350 for 45 minutes.
The baked mushrooms did taste a little more complex, though I'm not sure they tasted like wild mushrooms. The vine leaves get nice and CRISPY on top and the garlic is meltingly soft from having been steamed inside the vine leaf packet.
Altogether an easy and satisfying dish.
I am sending this over to my blogger friend Girlichef's Hearth and Soul Hop, Vol. 33, a blog event that focuses on home cooked, home grown, real food. Food from my hearth that feeds the soul. That would describe this earthy, simple dish. Hop on over to Girlichef's blog to see the other inspiring posts.