When we committed to going to the ocean, I immediately felt the
thrilling sensation that washes over me when I stand at the
intersection of land meeting water. I smelled brine and dampness. I
saw certain patterns and colours; light sand against dark water,
wet stones, seaweed, driftwood, and feathers.
This was the second recipe I created for the dreamy on-location
photoshoot with Christiann
Koepke back in October (you can see the
first one here). The inspiration for this dish came first in
fact, fast and furiously. Just thinking about the seaside brought
this recipe to me in a wave of total inspiration. I wanted the
ingredients to reflect the elements in this environment, and for
the final result to be a visual meeting of land and sea.
Now I’m not super into “fake meat”, but there is something
undeniably satisfying about tricking someone into thinking a
vegetable is flesh. Tee hee. Plus, Rene Redzepi does it all the
time, so maybe it puts me in the cool cooking club too? Yes?
Anyway, I knew something on the plate had to look like seafood, and
I had my sights set on scallops. In my first cookbook, I made
“scallops” out of leeks, and wanted to try something different,
so going through the rolodex of tube-shaped white veggies in my
mind, I fell upon king oyster mushroom stems. Naturally. Browned in
ghee and well-seasoned, I knew that these morsels would look
exactly like mollusks, and taste deceptively meaty.
A pool of herbaceous, vibrant green pesto, would be the land,
and the perfect resting place for my mushroom medallions. I
combined flat-leaf parsley and spinach to create a bright yet
balanced sauce that complimented – rather than overwhelmed –
the rest of the dish. But with all this creaminess, I knew that I
also needed to include something for textural contrast, so toasted
hazelnuts became the beach stones, along with fried capers, which
added a bite of seaside brine.
This dish is surprisingly easy to make, and it is the prefect
main to serve for family and friends that you want to spoil a
little. It looks impressive, but it’s a cinch to get on the table
without gluing you to the stove. The pesto can be made a week in
advance (although the fresher, the better), so that the only thing
you need to do before serving is cook the mushroom and capers, and
warm the pesto a little. I love cooking the capers and mushrooms in
ghee (recipe here)
because it’s just so darn delicious, but the pesto is vegan and
if you want the entire meal to be so, simply swap out the ghee for
expeller-pressed coconut oil, which is refined for high heat
cooking and has no tropical aroma.
Edible mushrooms are both medical and nutritional dynamos.
Collectively, they not only provide us with plant-based protein,
vitamin D, and a whole host of minerals, but most excitingly a
group of polysaccharides called beta-glucans. These complex,
hemicellulose sugar molecules enhance the functioning of the immune
system by activating immune cell response and stimulating the
production of white blood cells. These compounds also effectively
mobilize immune stem cells in your bone marrow, and exhibit
anti-tumor properties, so they’re often used supplementally in
cancer treatment protocols.
Beta-glucans help to lower cholesterol, as this type of fiber
forms a viscous gel during digestion, which grabs a hold of excess
dietary cholesterol, prevents absorption by moving it through your
digestive tract, and eliminates it. Through your poop! This same
gel also slows down your digestion, which in turn stabilizes blood
sugar, and minimizes the release of insulin.
King oyster mushrooms are of course a good source of
beta-glucans, but you can get them in other places too: barley,
oats, sorghum, mushrooms like shiitake, reishi and maitake, as well
as seaweed, algae, and dates.
I wouldn’t put king oyster mushrooms in the “specialty”
category of fungi, but I also know that they’re not available at
every grocery store, so if you can’t find them, substitute with
any other kind of mushroom you like and forgo the whole
“scallop” charade. The dish will still turn out delicious, I
If you want to change up the herb in the pesto, try basil
instead of flat-leaf parsley. Cilantro could also be delicious, but
potentially overwhelming, so use more spinach in that case. And
instead of hazelnuts in the pesto and garnish, try almonds, pecans
or walnuts. Yummm.
I like to serve this with a big hunk of crusty bread on the side
to mop up any leftover pesto in the bowl. It also helps to have
some good olive oil and flaky salt around for this situation, just
sayin’. If you’d prefer the grain route, steamed brown rice,
quinoa, or millet could be a decent accompaniment too. And if you
want to go completely grain-free, roasted sweet potato, winter
squash, or pumpkin would be totally lovely.
King Oyster Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto
1 lb. / 500g king oyster mushrooms (choose ones with fat stems)
a generous amount of ghee (or expeller-pressed coconut oil)
fine + flaky salt
1 jar brined capers (about 1/3 cup / 55g)
a handful of toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped, for garnish
1 batch Parsley-Spinach Pesto (recipe follows)
cold-pressed olive oil, for garnish
a few leaves of parsley, for garnish
1. Remove any dirt or debris from the mushrooms with your hands, or
small soft brush. (do not use water!). Slice the stems into enough
rounds so that each person has 5 or 6. Keep the caps for another
2. Drain the capers and pat them dry with a clean tea towel or
paper towel. Heat about a tablespoon of ghee (or coconut oil) in a
large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and fry until
split and crisp – about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and set
3. Add more ghee (or coconut oil) to the same skillet over
medium-high heat. When hot, add the sliced mushroom stems, a
sprinkle of flaky salt, and cook on one side until golden, about
5-7 minutes. Then flip and cook on the other side until golden.
Work in batches or use separate skillets – if you crowd the
mushrooms they will steam each other and get soggy. That is not
what we’re after!
4. While you’re cooking the mushrooms, place the pesto in a
small saucepan, add a touch of water to thin, if desired, and warm
over low-medium heat. Do not boil!
5. To serve, place about ¼ cup / 60ml of the warm pesto in the
bottom of a dish, spreading it out to make an indent in the center.
Place 5 or 6 mushroom stems in the pesto, then top with the fried
capers and toasted hazelnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and a few
grinds of black pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve
Makes about 2¼
1 cup / 150g hazelnuts
1 fat clove garlic
2 cups / 35g flat-leaf parsley, lightly packed (tender stems
2 cups / 65g baby spinach, lightly packed
zest of 1 organic lemon
⅓ cup/ 80ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
¼ cup / 60ml cold-pressed olive oil
½ cup / 35g nutritional yeast
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ cup / 125ml water, more if needed
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on baking sheet.
Toast in oven for 12-15 minutes or until fragrant and lightly
toasted. Remove and set aside. Once cool, remove skins by rubbing
the hazelnuts together in your hands. Set aside.
2. Remove any tough stems from the parsley. Roughly chop the
leaves and tender stems (this prevents the parsley from bruising in
the food processor).
3. Place garlic in the food processor and pulse to mince. Add
the hazelnuts, parsley, spinach, lemon zest and juice, olive oil,
nutritional yeast, and salt. Pulse for 30 seconds, then add the
water and pulse again until it’s thick, but spreadable. Remove
lid and scrape. Repeat until reaches desired consistency (I like
mine a little chunky, but it’s up to you!). Store leftovers in an
airtight glass container in the fridge for up to one week.
We’re home from Bali now, settling back into life in the cold
Canadian winter. It feels good to be here, especially after a
satisfying few weeks in the sunshine, hosting two glorious
retreats. Now it’s time to ground and focus on the year ahead.
I’m very excited for 2019 – so many exciting things to share
with you, just on the horizon.
I hope you’re all well out there, and enjoying a vibrant start
to the new year. Sending love and gratitude out to you all,
xo, Sarah B
Mushroom “Scallops” in a Warm Pesto Pool