Featured Ingredient: Oyster Mushrooms
Ewww. Fungi. True if it’s the fuzz on a loaf of rye or in the corners of the gym shower. But mushrooms, redolent of the earth and presenting in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes and hues, are fruiting bodies worth cozying up to. Thankfully, farmers’ markets and forward-thinking grocers are offering us more curious varieties than ever such as oyster mushrooms.
This mushroom's oyster-shaped caps usually grow in layers on dead deciduous wood but are now widely cultivated. They are an good source of B vitamins and contain only 12 belly-friendly calories per ounce. Some research has shown that a compound called lovastatin that is naturally occuring in this delicious fungi can improve cholesterol numbers. Further, a number of studies demonstrate that a polysaccharide called beta-glucan in mushrooms can ramp up immune cells such as marcophages and natural killer cells to help temper tumor growth.
Oyster mushrooms have a slightly sweet, woodsy flavor that is delicious in soups, stir-fries and when combined with spring vegetables such as asparagus. To be honest, these veggie packed phyllo cups are a little messy to consume making them not ideal for a first date but the presentation is great and each mouthful is packed with spring flavor.
Phyllo cups with asparagus, leeks and oyster mushrooms
Phyllo is paper thin sheets of flour dough available in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Extra phyllo can be wrapped tightly, sealed in a plastic bag and frozen for future use.
4 sheets phyllo pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
½ pound asparagus, chopped
1 leek, finely sliced (include some of the green part)
1.5 ounces (about 1 cup) oyster mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
Very carefully place one sheet of phyllo pastry on a work surface and keep the remaining sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel to keep them moist. Brush vegetable oil (or melted butter) over the entire surface of the sheet and cover with another sheet of phyllo. Brush with oil and repeat with another 2 sheets so you have four layers. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the layered sheets into quarters and slice each of the four squares evenly to form 8 squares. Tuck each phyllo pastry square into a 8 lightly greased muffin cups making sure the bottoms lie as flat as possible. Bake at 350° F until crisp and golden, about 10-12 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. While the phyllo cups cook, add asparagus and leeks to a skillet and cook over medium for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Mix in wine and cook for an additional 2 minutes. To serve, place phyllo cups on serving plates and spoon in asparagus mixture. Garnish with thyme and grated cheese.