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Learning to Like Mushrooms, Thanks to Top Chef's Stephanie Izard
But Stephanie Izard has a funny way with everyday ingredients. The only woman to win Top Chef--and also one of the 15 breakthrough stars we profiled in October's O magazine--Izard is the chef/owner of the Girl & the Goat restaurant in Chicago. Her cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen, hits bookstores this week, and it's a riot of unexpected pairings (shallot custard with apple-endive salad; pear-pistachio-parsnip soup; artichoke and strawberry panzanella) and lesser-known finds (kohlrabi, anyone?). Izard's collection looks so mouth-watering that when my wife settled on a fungus-heavy recipe, I decided to give it a go. Someone who thinks apples are equally at home in a pork ragu as a bacon-studded macaroni and cheese might have something new to show me about mushrooms, I figured.
The recipe--celery root, shiitake and pearl onion salad with crispy capers--may sound a bit daunting. Celery root, as Izard notes in her book, is an often overlooked but versatile root vegetable, which this recipe juliennes into thin strips and leaves raw. The celery root is tossed with radicchio, sweet pearl onions, pan-fried capers, and a kicky sherry-thyme vinaigrette. The shiitakes, though, were unlike anything I'd had before. Tossed with olive oil, salt, and thyme, they baked for 40 minutes, until the edges were super-crispy. Nervously biting into one before I threw them into the salad bowl, I was most surprised by the texture: Gone was the spongy, alien-esque quality of most mushrooms; these were earthy but crunchy, almost like veggie croutons. Absolutely scrumptious.
And in the see-saw tradition that is picking recipes in my house, I already know what I'm going to make next: Eggplant and nectarine caponata. "It might not get past the authenticity police in Sicily," Izard explains in her book, "but I've never been one for coloring inside the lines anyway." Thank goodness for that.
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