New and Mysterious

When I brought the new local oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms home from the Co-op, I just stared at them. Dramatically lit on my cutting board, minutes passed before I could bring myself to let a knife near them. I’m not used to this form of beauty!


I’ve adjusted to (but still stop to wonder at – what else is life for?) the splash of color from opening up a beet, or noonday light glancing through salad greens, or the fresh perfume and ode to summer wafting up from a just-sliced perfectly-in-season tomato. But in March, with the season change stirring, when we’ve just gotten the earliest spring gift of our snowdrop bulbs peeking into the world, the thought of fresh and new to the senses is awfully delicious.

Yet with delicate, very fresh mushrooms like these, the beauty isn’t in color but in texture and in wonder. Their growing formation is fascinating, at least to me. (They’re packed in blue-labelled plastic boxes, like grape tomatoes, still in their growing formation from Mushroom Mills in Columbus Junction.) Their delicate gills are such a contrast to the beets and carrots and potatoes I’m still eating from my garden, stored all winter long.


If you pick these oyster or lion’s manes up and sit spellbound like me, well, I have a quick trick for you. Ditch whatever recipe you’d conjured. Get out the sauté pan and a thick pat of butter and salt – and that’s all you need. Cut off their stems and slice the mushrooms a third of an inch thick, get the butter hot in the pan over medium heat, brown both sides of each slice until dark golden, and sprinkle them with salt. Aaaand eat. The gills turn crispy, the mushroom still juicy: Best snack or casual appetizer ever. Gosh they are delicious.

Mushroom Mills, Columbus Junction, Iowa

(Okay, disclaimer: What, fried in butter, isn’t delicious? However, people go to great  lengths – and big dollars – for a buttery taste of morel around here. Well, to my palate, this satisfies the same desire. I think these are just as good… but that’s hearsay! Don’t tell anyone I said that.)


If you can make it past wondering at their beauty with enough time to make an actual recipe with them, this mushroom tart from my favorite cookbook is delightful. Ideal for a special meal – lunch, brunch, dinner, or simply a celebration of these new fungi friends – it’s light with a perk from lemon and earthy at the same time.

Mushroom Tart

from Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson 

partially baked and cooled 9-inch flaky pastry (baked until pastry just turns opaque) tart shell  - your recipe of choice, not a sweetened dough, or pre-made frozen dough
1 lb. mix of fresh mushrooms (the more flavorful the mushrooms, the more interesting the end result) – do not wash but wipe caps with a damp cloth if needed
3 T. unsalted butter
packed 1 c. shallots, halved and thinly sliced
¼ t. salt
¼ t. black pepper, freshly ground
lemon juice from ½ a medium lemon
2 T. water
1 c. crème fraîche or heavy cream (I used cream, though I’m sure the former would be delicious)
3 large egg yolks
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 T. fresh thyme, coarsely chopped

Have pre-baked tart shell ready.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare the mushrooms by removing stems if spongy. Slice depending on shape and size and how you’d like them to look in the finished tart.

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for a few minutes, until they start to color. Increase heat to high, add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 5-10 minutes.

When the mushrooms are soft, push them to one side of the saucepan. Add lemon juice and water to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together cream and egg yolks until smooth. Mix in mushrooms and gently pour the mixture into the tart shell (or put mushrooms into shell and pour cream and egg mixture over). If the sides of the pre-baked tart shell have slumped unevenly and putting all the filling in would cause it to overflow, egg mixture that doesn’t fit in the shell could be carefully poured in, 5 minutes into baking.

Bake until the custard is barely firm in the center, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. The tart will continue to set as it cools.

Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with thyme and freshly grated nutmeg.

Dr. Terry Wahls Algerian Chicken

March is what makes us strong Iowans. We hear crocuses have sprung in Kentucky, but ours are not ready for that yet. Here, we still have time for winter mulling, garden planning, cozy cooking, and reading whatever last rights of winter you like.

Dr. Terry Wahls's Algerian Chicken - New Pi Eats

It will probably be blustery; March nearly always is. Yet this is precisely what steels us, makes us the resilient folks we are, and makes those crocuses – when they do emerge – that much sweeter.

Meanwhile, not getting ahead of ourselves with talk of crocuses, back to the cooking!

After taking these photos for the March/April Catalyst that’s about to hit the shelves, we gobbled up a few bites, then packed it to share with co-workers. It was a huge hit with our crowd, particularly when they found out just how easy it was.

Ben, who took these photos, took a portion home to share after the shoot: “My [then-]pregnant wife, who couldn’t stomach anything in the last week of her pregnancy, loved this.” I believe he made it twice more in the following week and again the next. (And yes, they have a lovely baby boy home now!)

Terry Wahls Algerian Chicken New Pi Eats

The recipe comes from Dr. Terry Wahls, a local doctor whose story is so amazing you’ve probably already heard it, but if you haven’t: She treats her MS symptoms through what she eats, successfully taking her from wheelchair-dependent to fully active, independent, walking, biking, you name it. We all know food can be powerful – but turns out it can be powerful medicine as well. Her new book The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine comes out March 17.

You may have seen her at the Co-op (like below); she’s one of our great fans!

Dr. Terry Wahls at New Pi!

Dr. Terry Wahls with her signature kale at New Pi!

Keep your eyes peeled for her book – and get a preview in the March/April Catalyst, and – in the meantime – make this for dinner! So easy, tasty, and healthy.

Algerian Chicken or Vegetarian

Courtesy of Dr. Terry Wahls, from her soon-to-be-released book, The Wahls Protocol

serves 4

This is delicious, fast, and easy! Enjoy it as part of the Wahls Diet (serve over quinoa with red pepper), or Wahls Paleo Diet (over spaghetti or winter squash, yams, sautéed cabbage, or Cauliflower Rice – recipe in The Wahls Protocol), or – as plated above – with Dr. Wahls’s Greens and Bacon recipe in the March/April Catalyst.

4 cloves garlic, minced 1.5 lbs. chicken, skin on (breasts, legs, or thighs)
14.5-oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 c. sliced leeks
1 c. broth (ideally Dr. Wahls’s Bone Broth – recipe in The Wahls Protocol)
1 med. banana pepper (we substituted the adorable mini peppers we carry), sliced
1 med. carrot, sliced
1 T. coconut oil
2 t. ground turmeric
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. kelp powder (optional)
1/2 t. iodized sea salt
4 c. green beans or asparagus
2 c. cilantro, stems reserved

Mince garlic and let sit for 15 minutes to allow sulfur to stabilize. Add garlic, chicken, tomatoes, leeks, broth, peppers, carrots, coconut oil, spices, kelp powder, and salt to large skillet over medium heat (in this instance, putting everything straight into a cold pan at once seems to be just fine!). Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add green beans or asparagus and chopped cilantro stems to the skillet and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped cilantro leaves just prior to serving.

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.
Copyright © DR. TERRY WAHLS LLC, 2014.

Throwback Thursday: Alicia’s Sunflower Sprout Salad

Moments ago: a dark thunderstorm – like a spring thunderstorm – plus hail. Within minutes? Gorgeous sunshine. Gosh, Iowa’s got the most fascinating weather. At the end of February, this little taste of spring is making me hungry.

Mostly, it’s bringing on a craving for more green in my life. Yet, really now, it’s way too early for that in Iowa. It’s time to start things like onion and leek transplants (like some good friends have growing in their window right now, but I can’t claim to be on it myself this year) and start revving our engines to start the rest of our transplants in March, in preparation for this year’s gardens… but our growing season is still a few months off.

LUCKILY for us, our local growers are on the job, with lettuces from Rolling Hills Greenhouse in West Union, Iowa, and local sprouts from Organic Greens in Kalona, Iowa, on our shelves. Thank goodness for sprightly spring sprouts. Whew - that’s a lot of s’s… this little bit of spring is going to my head.

Organic Greens Sprouts

So what makes this ‘Throwback Thursday’? Well, we just re-discovered our archive of recipes, and it really wouldn’t be co-operative of us to keep them to ourselves. (Isn’t that what February is for? To give us enough time indoors that we can’t help but rediscover _____ ? What [fill in the blank] have you rediscovered this February?) 

This rejuvenating recipe from the Spring 2011 Catalyst is perfect to start up our Throwback Thursday series. On a personal note, it happens to be the first Catalyst issue I had the pleasure of editing. Start the reel and read all about our good friends – and great growers – at Organic Greens, where:

“Paying attention to the health of the environment, the seeds, and the soil creates healthy roots, which produce healthy shoots – organic works.”

Meet owner James Nisly of Organic Greens and hear his vision for feeding our community in the Spring 2011 Catalyst on page 8 here.

Alicia’s Sunflower Sprout Salad

Alicia Diehl, Organic Greens Marketing Coordinator and New Pi Member

sweet potatoes, cubed and roasted (I bet winter squash would also be nice)
local Organic Greens sunflower sprouts or mixed sprouts (their combination includes radish, red cabbage, snow pea, & sunflower sprouts)
red onion, thinly sliced
local Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

Maple-balsamic Dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. olive oil
¼ c. balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
3-4 T. maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it - Alicia usually uses 4 T.)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Assemble or toss salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients by whisking or shaking in a tightly-lidded jar. Dress the salad to your liking and enjoy!

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