When Dried Is Better

I've been known to keep some dried items on hand in my pantry. Everything from shallots to cranberries grace my shelves. However, my favorites are the mushrooms — shiitake mushrooms in particular. When I have a recipe that wants a thick, hearty texture and flavor, that's where I turn. And why wouldn't I when something like this is about a half an hour away from my table:

Using reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and some of the liquid used for that in this recipe, you get a quick meal with a lot of texture and flavor. Also, if you do not end up using all of the mushroom liquid in this recipe, save it! It's great in soups and stews and can be frozen if you aren't planning either of those within a day or two. When the mushrooms are soft again, they have a thicker, more hearty texture. I love using them in vegetarian main dishes, especially if I know there will be meat eaters enjoying it as well. Most people are amazed at how filling a dish like this is and the flavor combination of mushrooms and garlic with the balsamic glaze is amazing. Adding in beets and goat cheese makes it pure bliss.

This can be a stand-alone dish. However, because of its little-bit-of-everything nature, anything from crusty garlic bread to crisp eggrolls to a simple fruit salad will be lovely when served alongside it. I like also pouring a glass of chilled white wine, but feel free to choose your favorite beverage and enjoy!

Balsamic-Glazed Mushroom Noodles

  • 1 lb. long cut pasta (I used thick egg noodles, but spaghetti or the like would work well)
  • 2 c. dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 T. honey
  • 2-3 T. soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 1 large beet (steamed or roasted), sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 c. goat cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a glass bowl and cover with boiling water. If necessary, cover the bowl with a plate to make sure the mushrooms are fully submerged. After you've allowed the mushrooms to steep for 6-8 minutes, drain them while reserving the liquid. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms and slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they just begin to caramelize on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove the mushrooms and garlic from the skillet and place on a plate. To the same skillet, add the balsamic vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it is sticky to touch. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the pasta and mushrooms. Toss to coat, if the sauce seems too thick, thin it with a little of the mushroom water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the pasta immediately, topped with beets, goat cheese, and additional red pepper flakes (if using).

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes