Roasted mushroom “steaks” with walnut black truffle sauce

Mushroom steaks

Mushroom steaks

I’ve been thinking a lot about competition, lately. Mostly from watching my boys play basketball, I guess. I want them to do well, I want them to want to do well, I want them to care, but I don’t want them to be overly aggressive or mean about it. I don’t want them to think only about winning, at the expense of Love of the Game and all of that. I don’t want them, like MacBeth to be ambitious just because they’re ambitious, “I have no spur/ To prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself/ And falls on the other.” We all know that doesn’t end well! But I don’t want them to be afraid try! I don’t want them to feel discouraged because they’re scared they might not do well, or because they’re my sons and it’s contagious. When I see Malcolm get the ball on the court, I have a little panicky voice in my head saying “get rid of it! get rid of it!” because that’s how I would feel. But I don’t want him to feel that way! I want him to make a brilliant team player-y pass or run gracefully and confidently to the basket and make a beautiful lay-up. I’m conflicted about competition! I’m ambivalent about ambition! And I actually find it a little frightening to think about how everything seems to be a competition. School, work, games, everything. You can only do well at the expense of others. You can only succeed if others fail. That doesn’t feel good. When you submit a film to a festival it’s not about sharing a lovingly created work of art and watching other people’s lovingly created works of art. You’re judged when you submit it, and once you get in, you’re judged again! I think it’s no secret that anything created just for the sake of winning a competition (any competition – the race for money, the race for popularity, the race for fame) is not going to be as soulful, substantial or honest as it could be. I’ve never responded well to this kind of pressure, because I’m a contrary curmudgeon. I went to an extremely competitive high school, and it didn’t make me want to do better than everybody else, it made me want to be a rebel and stop trying. But I don’t wish that for my boys. I hope they’ll be able to do well at everything – do their absolute best – and I hope they’ll be able to achieve everything they want. And I hope that they’ll be able to do all this without wishing that others do badly. I hope they’ll love what they do with a passion, and pursue it with the purity of kindness and generosity.

So this week’s Sunday collaborative playlist is about competition, ambition, or the lack thereof. We’ve got songs like Toots and the Maytals’ journalistic Desmond Dekker came First, which tells how everybody placed in the intensified festival. Songs like Perhaps Vampire’s is a bit Strong by the Arctic Monkeys bemoaning the fact that everybody wants them to fail, and songs like Ken Parker’s Grooving Out on Life, about sitting aside from it all…

    I get my kicks from watching people
    Running too and fro
    And if you ask them where they’re going
    Half of they don’t know
    They`re the ones who think I’m crazy
    ‘Cause they don’t realize
    That I’m just groovin’, oh, groovin’
    Grooving out on life

And, finally, to the food! Why it’s the best meal anybody has made every and way better than everybody else’s!! I’m joking, of course, but it was very good! I wanted to make something special with my black truffle butter, so I decided to make these mushroom and walnut “steaks.” They might actually be closer to a sort of vegetarian meatloaf, or an old-fashioned nut roast. But I sliced them thick and lightly fried them in olive oil, and they’re substantial and satisfying, crispy out, tender in. The sauce is mostly walnuts, white wine and truffle butter. If you don’t have truffle butter, you could make the same sauce with some garlic and shallots. Or just serve these with a simple tomato sauce, or any sauce you like, and it would be just as good.

mushroom steaks with walnut sauce

mushroom steaks with walnut sauce

Here’s your collaborative playlist. It’s a pretty broad topic, so have fun! And feel free to add anything you like!

THE STEAKS

12 oz. mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 t fresh or dried sage
1 t thyme
1 t rosemary
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 T soft butter
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup grated smoked gouda
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t balsamic
lots of freshly ground pepper

Olive oil for the baking dish, and a bit more for pan-frying.

Preheat the oven to 425. Combine the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic in a food processor or blender and blend until it’s like coarse crumbs – you don’t want it completely smooth and pur√©ed, but quite finely chopped. Drizzle 2 T olive oil over, mix in the herbs, and spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the mushrooms are quite brown and dry. Stir from time to time to ensure even roasting.

Tip the mushrooms into a large bowl. In a food processor or blender combine the walnuts and bread. Process until coarse and crumbly. Add the butter and process once or twice more, quickly. You should have a sort of sticky, crumbly consistency at this point. Add this to the mushrooms. Stir in the flour, eggs, cheese, salt, baking powder, balsamic and plenty of pepper.

Lightly oil a small baking dish with tallish sides – a souffle dish works well, or a small casserole. Bake for half an hour, until the top is browned and crispy-looking and feels firm to the touch. Allow it to cool before you tip it out of the pan. Cut slices about 1/2 inch thick, and lightly fry on both sides in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Serve with…

WALNUT AND BLACK TRUFFLE SAUCE

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup white wine
1 t balsamic
2 T water
2 heaping teaspoons truffle butter
salt and lots of pepper

In a blender or food processor combine the walnuts and wine. Blend until smooth, then add one or two tablespoonfuls of water to make it completely silky. Transfer to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two. While still hot, stir in the truffle butter, salt and pepper. Serve over the mushroom steaks.

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