Marx Foods announced a random contest, I thought, "wow, that's just perfect for me," because a lot of dinners begin with me reaching into freezer, fridge, and pantry and pulling out things that might fit together. And then I use some, put the rest back, and off we go.
Marx Foods orchestrated the randomness by sending out free samples to bloggers. Everyone's samples were different. The note that came with the package said that some bloggers might have no items in common with other bloggers, and there was a good chance that no two packages would be alike. How ... random...
What I got was a package with Gaba rice, two types of dried mushrooms, and two types of dried peppers. Hmmm... that almost sounded like something that was chosen especially for me, because I love mushrooms, peppers, and rice.
So, that sounds easy, right? But no, I waffled back and forth. Rice and mushrooms? Rice and peppers? Both peppers and nothing else from the box? I briefly considered combining the mushrooms and peppers, but I didn't want the heat of the peppers to obliterate the flavor of the mushrooms.
The Gaba rice was a new one for me. Hard to believe. But actually, I had worked with Gaba rice before - I'd just never heard it called that. Gaba rice is a sprouted brown rice. It's not like you can see the sprout, but lately I've seen all kinds of sprouted grains. Apparently they're more nutritious.
One site I read (for a specific sprouted product, so it might not apply to all) said that eating sprouted grains is more like eating vegetables than eating starch, from the the way your body sees it. So instead of "oooh, lots of carby starchy stuff" your body say, "oooh, vegetables and complex carbs!" I have no idea if that's true or not, but it makes some logical sense.
From the standpoint of someone who is going to eat sprouted brown rice, the rice is a little more tender than standard brown rice. So if your family groans about having brown rice instead of white, maybe they'd be happier with sprouted rice. And if you like brown rice - well, this is still brown rice. But maybe (possibly) could be even better for you.
So there it was. Rice and mushrooms. I was thinking of a risotto-like application, but I didn't know if it would work with this particular rice. And risotto seemed so ... normal. Then I started thinking about stuffing things with rice. Maybe peppers, with the rice, mushrooms, and meat.
But no, I wanted it to taste like rice and mushrooms, not like meat and peppers.
After some pondering, I ended up with one type of mushroom with the rice, and a second mushroom in a sauce. That sauce went through several different versions. The first tasted good but was visually unappealing.
Then I wasn't happy with the texture of the mushrooms in the sauce.
Finally, I ended up with something that looked and tasted good. Okay, better than good. It's an umami bomb, with mushrooms, tomatoes, butter, sherry ... and the color is pretty darned nice, too. Sort of the color of the lobster mushrooms.
This would make a nice light vegetarian entree. But since we're not vegetarians, it makes a nice side dish. Or lunch. I'll admit to lunch.
Before we proceed, let me admit that I almost always make rice in a rice cooker. When I moved to high altitude, rice and I started having issues with each other. If I didn't burn it, it would thwart me by ending up undercooked or overcooked. Rather than waste time trying to mend my relationship with rice, I bought a rice cooker. I haven't blackened a pot of rice since. If you prefer to cook your rice in a pot, feel free to do so. Me, I push the buttons and carry on doing things that are much more important.
Stuffed Peppers with Lobster (mushroom) Sauce
1/4 cup black trumpet mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 red bell peppers
1 teaspoon yuzu or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3 scallions, sliced thin, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup lobster mushrooms
2 tablespoons sherry
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Heat 1 cup of water to boiling, and add the trumpet mushrooms. Let them soak until the water cools to room temperature. Remove the mushrooms and dice them.
Rinse the rice and put it in your rice cooker. Add the mushroom soaking liquid, leaving behind any grit at the bottom of the container (or, you can strain it, if you prefer). Add enough extra water needed to for the rice cooker's recommended amount for brown rice. Add the chopped mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of butter. Cook using the brown rice setting.
Meanwhile, cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stem and core.
Note: before you cut the peppers, it's a good idea to roll them around on the counter so you can figure out how they'll sit flat the best when they're cut in half. It's fine if they not perfectly straight, but you don't want them rocking and rolling.
When the rice is finished, add the yuzu (or lemon) juice, thyme, and most of the scallions - reserve a little bit of the scallions for garnish. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pile the rice mixture into the 4 halves of the peppers. Put 1/2 inch of water in a baking dish. Arrange the peppers in the dish. Put a small bit of butter in top of each stuffed pepper, reserving a teaspoon of butter for the sauce.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees until the peppers are fork tender, but still sturdy enough to hold their shape - about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Boil 1 cup of water and add the lobster mushrooms. When they are softened, chop them roughly. Put the mushrooms in a small saute pan and add the soaking liquid, leaving behind any grit - or if you prefer, you can strain it.
Add the sherry and the last teaspoon of butter and simmer until the liquid is gone and the mushrooms are beginning to fry. Lower the temperature and add the sour cream and tomato paste. Cook just until warmed through. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.
You can serve it as is, but I thought a smoother sauce would be more visually appealing, so I gave it a spin in the blender. The mushrooms thickened the sauce quite a bit, so I added water to get it to the consistency I was looking for.
Serve the sauce warm over the stuffed peppers and garnish with the reserved sliced scallions.