I’m a pretty adventurous eater. Probably a very adventurous eater, compared to the way I grew up eating, in the land of chain restaurants and very-well-done meats, where sweet-and-sour chicken at the Chinese restaurant was as exotic as it got and canned tuna fish was the only “seafood” I considered acceptable.
I was a picky kid who grew up into a picky adult (“Can I get the kids’ chicken fingers entree in a grown-up size?”)…who one day got dragged to an Indian restaurant with some friends and had a life-changing epiphany of the OMG NOM NOM NOM variety. Food was supposed to taste like stuff! Trying new things was fun! Eating like a six-year-old in your 20s is not charming or quirky…it’s actually annoying as hell. Grow up and pass the stinky cheese plate, self!
However, there are still food items that I’ve never been able to fully get over my childhood revulsions to. I cannot stand anything about raw onions — taste, texture, and just chopping one triggers a burning/crying/nose-running reaction so severe that I usually have to stop and leave the room several times. Cooked? Fine, fantastic. But not raw. (Shudders.)
And while I’ve learned to appreciate the yummy, earthy flavor of mushrooms, I still don’t really like biting into them. Oh yeah, dump them in the sauce or marinade or puree ‘em in my soup or whatever. But if you stick them in a whole or semi-whole state on my plate, I will probably eat around them with the skill level of a toddler trying to suck up every drop of cheese sauce while leaving the steamed broccoli.
And yet one of my absolute favorite baby-f00d recipes is All About The Mushrooms. I don’t want to pass along my neurotic texture issues, you see. I assume my kids will probably all develop at least one lasting food quirk on their own, and they don’t need me to make it worse by never serving particular foods that I personally deem “yucky.” (My dad hated all fish and seafood — besides the aforementioned canned tuna fish — and I grew up without ever tasting any of it. Salmon, shrimp…not even a single breaded fish stick. I was irrationally terrified of trying fish for ages, and naturally found it incredibly foreign-tasting and strange when I finally did.) (I’ve since gotten over it, thank goodness, because YUM MARYLAND CRABS.)
So I make this barley-and-mushroom recipe for my babies as soon as they’re ready for chunkier foods, and it’s always been a hit. Which always blows my mind because babies? Eating mushrooms? Gerber sure as hell doesn’t offer them up as a good stage 2 or 3 option, but there you have it. Exhibit A of why the best foods for your baby don’t have to come out of a jar, but from whatever you can dream up using whatever you have in the fridge. Whatever you like to eat. Or in this case, what you don’t, but wish you did.
(And I have at least one long-term success story: Ezra grew up eating this recipe and now I can feed him all the mushrooms that I won’t eat from my own plate. He loves them! Freak.)
Farro with Mushrooms for Baby
(For about 9 months and up, depending on if you choose to puree it or not)
(Adapted from Cooking For Baby by Lisa Barnes)
1/2 cup of farro, spelt or pearl barley
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 ounces of mushrooms, your choice (cremini, shiitake, chanterelle, portobello, etc. Or go for a mix!)
1 cup of stock (I use a homemade veggie broth, but anything without added sodium works), plus another 1/4 cup in reserve
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (or 1/8 teaspoon dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
If you plan to puree this one at all, just chop the mushrooms finely. A couple pulses in the food processor will leave it chunky but manageable. (Add water as needed.) If you’ve got an experienced eater (*raises hand*) and don’t want to bother, mince the mushrooms into very small pieces for a uniform texture.
Add butter to pan and melt, add garlic and saute for about a minute. Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid (you’ll know when it happens), about three minutes.
Add farro, stock, water, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low. Cover and simmer until farro is tender, about 35-40 minutes.
NOTE: The cooking time varies a lot, depending on what kind of grain you use. So be ready to start taste-testing around 30 minutes. I’ve also found that sometimes I need to add more liquid if it cooks down too quickly and the grains are still too firm. Thus, the extra 1/4 cup of stock I mentioned. You can add water instead, but I think it tastes better with stock.
Serve whole or mush up with a food mill or processor, or do a half-and-half mixture of puree and whole. It also — with a touch more salt — makes an excellent side dish for the rest of the family. You know, if they like mushrooms and stuff. I won’t judge.
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