Marinated Mushrooms

April: Darra Borscht to Blinis
Russians are known for their boundless hospitality which is evident on their tables spread with any number of little savory bites as starters known as Zakuski. And according to Darra Goldstein, author of A Taste of Russia, every Zakuska table should offer at least one mushroom dish. The following recipe is adapted from her book. Note that the mushrooms should be made ahead so they can rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours. And they taste even better when allowed to soak for a week.

Ingredients

4 1/2 lbs. button mushrooms, wiped and trimmed (or larger mushrooms sliced)
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
4 bay leaves
3 1/2 lbs. (4 cups) canned plum tomatoes, drained (juice reserved) and chopped
3/4 cup juice from tomatoes
11/2 cup red wine vinegar
11/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Heat the 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the mushrooms in batches and sauté until just tender, before they begin to shrink. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
2. Add the 6 tablespoons of olive oil to the frying pan. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft, but not browned. Add the pepper and herbs; sauté a minute more. Stir in the tomatoes, then add the juice from the tomatoes along with the vinegar, sugar, hot pepper sauce or cayenne. Simmer covered for 25 minutes.
3. Pour the sauce over the mushrooms and season with salt to taste. Add more black pepper, if desired. Let the mushrooms cool to room temperature and then chill for at least 12 hours or up to 10 days. Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 6 cups