Although the time of irresistible spring morels has passed, there is a whole world of mushrooms coming along in the next few months—think summer chanterelles, boletes, and coral. Come September and October, fall fungi will mushroom (no apologies for the bad pun) into a parade of gustatory delight. Of course, domestically farmed mushrooms are commonly available all year round—porcini, cremini, oyster, shiitake, enoki, and others.
There is something primordial and atavistic about mushrooms. They represent a food that still connects us to the wild, and the fact that many of our most prized edible fungi resist being cultivated only deepens that mystique. Mushrooms also defy tidy classification; at least 40,000 species are known, out of which several thousand are widely eaten by humans. Contrary to popular belief, very few mushroom species can actually kill you, but many will give you at the very least a big stomachache or worse. If you forage for your own, be sure you know what you’re doing and how to identify them properly.
Mushrooms are one of nature’s richest natural sources of glutamate, an amino acid that is also abundant in seaweed, Parmesan cheese, and tomatoes. This accounts for their meaty, savory taste property called umami, making them delicious on their own or when combined with other foods such as beef, veal, bacon, poultry, pasta, vegetables, eggs, cheese, nuts, and shallots.
Whether they’re foraged or come from a farmers market, grocery store, or a mushroom CSA (yes, a surprising number of those exist), once you get them home, always store them dry and loosely in a paper bag in your refrigerator. Plastic bagging and moisture will swiftly turn them into a slimy, rotten mess. And don’t wait too long to eat them—no more than 3 to 5 days. Wait to wash them until right before using; the easiest way to clean them of dirt and any insects that may be hiding out is to immerse them in a sinkful of water and swish them gently. You can also wipe them clean with a special mushroom brush, a damp cloth, or even an old toothbrush with soft bristles.
How to cook these scrumptious morsels? It’s best not to boil them, as they’ll get waterlogged. But they take exceptionally well to grilling, broiling, roasting stir-frying, and sautéing; these cooking methods help evaporate their copious moisture and concentrate their earthy fungi funk. Brush mushrooms with a little butter (goose or duck fat are heavenly), sprinkle them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook them over high heat until they’re browned.
This scrumptious recipe by Lisa Gordanier may sound a bit heavy for summer, but it is actually quite simple, surprisingly light, and supremely satisfying. This recipe calls for oyster and shitake mushrooms, but you can substitute almost any kind you like.
Pasta with Wild Mushrooms
Serves 2, with leftovers for lunch
Olive oil or butter for sautéing, about 3 tablespoons total
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced into fat strips
½ pound oyster mushrooms, torn or sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ medium yellow onion, cut into small dice
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry or medium-dry (amontillado) sherry
¾ cup chicken stock
⅓ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
6 ounces dried penne pasta (or other favorite shape)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 small tomato, diced (optional)
Parmesan cheese, shredded
You can find lots more delicious recipes and tips for cooking with mushrooms in Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook. This is the perfect book to order now so you can take advantage of the summer bounty bounding in over the next few months!
Explore the contents of Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook. Download free sample chapters, including the complete table of contents.
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