Beyond the Button: Exploring the Magic of Mushrooms


Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta

Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta opens in a new tab

Until recently, I was a bit of a mushroom coward. For regular meals, like pizzas and stir-fries, I relied on tried-and-true button mushrooms or their close cousins, the creminis. Occasionally I might roast or grill a couple of portobello caps, but I rarely ventured beyond the button.

Smoky Mushroom Gratin

Then foraged mushrooms started showing up on the menus of my favorite local restaurants. I was drawn to their whimsical shapes and rich, hearty flavors — but I still didn’t dare explore the wide world of mushrooms on my own.  It seemed too rarified, and I was afraid to even peek at the prices.All that changed when I learned that my old standbys — mild button mushrooms and mellow creminis—can be mixed and matched with intensely flavorful wild mushrooms. In fact, mixing foraged and cultivated mushrooms is a great way to pump up flavor without deflating your budget.

Armed with this new knowledge, I set out for the produce section of my local Whole Foods Market. It was a dark and blustery afternoon, and I was immediately drawn to the cheery golden color of chanterelles. 

Apparently, I’m not the first person to embrace chanterelles like a burst of sunlight on a dreary day. Here’s what the Mycological Society of San Francisco opens in a new tab has to say: “This pleasantly aromatic fleshy wild mushroom shines like an exotic golden flower when seen from a distance against the drab autumn forest background.

Mixed Mushroom Soup

Letting my eyes lead the way, I collected a quarter pound of chanterelles and then rounded that out with locally grown creminis. The total cost of my chanterelle splurge: around $6.At home, I wiped both varieties with a damp cloth. (Mushrooms are very porous, so it’s best not to soak them in water.) Then I trimmed and sliced them and sautéed them with olive oil and garlic to make Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta opens in a new tab.In less than 15 minutes, my family was enjoying a hearty and filling fall meal. The sautéed chanterelles had a satisfying, almost-meaty texture, and their rich, buttery flavor was incredibly comforting on a cold and rainy day.

Now that I’ve made my first foray into cooking with foraged mushrooms, I’m eager for more exploration. The holidays are coming up, and I can’t wait to impress my family with Mixed Mushroom Soup opens in a new tab and Smoky Mushroom Gratin opens in a new tab. (As an added bonus, I’ll have some new vegetarian dishes in my repertoire for holiday potlucks and other seasonal celebrations.)

Do you have a favorite mushroom recipe? Share it with me and help me have more adventures beyond the button!

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