Beyond the Button: Exploring the Magic of Mushrooms


Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta

Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta

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 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.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 and Smoky Mushroom Gratin. (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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