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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
3 Reasons We’ve Fallen for Foraged Fungi
Photo: Liz Rueven

3 Reasons We’ve Fallen for Foraged Fungi

Katy Morris

As New England is enveloped in autumn’s auburn colors and the forest prepares for winter’s rest, seasonal fall mushrooms shoot out of the rich soil providing cooks with the perfect flavor rich ingredient. If you’re lucky enough to find them at your farmers’ market, nab them.

Before we give you the dirt on foraged and farmed fall fungi, let’s get our terms straight.

Fungi (pronounced fun-jai) technically has a kingdom of its own outside of plants and animals and is a unique kind of living organism. Mushrooms (sometimes called “toadstools”) are the fruiting body of certain types of fungi.

Some are poisonous, some are medicinal, and yes, some are hallucinogenic, but we’re focusing on those elusive edible gems sprouting up at farmers’ markets all over right now.

Blue Oyster Cultivation, Ithaca NY
Blue Oyster Cultivation, Ithaca NY

Liz joined the culinarily curious crowds at Union Square’s Greenmarket in NYC last Monday and grabbed gorgeous gourmet mushrooms from Blue Oyster Cultivation.

Here’s why we’ve both fallen for fungi.

 

#1 The Variety

There are dozens of varieties to choose from, all with distinctive characteristics. Some of the most common include:

Photo: Blue Oyster Cultivation
Photo: Blue Oyster Cultivation

Hen of the Woods

Typically found close to the base of oak trees in brown clumps resembling a hen’s ruffled feathers, “Hen of the Woods” or “Maitake” in Japanese cuisine have a distinctively meaty texture and bold flavor. Simply sautéed with olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted, or floating in broth are just a few ways to highlight their special qualities.

 

Oyster

These tender, meaty, grey-colored mushrooms with fluted caps have a delicate flavor and cook relatively quickly. When choosing, keep in mind that lighter colored ones are subtler in flavor. Cook them with butter, herbs, onion, soy, garlic or dry white wines.

 

Wood-Ear

Commonly found in Asian dishes like stir-fries, wood-ears are brownish-black with a firm texture, unique curly shape and mild flavor.

 

Morels

Morels have spongy caps and an intensely earthy flavor that makes them a perfect complement to roasted meats or salmon or simply sautéed on their own.

 

Porcini

They have a robust, sturdy texture and somewhat nutty flavor. Porcini are known for their dense, thick stems and are enthralling in sauces, stews or atop a pizza.

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#2 The Versatility

 

CT chef, caterer and well-known foods educator, Cecily Gans, who uses as many mushrooms as she can, notes that their “remarkable qualities give essential texture and flavor that some [vegetarian] recipes lack.Adding shrooms enhances depth and body. Soups, stews, egg scrambles, risotto and even some desserts (like Pineapple and Coconut’s Spiced Mushroom Cookies) are exceptional with a mushroom addition.

 

Roasted Chicken with Mushroom-Apple Stuffing, Creamy Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Pappardelle Pasta with Mushroom Ragout are some of our favorite ways to integrate these fall gems in warming, hearty dishes – perfect with a glass of red vino on these cooler autumn nights.

 

Whichever way you use them, just keep in mind that mushrooms are super absorbent and hence will soak up liquids and flavors pretty well – especially fats like butter and oil.

 

Thank you once again to Hannah Kaminsky for her delectable Gnudi with Wild Mushrooms recipe. Watch for it later this week when you’ll either be celebrating the election results or seeking comfort. Either way……

 

#3 Their Health Benefits

Photo: Liz Rueven
Photo: Liz Rueven

Not only are the hundreds of fungi super versatile, they are also laden with essential minerals and nutrients, including vitamins B and D, selenium (bearing super antioxidant benefits) and potassium.

 

Other tips

If you buy mushrooms that are wrapped in plastic, swap it for a paper bag to allow them to breathe (leaving them in plastic will make them super mushy and slimy). When you’re ready to use, gently wash your mushrooms by brushing away any residual dirt with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Don’t rinse in water! Think of mushrooms as sponges; they will soak up all the moisture if plunged in water, which will cause them to get waterlogged.

 

Hungry to learn more? Check out Tori Avey’s interesting post, Magical Mushrooms: The Allure of Edible Fungi.

 

Our fellow blogger and vegan chef extraordinaire, Hannah Kaminksy has shared a delectable recipe that celebrates wild mushrooms’ “savory character and meaty texture to the fullest,” in her Gnudi with Wild Mushrooms.

You’ll love how the Gnudi, or as she describes it, “naked ravioli,” resembles matzah balls! Watch for it later this week.

 

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