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50 shades of beige: September is National Mushroom Month

Updated: 
September 5, 2017 - 12:05am

Though available year-round, mushrooms are having their moment as September is National Mushroom Month. Most of us are familiar with the button, cremini, Portobello, and shiitake varieties, but there are so many more, both cultivated and wild. Smoky morels, woodsy porcini, nutty chanterelles and mild oyster mushrooms all have unique shapes and distinct flavors to offer. More exotic mushrooms such as Trumpet Royale, Cinnamon Cap, Wood Ear and Hen of the Woods are harder to find except on restaurant menus. Ranging in color from creamy white to tan to dark brown and even gray, they are earthy and hearty with a satisfying meaty texture.

Mushrooms also offer good fiber and are low in calories, fat free and sodium free. We can grill, saute’, bake, and stir-fry them, or use them raw. In salads, sauces, soups, pastas, pizzas and stuffing, and as a stand-in (or accompaniment) for meat in burgers and stews. Whatever your use, always store them in the refrigerator in their original containers, never in plastic bags with no air flow. Don’t wash them until ready to use. Here’s a sample of recipes that showcase the versatility of mushrooms.

Mushroom Quiche

Let’s start with breakfast, where mushrooms have great affinity with eggs and onions. Use a variety of mushrooms for a rich, earthy flavor. Recipe from “The Big Book of Breakfast” by Maryana Vollstedt; makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 pound mushrooms, any combination, washed, trimmed and sliced

3 tablespoons dry white wine or sherry

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of white pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

9-inch pie shell, partially baked

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallots and mushrooms; saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add wine; saute until liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes more. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, half and half, seasonings and parsley. Arrange mushroom mixture in bottom of pie shell. Pour egg mixture over; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.

Mixed Greens with Fresh Herbs and Mushrooms

This salad is sure to impress. Use as many kinds of mushrooms as possible. Recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine; makes 6 servings.

6 medium shallots, minced

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Salt and fresh ground white pepper

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as shiitake, button, enoki, chanterelles), trimmed and sliced

1 bunch green onions (white and tender green parts only), minced

1 head butter lettuce

1 head Bibb lettuce

Leaves from 1 bunch watercress, 1 bunch basil, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

Mix shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil; set aside. Combine mushrooms and green onions in a large bowl. Mix in 1 1/4 cups of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper; let stand 10 minutes. Tear lettuces into bite-size pieces; transfer to a large serving bowl. Add watercress and herbs. Mix in remaining vinaigrette. Top with mushrooms and serve immediately.

Creamy Grilled Portobello Mushroom Soup

Grilling the mushrooms adds an earthy smokiness and depth to a classic soup. Recipe from Food &Wine Books; makes 8 servings as a first course; 6 servings as an entrée.

2 pounds Portobello mushrooms

Oil for brushing the grill

4 tablespoons butter

4 shallots, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups heavy or light cream

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Trim mushrooms. Cut stems from caps and chop the stems. Light grill. When hot, oil it and grill mushroom caps 3 to 6 inches above coals, turning occasionally, until done, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut mushrooms into thin slices; cut each slice in half.

In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add wine; cook until almost evaporated. Add flour; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, rosemary and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Pour soup into a food processor and process until almost, but not completely, smooth. Return soup to pot, stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Stir in mushrooms, 3 tablespoons of the chopped parsley and black pepper to taste; heat. Sprinkle each serving with remaining chopped parsley and serve hot.

Portobello Fajitas

Already used as a stand-in for burgers, the meaty Portobello won’t have you asking, “Where’s the beef?” Recipe from Metropolitan Home magazine; makes 4 servings.

6 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps cleaned

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt to taste

1 large red bell pepper

1 large ripe avocado

1 tablespoon pickled jalapenos, chopped

1 ripe tomato, diced

1 sweet Maui onion, peeled and sliced

4 medium flour tortillas

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Place mushrooms in large bowl. In small bowl, combine garlic, oregano, cumin and 1/4 cup olive oil; pour over mushrooms, turning to coat. Sprinkle with salt, toss again, and let stand 15 minutes or up to an hour. Heat broiler or grill. Lay bell pepper on foil-lined broiler pan and broil or grill on all sides until evenly charred and blistered. Transfer to paper bag and let stand until cool, then slip off the skin and scrape out seeds. Cut flesh into very thin strips. Broil or grill mushrooms, starting smooth side up and turning halfway through, until very tender, about 10 minutes. Cool, then cut into thick strips.

Just before serving, peel and seed avocado; mash in a bowl with jalapenos and tomato; season with salt to taste. Heat a very large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add remaining tablespoon oil and onion; saute, tossing constantly, until onion wilts. Add pepper and mushroom strips and toss until warmed through. Heat tortillas in a dry skillet or on griddle until soft. Spread each with a spoonful of avocado mixture; top with mushroom mixture, then fresh cilantro. Fold up and serve.

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