Orecchiette Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sugar Snap Peas. [J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS]

Mushrooms: The joy of fungus

No fungus is more fun than mushrooms, those powerfully flavored, spore-producing bites of goodness.

With a huge selection of edible varieties, each with its own texture and nuance, mushrooms provide a delightful undertone of earthiness to every dish they enrich.

They’re great in salads, perfect on pizzas and even better in omelets. But for their most perfect application, you merely have to pair them with cream. Think of cream of mushroom soup. OK, now think of really good cream of mushroom soup, not the stuff that comes in a can. Think of cream of mushroom soup made by a great restaurant.

Pretty amazing, right? You can make it yourself at home without too terribly much trouble. A little trouble, yes. But not too much.

Oyster Mushroom Soup with Walnuts in Red Wine

Yield: 4 servings

6 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup leeks, white part only, thinly sliced (about 2 small leeks)

1 sprig thyme

2 bay leaves, divided

4 cups oyster mushrooms, cleaned, stems discarded, sliced (about 1½ pounds)

1 cup potatoes, peeled, in ¼-inch dice

Salt and black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups red wine

½ cup walnut halves

5 peppercorns

1 clove

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ cup of chives, minced

Begin heating the chicken stock. Melt the butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, thyme and 1 bay leaf and sweat (cook without browning) until soft, approximately 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes or until all moisture has evaporated.

Add the warm chicken stock, potatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes more. Discard the thyme and bay leaf and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the blended soup back into the pot and keep warm until needed.

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the red wine, walnuts, the remaining bay leaf, peppercorns, clove and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Remove the walnuts with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the reduced red wine and add it to the soup. Slice the walnuts when cool and set aside.

Serve garnished with the sliced walnuts and minced chives.

Recipe from "Cooking with Daniel Boulud,” by Daniel Boulud


Woodland Mushroom Quesadillas

Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup chopped shallots

3 cloves garlic, minced

¾ pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 large portobello mushroom caps, chopped

1 cup stemmed and chopped shiitake mushrooms

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¾ cup marinara or adobo sauce, optional

16 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with vegetable spray.

Place the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and saute for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Stir in marinara or adobo sauce, if desired.

Spread ½ cup of the mushroom mixture over 1 flour tortilla, leaving a ½-inch border with no filling at the edge of the tortilla. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the cheese. Top with a tortilla. Repeat to make 8 tortillas.

Place the filled tortillas on the prepared baking sheet; do not allow the sides to touch. Gently press the tortillas down to make the filling a uniform thickness. Bake about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has just melted. Remove with a wide spatula. Cut into wedges, like pizza, and serve immediately.

— Adapted from a recipe from “The Whole Foods Market Cookbook” by Steve Petusevsky and others


Orecchiette Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sugar Snap Peas

Yield: 4 servings

12 ounces orecchiette pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup minced red onion

1 cup stemmed and sliced shiitake mushrooms

1 large portobello cap, diced

1 cup sugar snap or snow peas, strings removed

½ cup minced scallions

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook 8 to 9 minutes until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Place the cooked pasta in a bowl large enough for easy mixing.

Heat the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 1 minute; add the shiitake and portobello mushrooms and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and saute 2 more minutes.

Add the sauteed vegetables to the bowl with the cooked pasta. Toss well, adding a tablespoon or so of the reserved pasta water, if needed, for moisture. Add the scallions, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper, and toss lightly to blend.

— Adapted from a recipe from “The Whole Foods Market Cookbook,” by Steve Petusevsky and others


Asparagus with Morels and Tarragon

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 large shallots, finely chopped

¼ pound fresh morels (or 1 ounce dried morels, reconstituted), cleaned and halved lengthwise if large, or other exotic mushrooms

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, divided

½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Put 1 inch of salted water in a large saute pan, bring to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl of ice water. Once cool, transfer the asparagus to a plate lined with paper towels.

Empty the saute pan and wipe dry. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the morels and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the asparagus, 1 tablespoon of the tarragon, the salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon. Serve immediately.

— Recipe from “Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods,” by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian



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