Funghi Project #1

Funghi Project #1

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

One one of my posts long ago I professed love for a supermarket (really super) not far from where I live: Berkeley Bowl. Part of it’s spectacular array of produce is a mushroom section with more varieties than I have ever seen. So I finally decided that I really must sample some of the mushrooms. So this is the first installment of the mushroom project. Since mushroom, especially fresh ones, tend to have relatively delicate flavor I decided to limit the type of dishes that I would make with them. Risotto, scrambled eggs and pasta seem like the ideal background to showcase the flavor and texture of the mushrooms.

First up were the Forest Nameko. These cute little items, while they occur in the wild are cultivated and are quite popular in Japan. In fact it is a standard ingredient in the familiar miso soup. They are lovely to look at with their small glossy caps. The gloss comes from naturally occurring gelatin which is useful for a thickening agent for soups.

With the Nameko I decided to start with a risotto which I love anyway. I sauteed the mushrooms for a while and then started the risotto. The usual drill with risotto, a little onion sauteed in some olive oil and butter, coat the rice in the oil for a bit stirring pretty much constantly and then start adding the simmering broth. Whenever the rice starts to become dry add some more broth. The mushrooms are added near the end but are there long enough to impart their flavor to the rice. A bit of parsley and butter and voila’ – a very tasty meal. I add a bit of cheese at the end, but light. I don’t want to overpower the mushrooms. It was interesting but I really thought that the mushrooms were a little, well, bland.

Next up, hen of the woods. Now these really look interesting, Kind of like ragged cauliflower. This mushroom

is indeed wild and is native to both the U.S. and Japan. Italian-American communities in the northeast call it signorina. Who knows why since it is probably unknown in Italy. Probably it’s kind of like mountains. Some guy names it first and that’s it. These are used in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine (who knew) and in fact have been shown in experiments by the Sloan-Kettering center to have some beneficial effects against cancers. So you can enjoy eating them and get health benefits too. Such a deal. With these I decided on scrambled eggs. Why? Well, truffles, those most valued of any vegetable on earth are often eaten with very simple backdrops, including scrambled eggs. Again I sauteed the mushrooms and added the eggs to the pan. I really liked these mushrooms. Their flavor is very earthy. A great discovery and I plan to explore them further.

So stay tuned for the next installment and if you’ve had some experiences with the less common mushroom varieties, please let me know.

2 Responses to “Funghi Project #1”

  1. Michelle Gabriel Says:

    I always wanted to do this also. They have so many great mushrooms and so expensive. So glad you are going to try them first and save me the expense :).
    I did try one or two once – I must have overcooked them -they were tasteless.

  2. Joe Says:

    Sometimes they do seem expensive, but on the other hand it doesn’t take much. If you consider, for example, a piece of fish or beef, then the cost for an expensive mushroom is actually less. So I will do another post or two working my way though the mushrooms.


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