First of all, Happy New Year, everyone! Doesn’t 2015 seem like it’s going to be an awesome year? There’s absolutely no evidence that would lead one to think this might be true, but since we've maybe got a 50/50 chance, I’m going with optimism. So far, so good.
And speaking of good, today’s topic is mushrooms! As I mentioned here, as winter sets in I find myself craving mushrooms, but I only just recently figured out why (besides their inherent deliciousness). It seems that mushrooms are one of the few foods that contain significant amounts of Vitamin D, and as our exposure to sunlight wanes during the winter months, it totally makes sense that one would crave foods that replenish Vitamin D, which is mostly provided by sunlight. I knew there must be a logical explananation for this craving, and there you have it! But it still seems to me that the world is divided in half between those who love and adore mushrooms (my people) and those who abhor them (the Others). There don’t seem to be too many people on the fence when it comes to our friendly fungi.
Based on that, I probably just lost half of my readers who have moved on to another blog and more genial topics. I sort of understand how one might perhaps not quite enjoy the flavor or textural nuances of mushrooms, but I’m just saying that to be nice cuz I don’t understand at all. I love mushrooms in just about any form (raw in salads, cooked, roasted, stuffed, dried). If someone could just capture the beautiful scent of a just-opened package of dried porcini mushrooms into a spray-on perfume, I think I might be convinced to actually use perfume, which I really can’t abide, not ever. Anyway, I’ve already professed my love of all things mushroom here, so I needn’t belabor the point further.
Let us move on to some of the ways I’ve been enjoying them recently, and perhaps one or two or all of these will appeal to you mushroom lovers out there. I start with a basic recipe of sautéed crimini mushrooms (use whatever mushrooms you love) with herbs and garlic and olive oil and butter, which is really anything but basic, actually. It’s scrumptiously good all on its own, but here are a few things I like to do with them…
Firstly, these incredible mushroom bruschetta sprinkled with blue cheese (please refer to photo at top). Oh heavenly days, are they good…just a perfect bite with a glass of wine or a beer or adult beverage of your choice, or whatever. Just so, so good. If blue cheese isn’t your deal, goat cheese is an awesome sub-out.
And if you’d like to take that lovely bruschetta just a little further and make a light meal out of it, a fried egg on top is simply the bomb. I’m pretty partial to a fried egg on top of just about anything, so my judgment might be a little skewed here.
If you’re really hungry and want something even more substantial, you can take your mushroom bruschetta with a fried egg and turn it into this incredibly delicious Panini with provolone cheese. You could sub out the provolone for gruyere or Muenster or fontina; they’re all mushroom-friendly. I also like to sometimes add some fresh spinach to it. And if I’m really looking for something hearty, I like to sub out the egg for a nicely grilled chicken breast (I’ve been known to add bacon too).
Alrighty then, that should keep you mushroom lovers busy and out of trouble for a little while. And whether you're a mushroom lover or not, I really do wish you all a happy, healthy and delicious new year! Here are the recipes…
Mushroom Bruschetta with Herbs and Blue Cheese
There are so many things you can do with these beautiful sautéed mushrooms, but topping a slice of perfectly grilled bread is one of our favorites. Fresh herbs really make the flavors pop, but I often like to use a teaspoon of my Tuscan Herb Salt when fresh herbs aren’t handy. You can also use dried herbs, just cut the amounts in half. If using the Tuscan Herb Salt, you may not need to add any additional salt. Just taste as you go, adding more or less to your preference. For a more substantial repast, top your mushroom bruschetta with a fried egg and you’ve got a nice, simple and delicious meal. If you like, you can turn your bruschetta into a fried egg panini. I’ve included instructions for that below.
Several slices of rustic bread (about 4-6)
10 oz crimini mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each chopped fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (see headnote)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 oz of blue cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
(optional, 1 fried egg per toast)
Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any bits of dirt and then slice off the stems and slice the mushrooms. I like to leave the slices a little on the thicker side so they keep their texture while cooking.
Heat a medium sauté pan over high heat until it’s pretty hot. Add the butter and olive oil and when the butter has melted, add the mushrooms. Saute the mushroom until they’ve taken on some good color and begun to soften, reduce the heat and add the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 5 to 6 minutes and then remove from the heat. Taste for salt and pepper. The mushrooms should be cooked through, but not too soft.
While the mushrooms are cooking, brush the bread slices lightly with a bit of olive, sprinkle with a little salt and place on a grill pan until they’ve taken on some color. You want them crisp on the outside, but still a little soft on the inside. When both sides are done, remove from the pan. You can also do this in the oven or under the broiler.
Top each piece of bread with some of the mushroom-herb mixture and then sprinkle with blue cheese and chopped parsley. Serve warm.
If opting to top your bruschetta with a fried egg, you may leave out the blue cheese if you like.
For the Mushroom Bruschetta Panini…
For each Panini:
While your grill pan heats up, top 2 slices of bread with a slice of provolone or muenster cheese. Spoon some of the mushroom-herb mixture on one of the slices, top with a fried egg (optional) and then the other slice of bread. Brush the outside pieces of the bread with a little olive oil and place on the heated grill pan. Place a heavy pan on top to weight it down and when the bottom bread has good grill marks, flip the sandwich over and replace the pan on top (of course, you can also do this in a panini press) and continue cooking until the cheese is melted. Remove from the pan, slice in half and eat while still warm. And yes, sometimes the egg yolk breaks from the pressing, but that all depends on how cooked the yolk was before placing in the Panini. The broken yolk just provides a wondrous sauce for the mushrooms. Enjoy!