Spring has sprung in Southern California! In one week we’ve gone from rain and chill to sunshine and 90 degrees. It was quite a shock to the system and I suddenly find myself craving lighter food, salads filled with fresh vegetables and meatless meals. This dish fit the bill perfectly, served one night with a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a small spring salad with a light vinaigrette.
Recently, I was contacted by the nice people at Gourmet Mushrooms who asked if I was interested in trying out some of their organically grown mushrooms. This offer piqued my interest because they had some mushrooms I’ve never tried, nor seen in my local market. A box arrived via FedEx, and surrounded by insulated packaging, was a wicker basket tightly packed with 2 pounds of gorgeous mushrooms. These mushrooms are certified organic, and while not technically “wild” they are certainly more exotic than the typical button mushroom found in the local supermarket.
- Maitakes; earthy flavor and beautiful fan shape. I’ve cooked with these before; check out my recipe for home made pasta with Maitake mushrooms and zucchini blossoms.
- Forest Nameko; I wasn’t familiar with these mushrooms. That glossy shine you see on the caps is caused by naturally occurring gelatin on the mushroom which is often used to thicken soups. Who knew?
- Trumpet Royale; these mushrooms are quite large, with a dense, meaty texture and mild flavor. They have particularly thick stems and I could see slicing and grilling them like Porcini mushrooms.
- Alba Clamshell mushrooms are pure white with a mild nutty flavor, and firm, even after cooking.
- Velvet Poppini; these were my favorite. I loved their dark chocolate color which contrasted nicely with the lighter colored mushrooms (meaning, they look pretty on the plate) and their earthy flavor.
All the mushrooms held up extremely well for almost a week in my refrigerator as I used them in a variety of dishes, including the one featured here. This recipe makes 4 appetizer portions, but two portions made a nice light vegetarian meal for two people. I used some of each type of mushroom from the basket for this recipe, but obviously you can use which ever type you prefer including those not listed here. However, I think a selection of at least three different shapes and flavor profiles of mushroom makes the meal more interesting.
Gourmet Mushrooms has generously offered to send one of these beautiful baskets to one of my readers. All you need to do is leave a comment below letting me know what you’d like to make with the mushrooms. I’ll pick the winner by random number generator and announce it on April 15th. We’d love to see the winner post the the result of what’s made with the mushrooms on the Former Chef Facebook Fan Page and on Gourmet Mushroom’s Fan Page. The contest is open only to a winner with a US shipping address.
And the winnner is…Comment #31 from Erika at Ivory Hut who said,
That is one incredible-looking basket. I LOVE mushrooms. In risotto, soup, sandwiches, with creamy pasta, with steak … Give me some sauteed mushrooms and a bowl of rice, and I’m a happy camper.
Printable Recipe in PDF
4 cups water
1 cup polenta (medium to coarse ground corn meal)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, oregano, rosemary, etc)
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
Bring water to a boil in a 2 quart pot. Slowly whisk in the polenta, making sure there are no clumps. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes as the polenta thickens. When cooked, the polenta should have a creamy texture and the corn meal should not be hard. Stir in the butter, Parmesan cheese, herbs, and salt and pepper. Spread in a buttered 9″x13″ pan. Refrigerate until cold and solid, about an hour.
Loosen the polenta with a spatula and invert it onto a cutting board. Cut into 3 1/4″ rounds with a circle cutteror cut into squares with a knife. I got 8 circles out of one sheet of polenta, enough for 4 servings. If you cut it into squares instead, you could probably get 6 portions out of it by cutting it 4×3. Place the cut pieces of polenta on a pan which can go into the broiler. If there are scraps of polenta, reserve for leftovers (see note below).
Note; this polenta can be served creamy as well. If so, add a little more butter and Parmesan and serve as soon as it is finished cooking.
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
12 oz mixed mushrooms (about 6 cups sliced)
1 oz sliced shallot
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, oregano, rosemary)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil (2 oz weight)
2 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the mushrooms if large and separate the ones with the smaller stems and caps into individual pieces.
Drain the sun dried tomatoes from the oil and slice if they are whole. I like using the ones packed in oil because they tend to be softer. If you are using plain dried ones, rehydrate them for a about 15 minutes in a little warm water.
Chop up the fresh herbs. You can use whatever you want. I just used what I had at the time; flat leaf parsley, oregano and a little finely chopped rosemary.
Thinly slice the shallot crosswise.
Heat a large saute pan and add the oil. Add the shallot and saute for 1 minute. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, cooking them until they are soft. Keep them moving in the pan so they all get evenly cooked. Toss in the sun dried tomatoes and herbs and combine with the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat.
Slide the pan with the polenta under the broiler and cook until the polenta is heated through, about 4-5 minutes. You can also sear the polenta pieces in a hot pan with a little oil, just take care not to move them too much or they might break.
To assemble the dish:
Using a spatula, place 1 disc of polenta on each plate, or 4 on a platter. Top each piece of polenta with about 1/4 cup of the mushroom mix and a few crumbles of goat cheese. Place another disc on top, then more mushrooms and more goat cheese. Note; there may be some mushrooms left over. I ate these the next day with the leftover polenta scraps (see note below).
Since there were pieces of polenta left over from all the sections in between cutting the circles, I could not let it go to waste so I scooped it up and put it in the refrigerator. When I had mushrooms leftover, I realized I had a meal for the next day. I put the polenta scraps in a small baking dish with some marinara sauce, the leftover cooked mushrooms, and a little extra goat cheese. I covered this with foil and baked it for about 20 minutes until it was hot all the way through. It was messy, but sure tasted great!
If you like musrooms, you might also want to try out these other recipes:
Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Pizza with Mushrooms and Home Made Sausage
Hand Cut Pasta with Maitake mushrooms