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Shiitake mushrooms

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Transform foraged fall mushrooms into burgers, hummus and much more

There's been quite a bit of fall foraging going on out in our forests and fields, and I've seen many enticing photos of chefs holding up handfuls of maitake and lion's mane mushrooms then making delicious dishes with them.

Wherever you live, there are foragers out there expertly sniffing out (often literally) and plucking mushrooms. In every state, there are mushroom farms and small cultivators, especially in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, dubbed the Mushroom Capital of the World, and in North Carolina.

We eat a lot of mushrooms in our "blended family." I'm the omnivore food writer and my husband is a vegetarian who does not like going out to dinner at all — a different sort of Odd Couple. I'm always looking for ways to simulate the rich, savory umami characteristics of meat as those Impossible and Beyond meatless burgers do. Even when I'm cooking for myself, I'll mix chopped sauteed porcini mushrooms into my lean ground beef. This is an idea I got from the James Beard Foundation's Blended Burger Project in which chefs all over the country come up with ways to make your burger more healthful. I make one of the 2017 winners (because it's a competition, of course), a porchetta burger from chef Jon Lemon at Bareburger, a New York-based chain that recently opened a location in Atlanta. His uses wild boar, but I get some nice ground beef from our local butcher. I love all the toppings, too, especially the roasted tomato used instead of ketchup.

I try to avoid simple white button mushrooms because to me they lack flavor, and now that most of us have access to more exotic cultivated and foraged mushrooms each with nuances in flavor all their own, it's easy to skip over the plain buttons for maitakes, porcinis, chanterelles, shiitakes and more.

Porcini, portobello, lion's mane, king oyster and puff ball mushrooms are often large enough to slice up and saute like a steak. Just clean them off with a damp towel to remove the dirt and slice to about a quarter to a half inch thick. I like to sprinkle them with fresh herbs, salt and pepper, then saute in hot olive oil and butter until browned on one side. Flip, season again and brown. They're great sprinkled with Parmesan cheese right from the pan, under sliced, warmed tomatoes or topped with lightly dressed arugula.

I also like to make hummus from puff ball mushrooms or use a finely chopped mushroom mixture mixture as a filling for tortellini or ravioli. I also simply toss them with a touch of cream and Parmesan cheese to make a pasta sauce. Of course, any mushroom sauteed in butter is great as a pizza topping, in enchiladas, quinoa and risotto.

Below are the recipes I've been making at home, including that Blended Burger winner. I've also included resources for local mushroom foragers and cultivators doing all that work finding and growing mushrooms so you don't have to.


Puff Ball Mushroom Hummus

Ingredients
1 pound fresh, white puff ball mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Instructions
Heat the oven to 275.

Spread the mushrooms out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasty brown and tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Squeeze the mushroom pieces a bit to compress them and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the water, lemon juice, tahini, salt and garlic and process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vegetable oil to make a smooth mixture. Season to taste with additional salt and lemon juice. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Porchetta Burger
From chef Jonathan Lemon, Bareburger.
Serves: 4

Ingredients
Roasted Tomatoes
4 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Broccoli Rabe
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch broccoli rabe, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Black Garlic Aioli
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves black garlic or roasted garlic, peeled
Pinch black pepper
Pinch salt

Burgers
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for cooking the burgers
1 1/4 pounds assorted wild mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup diced fennel
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
10 ounces ground wild boar meat, beef or lamb
4 slices aged provolone
4 ciabatta buns, split and toasted

Instructions
To make the tomatoes: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

To make the broccoli rabe: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stalks are soft and the leaves and beginning to crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

To make the aioli: In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and process until well-blended, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients. Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve. (The aioli will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Clean the food processor.

To make the burgers: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until  brown and crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to the now-clean food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

In the same pan in the remaining oil, add the fennel and cook, cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the ground wild boar with the mushrooms and cooled fennel mixture. Use your hands to mix until well combined. Shape into four even patties and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a well-oiled cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, cook the patties until they're seared on one side, about three minutes. Flip and repeat until seared on the other side, about 3 minutes. Add the provolone slices on top of each patty in the last minute of cooking.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of the aioli on both sides of the ciabatta buns. Add the burger, broccoli rabe, roasted tomatoes, and top with the other half of the bun. Serve.


Resources
Find mushroom farms all over the country at mushroomcompany.com/farmsonline.
Get more Blended Burger recipes at jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject.


Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Austin, Texas. She can be reached by email at rforrest@gatehousemedia.com.

Photo (puff ball mushrooms): CC BY-SA 3.0

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