Mushrooms are one of the joys of autumn. A small treasure of the forest, funghi can transform the most humble of dishes into a concentrate of pleasure.
Neither fruits nor vegetables, technically mushrooms aren’t even plants! Classified as their own kingdom, mushrooms are a special type of fungus, a notion that may be off-putting to some. As a member of the group that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, spores exist all around us, and mushrooms are just that: a great addition to a healthy diet, and totally delicious.
Low in calories and sodium, saturated fat–, cholesterol– and gluten–free, mushrooms are one of the healthiest superfoods around. Scientists at City of Hope discovered that mushrooms could suppress growth of breast cancer and prostate cancer cells in cell cultures and in animals.
There’s more: mushrooms are the leading source of the antioxidant nutrient selenium. Antioxidants, like selenium, protect our body’s cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases, and help to strengthen the immune system.
Although mushrooms lend themselves to boundless preparations, many homemakers only buy them to make risotto and pasta sauces. But there is so much more that mushrooms can add to the autumn table!
Now that sweater season is upon us welcoming October we suggest these unusual mushroom combinations, to escape the ordinary.
Mushrooms + tarragon
If you love the scent of anise, you will love this aromatic pairing. Simply sauté your cremini or porcini in a pan with olive oil and garlic, adding salt only at the end of cooking. Top with a dollop of ricotta and a few sprigs of fresh tarragon and serve with homestyle sourdough bread.
Mushrooms + mint
In Tuscany this is a traditional pairing, a most delicious flavor pairing. Coarsely chop fresh mint and season sliced porcini mushrooms cooked in a pan with olive oil and garlic, in place of the ubiquitous parsley.
Mushrooms + apricot
This unusual flavor combo is ideal with chanterelles and is an excellent sweet and sour stuffing for game. We’ve also tasted it in the mix with minced lamb for interesting burgers.
Mushrooms + goat cheese
To savor this pairing at its best, choose fresh champignons, bake them whole in the oven and then serve them smeared with your favorite fresh chèvre, or any young goat cheese mixed with herbs.
Mushrooms + pancetta
Briefly grill morels and fry some pancetta, then adding them to bruschetta (toasted sourdough) seasoned with olive oil and salt, or added to your basic torta rustica recipe.
Mushrooms + egg
This worldwide popular combo is a winner: mushrooms give an intense aroma to the simplest omelette. Assemble a mixture of sliced mushrooms in a pan, simmer lightly with olive oil, garlic and lots of cracked black pepper. Once cool, add to your beaten eggs for a sensational frittata.
Mushrooms + seafood
This surf ‘n’ turf refined combination can include clams and chanterelles, prawns and portabella, but also porcini and mussels. Grill, sauté or bake, the sea and the forest are a match made in heaven.
More mushroom ideas:
- raw mushroom salad made with ovoli
- potato vellutata with grilled button champignons
- risotto with velvet pioppini
- quiche with mushrooms and pancetta
- rib steak topped with mushrooms
- pappardelle with wild boar, sage and musrooms
- polenta with porcini & ragù
- pizza with mushrooms
- funghi trifolati
- sausage-stuffed mushroom caps
What’s your favorite recipe with mushrooms?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.