Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Don't Have Mushroom to Talk

Since I've encouraged everyone to try something new from the farmers' market this month, I thought it best to go ahead and follow my own advice.

There are so many surprises each week at our local farmers' market, and when I see fresh produce displayed in an attractive and welcoming fashion... well, let's just say that I have what my Opera-Loving Friends affectionately call "Low Sales Resistance."

Tucked in small baskets or in colorful bunches, even vegetables and other foods that I disdained as a child (and as an adult) start to look good to me. I'm just as prone to visual appeal as anyone else, and I'm a sucker for a pretty face, even if it's on a pumpkin.

So as I wandered up and down the market yesterday, I found myself drawn, of all places, to the Killbuck Valley Mushroom stand and their big round baskets full of shiitake, oyster, and other locally grown mushrooms.

Some of you may think nothing odd about this. But I have never been a fan of mushrooms, save for the occasional portabella. When you learn as a child that a great-aunt you never knew died from eating mushrooms (toadstools, really) gathered in the wild, it rather puts you off any sort of fungus.

I know it's a totally unreasonable aversion on my part, because there are many excellent edible mushroom varieties, and they are often used in vegetarian cooking. Heck, even some of my best friends love mushrooms!

Therefore, I decided to learn more and try something new. I talked to the charming young couple at the stand and asked about one of the unfamiliar mushrooms, by the name of wine cup. These fungi had the appearance of a plumper portabella, but the young man told me that they tasted much better than portabellas, held their firmness and meatiness no matter how long you sauteed them, and were tender clear down into the stem.

When he added that this particular variety was one that was native to our area and had been specially cultivated by them, I knew I had to try them. Being somewhat hesitant, though, I only bought two.

Since I had also bought green beans and asparagus at the market with the intent of making a stir-fry of some sort, be it with Chinese or Indian seasonings, I decided to add one of the mushrooms to that.

I steamed the beans and asparagus first and set them aside while I sauteed large slices of garlic and then the sliced mushrooms. I added the other vegetables and tossed them about for a minute or so before adding my favorite easy soy-ginger-lime sauce, letting them simmer and braise in the savory sauce while I cooked soba noodles.

The young man was right: these mushrooms held up very well in the cooking and retained a good texture and mild but rich flavor in the dish, adding an interesting depth to the meal.

Has this made me a convert to mushrooms? Sadly, no. I'm still just not that crazy about them.

But at least I tried!


At 6/06/2006 4:38 PM, Blogger Tina said...

Color me jealous; I love mushrooms but have yet to see anyone selling them at the Ann Arbor farmer's market. There is another farmer's market close to me that I have yet to check out, however, the Ypsilanti farmer's market. I hope to visit that one fairly soon as well; perhaps someone there will be selling mushrooms!

At 6/07/2006 7:59 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I admit, even to a non-lover of mushrooms like me, those baskets of fresh fungi look pretty awesome. If you can't find any up your way, let me know... we can always work out a swap. (They sell dried mushrooms, too, mostly shiitake, and I may try those for soup stock and risotto.)


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