September 13, 2008

Lion's Mane Mushrooms

A funny thing happened on the way to Slow Food Nation 2008. Emerging from the Civic Center BART stop, we found ourselves in the midst of an excellent farmers market. Apparently, it happens there twice a week; and despite its proximity to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, it draws plenty of shoppers. Well-stocked with both standard seasonal produce and some rare finds, this market is clearly a community asset.

After feasting on a first-of-the-season Gravenstein apple from Hooverville Orchards, we found a stand selling nothing but mushrooms. In additions to the predictable picks like portabellos, they had one variety that I have never seen before. Called Lion's Mane, these irregular golf-ball size fungi look a bit like cauliflower, but fuzzier. They had been brought up from Moss Landing by FarWest Fungi. With the vendor's suggestions for getting them home intact and cooking them, we carried them about all day, finally popping them in the fridge overnight.

The next day we sauteed them in butter, brushed off and sliced - but not wet-washed (a common no-no with mushrooms). They browned nicely, keeping their meaty texture without losing much liquid or breaking up. In taste, they compare most closely to chantrelles - really yummy. They go especially nicely with light-flavored dishes, like a simple omelet or pasta.

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