Button Mushrooms: Cream of Mushroom Soup

As our diets have moved to the veggie end of the omnivore scale, we find ourselves eating more and more mushrooms. They’re a little weird when you think about it. Not really vegetable, certainly not animal. Still, they’re “meaty” to be sure and their flavors help define the taste of umami.

The domesticated button mushroom is the most common mushroom in the world. For most of us, we purchase these guys in shrink-wrapped containers found in the produce market, but they can still be harvested the old fashion way in fields of grass after a light rain from spring to autumn. Still, we recommend that only the expert mushroom hunter identify and pick these guys (they have a deadly doppelganger named Destroying Angel). Foraging for wild and cultivated mushrooms at your local farmers market is much safer.

Culinary mushrooms are relatively calorie free but loaded with vitamins and minerals (vitamin D, riboflavin, folate, niacin and potassium). While a third of their calories come from protein, a cup of diced or sliced mushrooms contains a mere 15 calories, or 1% of a recommended daily adult intake. There’s not much to them. So it’s surprising mushrooms pack so much rich flavor.

That’s what we like best about mushrooms – their meaty, woodsy flavors and textures. They’re more flavorful cooked in a hot dry pan until toasty brown. It’s our favorite preparation before finishing with a sprig of thyme and a little olive oil, or butter in the hot pan. Then topped with crunchy sea salt and a little pepper just seconds before serving. They’re also tasty finished with fresh chopped garlic and served with toast or crusty bread, add them to soup, or serve with steak. However you plan on preparing them, be sure to add mushrooms to your diet.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

8 ounces button or crimini mushrooms
1 large or 2 small leeks
2 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons Sherry
3 cups veggie broth
2 cups whole milk, cream, or half & half
A few dashes (more or less) Worchester sauce
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

Wipe off the mushrooms using a dry paper towel. Separate the stems from the mushroom caps. Keeping them separated, rough chop the stems and slice the caps.

Slice the leek down the center and wash the inside completely, under running water. Chop the leek.

In a large saucepan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil. Once the butter bubbles have subsided, add the leeks and cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes, add the chopped mushroom stems and sauté until the pan is dry but the veggies are not browned, 4-5 minutes. Push the veggies aside and in the center of the pan add the minced garlic. Stir the garlic until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Stir the veggies with the garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then add the sherry, deglazing the pan and reduce the liquid slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Add the veggie broth and remove from heat.

Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth.

In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in the saucepan and once the bubbles have subsided, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then add the pureed soup and the 2 cups of milk, cream, or half & half. Season the soup with Worchester sauce, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup before serving, do not boil.

Tartine — The Sandwich

We are involved in an ongoing love affair with Tartine Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District. We’ve stood in the bakery line more times than we can count and never once regretted the time spent contemplating the scrumptious treats awaiting us inside. We couldn’t find a croissant in Paris to best the flaky wonders on offer at Tartine. The pastries, cakes and cookies are irresistible, but the signature tartines, or open-faced sandwiches, truly inspire.

The open-faced croque monsieur is a favorite and increasingly popular at home. Preparation requires some thought as to ingredient combinations, but the basics are simple – savory ham and/or seasonal veggies, a thick sauce béchamel and good, flavorful cheese. The bread base of a Tartine Bakery croque monsieur consists of a generous slice of the house plain country loaf. At home, we use our own “no knead” bread and whatever fixings we have on hand. Once assembled, the sandwiches go under the broiler until the sauce and cheese are bubbly and starting to brown. To finish the meal, pair the croque with a simple green salad and a nice glass of wine – a dry Provencal rose or pink sparkling cava does it for us!

    Proscuitto and broccoli rabe tartine on the left, and a mushroom tartine on the right.


The “Recipe”

Sauce Béchamel

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour

6 whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme

Warm milk, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter and add flour, cooking over medium heat until flour has toasted but before it browns. While whisking, strain milk into flour mixture and continue whisking until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, add grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt to taste.

Assembling the Tartine

On 2 thick slices of country bread, spread a thin layer of the béchamel, top with ham or your choice of veggies (best if their separately cooked/roasted before going onto the sandwich), then finish with another layer of béchamel and top with grated gruyere or cheddar. Place under the broiler and toast until golden and bubbly.