Two Fungi

Grow your own mushrooms

A couple months ago at a holiday party we were introduced to the Mushroom guys from Back to the Roots, Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora. These two guys are affecting the food world in radical ways by selling home grown mushroom kits. One of the many great things about these kits is that they are made out of a resource that would otherwise be waste, used Peets’ Coffee grounds. These guys are recycling a material that Peets’ Coffee paid a waste disposal company to haul to the landfill. The spent coffee grounds are sterilized inoculated with oyster mushroom spoors and packaged in recycled paper. Home growers grow the mushrooms in the packaging and then compost the remainder when all is done.

Growing mushrooms just takes water and time.

Perhaps a little of the coffee has seeped into the mushrooms because these guys are extremely pumped about their product, and they should be. The guys have been featured Ted talk speakers, and the mushroom kits are this year’s unique and creative Valentine’s gift by the Huffington Post. We were delighted to find the mushroom growing kits at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and learned from the guys that the kits are also available at a variety of Whole Foods throughout the U.S. They will happily send a kit out to the teacher of your choosing if you post a picture of your kit, showing a cluster of growing mushrooms, on their Facebook page. How cool is that? With our kit, we managed to grow a beautiful cluster of delicious mushrooms in just a couple of weeks. We’re now working on “side two” and hope to have a second crop soon.

Growing mushrooms at home may seem like a novelty, but we take a lot of satisfaction in knowing we had a hand in growing the food on our table, however light the touch. Your kids (or the inner kid in all of us) will have a blast with this food growing “experiment” and we’re willing to bet they’ll love eating the results too. At the very least, they’ll come away from it with a better sense of how food comes to the table. Once the fungi have fully matured there are so many great recipes to use them in. Our choice is to make it as simple as possible.

An easy, but not-so-quick, mushroom and eggs.

Dry Fried Oyster Mushrooms with Soft Scramble Eggs

4 oz. fresh oyster mushrooms, shredded
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 eggs
2 pieces homemade (or artisanal) bread, toasted
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. In a medium non-stick skillet, over medium heat add the shredded mushrooms and toss in pan. Dry fry the mushroom until slightly browned about 5 minutes, add the thyme and fry for about 20-30 seconds or until the thyme is fragrant place in a small bowl, and set aside in the oven to keep warm.

In the same skillet used to dry fry the mushrooms, heat the butter until it has melted or the olive oil until it is just hot. The pan should be maintained at a very low heat.

Crack open the eggs and add them to a medium-sized bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Beat with a silicon whisk. Add the eggs to the skillet and continue to beat with the whisk over very low heat. As you cook and whisk the eggs, pay close attention to the curds. If you notice curds forming, take the pan off the heat and whisk furiously. This process is a labor of love; the longer you cook them over very low heat whisking them the better they are. Cook for 15-30 minutes. A small, soft curd of eggs is the texture you are looking for.

Place the toasted bread on each plate, add the soft scrambled eggs, and top with the oyster mushrooms. Scatter the chopped chives on top of the mushrooms and serve.

Soba Noodles & King Trumpet Mushrooms

Soba noodles, mushrooms, prosciutto and carrots.

Buckwheat soba noodles are a terrific departure from the standard semolina pasta most of us have on hand. These Japanese noodles are relatively easy to find in your local markets. They’re nutritious, fast cooking and good hot or cold. We love them in soup and in salads. Their nutty flavor pairs equally well with ingredients from the east and west. In this version, the noodles are treated like Italian pasta, perfect with prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. The epicurious.com version of this recipe includes a fried egg atop each serving of noodles.

We eat mushrooms regularly, but we rarely stray from the very common white button or brown crimini mushrooms so readily available in every market. It’s a shame given how easy it is to find exotic “wild” mushrooms in these parts. We’re mesmerized by the variety available at Far West Fungi’s Ferry Building Marketplace stand (visit their website to get the low down on your favorite fungus). The trumpet mushrooms used here in place of the fried egg came from the 22nd and Irving produce market in our neighborhood. I happened upon them on my way to the checkout counter and couldn’t resist their beauty. They were unblemished and seemed to be begging to go home with me. I saw this impulse buy as an opportunity to experiment with a mushroom variety that seems to be increasingly available in the market and on menus everywhere.

I can’t take credit for the idea to lightly batter and pan fry these mushrooms, so all due credit to Cook Almost Anything guest blogger Huan who does a terrific job of describing the pan-fried mushroom dish. Huan gives inspiration credit to the good folks of Church Street Enoteca in Sydney.

Breading and pan-frying mushrooms can’t possibly be “new” but this beautiful preparation was certainly new to us. Like so many spur-of-the-moment weeknight dishes, what follows is a simple improvisation that combines two of our favorite foods. Give it a try and make it your own!

Herb-Crusted King Trumpet Mushrooms

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp whole milk

½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs

¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

2 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese

8 to 10 oz. King Trumpet mushrooms

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Beat the egg with the milk in a shallow, flat-bottomed bowl and set aside.

Combine breadcrumbs and parsley in the bowl of a small food processor and process until parsley and crumbs are just blended. Add the grated cheese and process again just until well mixed. Turn the breadcrumb mixture out onto a plate and set aside.

Cut the mushrooms lengthwise into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices. Place the mushroom slices into the egg mixture and coat well. Shake off excess egg and dredge or coat the slices in the breadcrumb mixture and set on a clean plate or baking sheet in a single layer. The crumbed slices can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for several hours.

To cook, heat oil and butter in a non-stick skilled over medium high. Working quickly and in batches, cook the mushroom slices for two or three minutes on each side or until they’re a golden brown. Remove them from the pan and set them on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

If you’re enjoying these mushrooms as a side dish on their own, grate additional cheese over them while still hot and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Soba Noodles with Carrots and Prosciutto

1 9.5-ounce package of soba noodles

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

3 ounces prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks, approximately 2 to 3 inches long

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese

Cook soba noodles as suggested on the packaging. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, drain noodles and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, cooking just until fragrant. Add prosciutto strips and cook until slightly crisp. Remove and set aside on paper towels to drain.

Return non-stick skillet to the heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add carrots and cook just until they start to get a little bit of a sear. Add noodles and a tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid to deglaze the pan and steam the carrots a bit. Add prosciutto and garlic to the noodles and cook over medium heat until heated through.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the grated cheese and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Plate and serve topped with the herb-crusted trumpet mushrooms and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve it hot!