Farmer’s Market Mushrooms

November 7, 2011

Yesterday was an unusual day in the perceptually sunny state of Southern California. A brisk cold, ushered in by November, brought a weekend of rain and chilly air. I spent the better part of Friday and Saturday inside. After becoming accustomed to my daily dose of outdoor air, Sunday invited me out, and to the Farmer’s Market, despite another forecast of rain.

The Hillcrest Farmer’s Market has become my favorite among all the ones that I have been to thus far. It is a Sunday experience. People of all types walk to the bustling market, where children run circles around their parents feet, samples are bountifully offered, live music provides a soundtrack, and there is both prepared food to enjoy while perusing, and a colorful array of produce vendors. Though the conditions were not ideal, the faithful makerters walked the aisles, collecting fruits, vegetables, cheese, and flowers for the week ahead.

I met a friend, and we both had objectives – she wanted a whole chicken, and I had mushrooms on my mind. We went straight to the farm vendor where we hoped to find the chicken. The rain turned from a drizzle to a steady pour as we ducked under his tent. As we inquired about the bagged birds sitting on the table between us, he graciously answered all of the pressing questions we had about what sort of life the chickens had lived. His calloused hands gestured how the chickens had run around freely, and had the liberty to eat bugs. He told us that he himself had killed and cleaned each of these chickens – it is his Friday routine. And at the end of it all he assured us, “This chicken actually tastes like chicken.” Assured we were. Chicken in tow, we pressed on.

The mushroom farmer was a lovely woman with wild reddish hair, a kind smile, and middle-eastern accent. She happily bagged up a mixture of porcini and white mushrooms at my request. I told her that I was considering making a soup with them on this dreary day. She responded by telling us about  a simple lentil soup that she loved to make in her home country of Iraq. I paid and thanked her, so satisfied by the mushrooms, and by the glimpse into the story of this woman’s life.

All that to say, I had been considering a cream of mushroom soup, but I fell across some great recipe ideas for creamed mushrooms on toast. Butter, mushrooms, creme fraiche, and bread? Sold. Really simple, and just as the chicken farmer felt about his chicken, I experienced too with the mushrooms – they taste like mushrooms! This is the beauty of shopping at the farmer’s market. The food is so fresh that your preparation can be pared down. The food tastes as it is supposed to and does not need excessive sauces or spices. This simple way of preparing the mushrooms was earthy, warm, and satisfying all at once. I ate them on toasted french bread, alongside a simple salad of spicy greens dressed only with olive oil and pepper.

Farmer’s Market Mushrooms on Toast 

(inspired by Smitten Kitchen & Orangette)

10-11 oz. of mixed mushrooms
2 tablespoons of butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons creme fraiche 
good bread 

Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel, just to knock off the dirt. Slice mushrooms lengthwise in 1/4 inch pieces.

Melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly fragrant.

Add the mushrooms, turning the heat up a bit. Allow the natural juices to come out, stirring occasionally. Let them cook until your desired tenderness. And as Julia says, “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!”

Let the mushrooms reabsorb their own juice and add the creme fraishe. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on toasted bread. Enjoy immediately.

Makes: 1 large serving or 2 small servings.