Well firstly, they’re a fungus, but a familiar one so we don’t feel too intimidated. We treat them like a vegetable, though they’re unlike any other vegetable we use in the kitchen. Mushrooms are aesthetically stunningly, with their staggering shades of brown and moody greys. They’re also meaty, completely satisfying. If a mushroom graces your plate you know your meal will be whole.
Secondly, they’re highly nutritious. Mushrooms give you a bounty of B vitamins and other important vitamins and minerals. There’s some really fantastic research happening on the benefits regarding mushrooms and disease risk, so you should most definitely feel encouraged to pile up your plate. Mushrooms are also quite low in kilojoules, which can help with weight control but it also means you can jazz them up with dream ingredients such as goats cheese, nuts, legumes, chicken…to name a handful of mushroom marriages.
Thirdly, I find them to be quite romantic. I fancy the idea of foraging for mushrooms, wicker basket in soil-kissed hands, gathering as we go. Under the steady supervision of a knowledgeable guide, of course. I’d rather not dine on a poisonous loot of scavenged shrooms. This post by Emma was ace, giving you a peek into mushroom farming.
Yes, mushrooms are very special, don’t you think?
I recently created a Spring salad for the Summer Mushrooms campaign, hoping to celebrate our present season and often moody weather. Here, big and flat mushrooms are the main event, in their fleshy glory. The thyme pinenut brown butter is really just a delicious costume and the rest of the ingredients – the leaves, asparagus, prosciutto, ricotta, parmesan and lemon, well they all tie together so merrily. This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the prosciutto, but it just adds that salty, vibrant crunch I so love.
Summer Mushrooms Competition – here’s the deal…
Summer Mushrooms have an awesome campaign this year, “Mushroom Miles – where would you rather be?“. Simply enter your receipt details on that website link (keep your receipt where ever you buy your mushrooms, the grocer store or the supermarket, what ever store) and go in the draw to win a holiday! Yes, please. There are 3 tiers: for 200g of purchased mushrooms you go in the draw to win a $5,000 holiday, for 300g a $10,000 holiday and for 400g a $20,000 holiday. So obviously, if you buy more mushrooms you’re eligible for a bigger prize. You can enter multiple times but only once per receipt. There are also smaller prizes up for grabs. All in the name of eating mushrooms!
Now, back to that thyme pinenut brown butter…
Mushroom Salad with Asparagus and Thyme Pinenut Brown Butter
4 large flat Mushrooms (~550g)
1 bunch Asparagus
2 handfuls Garden Greens (I used a mix of baby spinach, rocket and mustard leaf)
2 strips Prosciutto, diced into 2 cm pieces
1 large clove Garlic, crushed
1 heaped tablespoon freshly shaved Parmesan
~1/2 tablespoon fresh or slightly dried Thyme (I used fresh thyme that had just started to dry out)
20g unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Ricotta (you could use goats cheese here)
Juice 1/2 Lemon
Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the mushrooms on the baking paper with the cap facing up, then drizzle with the olive oil. Season well. When hot, place into the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and nicely roasted.
2. Meanwhile, toast the pinenuts in a pan over low-medium heat for ~5 minutes until golden brown. Place in a small bowl, top with the thyme and set aside.
3. Trim the hard woody edges off the asparagus, then slice the remaining stems into 4cm pieces on a diagonal. Cook over medium heat in a non-stick fry pan for ~5 minutes until charred and cooked through, though still retaining some bite (add a splash of water to the pan if it’s too dry). In the last minute add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds, then add the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and place into a bowl. Top with the parmesan and set aside.
4. In the same pan, cook the prosciutto over medium heat for a few minutes until crispy (add a little olive oil if your pan is dry). Set aside.
5. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the sound of the butter crackling slows down it will begin to brown. Watch carefully and when fragrant and nutty and nicely browned, remove and pour over the pine nut and thyme mixture. It will crackle and sound awesome.
6. Plate up your salad by putting the leaves on a plate, then top with the cooked mushroom, prosciutto and then asparagus parmesan mixture. Add a dollop of ricotta to each plate, then drizzle the thyme and pinenut brown butter over the top. Add some freshly cracked pepper and you’re good to go.
* This post was sponsored by Australian Mushroom Growers Association (thanks guys! I had fun creating a recipe for you), but my mushroom love is real and opinions are sincerely my own.