Mushroom Fête My earliest childhood memories of mushroom picking go back to my city in the eastern part of Ukraine. During the season entire families and groups of friends go on the weekend foraging expeditions to find their favorite fungi. Have you ever picked mushrooms, perhaps at least once? If not, no problem, you can join me virtually for my Mushroom Fête dinner which I recently hosted for friends where delicious fungi took center stage! This is heaven for a mushroom lover! I love shopping in my local Whole Foods and generally am happy with their selection of most foods and items. However, for years I’ve been asking them to increase their variety and supply of organic mushrooms (I get thrilled when they actually listen). I especially like the Mycopia brand mushrooms and would get upset if those weren’t available. If you haven’t yet discovered this company, look them up, their mushrooms are all organic, neatly packaged and available in all major stores in the New York City and the US. Mushrooms have long been known for their healthiness and are fat & cholesterol free, low-in calories and rich in vital nutrients. But I’ll spare you the lecture, just simply Google it and check the facts for yourself.
Photographed by Gary Flom For the tablescape, I wanted to create a “foraging” landscape and thus a carpet of moss, mushrooms, and natural elements adorned the center of the dining table but more on that in my decor section later next week. Birch slices of various shapes and sizes from tiny to pedestal-like added degrees of changing elevations, enhanced the pastoral image and helped the guests imagine that they’re in a forest clearing in early September resting under the cool tree canopies after picking the mushrooms. It was simply enchanting! I had invited my good friends to share this Mushroom Fête together. Chilled white wine was perfect with mushroom-based hors d’oeuvres I served. Start the evening with this light-version of pizza- a delectable Arugula Pesto, Prosciutto & Mushroom Open Tart. To save time I always get store-bought puff pastry and make my own pesto in advance. Bake the pastry to golden perfection and then just smear pesto on top. Scatter baby greens, such as arugula or kale, slices of savory prosciutto and gourmet mushrooms on top . I seared Alba Clamshell and Brown Clamshell varieties which have a mild seafood taste and compliment best this tart. Sprinkle it lightly with some Parmigiano and bake in the oven until cheese start to melt. This is a great dish for entertaining a crowd. As an appetizer- colorful Carrot & Mushroom Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. Beautiful spirals of bright orange carrots are paired with slices of purple onion and blanched glossy mushrooms, the salad is further marinated in tangy lemony vinaigrette. My secret weapon – a spiral slicer, the new kitchen gadget from Paderno which makes fun spaghetti-like cuts from vegetables and fruits. Let the salad stand marinating at room temperature for at least a couple of hours to let the flavors really pop. Sprinkle it with some fleur de sel, toasted pistachios and cilantro leaves to further enhance and compliment this spring dish! Seared Duck Breast with Purple Cabbage & Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms was everyone’s absolute favorite. Score the skin of the duck breasts into a crisscross pattern and season generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat in a hot skillet skin side down for about 8 minutes, then flip and continue cooking for another 4 minutes or so. Let it rest, then cut each breast diagonally on a bias. Serve along with sautéed purple cabbage infused with Chinese five spice and hen-of-the-woods roasted mushrooms. The black current & red wine infused sauce imparts a sweet fruity note to the succulent duck meat. Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms with their wavy caps are a beautiful addition to roasted meats and oil-rich fish. Break each cluster in two, drizzle lightly with olive oil, season generously with sea salt and pepper. And all it takes is about 10-12 minutes in the hot oven for these mushrooms’ forest aroma and crunch texture to shine through! As a simple side- Assortment of Seared Gourmet Mushrooms with Lime & Sesame Seeds. Serve the mushrooms on a large platter along with quartered lime and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds on top. Delectable! And for dessert- Dacquoise aux Fruits! In this classic French dessert crunchy thin layers of hazelnut meringue are paired with luscious white chocolate cream combined into airy whipped cream. Freeze the cake for at least 2 hours but let it soften slightly right before serving! Enjoy your “foraging” experience with the fungi! Mushrooms were kindly provided by Mycopia brand.