My Dad told me once that when my sister and I were very young, my mom bought him a book about wild mushrooms.  Leafing through pages of the book, he spotted wild mushrooms he had seen in the woodsy area surrounding their home.  Off he went to hunt for his own food.  Although the supermarket has replaced the need for hunting and gathering, there remains in all of us a satisfaction for collecting foods you can eat from the wild.

My Dad picked, sautéed, and devoured every morsel of his foraged fungus.  Feeling satisfied by his successful hunt for these wild gems and with full belly, he turned the page in his mushroom book, anxious to embark on his next exploration.  With no small degree of trepidation, he read the words: “Do not confuse these edible mushrooms with the (unknown name) of the mushrooms described on the previous page, which are a look-a-like poisonous variety”…Oh dear.

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Had he eaten the harmless version or ingested nearly a half-pound of deadly fungus?  While straight to the ER for a good ole’ stomach pumping I would go, he decided to wait it out, pray about it and hope he awoke in the morning.  He did wake to enjoy another day and thankfully so, as I wouldn’t know my wonderful Pop-Top to this day.

Moral of the story:  do not attempt to forage your own mushrooms unless you have:

a.) planted them yourself

b.) have experience identifying wild mushrooms handed down from generations

c.) have a degree in horticulture, which I assume includes mushroom identification.

I would love to write to the author or publisher of that book my Dad read and ask that they reverse the order of those pages, but that book is long gone.  I don’t know if this story has contributed to my attraction to mushrooms or not, but I am certainly captivated.  I even get sticks and dissect wild mushrooms that pop up in my yard,  inspecting the gills, stems, spongy textures, colors and various cap shapes.

For Valentine’s Day, Mike and I wanted to cook a whole lobster.  I wanted to make a special side that wasn’t the standard corn and potatoes.   I chose an Italian mushroom and pea risotto.  Probably goes without saying, I bought the mushrooms from the grocery.

If you want to skip the risotto recipe and read about the benefits of mushrooms, scroll down until you find the section: “something you may not know“.

Some recipes allow long grain rice but, I think Arborio is essential to obtain the creamiest of risotto.

Gather your ingredients of 8 cups low sodium chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice, 10 ounces finely chopped white mushrooms, 1/2 oz of dried porcini mushrooms, 2/3 cup grated parmesan, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 cups finely chopped onion, 4 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 cup thawed green peas, 1 2/3 cup dry white wine divided, 2/3 for the risotto and 1 cup in your prettiest wine glass, salt and pepper to taste.

I’m an amateur and have never cooked with dried mushrooms so, I was concerned I would only find dehydrated porcini at a special market.  I considered replacing them with a gourmet mix.  As I read more about the pungent savor these dried or powdered mushrooms bring to any and all dishes, I knew I had to find them!  I spotted them instantly at my local Publix!

When I opened the package of porcini mushrooms, the aroma was overwhelming.  They have a heady scent;  I admit, almost like wet dogfood.  I was not put off by their smell.  I couldn’t wait to taste them!  I asked Andrew (my 2-year-old) to take a whiff and he pinched his nose and said, “Ewe. Finky”.

(if you plan ahead, add these to your Amazon shopping list.  They are cheaper than you will find at your local supermarket)

Heat broth to a simmer in a medium pot and add porcini.  Simmer in broth for about 5 minutes, then remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and finely chop.  Maintain heat of broth at a very low temperature.  Meanwhile, heat butter in a large stock pot.  Add olive oil and onions.  Saute’ the onions about 8 minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic.  Continue to sauté over medium heat until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Add Arborio rice and allow to toast for about 3 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup dry white wine and stir frequently until absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.  Add 1 cup warm broth and simmer, stirring often until liquid becomes creamy.  Continue process, adding 1 additional cup of broth at a time until rice is tender and risotto is creamy.   The rice should absorb 6-8 cups of broth.  I stopped at 7.

Add parmesan and peas and stir to combine.  Top with a few shaved slices of aged parmesan.

I guess Valentine’s Day is not the day to try to buy a whole lobster.  There were none to buy.  We had to settle for lobster tails.  Bummer.  But, they were still delish and made for a special V-Day dinner.

Mushroom Pea Risotto Served w:Lobster Tail


*something you may not know:  mushrooms are very low in calories and make an excellent umami flavor addition to salads, sides and main dishes.  They also make great meat substitutes in vegetarian dishes, especially the meaty-textured portabellas.  Adding just a few grams of rehydrated porcini mushrooms or powder will add a boldly flavorful addition to rice, pasta, vegetable sauté, soups, omelets and frittatas.

Mushrooms provide potassium, needed to build proteins and muscle.  Their selenium content is strongly suggested to have a reverse-type effect on colorectal, prostate, lung, bladder, skin, esophageal and gastric cancer.  Mushrooms contain a significant amount of copper, vital to essential functioning of organs and metabolic processes.  These mycelium are a good source of B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid.  B vitamins help release the energy your body needs from carbohydrates, proteins and fats,

According to a team of Penn state researchers, mushrooms have unusually high amounts of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione.  Scientists suggest these compounds help fight aging.  Based on their examination of multiple mushroom species, porcini mushrooms have the highest antioxidant content of all the mushrooms varieties that were studied!

I need you, porcini!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve gotten more wrinkles than I care to acknowledge these days!

Another mushroom story:

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A few of these alien-looking things showed up in our garden this winter.  You could smell their putrid stench 10 feet away and it reeked of decomposing animal.  They are called Stinkhorn Mushrooms and stink is an understatement!  The little stink-pots had gray stuff oozing out of them I assume was the main source of the rotting carcass smell.  Flies were swarming all over it.  They obviously thought it smelled like something dead as well.  What a weirdo!  Nooooootta gonna eat this one.

If you feel overwhelmed by all the nutrition advice, calorie recommendations and diet trends, read these: Fact. Not Fad.Let’s Crunch Numbers!Help Me To Help You!

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  1. This actually happened to my step father. My mother was the forager, and I think she started getting a little lax about her mushrooms. He got really sick. Glad I was away at college! Love your risotto. Dried mushrooms do smell odd, but what a great flavor they add!

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