Inspired by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s Fantastic Fungi (2019) and Schwartzberg’s follow-up suggestion that Eugenia Bone write a mushroom cookbook, Bone decided to tap into the mycelium-like network of mushroom enthusiasts to write a community cookbook. We mycophiles did our share by contributing recipes – see some of the submissions here: https://fantasticfungi.com/. Bone tested each recipe as part of the selection process. She also contributed an above-and-beyond level of community service by talking with the selected recipes’ contributors to ensure she got everything right and to learn about how they became mycophiles. This information is compactly worked into the recipe headnotes. Evan Sung’s carefully styled photographs illustrate most of the recipes and heighten the project’s inspirational, encouraging tone.
While there is some overlap with Kristen and Trent Blizzard’s approach in their Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide, the books complement each other. The Blizzards profile their foragers in absorbing detail and with lively photographs. The Fantastic Fungi collection provides less introductory information about mushroom species and foraging. Bone wrote five essays for the collection, with a scientific slant on washing, sautéing and food safety, on understanding the difference between mushrooms that can be cultivated and those that rely on a complex ectomycorrhizal ecosystem that eludes us, on growing and harvesting truffles, on the nutritional and potential medicinal properties of mushrooms, and on the role of fungi in building the soil and strengthening plants that underlie our agricultural system.
Each of the Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook’s seven sections places emphasis on mushrooms as a core ingredient: “Mushrooms on their own or with vegetables,” “Mushrooms with fish,” “Mushrooms with poultry and meat,” and so on, including sweet recipes. The recipes offer a comfortable blend of ambition, spanning from a simple chanterelle-infused vodka, contributed by Kelly DeMartini to enhance her chanterelle risotto (recipe also included) to the dreamy chef concoctions Graham Steinruck serves at Telluride Mushroom Festival, such as candy-cap eclairs with reishi chocolate glaze. A helpful index sorts the recipes by mushroom type, and many recipes work with “mixed” mushrooms. (I wish there was an index of contributors and recipes; instead, there is a detailed table of contents with each recipe and its contributor listed in order of pagination). Evan Sung’s beautiful photographs illustrate most of the recipes.
I flagged many recipes to try; I chose two simple recipes to test: the sour creambased dried porcini dip that opens the book and Oaxacan wild mushroom quesadillas. I was drawn to the mushroom dip, contributed by Alison Gardner, because I had reviewed her earlier Wild Mushroom Cookbook: Recipes from Mendocino (co-authored by Merry Winslow) in a past edition of The Mycophile and had admired the book’s vast selection and creativity. This recipe continues that lively tradition with an unexpected pinch of dried candy caps. The dip greatly exceeds the sum of its parts, with a silky texture and shroomy intensity. You can try the recipe here: https://food52.com/recipes/86781-dried-porcini-onion-dip-recipe.
The quesadillas were a hit in my house; contributor Jane B. Mason of Colorado wrote the recipe to accommodate whatever mushrooms you have on hand, and I had chanterelles and chicken-of-the-woods. Cooked with grated cheese, chopped onions and epazote, the dish came together quickly – especially since I used store-bought corn tortillas. Next time though, I intend to follow Mason’s clear instructions for homemade tortillas. Next up will be Linguine with lion’s mane white clam sauce, by Jean O. Fahey, the “mycophagist” for two of our affiliated clubs: The Central New York Mycological Society and the Mid York Mycological Society. We shared Sebastian Carosi’s recipe for sausage-stuffed morels in the last issue of The Mycophile.
I’ve been cooking mushrooms for years and regularly review cookbooks for The Mycophile, and I learned a lot from reading the Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook from beginning to end. NAMA members who eat wild mushrooms will want to take part in the Fantastic Fungi cooking community by adding this book to their collection and even finding ways to share their own recipes. How about contributing them to The Mycophile or your club’s newsletter?