Mushroom Kingdom


Over the vacation, one of my foodie dreams came true.  Foraging for mushrooms!  Nothing gets this city girl more excited than an outdoorsy hunt for something that draws the line between delectable and deadly.  So far so good, I have lived thus far to say so.

After our culinary adventures in Nice,  we spent the final leg of our vacances high in the mountains of La Cévennes in South Central France.  We were camped out at a friend’s grandmother’s home.  Luckily, I already have a sentiment for old, musty summer homes.  As a kid, I was first acquainted with mildew and shag carpeting at my grandparent’s groovy Michigan farmhouse.   But flash-forward to 2012, imagine a turn-of-the-century, 3-story roadside hotel. The stairs are laced with Grecian keys.  The walls are ripe with tropical fruits.  It was all a little too reminiscent of The Shining.  But who needs to sleep on vacation anyway, right?  Nevertheless, our days were spent seeking out swimming holes, ‘borrowing’ currents from the neighbors garden, and an intensive ping-pong tournament in site of Rio 2016.  Although outnumbered, I am happy to report that team America did just fine.

Although a rainstorm would usually put a damper on our summer fun, it promised a new crop of mushrooms!


A cork board in our host’s kitchen proudly collaged photos of cèpes, porcini mushrooms even bigger than portabellas.  Local gossip insisted that mushrooms were left and right, just waiting to hop into a sautee pan.  Flaunting my American optimism and my hankering for an amazing omelette, I insisted we take along two baskets just in case.


But after two afternoons of hunting, foraging, seeking, and/or destroying, the only thing in our baskets was a single pied de mouton, or hedgehog mushroom.  Like all things French, it was treated with egality.  It got chopped up into tiny bits and thrown into some fried fingerling potatoes.  Tant pis.

Many thanks to the frog behind thefrancofly, mon mari, for the delicious snapshots of the hunt.

P.S.  Thefrancofly is now on Pinterest!  Share your favorite foodie illustrations with all your friends, both virtual and real.

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Barley Risotto…An Accidental Delight

Continuing my post-France cleanse, I’m still attempting to be a vegan as much as possible, give or take the Girl Scout cookies that have miraciously popped-up in New York City these days.  Nevertheless, being a veggie has not been as restricting as I have always imagined…although I do get a few groans from friends when making dinner plans.  Although I often lack the discipline to resist those delectable afternoon Tagalongs, being a vegetarian has challenged me to explore new ingredients and think creatively about all those stockpiled beans and whole grains in my cupboard.  Needless to say, let’s talk about barley!  Plus or minus the mushroom barley soup of my childhood, the grain was more or less foreign to me.  I picked up a Goya bag of it from the market, cooked it up, and was hooked.  It can be mixed with soymilk milk and sugar for breakfast, mixed in with soups, or as a perfect addition to a chopped salad.  And it’s a nutritional powerhouse!  Amino acids!  Fiber!  Antioxidants!  And let’s not forget that it has a similar texture of pasta!  What’s not to love?

This afternoon, I had planned to do my own take on the classic mushroom and barley medley by just cooking the barley as instructed and giving it depth by adding sautéed mushrooms.  I started by sautéing the mushrooms with shallots and onions.  In the meantime, I had some homemade vegetable stock simmering away next to me.  To my chagrin, I had all the components of a risotto at my fingertips.  Since barley has the same rounded shape as Arborio rice, why not give it a try as a risotto?  I threw the barley in with the nicely caramelized vegetables and added a half-cup of broth.  I stirred the bubbling barley mixture until the liquid evaporated then added another half-cup of the broth.  Continue stirring in the broth one half-cup at a time until the barley plumps up and the risotto begins to develop a creamy texture.  But be prepared to stir; elbow grease is the only fool-proof ingredient added to risotto.  I added a splash of red wine to give it a touch of depth and sweetness.  And added a little brightness with a handful of chopped parsley and a small squeeze of lemon juice.  And top it off with a handful of parmesan cheese (controversial for a vegan, but necessary for a risotto) and a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  And voila!  Your accidental dinner is done!