Chanterelles and Basil

basilI had two great culinary surprises today. The first was the discovery when I entered the farmer’s market that it was chanterelle season! These woody orange mushrooms are almost always wild gathered and have a tender bite and delicately earthy flavor. Every year, I wait throughs summer for chanterelle season. I had a hunch that I’d be seeing them soon, but I was surprised they were already there today. My second surprise was a bunch of fresh, homegrown basil from a colleague. She had a huge bag that scented the air and disappeared quickly. I grabbed a bag and brought it home.

These are two of the best of this season in the Pacific Northwest. Right now you’ll also find giant heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, and the beginning of heartier winter vegetables.

Cooking Chanterelles

At first I tossed around combining my culinary treasures, but then I decided that I would cook them for two separate meals so my family could enjoy them longer. Tonight, I sauteed the chanterelles in a little butter, tossed them with some thyme and fresh garlic, and used them to top off a batch of mushroom risotto.

When cooking chanterelles, heat a pan to very hot and then add a small amount of butter. Add chanterelles in a single layer so every mushroom is in contact with the pan – do not overcrowd. Allow the chanterelles to saute until they release their liquid and the pan dries – about five minutes – before stirring. Stir and continue to cook for five minutes to brown the mushrooms. Add a dash of salt, some fresh thyme, and minced garlic. After adding the garlic, stir and immediately remove from the heat.

Chanterelles also make a great sauce. Cook as outlined above adding diced onions or shallots at the same time you add the mushrooms. After chanterelles have browned, add garlic and thyme, and then add a small bit of white wine, scraping the pan as the wine evaporates. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and allow to simmer until broth reduces by half. Stir in a swirl of heavy cream and taste to season. Use to top a protein like chicken or as a pasta sauce.

Chanterelles also bake well, so try adding them to a quiche.

Cooking with Basil

I am of the mind that basil loses a lot if you cook it. I believe that the value of basil is in its fresh flavor, so I almost always add fresh basil at the end of cooking. For example, I enjoy making a frittata and topping it with a chiffonade of fresh basil or some homemade pesto. You can also make a caprese salad, slicing heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and then drizzling them with high quality extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling them with torn basil leaves. Season to taste with a little sea salt.