New Mom Foods: Porcini and Puffball Mushrooms

Try new foods! If they’re really expensive mushrooms, try a SMALL amount of new foods.

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Two Mom Food urges fought with each other this week.

Mom Food Urge #1: Don’t spend too much money! Buy food on sale! Get the best deal!

Mom Food Urge #2: Try new things! Strange and untried foods are exciting! Fish candy? Pickled hairy plums? Jackfruit jelly? Sign me up!

This week, I had an email conversation with Anna Mindess about how to approach shopping in markets that sell foods from cultures other than one’s own.

My answer: Buy small, and be brave.

whole porcini mushroom

But it’s easy for me to say that, because mom and I are both frugal (okay, cheap) and adventurous, so we often have shopping trips in which we make it home with some inexpensive grocery item that neither of us has any earthly idea what to do with.

One time, we thought we’d be game and buy fish candy. Pro tip: don’t buy fish candy.

We (mom and James and I) have discovered some of our favorite foods by being brave this way: seasoned nori strips; shrimp chips; ceviche; kim chee; unagi; passionfruit; oxtails.

(Full disclosure: another time, our nerve failed, and we never opened the jar of hairy pickled plums. Scary, seriously.)

So I was talking to Anna about how excellent it is to eat new foods, and the next day, I was at the Berkeley Bowl and saw that they had both fresh porcini and puffball mushrooms, neither of which I’ve tried, so I decided to be brave.

But.

Puffballs: $11.95 a pound. Porcini: $20 or so a pound. Oy.

So I figured out a way to do both things: buy new foods, and not spend too much money.

I bought one of each.

About $3 for one puffball mushroom. About $5 for a porcini. Here’s what they looked like whole:

whole puffball mushroomwhole porcini mushroom

And here they are after slicing:

sliced mushrooms: puffball and porcini

I decided that the best way to sample the true flavor of these was to cook them very simply: After taking a tiny bite of each raw, I sauteed them separately in a little butter, with a tiny bit of salt.

The puffball was much drier than the porcini, and soaked up most of the butter, so it got almost grilled:

sauteed puffball mushroom

This interesting little fungus gave James a little too much of a moldy vibe, so he gave me most of his, which I call a win. I adored it, especially the nutty flavor and the firm texture.

But my real new love is fresh porcini. Here it is after being sauteed. Because it’s so moist, it was almost stewed:

sauteed porcini mushroom

I could have made a whole dinner out of the mushrooms. However, here’s the dinner we actually ate. Roasted veggies, cheddar sausages, crash hot potatoes made with purple potatoes, and the mushrooms. VERY very good.

dinner: roasted veggies (carrots, onions, garlic, red peppers); cheddar sausages; crash hot purple potatoes topped with each kind of mushroom

In the future, I will use this New Mom Foods feature to try new things that I’ve been wanting to taste, or to take your challenges for new foods to try. Ideas?

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Author: Serene

I run The Mom Food Project, which was born out of love for my mom and a desire to preserve the recipes of my childhood, which didn't actually exist in written form until I quizzed my mom and wrote the recipes down.

10 thoughts on “New Mom Foods: Porcini and Puffball Mushrooms”

  1. this looks insanely delicious!
    new ideas to try – some of those cool-ass vegies I saw in my seed catalogue! also: I need some ideas for squash…

      1. oh gosh. I planted everything willy-nilly and have NO IDEA what I planted. I know there are round disc squashes, yellow long squashes, squashes that look like watermelons (sort of) and squashes that have bottle necks. GO MERIAH!!! crazy planting.

  2. Have you found passionfruit anywhere other than Berkeley Bowl? I rarely see them in stores and I’m hoping there is some secret less-expensive source for them, especially since I see (ornamental only, I think) passionfruit vines growing around here.

    1. I haven’t, but I rarely shop anywhere except the Bowl. When I’m elsewhere, though, I’ll keep an eye out. And now, I’m really curious to see if the local plants are ornamental or edible. Love their flowers!

  3. I have a copy of The Grubbag, a very interesting cookbook from 1971 with the tagline “An underground cookbook. The practical, philosophical and political aspects of food – with recipes and metaphysics.”, and what you said about the mushrooms above reminded me of this quote from it:

    For some of us the idea of fresh mushroom soup has tip-toed across our minds, but we’ve suppressed it and once again walked past the bin sighing, “Christ — seventy-nine cents a pound — what do they want, blood?” (and flesh too).

    But then one day the author is determined to make mushroom soup anyway, and is pleased to find that mushrooms are so lightweight that she can get quite a few while still staying well under the shocking-for-1971 seventy-nine cents.

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