There are a few amazing food finds that make the hair on the back of your neck rise and your fingers tingleâ€¦a bowl of spectacularly fresh and enormous morels are one of those finds. At the Union Square Market, the mushroom selection was mouth-watering. This bowl of morels was spied at 7:30 am, just a little after opening, so I canâ€™t imagine they lasted much longer than another half hour. They didnâ€™t fit in with the menu we were shopping for that day so we didnâ€™t buy any but they were stunning nonetheless! Morels are unique in that they donâ€™t have a typical â€œcapâ€ on a stem, instead they have a tall body that has lots of grooves in it, like a natural sponge or head of corral. The American morels tend to be noticeably bigger than their European cousins. These specimens were picked from the wild and the provedore was explaining to another customer that you have to pinpoint an area where they grow and keep checking it every year to harvest the highly sought after mushrooms. They should always be eaten cooked and they are absolutely delicious.
Another vendor at the market had an impressive array of cultivated mushrooms which included these shiitake mushrooms, clumps of oyster mushrooms and medium sized portobellos. The shiitakes and even the oyster mushrooms are great in Asian style stir fries or I like to bake the oysters with oil, garlic, salt and pepper as an appetizer. The portobellos grill up nicely and are often used as a vegetarian alternative to meat. Frankly, I like my meat but grilled portobellos are delicious served as part of an antipasto platter or as a sidedish.
Finally, a huge basket filled with just the right sized creminis, which are actually just juvenile portobellos and also very closely related to button or white mushrooms. The color and consistency are what separates this mushroom from the basic white button mushrooms you would buy in the supermarket. I have consulted several sources but canâ€™t figure out if there is any story behind their nameâ€¦ some people think the name was just made up. What was really nice about all of these mushrooms on offer at the Union Square market was that they were really quite dry to the touch. Picking mushrooms in moist conditions can mean storage problems (they spoil faster) and less flavor when you cook. If you notice our white mushrooms in Manila often tend to be incredibly wateryâ€¦