Tuesday, June 21, 2011

summer solstice

What can I say? We love celebrations. Crowds not so much, so we usually celebrate at home. Once upon another life-time that meant a bottle of good wine, beautiful cheeses, crusty fresh bread, and strongly flavored olives. On days like today, I miss those quasi-meals. I can still enjoy some olives and, most definitely, the wine, but cheese and bread are but distant memories. Celebrations, happily, remain!

We have parties for the Night of the Shooting Stars in August, a huge egg hunt at Easter, birthday bashes, and really go all out for Thanksgiving, and there's no way we're passing up celebrating the beginning of summer with all its symbolism and history. This will be a small celebration, a fancy-shmancy dinner at home, but a celebration none-the-less.

I just received an email from Opolo winery announcing that one of their newer reds, Montagna Mare, has just been awarded a gold medal as Best in Class at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. Since we have a couple of bottles in the wine rack, it's become my new inspiration for tonight's dinner. That means the wild salmon filets thawing right now in the refrigerator will have to wait. I'm thinking Hearst Ranch filet mignon, instead. The beet salad I've already started should still work, along with a nice green salad, and a potato dish of some kind, which I don't eat but it wouldn't be much of a celebration for GK without potatoes. And we have to have fresh mushrooms sauteed with shallots and fresh tarragon, either on or along side the steaks. I'm inclined toward smothering them with mushrooms at the moment. A well stocked freezer and pantry, along with a backyard herb garden,  mean I get to do this without stopping by the store on my way home from work. Yay!

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I would have equated sauteed mushrooms with piles of fresh butter. Mushrooms and eggs, I've since discovered, are wonderful---even better---cooked in olive or coconut oil. Olive oil is my current personal favorite, but you should try both and decide.

The recipe here is more like a template than a recipe. Neither quantities nor cooking times are exact because I really don't believe there is only one way to prepare it. It's a personal preference thing, and it's so darned easy to make that it's worth playing with a bit. These mushrooms may become a staple, and if that is the case, just remember not to tell everyone how easy it is to make them.

sauteed mushrooms

I'm not including quantities here because sometimes we make two servings and sometimes we're serving a small army. Adjust each amount as you need using this guideline. For one pound of mushrooms, you'll need about 3 ounces of good olive oil, one shallot, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs.

  • good olive oil
  • fresh, firm mushrooms, brown or white, sliced 1/8 to 1/4" thick.
  • shallots, sliced or diced
  • fresh French tarragon, thyme, parsley, or a combination
  • dry white wine, Champagne vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
preparing the dish
Heat large, shallow pan on burner set to medium heat.
Carefully pour in olive oil to barely cover bottom of pan.
Quickly add sliced mushrooms. As mushrooms begin to brown, add shallots.
Continue cooking, stirring or turning occasionally, until browned to your preference. Some like them golden, others a rich dark, toasty brown. When you like the color, stir in the fresh herbs and wine.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Some people like to salt earlier in the process. Since salt draws moisture from the mushrooms, I prefer to wait until the end on this dish.
Be sure to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, and stir in a bit of your best olive oil.

notes and comments
I love this dish and use variations of it often. Most tender, green herbs do very well with mushrooms, in my opinion. I like dill, chives, parsley, or whatever is pretty and fresh in the garden or on the window sill. Thyme and mushrooms are really nice together.
This works really well served over steaks, chicken, rice, or quinoa. It also makes a delicious omelet filling.
Mushrooms can be quartered instead of sliced and prepared the same way. They're great in chunks for an appetizer or a side dish.


  1. Sounded like a great dinner. Mushrooms are one of my favorite veggies. How do you make beet salad? Do you use fresh beets. I keep looking at fresh beets at farmers markets.
    Bev K

  2. I use fresh beets and usually boil or steam them until tender. How long it takes depends on the size of the beets, but it's pretty easy to test them with a small knife inserted in the stem end of the beet. They're kind of fun to peel, too. After they've cooled in their cooking liquid enough to handle, just rub firmly with a paper towel. The skin comes off easily at that point. My salad is very simple. Cut up the beets, add chunky slices of red onion, and fresh basil. I use a crush whole clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, a touch of good balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper to dress it. It keeps for a few day and can be served cold or at room temperature. It's really pretty, too.

  3. I shared a bite of a Hearst Ranch filet mignon and a few mushrooms with a friend at work. I am really impressed with that meat and wanted her to try it. She said "sure the meat is fine, but what's that flavor in the mushrooms?" My first thought was "Hey, you're supposed to notice the steak." Then I smiled. It was one of those moments when you know the recipe works. Pamela


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