|What a pretty basket of mushrooms!|
Here’s something warming for fall. Though most people don’t think of mushrooms as a fall product, it’s when many mushrooms varieties show up in the forest. Porcini (called Cepes in French, Steinpilz in German, Boletus edulis in Science) are my favorite fall fungi, though in our Colorado mountains, they show up after good rains all summer long. You don’t need fresh porcini for this soup – good thing, as they are not available in most places and they cost $30-50/pound when you can find them. Dried porcini are not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. You need 1 oz. to make a big, rich, flavorful soup. Add some fresh mushrooms at the end for even more umami. You can use whatever kind you can find in the supermarket: button, cremini (baby Portobellos), oyster, or if you are feeling flush, some fresh porcini.
This soup is hearty enough for a simple dinner. Serve it with some crusty bread and a big salad.
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
2 stalks of celery, cut into small dice
½ medium red onion, cut into small dice
⅔ cup passata (see Note)
2 bay leaves
¾ – 1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
½ pound sliced fresh mushrooms
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Soak the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water, until rehydrated, about 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and pour the soaking water through some cheesecloth to strain. Reserve the water for the soup. Chop the porcini and put in a soup pot with the lentils, celery, red onion, passata, bay leaves, and ½ teaspoon salt. Combine the mushroom soaking water with cold water to make a total of 6 cups and add to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes until the mushrooms and garlic are lightly browned. Add to the soup along with the black pepper. Taste for salt and serve.
When reheating the soup, add a bit of water because it will thicken up when chilled.
Note: Passata is Italian tomato puree. Unlike American canned tomato puree, it is not cooked, so it tastes fresher. I like Mutti brand which is sold in bottles. You can find it at World Marketplace stores. Pomi brand is another good one. It’s sold in cartons and is available in supermarkets.
Adapted from Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, 2004.
Photo: By George Chernilevsky (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons