Les Champignons de Paris
A few months ago through the magic of Facebook, I read a story about a little appreciated gem in the organic food bins of Paris. Les champignons de Paris, to be more specific.
A cross between ordinary button mushrooms and porcini, these fungi are grown in old limestone mines deep within some of the abandoned Métro tunnels on the fringes of the city and are readily available throughout the year, thanks to the mushroom farmers who maintain the tradition. The problem is, there are only about six growers left, according to the article, yet to my happy surprise one day I realized the bin in my local Bio C'Bon organic grocer was labeled 'Champignon de Paris'. Was it a marketing trick or were these the real deal? Hmm... The label on the box reads their origin is Périgord, from the Aquitaine region of south central France, not exactly from the spooky catacombs of City of Light. But did it matter when the mystique was so tempting? I had to find out, so in the basket they went.
Searching for a recipe to showcase my treasures, I settled upon one inspired by Giada De Laurentiis's citrusy mushroom salad. Using ingredients available year-round, I like the lift that lemon gives in winter. During hot summer months, I find the celery especially cooling, and the salty character of celery makes a refreshing vegan replacement for the parmesan cheese called for in the original recipe. Fresh and fragrant basil lends an earthy note. Overall, the texture and crunch make a great combination.
If you can find celery in the shops with leaves attached, you're so lucky!! You'll be able to enjoy an intense flavor of the vegetable, which compliments the mushrooms without overwhelming them. Plus, you'll enjoy its wonderful cleansing properties, which help to flush the system of toxins while aiding digestion, and the lemon juice will alkalize your blood and bring your body into balance.
I do not receive any endorsements for recommending a product, but unless you possess the knife skills of a Ninja, consider investing in a simple, Japanese mandoline to make the job go much easier and infinitely faster. Just please, please, please mind your fingers! Mushrooms are a bit too small to use with the plastic guard that comes with the mandoline and Kevlar gloves aren't quite practical for the job. The bulbs whittle down quickly and could leave you in for a shock unless you're careful, but the fine slices are worth the effort.
MUSHROOM CELERY SALAD
- 1 lb fresh mushrooms (button or a mix of button and cremini mushrooms), stemmed, cleaned and sliced very thin
- 1/2 Cup celery, tops reserved (optional), sliced very thin
- 2-3 T parsley, chopped
- 2-3 T basil leaves, julienned
- celery leaves, chopped (optional)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt, cracked pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except lemon juice and olive oil in a medium salad bowl. Toss to combine. Pour on the juice and oil, season, and continue to toss until all ingredients are well incorporated. The acid in the lemon juice will begin to break down the greens, so consume as soon after mixing as possible. (You can also leave the prepared vegetables ready in the bowl, as shown above, and wait to combine with the oil and juice at the last minute before serving.)
Excellent when served with a simple grain, like the baguette Giada suggests, or keep it gluten-free and use as an accompaniment to cooked quinoa.
Good and good for you, I think this simple but delicious salad is just about perfect.
Let's eat! Bon appetit!
À tout à l'heure...