On Saturday mornings I head down to Hell’s Kitchen for a yoga class. After class finishes at noon, I stroll back uptown along 9th avenue, through the transition between HK and the upper west side, and past Lincoln Center. Across from the center’s newly redesigned north end I stop at the small but densely stocked Tucker Square greenmarket, which inhabits the triangle created by the intersection of Columbus and Broadway at 66th street. I love the yoga class, but the opportunity to visit the farmer’s market afterwards is a huge part of the draw, too.
Two vendors in particular make this greenmarket very dear to my heart: Bobolink Farm, purveyor of stellar artisan breads and knee-weakeningly delicious raw-milk cheeses, and the mushroom guy, who presides over a table overflowing with fresh wild mushrooms — shiitake, porcini, oyster, king oyster, maitake. He’s a character (not as much of a character as this mushroom guy, perhaps, but close). I have him to thank for introducing me to the gustatory pleasures of the ruffled, earthy, and subtly truffle-scented maitake — he tossed one into my bag of shiitakes as a rainy-day bonus during a recent visit, and I’ve been craving them ever since. This week, noticing that the Bobolink stall was set up adjacent to the mushroom guy’s table, a lightbulb went off — lunch (glorious, ravenous, post-yoga lunch!) would be sauteed wild mushrooms on toast.
From the mushroom guy I selected a quarter-pound of shiitakes, a hunk broken from one of his enormous oyster mushrooms, and a maitake of course. Have you ever nestled your nose right up to a pile of wild mushrooms? The aroma is intoxicating, like inhaling a forest floor (assuming this sort of thing appeals to your olfactory senses. It does to mine). My mushrooms safely tucked into a paper bag, I moved on to Bobolink and chose a hearty, 100% sourdough rye levain as the foundational layer for my toasts. With an accompanying salad in mind, I picked up some greenhouse-grown pea shoots at one of the other vendors, and I was on my way.
Arriving home and growing hungrier by the minute, I got to work sauteing the mushrooms in butter and olive oil until they were tender and golden and crisp-edged, then finishing them with minced garlic. I toasted slices of levain and slathered them with chevre, into which I had mixed fresh thyme and rosemary, and then piled the warm, buttery, garlic-kissed mushrooms on top. I arranged the toasts alongside a small mountain of pea shoots, dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice, flaky Maldon sea salt, and black pepper. And, remembering a bottle of rich, syrupy 9-year balsamic in the fridge, I drizzled a touch over everything; a perfect complement to the earthy mushrooms and bright, grassy greens.
wild mushroom toasts with herbed chevre
Accompanied by lightly dressed greens these toasts make a satisfying meal for one. They would also be a great first course or, cut into smaller portions, a tasty hors d’oeurve or appetizer for a group. If you don’t have wild mushrooms, button mushrooms or portobellos would make fine stand-ins.
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for finishing the toasts
- 3/4 pound mixed wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake, oyster, or porcini, tough stems removed, and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp chevre or other soft goat cheese
- 3/4 tsp minced fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary and thyme)
- 2 slices of hearty peasant-style bread, or a few slices of baguette, toasted
- balsamic vinegar, for finishing
- Maldon sea salt, for finishing
Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring every few minutes, until they are golden-brown and slightly crisp around the edges, about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Stir together the chevre and herbs and spread the mixture over the toasts. Pile the warm mushrooms on top of the toasts and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. If you like, sprinkle a little sea salt over each toast.