Admittedly, I will never be as good a cook as my Aunt Pat, who can always whip up an Italian feast for 40 at the drop of a hat with litte more than a tomato and a box of pasta, but I have, over the past few years, been upping my game in the kitchen. Most of that has to do with the help of amazing cookbooks I’ve received as gifts. Some of my favorites are Urban Vegan, the Greens Cookbook, and All about Vegetarian Cooking. Two years ago or so I received Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster’s Market by Sara Foster. It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, but I’ve found some of my favorite recipes in that book thanks to my cousin Beth. Here is one of my favorites that people are always asking me about (all thanks to Sara, of course. I just do as she says in this recipe and it comes out perfect every time).
Wild Mushroom Soup with Sherry and Thyme
(Serves 8-10, makes about 2 1/2 quarts)
2 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms such as chanterelle, oyster, portobello, cremini, shiitake, or dried porcini
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced, trimmings reserved
4 shallots, minced, trimmings reserved
2 celery stalks, diced, trimmings reserved
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced (I always use WAY more)
1 cup dry sherry
Leaves from 3 fresh thyme sprigs (about 1 Tbsp)
6 cups mushroom broth or chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Wipe the mushrooms clean with damp cloth or paper towel. Cut the stems off the mushrooms and coarsely chop. (Reserve the stems to make mushroom broth later). If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes, rinse, and roughly chop.
2. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of olive oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and shallots, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the celery and apple and cook about 5 minutes longer. Add the remaning 2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp olive oil and mushrooms to the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and have reduced in size, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir for 1 minute longer, being careful not to brown the garlic.
3. Stir in the sherry and cook to reduce for about a minute. Add the thyme, broth, salt and pepper and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes so the flavors can meld. Cool slightly.
4. Ladle out 2 cups of the soup and place in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender fitted with a metal blade. puree until smooth and add the pureed soup back to the pot with the chunky soup or use an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the pot, making sure to leave it slightly chunky. Stir in the parsley and serve warm.
The discarded stems of the mushrooms make a broth you can use later! Place the cleaned stems in a large saucepan with the vegetable trimmings from the soup, 3 bay leaves, 1 halved large onion, 1 roughly chopped carrot, roughly chopped celery stalk, 1 Tbsp salt, and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Cover with 2 to 3 quarts of water and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. strain the broth through a strainer or colander. In an airtight container, this broth will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.