This make-ahead Italian-style dish is ideal for summer entertaining
During the lazy days of summer we want to be, well, lazy. But we still want to entertain. So we look for dishes that are easy to make, preferably ones we can prepare ahead of time.
Enter these Italian-style marinated mushrooms. Flavored with olive oil, lemon, and vinegar, they make a wonderful appetizer or side dish. And they taste better when made several hours ahead, or even the day before serving. They’re also delicious when cold or at room temperature – so they’re perfect for the picnic table.
Plus they taste really good! Kind of addictive, actually. Magic mushrooms, you might say.
Recipe: Marinated Mushrooms
This dish (and its close relations) can be found throughout the Mediterranean region, although it may be most popular in Italy. There are countless recipes for marinated mushrooms. Ours is based on one by Martha Rose Shulman, from her wonderful cookbook Mediterranean Harvest.
It takes no more than half an hour to make this dish. Then you’ll want to let the flavors mingle together in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Better yet, overnight.
This recipe yields enough appetizer-size servings for about 8 people (or half that number if serving it as a side).
Leftovers keep for a couple of days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 pound mushrooms (the ordinary white ones work well; see Notes)
- 2 garlic cloves (or to taste)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar (something mild; see Notes)
- black pepper to taste (about a dozen grinds for us)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us, or half that if using regular table salt; see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons parsley for garnish
- Wipe any dirt off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. If the mushrooms are small, you can leave them whole. If they’re medium-sized or large, cut them into halves or quarters. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely. Set aside.
- Cook this dish in a large, nonreactive skillet: Add the minced garlic to the skillet along with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, vinegar, black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the skillet and return to a simmer. Cook, turning once, until the mushrooms are tender – about 5 minutes (depending on size). When done, remove the skillet from the heat and let the mushrooms cool in the liquid.
- When cool, pour the contents of the skillet into a nonreactive container (we like to use a Corning Ware bowl with a lid). Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- When ready to serve, wash and stem the parsley. Chop it roughly, then combine it with the mushroom mixture.
- Remove the mushrooms from their container with a slotted spoon and place them in a serving dish. Sprinkle a bit more parsley on top if you wish. We usually serve this dish with small forks, but toothpicks work equally well.
- What kind of mushrooms to use in this dish? Any variety will work, although we prefer the ordinary white ones. Baby portobellos are a good choice, too.
- Stem the mushrooms or not? Your preference. We usually don’t.
- You can add fresh herbs to this dish if you’d like. Thyme or rosemary are particularly welcome. Use maybe a teaspoon or so. Oregano or marjoram would probably work too.
- What kind of vinegar works best? Any sort of mild wine vinegar. We prefer to use a white variety, and often opt for Champagne vinegar. Sherry vinegar would be nice, too.
- We’ve seen recipes for this dish that suggest adding capers. We haven’t tried that, but it sounds good.
- For cooking, we use kosher salt, which is about half as salty by volume as table salt. That’s because its crystals are larger and don’t pack a measure as tightly. If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we recommend.
- But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “These are even better than those funny mushrooms of our youth.”
“Those were some psycho shrooms,” I said. “But these go better with a glass of chilled wine.”
“Plus, I don’t need to dig out my old tie-dyed jeans to enjoy them,” said Mrs K R.
“Those bell-bottom ones?” I said. “It would be a trip to see those again.”
“Yeah, they would open your third eye,” said Mrs K R. “Or maybe just inspire a third helping.”
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