Monday, April 23, 2012

Pesto Crostini with Buttery Chanterelle Mushrooms...

As I mentioned yesterday my husband and I celebrated Earth Day with a delicious spring-time feast. Originally my plan was not to create five unique dishes, in fact I had initially hoped to find some good dishes amongst my many wonderful cook books. Alas this was not the case. Though I have several cook books that do dedicate specific dishes to the celebration of Earth Day I found them all rather lacking. None of them, in my opinion seemed particularly festive. None of them used simple earthy flavors, or common springtime ingredients. The few that did, did so in an uninspired way that left me feeling unimpressed. Fewer of them still used ingredients that were green, which must surely be a travesty. So I quickly realized that if I wanted a magical Earth Day dinner that lived up to all the standards I’d set in place, I’d simply have to create one myself, from scratch.

Starting with an appetizer. This was actually the most difficult dish to come up with because I honestly didn’t know what I felt like having for an appetizer. I had many weapons in my arsenal as my fridge and pantry were fully stocked but I just couldn’t decide on a dish. Finally I came to the realization that no Earth Day dinner would be complete without a dish involving mushrooms and from that one tiny thought this dish began to take shape.

I thought of all the ways I could use mushrooms, and all the ways to cook them. I finally settled on sauteeing them in butter but then needed to decide what kind of mushroom to use, and what vehicle to use for them. After a little more thought I came to the realization that the best kinds of mushrooms to use on Earth Day would be wild ones. Unfortunately my local grocery had other plans and were conveniently out of the Morel mushrooms I’d originally wanted to use. After a bit of thought I decided to go with Chanterelle mushrooms which I had never eaten before. I chose them because I’ve always thought they had an elegance about them, a certain kind of class, and I’ve always heard good things about their flavor. Unfortunately my grocery only had the dried variety but in the end it worked out amazingly! I’ve read that while dried chanterelle mushrooms loose some of their texture in the drying process and become more chewy even after soaking that they have a more intense flavor then their fresh counterparts. As I’ve never eaten fresh chanterelle’s I can’t say, but the dried variety sure pack a flavor punch! 

Once I had my mushrooms I needed to decide what to do. It didn’t take me very long to come to the conclusion that mushrooms as a topping for toasted bread is always a delicious idea, and once that thought entered my mind it was only a matter of seconds before I thought PESTO! 

This dish marks two firsts for me. 1) My first time eating chanterelle Mushrooms and 2) My first time eating mushrooms with pesto. The combination was so mind-blowingly good that I honestly can’t believe I’d never thought to do it before. A nice buttery chanterelle mixed with a mouth watering pesto is a match made by the goddess, and simply irresistible! If you haven’t tried it either then you must. I already foresee a lot of mushroom/pesto topped bread in my future.

Don’t be daunted by the steps either, while there are several this dish is actually relatively quick, and definitely easy. It comes together in a snap!

Pesto Crostini with Buttery Chanterelle Mushrooms 

1 French Style Baguette Cut into ½ inch thick rounds
1 Batch Walnut Basil Pesto (Recipe follows)
1 Garlic Clove cut in half
2oz Dried Chanterelle Mushrooms ***
1-2 Tbsp Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter

Walnut Basil Pesto 

2/3 C Walnuts 
2/3 C Olive Oil
2oz Fresh Basil (Roughly 1 super packed Cup)
3-4 Garlic Cloves 
Black and White Pepper to taste 
Sea Salt to taste ***
Water to thin as needed 

- Preheat oven to 350'F (175'C) 

- To make the pesto place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until they’ve been ground into a fine meal. Add in the olive oil, basil, garlic cloves, black, and white pepper and salt. Pulse until well combined, then test for consistency. If too thick add a little water 1 tbsp at a time to thin. Add salt and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust salt ad needed.

*** Note - I find the more salt you add, the more a walnut pesto tastes like a ‘traditional’ pesto. However you want to be very careful when adding salt because there is a very, very fine line between just enough and too much. Once you cross that line you can’t go back. When adding salt I suggest adding it a 1/4 tsp at a time, or if you’re tolerance for salt is low add an 1/8 tsp at a time. Pulse after every addition, and keep adding until you’ve got the salt level to your liking. I personally never measure the salt when I make pesto, I just shake the jar over the processor pulse, and taste. Although the finished product probably ends up like something around ½-3/4 tsp.***

- Once the pesto has been made set it aside and continue on with the next step.

- Rub each side of your bread rounds with the sliced garlic clove. Then place on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and stick in the oven to toast. After 2-3 minutes remove from the oven, flip each slice over and return for another 2-3 minutes until bread is golden and crispy.

*** Note - Toasted bread is delicious, but more often then not I prefer untoasted bread as it doesn’t scratch the roof of my mouth. So if you prefer you can leave your bread untoasted and this dish will be just as delicious!***

- Place your dried Chanterelle Mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for thirty minutes to soften. After 30 minutes drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid and pat dry. Then chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces. 

- Heat the Earth Balance in a saute pan over medium heat. When melted add in the chopped chanterelle’s. Mix thoroughly to make sure all mushrooms get coated with a bit of the EB. Then saute for 5 minutes then add 2-3 Tbsp of the reserved cooking liquid. Saute another 5-8 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat when done.

*** Note - If you prefer to use fresh chanterelle mushrooms instead you can. I had to use dried because fresh chanterelle’s weren’t avalible to me over the weekend. If you use fresh however keep in mind that the cooking time may vary, and of course you won’t need to soak them thus you will not have mushroom soaking liquid. If your pan becomes to dry during sauteing just add a little more Earth Balance, or olive oil, or water to de-glaze the pan.***

- To Assemble, spoon a generous amount of pesto onto each slice of bread, and top with a spoonful of the sauteed chanterelle’s. Serve immediately and enjoy!

*** Note - Soy-Free if using a soy-free non-dairy butter. Can be made Gluten-Free by using GF Bread*** 


  1. I only have 2 words...LOOKS DELICIOUS!!! S.T.

  2. This was such a great dish! I love mushrooms but pesto can be a bit much if I eat too much of it. However, this dish would be good for those who aren't huge pesto fans. I really enjoyed it! Thanks for putting in all that hard work coming up w/ a delicious appetizer!