Whip a dip so good you’ll flip! <br>Strawberry Cheesecake Dip - Mulligatawny Soup - Chocolate Mousse Pie </br>Little Piece of my Heart - Dressed to Impress; Mastering Classic Vinaigrette - Pop Quiz! What’s the best way to uncork Champagne?  </br> Michael DeLoach -

Charmoon Richardson, Mushroom Master

Mushrooms were never on our family table when I grew up. My mother didn’t understand them and fretted that we might ingest poison fungi and “drop like a dying elephant.” How, she reasoned, would we know what was safe—and could merchants be trusted to know what they were selling?

It wasn’t until I grew up and moved away that I sampled my first supermarket white button mushrooms. It was instant love and I put them in everything: soups, stews, on meats, and in sandwiches and salads. Friends thought that my cooking was exotic and “gourmet” and came back for second helpings. Portabellas and baby browns soon followed.

And then, decades later, came Charmoon. Life in my kitchen will never be the same. Charmoon Richardson joined our Beyond Wonderful team of culinary experts last fall writing about golden chanterelles and black trumpets. A mushroom master, Charmoon has spent the last 30 years collecting and studying wild mushrooms in northern California and writing about his foraging and cooking adventures. I was instantly inspired and set-out in search of these treasures, becoming an urban forager. I found that many upscale supermarkets and specialty grocery stores sold the golden chanterelles and black trumpets for premium prices, but they often appeared tired and were broken in to glandular looking pieces. A bit of research located the West Fungi store in San Francisco. This small, family-run shop has a knowledgeable staff that always helps me select the freshest mushrooms at prices equal to or lower than supermarkets.

Morel mushrooms star in Charmoon’s column this month. They are a bit of heaven on earth and their amazing depth of flavor must be experienced first-hand. In addition to wonderful stories and information, Charmoon teaches you how to clean and cook morels, and then presents three easy recipes that are packed with flavor.

This week in the kitchen, I prepared his recipes for our photo shoot. I brushed away all of the grit and grime and started cooking. My personal favorite was the Morel Mushrooms Stuffed with Crab and Gruyere. This sounds complicated but it came together quickly. I bought cooked Dungeness crab meat from my fish monger, tossed it in a bowl and mixed in the gruyere cheese, bread crumbs and a sprinkling of salt. My one recommendation here is that you buy medium to large morels, as the small ones will be impossible to fill. Once stuffed the morels are dipped in pungent garlic butter, then grilled over wood smoke until crisp. All of mine burst open exposing their succulent crab filling—but this only heightened their appeal.

Photographer Windsor Andersen styled all of the dishes, then speared one of the crab-stuffed mushrooms with a fork for the last shot. As soon as she finished, the crispy morsel disappeared in to her mouth and she uttered “Sooo good! I’ve never tasted anything like this.” The rest of the team circled like hungry dogs and instantly consumed everything in sight.
Having conquered the urban landscape, I’m feeling ready to strap on my hiking boots and join Charmoon for one of his organized foraging trips in to the wilds. Knowledge and experience is power, so I’m confident there won’t be any “dropping elephants” any time soon. Stay tuned for details!

Get a printable Morel Mushrooms Stuffed with Crab and Gruyere Cheese recipe.

Read more about Charmoon Richardson.

Contact Charmoon Richardson for guided mushroom hunts, classes on mushroom identification, cooking and cultivation. Learn more at his Wild About Mushrooms company website, or call 707-829-2063.