That fabulous fungusThose generic, off-white, bulbous buttons that used to mean "mushroom" to most of us have moved to the sidelines in recent years. Now, replacing or sitting next to the one-size-fits-all fungi, we have a vibrant variety of velvety mushrooms that can be brown, yellow, red, or black, meaty firm or feather light, ranging in flavor from earthy to fruity to somewhat seafood-like. This exotic array, once remote and risky, is being collected and cultivated all over the world; they've found their way into our supermarkets and gourmet shops and into creative home cooks' repertoires. Thirteen years ago, food writer Amy Farges and her husband founded a wild mushroom and truffle business. Aux Delices des Bois grew, prospered (dare we say mushroomed), and recently morphed into Marche aux Delice, a major mushroom catalog. The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer (Workman, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 0761122028, paperback, $16.95, ISBN 076110660X) is the result of Amy's passion for mycological miracles, her in-depth expertise and gastronomic know how. She begins with "Mushrooms 101," a guide to selecting, storing, cleaning, and cooking these incredible edibles, then takes you through 175 recipes from finger foods, salads, soups, and sides to sustaining mains, breads, and condiments. The dishes are inventive, unusual, trendy, and chic; some have multi-ethnic overtones (Seared Cod with Porcini a La Grecque, Duck and Shiitake Tortillas), some are unabashedly extravagant (Roasted Squab with Black Truffles), and others are variations on the well-known (Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout). They may take time and planning, but Fargis has supplied the enthusiasm to urge you on and the detailed directions to make it all happen.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.