Grilling need not come to an end just because the summer is over, especially if the weather is still fine, as it is this weekend where we live. Beautiful cloudless skies and mild temperatures are perfect for grilling—even better, if you ask me, than the sultry days of August and early September. And many seasonable vegetables are wonderful grilled, none more so than mushrooms. Grilled mushroom caps are a special early autumn treat. Their meaty texture and smoky flavor resembles nothing so much as a nice, juicy steak. And they’re just as simple to make.
Just make a quick marinade from abundant olive oil seasoned with a finely minced garlic clove, finely chopped parsley, salt, pepper and a pinch of oregano or—if you have some—that special herb called nepitella which goes perfectly with mushrooms. Take some large mushroom caps and brush them generously with the seasoned oil, top and bottom. Then grill them over a hot fire, about 3 minutes per side, and serve on a bed of greens or—for that special Fall feeling—some radicchio leaves dressed with oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle some olive oil over the top, season generously with salt and pepper and sprinkle them with some finely chopped parsley. Ecco fatto!
NOTES: The finest mushrooms for grilling, and the most typical in Italy, are fresh porcini. But if you can’t find them or just don’t want to pay through the nose, then other firm-fleshed mushrooms like portobellos will do. Large whole caps really do make for great eating, but smaller mushrooms also grill up fine—just reduce the grilling time according to size. Some people like to slice the mushrooms before grilling, in which case make sure you use a fine grate or grilling basket so they don’t fall on to the coals.
Mushrooms absorb a lot of condiment, so do be generous with the marinade and make sure to dress them well before serving. In fact, I like to have some extra olive oil, salt and pepper on the table so your dinner companions can add more seasoning to the mushrooms if they want.
Radicchio really marries well with mushrooms, but you can also serve your grilled mushrooms, like a fine tagliata di manzo, with arugula, or just on their own. They make for a nice antipasto or a vegetarian (vegan, if fact) second course. They can also serve as a topping for an actual steak if you feel like meat.