Fennel Mushrooms Recipe

A fennel mushroom recipe inspired by one of my vintage cookbooks, The Seasonal Kitchen by Perla Meyers. It's a simple, brilliant twist on everyday sauteed mushrooms with dill, chives, fresh fennel, and a kiss of creme fraiche.

Fennel Mushrooms

I thought it might be fun to highlight a few vintage cookbooks in the coming months. I pick them up here and there, without much rhyme or reason. There might be a design element I like, it might be the voice of the author, or sometimes a single recipe pops out at me. I typically flip through them in antique shops on road trips, at yard sales and flea markets, but I found this gem at Omnivore Books here in San Francisco - The Seasonal Kitchen: A Return to Fresh Foods. Published in 1973, it is by Perla Meyers, was published by Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, and designed by Al Corchia. I did an updated take on Perla's Fennel Mushroom recipe for today's post, it's a simple, brilliant twist on everyday sauteed mushrooms with dill, chives, fresh fennel, and a kiss of creme fraiche.

Fennel MushroomsFennel MushroomsThere are so many things that resonate with me in this book - subject matter, design, the emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. More than anything, I love the approachability of Perla's voice. She opens the book by saying, "Of all the reasons I have for writing The Seasonal Kitchen, the most important is to communicate and understanding of freshness and encourage a return to seasonal cooking. This is not a book for organic-food buffs, however, but for anyone willing to explore and rediscover the marvelous potential of fresh food." Remember, this book was published nearly forty years ago. In many ways it reads like it was written yesterday.

Fennel MushroomsFennel MushroomsFennel Mushrooms

You just don't see cookbooks that look like this today. Even better, the ideas behind the recipes are straight-forward, produce-centric, and easy to update. To make these mushrooms, I replaced a substantial amount of sour cream with a dollop of creme fraiche, and never missed the former. And I give a few suggestions related to serving them in the head notes below.

This book was a real find, the sort of discovery that keeps me digging through stacks of books, but I'm certainly not the first to sing Perla's praises. Perla Meyers elsewhere:

- New York Times
- Perla Meyers: The Seasonal Cook
- A Culinary Luminary: Perla Meyers

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Fennel Mushrooms

The mushrooms are great on their own (as pictured), spooned over a thick slab of grilled, garlic-rubbed bread, or over a simple baked potato. They make a fantastic tart or sandwich filling, and would be great as a component in a simple fall panzanella. I used nameko mushrooms here, a favorite from my farmers market, but brown mushrooms will work brilliantly as well. To clean mushrooms use a damp paper towel to remove dirt.

12 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
a few pinches fine grain sea salt
1 small bulb of fennel, trimmed and sliced very thinly
1-2 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
a small bunch of chives, minced
freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of watercress, sorrel, or arugula
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Cut mushrooms, if needed, into 1/3-inch thick slices. The mushrooms I used, up above, we're mostly left whole.

In your largest skillet, over high heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and a few pinches of salt, and use a spatula to stir until coated. Saute, stirring every minute or so, until the mushrooms release their water and brown a bit - 4-5 minutes. Two minutes before the mushrooms are done cooking, stir in the fennel. When finished, removed from heat, wait ten seconds, and stir in the creme fraiche. Add most of the dill and chives, pepper and more salt if needed.

Quickly toss the watercress with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Serve the mushrooms immediately alongside the watercress.

Serves 2-3.

Inspired by the Fennel Mushroom recipe in The Season Kitchen, by Perla Meyers, published by Holt, Rinehart, & Winston in 1973.

Prep time: 5 minutes - Cook time: 7 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I had that cookbook way back when and it was a favorite. I seemed to have lost it in one of my moves. Thanks for the recipe.


I love the sound of this book, Heidi, it fits so well with my own philosophy. What a great find!

Lizzy (Good Things)

Your post made me pull out my copy of this (yellowed) vintage cookbook. I used to use it all the time and it introduced me to the concept of seasonal cooking that I still utilize. Try the bass in basil sauce (for summer). The recipe calls for freshwater (small) bass, but I usually get the larger ocean fillets. Yum!

Barbara O.

Wow. The concept and the design both feel really of-the-moment. What a gorgeous book! I'd love a copy,


The Seasonal Kitchen was one if my very first cookbooks! It's wonderful that you are reviving it.


Great flavor combination. Fresh fennel is so great!


"Remember, this book was published nearly forty years ago. In many ways it reads like it was written yesterday." That is exactly what I was thinking when I read the quote. It is amazing how people were looking at food like this so long ago (not just quick convenience foods for their new microwaves). It almost seems like a "fad" today.


Love this idea, Heidi, and always wanted to do something similar on my blog with all of my grandmother's vintage cookbooks ... ah, if there were only more hours in the day! Hope you're enjoying that Indian summer I'm hearing tales of. xx, mg

Megan Gordon

I'm so happy to see you feature this book. I bought it when it was newly out in paperback, when I returned from my first year at French university. It helped me feel not so far away from Europe. I use it so often that it is one of the few books sitting in my tiny kitchen.


More than 30,000 rare and out of print cookbooks are available at this store. (626) 296-1638. E-mail: [email protected]


I love vintage cook books. I collect them and can never resist them when I see them at yard sales, thift shops, and whatnot. My favorite are Farm Journal cookbooks. They are consistently reliable...everytime. I have about 12 different ones but there are several more out there...just waiting to be scooped up.


I love vintage cookbooks! Super excited to see where this project goes. :) Fennel and mushrooms sound like a great match.


I love how this book is obviously of a different era (see: those shoes, that hair) while also reminiscent of the books popular today. What a lovely find!


Perla's book "Spur of the Moment Cook" is one of my very favorite cookbooks. I've actually picked it as my first Julie & Julia-type-endeavor, and I am cooking my way through every recipe. While a bit meat-heavy for my tastes these days, every recipe is simple, fresh, unusual, and unpretentious. And I found the book for $5 at a used book store! I'll have to keep my eye out for other ones, too.


One of my first cookbooks! I bought this just before moving to the Middle East where I knew my cooking would be more "seasonal." Thank you for sharing this gem.


One of my first cookbooks! I bought this just before moving to the Middle East where I knew my cooking would be more "seasonal." Thank you for sharing this gem.


We have a great used bookstore in Phoenix where I go to escape mid-work day. I am instantly drawn to the cookbook section where I could literally spend hours flipping through vintage food photography, recipes and tips. Need to find this book asap.


The design of that book is so great! Finding old cookbooks like this is something I love doing too, but this is a great find!


Heidi, have you heard of Edna Staebler? She was a journalist and prodigious Mennonite cook in Waterloo County here in Ontario, Canada who wrote a series of cookbooks called 'Food That Really Schmecks.' She was really a powerhouse, and her books have delicious, local recipes and the most amazing, engaging voice that sounds like Elizabeth Gilbert if she had grown up a mennonite in the 1930's. Thought you might enjoy them.

Wholesome Hedonist

I can't wait to try this with some of the wild mushrooms I have been gathering. If I can find some great russulas or lactarius this late in the season, I think they would be perfect, but if not, I think the ubiquitous honey mushrooms (armillaria species) will also work well! Great find. I love all your shroom recipes!

Hen of the Woods

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