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Orange and Avocado Salad with Wood Ear Mushrooms

Wood ear mushrooms (Auricularia auricula) don't seem to be as popular in North America as other wild mushrooms, probably in no small part due to their lackluster flavor. However, wood ears do possess an interesting quality that makes them quite useful when cooking — they have an almost crunchy texture.  If you've ever eat slices of raw clam, these mushrooms feel similarly between the teeth, somewhere between a rubbery quality and the crispness of fresh vegetables. I like to use them in tandem with more flavorful mushrooms, layering in different qualities to the resulting dishes. Or, like with this salad composed of oranges and avocados, they act as bread-less crouton, adding snap to a recipe needing an additional textural component.

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