You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

martedì 12 ottobre 2010

Into the Woods

It was safe to take Lulu and Harry into the woods today, because the 54 sheep who’d been hanging out there these past two months sadly rejoined the other half of their flock.[1] Various forms of funghi punctuated our walk due to lots of rain. Heavy rains typically happen in Tuscany in the fall, but not this early and not quite so torrentially like the other night. Torrential rains are bad, but what often happens after is really, really good.


Today’s walk with Harry revealed scads of different kinds, probably all of them lethal, including some amazing toadstools.[2] (Lulu began the walk with us, and then went off to her archives, a pile of chopped wood where she noses in looking for lizards; at least, this is what I thought she was doing until she just this very instant threw up something so disgusting I won’t even go into it.)

Sometime in July, the Scallion went wandering in the woods, and returned with a nicely-sized porcino. At least, he thought it was. They do have a deadly nearly identical twin cousin, so we waited to ask Daniele, our Water Guy who is also a mycologist.[3] He affirmed the porcino-ness of said, and so we made a lovely frittata and ate it with Samantha .

Daniele and the Scallion went off into the woods a couple of days ago, basket at the ready, but returned empty-basketed.

Frittata di funghi porcini[4]/porcini frittata

2 T. butter (from Devon or Cornwall if you’re blessed)
1 medium-sized porcino, trimmed, cleaned with a paper towel, and cut into large dice
½ lb. button/champignon mushrooms, cleaned and cut into fine dice
5 organic eggs, cracked and whisked briskly with a fork in a bowl for a couple of seconds
¼ c. heavy cream, which has been added to the lightly-scrambled eggs in the bowl
Pinch of sea salt, Ibid.
White truffle oil

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a low, steady flame. Add both mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, ‘til cooked through. Pour in the eggs, and tilt the pan so that it’s completely covered with egg mix. Tilt the pan as it cooks on the edges and roll the uncooked egg/cream combination over it. When it’s just about set, take a plate that’s at least as large as the non-stick pan, hold it over the pan, and flip it. Cook the other side ‘til done, which will be significantly less time than the other side.

Remove from pan by gently sliding it off onto another nice plate. Liberally drizzle with the white truffle oil, and eat immediately.

Serves 3. Sort of.

We have other wild mushrooms growing where we live, and though they are bland and somewhat tasteless, they are absolutely gorgeous to behold. Called galletto (young male chicken), they look like engorged narcissi on a sunny but cool March day (only they’re burnt siena colored, not white). If you can’t find them (and you probably won’t be able to), use any sort of mixed fresh mushroom combination; texture and variety provide the visuals. (This provided the kick-off to last Sunday’s lunch; follow it up with a tasty veal stew, which we did.)

Risotto ai tre funghi /risotto with three mushrooms

¾ c. dried porcini, soaked in 1 c. nearly-boiling water
½ lb. pretty but ultimately tasteless wild mushrooms
½ lb. button mushrooms (States) or champignon (Italy), trimmed and finely diced
1 small red onion, minced
1 c. red wine
2 T. butter
1 T. extravirgin olive oil
1½ c. Arborio rice
4-5 c. mushroom or vegetable broth, warmed
White truffle oil
Chopped fresh mint (if truffle-oil-less)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the porcini in hot water for at least a half hour; strain, reserving the liquid, and run the mushrooms under lukewarm water to ensure that all the grit’s gone; using cheesecloth, strain the porcini liquid and reserve. Chop the porcini, and set aside.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a wide saucepan, throw in the onions, stir until translucent. Add the button mushrooms/champignons, and stir. Add the rice, stir to coat, and throw in the wine. Stir ‘til absorbed. Add the mushroom (or vegetable broth) incrementally, stirring all the while. After a ladleful or two, throw in the dried chopped porcini. Keep stirring.

When the risotto’s nearly done (20 minutes or so after embarking on this project), throw in the pretty- but-ultimately- tasteless mushrooms. Remove from the heat, taste (add sea salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary), swirl in the truffle oil, and eat immediately.

Generously serves 3 people and 2 dogs.

Wine suggestions from Bobo: Frittata funghi porcini: Cerviolo bianco Chardonnay Toscana Igt You can drink the same white with risotto ai funghi (if you are serving it before the frittata. You don't go back to a white after a red wine) or I'd go for: Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano doc Lungarotti 2006 (I love it, Umbrian, not Tuscan, but perfect with porcini). If there's wine in the risotto, consider you are supposed to drink the same wine you put in the food.

Bobo’s right-on. Rubesco, mushrooms, Italy in the autumn: heaven.
Fans of Florence should check out this lovely blog:
To Papaya: Victoria Stilwell could, I'm sure, straighten us all out. For those of us despairing of cayenne-loving canines (or other equally strange canine behavior), go to her official web site at

[1] Angelo, their shepherd, brought 52 ewes, 1 ram, and a ram-in-training to graze near us in late July (pity a camera was not around when Waldo met the sheep). Ram meant to have his way with most of the ewes, perhaps inspiring the ram-in-training to follow suit. Sadly, Angelo and his wife have split up, so he’ll be tending his flock solely for meat; his wife made the fantastic, I-can-practically-taste-the-grass in my mouth cheese.
[2] Wondered why this appellation. From 'The terms "mushroom" and "toadstool" go back centuries and were never precisely defined, nor was there consensus on application. The term "toadstool" was often, but not exclusively, applied to poisonous mushrooms or to those that have the classic umbrella-like cap-and-stem form. Between 1400 and 1600 A.D., the terms tadstoles, frogstooles, frogge stoles, tadstooles, tode stoles, toodys hatte, paddockstool, puddockstool, paddocstol, toadstoole, and paddockstooles sometimes were used synonymously with mushrom, mushrum, muscheron, mousheroms, mussheron, or musserouns.'
[3] He comes every other Friday and makes crucial deliveries of bottled water, ale, and wine.
[4] The difference between a frittata and an omelette? Elizabeth David tartly weighs in, but not on the difference: “It must be admitted that very few Italian cooks have the right touch with egg dishes. They are particularly stubborn with regard to the cooking of omelettes, insist on frying them in oil, and use far too much of the filling, whether it is ham, cheese, onions, tomatoes, or spinach, in proportion to the number of eggs, and in consequence produce a leathery egg pudding rather than an omelette.” (Italian Food, 1954.) Alan Davidson, the Go-to-Guy (much as Larry Bird was for the Celtics in the 1980s): “a French word which came into currency in the mid-16th century but had been preceded by other forms, e.g. alumelle, which are littered along a trail leading all the way from the Latin lamella, ‘small thin plate’, suggesting something thin and round.” Well, that appellation fits both omelette and frittata. Lest we think that the bastardized spelling of omelette to omelet is a 20th/21st century idea, we should think again. Davidson, one more time: “Cotgrave, in his dictionary of 1611, recorded its arrival in England in this entry: ‘Haumelotte: f. An Omelet, or Pancake of egges.” As usual, with things culinary, it looks as if we can credit ancient Persia for this dish. The frittata does not enter into his “omelette” entry, nor does it merit an entry of its own. (Oxford Companion to Food, New York, 1999.)

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