Mushrooms – Jewels of The Woods

There is always a day in September when you go to sleep in the summer and you wake up in the fall. If you are lucky, Mother Nature has given you a beautiful fall starting out very warm and slowing down, like spring backwards. Your spirit is moving towards autumn and you begin to think about what the new season has to offer. My mind goes to mushrooms, the gift from nature born in the fall.

I like to think of them as the jewels of the woods. In fact, they may be one of the most precious things that nature gives us. She seems to be saying, “Look at this. It is true that I’m going to give you six months of hard times, so enjoy this gift at the last moment.” They are a celebration of the season – an event.

If mushrooms are the jewels, the porcini is the crown jewel. You can find porcini when the rain begins at the end of summer, as it is the first rain of August that calls them out. When porcini are in season in Tuscany, you will see them being sold on the street, while restaurants, vegetable markets and trattorias have them displayed in their entrances.

Mushrooms taste great on their own, but they also are complementary to many other dishes. They can be served in a salad, grilled and served as an antipasto, sautéed and added to pasta or cooked with meat in a stew for a main course.

They are such celebrities; the whole meal is often dedicated to them, as I have done with the September 16th cooking demonstration, “Una Notte da Funghi.” That evening I will demo Portobello Saltimbocca , (portobello mushrooms, with prosciutto, arugula and melted fontina cheese); Garganelli al Funghetto, (pin quill shape pasta with creamy mushroom sauce); Straccetti di Manzo con Funghi e Parmagiano , (skirt steak, with sautéed mushrooms and parmesan cheese).

Spend some time thinking about mushrooms whenever you are entertaining in the fall and you’ll find that they are like good friends – they almost never let you down. In fact, throughout the fall, mushrooms will be the centerpiece of many dishes on our menu, showcased like the seasonal jewels they are and presented as my gift to you.

Blog based on my musings as recorded in A Tuscan in the Kitchen and Simply Tuscan