October 11, 2008


At the Olympia Farmers' Market yesterday, as I was admiring the gorgeous fall produce, I suddenly squealed. In a basket in front of me were 10 huge fresh porcini mushrooms. The proprietor came over, smiling, and I said, "Shut UP! You have fresh porcinis!" He told me that they'd been gathered at 3700 feet in the Cascade Mountains the afternoon before. I've never seen fresh porcinis for sale except in Europe. I bought 3 fat ones. I left behind an enormous one that the man held up and said, "I think a gnome is wandering around in the forest wondering what happened to his house!" The price was...EEK...$28 a pound. Do any of my European friends know what they are going for there, per kg.? I'm curious to compare. I also bought a few chanterelles. I haven't found any yet this year, but I'm going out tomorrow to hunt for some.

I brought my treasure home, sliced them up and sauteed them in gänseschmalz (goose fat), with sea salt and pepper. Oh, the scent as they cooked! I gave myself a mushroom facial, just hanging over the pan and inhaling, until my glasses fogged up - HA! I'd like to say that they ended up in a risotto al funghi, but they went straight from the pan into my mouth. Nirvana.....~OMMM~.

Boletus edulis, known also as King bolete, porcini, cepe, cep or Steinpilz, is a choice edible mushroom found from June to October. Found underneath conifers, birch and aspen at alpine elevations. The cap can reach 25 cm/10 in. in diameter and can weigh up to 1 kg./2 lbs. My God, I would have a gastronomic orgasm if I saw one that size. My friend in Munich collects them in the autumn and, in good years, dries enough to send me a big bag of them for Christmas. Have I mentioned I love her? Dried porcinis smell wonderful...like smoked earth. Some of the names for them can be really cute, in translation. For instance - eekhoorntjesbrood (Dutch) which means 'squirrels' bread', porcini (Italian) which means 'piglets', and 'penny bun' (English). 

So, off I will go tomorrow, with my mushroom knife, cloth bag, my mushroom-hunting cat and hope. If I'm lucky, there will be another pan of 'shrooms to eat! 

Porcini, my big, huggable cat

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