Mushrooms, which are ready to pick in the autumn, are so popular they have been grown commercially for years. When I was a child, avid mushroom enthusiasts would go into the forest and harvest a basketful or two. That basket would probably have a few puffballs, those round, white fungi that when dry would go up in a smoke-like cloud when kicked.
There are around 500 edible mushroom varieties, including the dense, meaty portobello; the shitake, which means “oak fungus” in Japanese; the button mushroom—the white “champignon de Paris”; and the fruity chanterelle (called cremini when young). Because approximately 30 kinds are very poisonous, pickers must know their mushrooms.
My son, Pierre Hallett of Toronto’s Rotate This, and Violet Hill Wine Imports Ltd. Ontario, loves to cook, and many of his recipes at this time of year include mushrooms. Being a wine connoisseur, Pierre likes to grill the mushrooms after soaking them in a marinade of white wine, preferably a Pinot Grigio from northern Italy’s Veneto region, olive oil, and various spices. That recipe follows, along with a pasta recipe to accompany it, and another of Pierre’s favourite mushroom recipes.
Grilled Mushrooms á la Pierre
Makes 2 servings
4 shitake mushrooms
75 ml (3 oz) dry white wine
Splash of olive oil
7 ml (1/2 tbsp) soy sauce
3 turns black pepper
Pinch of dried chili peppers
10 basil leaves
20 grains fine fleur de sel
Mix together the marinade ingredients and add the mushrooms. The mushrooms should soak for around 45 minutes. They soak up about half the liquid. Any remaining marinade can be brushed on the mushrooms while they cook. Serve in lettuce cups as a side with pasta and grilled or barbecued lamb.
Pasta with Reggio Parmesan
250 g (1 cup) penne or fusilli pasta
25 ml (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
50 ml (4 tbsp) grated Reggio Parmesan (4 years old if possible.)
Add the pasta of your choice slowly to 1 1/2 litres (6 cups) salted, boiling water and cook until al dente or not too soft. This takes from 7 to 11 minutes, according to the type of pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with butter. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Mushrooms the Italian Way
Makes 6 servings
750 g (1 1/2 lbs) small button mushrooms
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each dried rosemary, tarragon, and oregano
250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
Half a small bay leaf
1 clove garlic, stuck with a toothpick
Juice of one lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley as garnish (optional)
Cut stems level with cap of mushrooms and reserve for other uses. Put remaining ingredients except parsley in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool, discard garlic, and chill slightly but not too long because the oil should not congeal. Garnish with parsley and serve with small pita rounds.
Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: email@example.com