Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rites of Spring (soon!)

I noticed snow drops and crocus emergent in my neighbors yard this afternoon, and I thought that in only two months I will be out in the woods snuzzleing around in the leaf litter searching for the elusive MOREL!
But thats still a long time off--mustn't get too excited.
there's something wonderful about seasonal food--produce of short duration that you long for throughout the year and can only get for a few weeks maybe. Strawberries for example (no, not the fat ones from California that come in mid winter--worthless! I mean the local small guys that fruit in May and June only for a few weeks. And asparagus- the skinny green ones that always grace out Eastertide plates,
how about shad roe or the actual fish?
Can you imagine a dish of poached shad with asparagus and morels??

It's not that we haven't enjoyed some recent mushroom culinary adventures. Veronica brought back from a trip to Trieste, a jar of wild mushrooms from Slovenia, preserved in some kind of pickle. The label in Slovenian reads:


From what I can make out from a Croatian dictionary (Slovenian is close to Serbo-Croatian) it simply means "Forest Mushrooms in Vinegar." As to the species, it looks like there were a few boletes in the mix, but the others I couldn't identify. They are quite tasty eaten as is, but I thought they might enhance a pizza rather well, and they did, although the vinegar does stand out as the forward flavor. In Italy you can get mushroom "under oil" ("sott'olio") without the acidic "aceto" and these, while expensive, are quite good.

For most wild mushrooms, drying is the best preservation, but the oil immersion works well too; freezing is not good, usually resulting in a sodden mush.
In San Francisco, back in the day, I used to forage for "slippery jacks" out in the far reaches of the city hard by the old Sutro Baths and Seal Rocks--Lincoln Park I think it was called. There were several species of Suillus, a relative of the bolete. to be found there. These slimy topped mushrooms were quite tasty once you pealed off the slippery cap. The local Russians (there was an old colony of Russians out there in the outer Richmond) could often be seen foraging; I asked on older lady how they were prepared in traditional Russian cookery and she directed me to a delicatessen nearby where i found slippery jacks pickled and put up in jars. Naturally I purchased a large jar but I found them to be, well, a bit slimy--but I ate them all anyhow, although no one else did.
BTW, the pizza I made last night with the pickled Slovenes, was quite tasty although it looked to be a chaotic disaster--I had a bit of trouble getting the oil drenched dough into shape and into the oven in one piece. My pizza dough making chops are a bit rusty to say he least.