Wise words indeed, ones that have kept me on the sidelines, at least until now. I made my first fungi forage under the tutelage of an experienced guide, a friendly Spaniard with decades of successful picking under his belt. His preferred picking patch is a stretch of woods here in East Hampton, a usually reliable, grassy area in woods of white pine and oak.
I’m no expert after just a few trips, but I do feel confident ID’ing the local boletus (a.k.a. cepes in France and porcini in Italy). With their thick, bulbous stems and smooth, tawny caps, they are very distinct from anything else growing around them. Plus I’ve been sending confirmation pics from the field just to be certain.
One fall Saturday delivered a double whammy on the foraging front: a nice basket of boletus and a great yard sale find, the seminal Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon. It’s your for $30 on Amazon; my pristine copy was just three dollars!
To celebrate this bounty, I did a mash-up of a couple of the recipes in the book for a hearty ragu of wild mushrooms and local cheese pumpkin. Boletus, book, and Balsam Farms cheese pumpkin – a terrific triple dose of East Hampton terroir.
And if you’re interested in some top-notch mushroom info, Mycophilia by Eugenia Bone is a must-read.
1 large onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 lb. wild boletus (porcini) mushroom caps, sliced
8 cups fresh pumpkin, cut into 1/2″ cubes (use a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin if you can get it)
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
Fresh thyme and/or marjoram
2 Tablespoons butter
1 lb. pappardelle pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for garnish
- In a large, heavy pot saute the chopped onions in 1 Tablespoon olive oil for 5 minutes on low heat until translucent.
- After the onions have softened add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, pumpkin cubes and sliced mushrooms. Saute on medium heat, stirring gently, for 10 minutes.
- Add 4 cups of chicken broth, a grating of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few good grinds of black pepper. It should surround, but not cover, the vegetables. Simmer with the lid ajar for 15 – 20 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally. Cook until the pumpkin cubes are soft and the sauce has thickened.
- Stir in butter. Stir in chopped herbs.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with sauce in the pot. Stir in cheese, sprinkle with a few more herb leaves. Serve hot.
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