Sunday, July 12, 2009

Porcini Time!

The weather this spring and summer in Hungary has been a series of warm, sunny weeks followed by cold stormy weeks, one after the other. The positive take on this is that this makes for the perfect conditions of a great porcini mushroom year. Porcinis (vargánya in Magyar, cèpe in French or boletus edulis in Latin) are usually available each summer but the prices are usually too high to buy them often. A month ago porcinis were available in the markets at FT 3500 (US$17) a kilo. Last week they dropped to FT 1500 ($7) a kilo. We picked up a bit less than a half kilo – a bit extravagant, but worth every forint.Wild mushrooms are often for sale in the open markets. Each market has an official examiner who double checks all mushrooms being sold to make sure no poisonous varieties are mixed in, then the mushrooms are certified and the certificate is displayed by each pile of mushrooms. At this time of year a lot of chanterelles are on sale. Some of my friends are mushroom hunters and during the spring and early summer they often unload shopping bags full of “chicken of the woods” on me – it’s a flat tree fungus with a hefty texture that you can treat almost as meat. Porcini (cepes, vargánya in Magyar) puffballs comprise the group of four mushrooms known for safety there are few poisonous mushrooms that resemble them.
Hungarians will often bread and fry the larger porcinis, but I prefer to let the delicate fresh shrooms flavor a pasta sauce: simply olive oil in which garlic has been sautéed and removed, black pepper, and sliced shrooms. Risotto is also a good way to get a lot of mileage out of pricy porcinis, but since we have an obscenely large stiock of dried mushrooms on hand in the pantry, we eat mushroom risotto quite often - for fresh porcini, tossing them in with with fresh tagliatelle is the answer.As for the crazy weather… we had a huge sudden storm last week with hail balls the size of cherries flying horizontally at sidewalk level. I grabbed my camera to catch it and as I was filming one of my basil plants was actually blown off the terrace – it landed in the garden below and survived. I only noticed it when Fumie came home and told me the basil was missing. I was too caught up in filming the storm to see the basil take wing - it takes its leap into oblivion at around 30 seconds in.

1 comment:

Gadjo Dilo said...

Dumneazu, we have similar mushrooms here in Romania but as a gadjo they confuse me utterly! Last year we collected masses of "hribes" which I'm pretty sure are the botelus of which you speak; we dried them and have had them in casseroles many times but I honestly wouldn't pay that much for them. And this year we found yellow ones that taste (supposedly) like chichen. Ah, taglietelle and olive oil, yes, that surely is the correct way... :-)