22 November 2008

That was nothing!

In the previous post I wrote about being excited to find many gambe secche and to try them out. Well, that that time's funghi hunt was nothing compared to the next ones! One of the good things about living here right now is that I have a lot of time to explore and to be swept by whatever current is passing by. So a short walk to the postoffice turned out to be a funghi hunt with a real expert. We encoutered an uncle on the street who was just on his way to collect funghi and he offered us a ride and free advice. Hours were spent in the fields and it is a great thing to be outside, surrounded by beautiful mountains, breathing fresh air, searching for free food!
That day, we looked for prataioli, boleti pinophili and again gambe secche. And after hours of collecting, chatting, drinking homemade limoncello at the uncle's house, I came home with this bag in my cold hands: 1,5 kg!

Collecting food yourself is exciting: contrary to growing food in a garden (which I'd like to start next year), which entails the slow process of seeing seeds sprout and plants shooting up in the air, there is the fast excitement of finding the things you are looking for. You start recognizing the places in the grass where boleti are hiding, and the ring shape that gambe secche make. There is some greed in it, but fortunately the quite early sunset here in the south of Europe puts this to an end. It is slow, though, and collecting is not the end, for this 1,5 kilo worth of edibles needs to be cleaned before consumption. Removing snails, legs, slime and grass, meanwhile pondering over in which way they will end up on the plate.
After cleaning and sorting:

Now, the question is: what to do with this abundance? Here are some answers.
The prataioli:
- went into a salad (the fresh pink ones)
- were chopped finely into a thick soup with nothing else but butter, flour, pepper, salt and stock. (The soup was described 'Nordic'. I took it as a compliment.)
The boletus pinophilus is not very valued by Italians as it is a very watered down, C-class 'version' of the famous porcino, still I liked it:
- 'classic Italian style' in red wine, garlic and peperoncino and eaten on fire-roasted bread.
The gambe secche
- were eaten with linguine
- were put to dry.
Finally, all leftovers and also results of another hunt were made into risotto.
Here is a picture which shows some kitchen marvels and my excellent computer skills:

And as winter is coming, I will spend some more time in Scurcolan fields armed with nothing but a knife and a plastic bag....

17 November 2008

Dry legs

I moved to Italy now one month ago. From January on, I will start my new job as translator for INRAN, the Italian national institute for nutrition. Until then, I will focus on learning Italian and exploring my new home and its surroundings. Fascinated as I had become in Berlin by eating 'found food' from my roof terrace, I am happy to be able to explore this further here in Italy. It is autumn, and warm days where I can sit outside on the amazing terrace and read a book find their counterparts in heavy rains and thunderstorms. (Yesterday night, a lightning and thunder were right above the house and both struck so hard that the windows shook in their frames, the cat stayed under the bed for hours and my own body seemed to be electrified with adrenalin and maybe even electricity....) Autumn brings interesting weather and many things to find.

The first ever mushrooms I picked myself are called 'gambe secche', dry legs, and are apparently good in pasta (but hey, in Italy, everything which is not ananas or banana or peanut butter seems to be good with pasta! It is great that I finally can live without eating the dreaded 'Nudeln', the German blasphemisation of pasta....). Gambe secche have long stems which are quite hard and not very enjoyable. After having picked them on a field at sunset their legs were brutally removed and the crowns were carefully placed on newspaper so that they can dry. Interestingly, today they began to release their spores. Resting high on a shelf in the kitchen (to shield them from the cat and her omnipresent hairs), they throw a wave of their smell into the room every now and then: a bit irony, and downright weird. As they are still drying, I have no clue about how they taste, but I read somewhere that they are sweet and therefore are sometimes used in cookies. I do not have the abundance, nor a working oven to try such interesting experiments, but I trust the Italians and their pasta!