I’m tucked away in my office nook, mid-afternoon sunshine spilling in through the window, my copy of the cookbook, Molto Italiano, by Mario Batali at my elbow. Mario is staring at me out of the radiant orange cover, and I notice that wherever I move, his eyes follow me. He’s leaning on a monster-sized wheel of cheese, that’s producing some saliva in my cheeks. He looks friendly, and confident. He looks fun. He kind of looks like me. Separated at birth just a few days short of a year, Mario and I are a couple of gingers who love to cook, and have overcome I believe, at least for the most part, some anger issues.
Yesterday when I pulled this book off the shelf, and gathered my ingredients for the following chanterelle recipe – yes! Chanterelles, those meaty exotic morsels that appear for a limited time here in the Pacific Northwest, gathered by an elite group of mushroom hunters that spread like ninjas across the forests – I entertained this Foodie fantasy of hanging out with Mario.
We’re working side by side in a kitchen preparing a simple Italian lunch, both of us in Chuck Taylor high-tops – his orange, mine black – a bottle of wine open on the counter, flipping each other shit, or bashing each other playfully with a well-seasoned frying pan. After lunch we hop on our scooters, racing each other to this little café that Mario tells me has the best espressos. As we sit at our table on the sidewalk in the sun, sipping coffee and talking food, books, and music, people walk by nodding at him, and acknowledging his food god presence, and I bask in the glory of being his sidekick for the day, one of the cool kids at last.
¼ cup plus 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (separated)
½ medium red onion thinly sliced
5 large yellow, red, or green Anaheim chilies,
stems, seeds, and ribs removed, cut into 1/8-inch-wide julienne,
4 cups wild greens, such as mizuna or field cress, washed and spun dry (or substitute baby spinach)
1 lb. chanterelles, brushed clean
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the grill or broiler.
In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the lemon zest and onion and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the chilies and sauté for 1 minute. Toss in the wild greens and lemon juice and remove from heat.
In a large bowl, toss the chanterelles with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the black pepper to thoroughly coat. Spread out on the grill rack (use a wire mesh rack if necessary so the mushrooms don’t fall through the grill grate) or on a baking sheet and grill or broil, turning often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened and lightly browned.
Add the chanterelles to the greens, place over high heat, and stir gently with tongs to wilt the greens. (I used spinach and found they wilted as soon as I threw them in with the onion and chilies, so this was irrelevant.) Season with salt, transfer to a serving bowl, and enjoy.
Makes 4 servings.
I served this with an entrée of plump pork medallions, which I topped with dollops of a sauce made of about ½ cup of gorgonzola, a tablespoon or so of butter, and two fat garlic cloves, chopped, and melted together for 30 seconds in the microwave.