13 September 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Where the Wild Things Grow

SARONNO, Italy – There’s a real crisis in Italy these days, at least in northern Italy, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the economy. It’s a culinary crisis. There are no local mushrooms. At one daily outdoor vegetable market in Liguria, there was only one stand selling mushrooms at a time when there should be mushrooms at every stand.
 Typical Italian Vegetable Market
The culprit responsible for the crisis is the weather, or to be more specific, the lack of rain.  At this point in the mushroom season, the danger of little rain and a lot of wind, which is typical at the end of the summer, would destroy any hope of a decent crop of Italians mushrooms this year, especially porcini mushrooms.  In Chiavari, a seaside town along the Italian Riviera, the few mushrooms that are for sale are coming from Romania and Croatia, and, according to local housewives, they are very expensive, selling at 25 to 35 euros a kilo ($35 US to $45US a kilo).
 Delicious Porcini Mushrooms
The long, scorching hot and fiery summer, which was described in the local newspapers as ‘a flick of the Lucifer’s tail’, will make itself felt right through the fall and winter. It’s not just local mushrooms, including porcini mushrooms, that are in danger, but also chestnuts and truffles. Mushrooms need moist soil, occasional rain and temperatures in the high 60’s in the forests, something Liguria and the rest of northern Italy has not seen this year.  According to Coldiretti, the national association of farmers, more than 10 million hectares (25,000 acres) of forest covering a third of Italy can produce about 30 tons of mushrooms of various types, including porcini and chanterelles.
 Boxes of Mushrooms 
So we wait to see if the cooler weather will bring the showers we usually see in April. For those of you who live in an area where mushrooms are plentiful this season, here’s an easy recipe that I found on a food blog that is sponsored by Tiscali, an Italian telephone company based in Sardinia. You can check it out at ilcucchiaiodoro.blog.tiscali.it/  Unfortunately, when I tried to find the beef roll recipe page again, I wasn’t successful, but the recipe is easy enough to follow as almost all Italian recipes that involve wrapping a cutlet of meat around a filling are cooked the same way.

Beef Rolls with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

2 slices of beef cutlet steaks (not roast beef)
2 long slices of prosciutto crudo
4 slices of scamorza cheese
100 grams of mushrooms
½ glass of white wine (more or less equal to ½ cup)
½ glass of vegetable broth (same amount as the wine)
2 tablespoons of flour 
Extra-virgin olive oil for frying

 Cover each beef cutlet with 1 slice of prosciutto crudo and 2 slices of scamorza cheese

Roll up each cutlet and tie with kitchen string.

Roll each cutlet in  flour

Carefully clean and slice the mushrooms. Warm the olive oil in a saute’ pan and add the mushrooms, and the beef rolls. Let cook for a few minutes, turn and let the other side cook for a minute or two, then add the white wine and as soon as it evaporates, add a ladle of broth and let the meat simmer on a low heat for about ten minutes, adding more broth if needed. 

Nothing left to do but eat and enjoy. 

They didn't say this in the recipe but a sprinkle of fresh, finely chopped parsley and a drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil, Italian of course, would really give this dish a nice finish. 

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