Monday, November 2, 2009

More fall market finds: pioppini mushrooms, brussels sprouts

Our poor San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge couldn't withstand the strain of traffic and weather, broke, and closed. This messed up the traffic everywhere in the Bay Area. My dear Golden Gate Bridge took some of the load. It took me almost three hours to get from work in Novato to my friend K's housewarming party in Belmont on Friday night. I had good music, beautiful views, and a Valencia orange tree in the passenger seat for a companion (the housewarming gift), so I cannot complain. Imagine, the rustling of the orange tree leaves next to you while you look at the sunset colors on Sausalito and Richardson Bay and listen to Peruvian bamboo flute, while driving up a steep grade in a car with the manual transmission at 2-3 mph in a heavy traffic of fancy European cars with desperate drivers inside, trying not to burn your clutch until you get to the tunnel (it's downhill from there). Postcard perfect, right?

But I wasn't going to drive back to Marin until they repaired the bridge and the traffic was back to normal. So we spent the weekend in R's place in San Carlos, and instead of Sunday Marin market it was San Mateo Saturday market this time.

San Mateo farmers market is on Saturday mornings in the faculty parking lot of the College of San Mateo campus. There is a 360 degrees view from the college, the campus is surrounded by Italian pines that smell wonderful in the sunshine, and the walks between the buildings are lined with olive trees.

I managed to walk past all these trees without picking a single olive (there are seven pounds waiting at home, remember?), and I'm very proud of myself.

The crowd in the market is completely different from Marin, and there are vendors that don't come to Marin, and they bring unique stuff. Like brussels sprouts on the stalk - I had seen them before, but R. hadn't, and he didn't recognize his favorite vegetable! I had to get a stalk as a fun Halloween bouquet, and it made a good lunch too. Sateed and paired with amazing Spanish sausages that taste meatier than meat, they require nothing else.

The mushroom people had all the regular organic farmed 'shrooms, plus porcini, plus pioppine mushrooms that I haven't tried before. Pioppinis grow in clusters, have off-white rubbery stalks and velvety brown caps. The mushroom people suggested slow cooking, like in a risotto. OK, risotto it is. With slow cooking, the mushrooms get soft and aromatic, with a wonderful sweet nutty flavor.

Usually I would use my homemade chicken stock for a risotto. We didn't have any in R.'s place, I used plain water, and it was fine.
Traditional pasmesan cheese for serving the risotto can overpower the delicate mushroom flavor, so I substituted romano cheese.

Served with chicken breasts sauteed with garlic, rosemary and lemon; white wine reduction.

Pioppini Mushroom Risotto
serves 2, with leftovers

3 Tbsp good olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 double handfool pioppini mushrooms, roots trimmed
salt, pepper
1 cup carnaroli (or arborio) rice
1 cup white wine
2 cups of chicken stock or water
2 Tbsp grated romano cheese

Heat the oil in a deep saute pan or a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until transparent and smell wonderful.

Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the mushrooms release their juice, then cook some more to evaporate all the liquid. Add the rice. Stir for 2 minutes, try to get all the rice grains covered with oil. Add the white wine. Stir gently and constantly until all the wine is absorbed into the rice. Start adding the stock or water 1/2 cup at a time. Let the rice absorb the liquid, then taste for donness, if not yet done, add more liquid. Keep stirring every 1-2 minutes, making sure the rice doesn't stick to the pan.

When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, fold in the grated cheese, let sit for a couple of minutes; serve.

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