One one of my posts long ago I professed love for a supermarket (really super) not far from where I live: Berkeley Bowl. Part of it’s spectacular array of produce is a mushroom section with more varieties than I have ever seen. So I finally decided that I really must sample some of the mushrooms. So this is the first installment of the mushroom project. Since mushroom, especially fresh ones, tend to have relatively delicate flavor I decided to limit the type of dishes that I would make with them. Risotto, scrambled eggs and pasta seem like the ideal background to showcase the flavor and texture of the mushrooms.
First up were the Forest Nameko. These cute little items, while they occur in the wild are cultivated and are quite popular in Japan. In fact it is a standard ingredient in the familiar miso soup. They are lovely to look at with their small glossy caps. The gloss comes from naturally occurring gelatin which is useful for a thickening agent for soups.
Those forest nameko cuties
Risotto in progress
With the Nameko I decided to start with a risotto which I love anyway. I sauteed the mushrooms for a while and then started the risotto. The usual drill with risotto, a little onion sauteed in some olive oil and butter, coat the rice in the oil for a bit stirring pretty much constantly and then start adding the simmering broth. Whenever the rice starts to become dry add some more broth. The mushrooms are added near the end but are there long enough to impart their flavor to the rice. A bit of parsley and butter and voila’ – a very tasty meal. I add a bit of cheese at the end, but light. I don’t want to overpower the mushrooms. It was interesting but I really thought that the mushrooms were a little, well, bland.
Almost ready to eat - just add a bit of cheese
Next up, hen of the woods. Now these really look interesting, Kind of like ragged cauliflower. This mushroom
is indeed wild and is native to both the U.S. and Japan. Italian-American communities in the northeast call it signorina. Who knows why since it is probably unknown in Italy. Probably it’s kind of like mountains. Some guy names it first and that’s it. These are used in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine (who knew) and in fact have been shown in experiments by the Sloan-Kettering center to have some beneficial effects against cancers. So you can enjoy eating them and get health benefits too. Such a deal. With these I decided on scrambled eggs. Why? Well, truffles, those most valued of any vegetable on earth are often eaten with very simple backdrops, including scrambled eggs. Again I sauteed the mushrooms and added the eggs to the pan. I really liked these mushrooms. Their flavor is very earthy. A great discovery and I plan to explore them further.
Hen of the woods
So stay tuned for the next installment and if you’ve had some experiences with the less common mushroom varieties, please let me know.
When I first heard that name I thought of some new outdoor cooking product or a cleaning product for same. But if you are in Italy or have an interest in the bizarre world of Italian politics you are familiar with Beppe as a comedian – going into the really strange and comedic world of politics. In 2007 and 2008 he organized V-day in Italy. V in this case stands for vaffanculo (“fuck-off). This seems to be the start of his real political movement outside of his increasingly political comedy routines.
Tutti a casa - send them home (i.e. throw the bums out)
If you imagine if, say, George Carlin had decided to go into politics and had established a movement which claims millions of member is Italy – a country of about 60 million inhabitants. Actually given Beppe’s body type maybe John Goodman would be a better comparison. The most recent polling prior to the elections due February 22 shows the M5S party polling 13% which puts it as the 3rd most popular party in Italy. This could make it a significant force in Italian politics if that translates into seats in the Italian parliament.
Did I mention that he was a comedian?
I’ve read a number of things on the web including Beppe’s Blog (there’s an english version if you’re interested) and don’t really know what to think of him. But of course I am always perplexed by Italian politics. It definitely seems corrupt. Not that’s we’re squeaky clean in the political environment in the U.S. but the Italians really raise it to a spectacular level. Still the M5S seems to have some good principles mixed with some questionable ones. Shaking things up a bit could be a good thing and hopefully the movement will not become like the idiotic obstructionist Tea Party movement here. Regardless, with Beppe and Silvio Berlusconi in the election this should certainly be entertaining.
Seta (“Silk” in english) is the title of a book by Alessandro Barrico. I read a passage from it in an Italian class in Bologna and promptly bought the book. It’s a short book that I found just short of poetry in some ways. I read it in Italian but you don’t need to. It is available in english from Amazon and a $10.99 ($4.20 used).
A great cover for the english version
Seta - a cover for the italian version
In short it is a story of Hervé Joncour, a frenchman whose business is buying and selling the eggs of silkworms who is forced to venture to the what at the time is almost beyond the edge of the world, Japan. There is a mysterious love as part of the story as well as fascinating views into both societies more than 150 years ago.
…It was 1861. Flaubert was finishing Salammbo’, electric light was still a hypothesis and Abraham Lincoln, on the other side of the war was fighting a war whose end he would never see…
Imagine the trip from France to Japan, a virtually unknown world at that time.
… He crossed the border near Metz, traveled through Wurttemberg and Bavaria, entered Austria, reached Vienna and Budapest by train, and continued to Kiev. On horseback he traversed two thousand kilometers of the Russian steppe, crossed the Urals into Siberia, and traveled for forty days to reach Lake Baikal, which the people of the place called: the sea. He followed the course of the River Amur, skirting the Chinese border to the ocean and when he arrived at the ocean he stopped at the port of Sabrik for eleven days, until a dutch smuggler’s ship carried him to Cape Teraya, on the western coast of Japan. On foot, taking secondary roads he went through the provinces of Ishikawa, Toyoma and Niigata, entered Fukishama, reached the city of Shirikawa….
At least those parts, that I found in the “Look inside” feature on Amazon match my own translation (pretty easy ones to translate) so I hope that the rest is accurate to the beauty of the original. I do hope that someone will have read it and will post a comment or will read it and come back and comment. Enjoy.
Oh no c’e’ Silvio di nuovo! (Oh no, it’s Silvio again!)
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Is there anyone who is not familiar with the name Silvio Berlusconi? He seems like a joke to us here in the states but is the longest serving Italian Prime Minister since the end of WWII and was elected 4 different times – truly dominating Italian national politics for 17 years. All of this despite his obvious conflicts of interest and behavior which seemed at best immoral and often illegal. He has a long list of legal issues. Wikipedia lists them under the headings of allegations (fraud, mafia association, bribery and corruption), false testimony (proven), soliciting minors for sex and abuse of office. It does make the head spin.
This is the Italian equivalent of giving someone the finger
Silvio is bilingual in gestures - the U.S. version
He is the 6th riches man in Italy with an estimated wealth of 6 billion dollars. He controls the the largest media company in Italy and when he was prime minister controlled an estimated 90% of all media since as prime minister he controlled the state media as well as his own. Does this sound like a conflict of interest to you? Apparently he knows how to use the media and is known to dominate the airwaves with constant personal appearances. Here is a campaign video from his 2008 election campaign. The video quality is not great but I chose this one because it has english subtitles.
So what is new with Silvio? LOTS. First of all, despite his forced resignation in November 2011 (people were dancing in the street and singing the Hallelujah Chorus – no joke) the old reprobate has decided to run again in next year’s elections for prime minister. The latest news is that he just became engaged to a 27 year old woman – 49 years his junior. Oh, that Silvio!
I don’t really understand Italian politics but I’m not alone. I don’t think that even the Italians understand Italian politics. My sense is that Silvio, while very charismatic and appealing to lots of Italians on many levels didn’t do the country any favors. I know that one of his campaign slogans was lower taxes and more benefits for all. It’s not hard to see how this adds up to ballooning national debt and perhaps the source of the huge financial crisis now rampant in Italy.
Still he’s a fascinating guy. During his university years studying law he was an upright base player and singer on cruise ships. He has two CDs of Neapolitan songs to his credit. Who knew? So while he may seem totally unsuitable to be a head of any state from my american perspective he is certainly one of the more entertaining players on the world stage. I’ve yet to meet an Italian who seemed to like him but then again I haven’t met an american who admits to having voted for George Bush. Maybe it’s just the crowd that I hang out with.