I was at the Alphington Melbourne Farmers’ Market yesterday and found these beauties at the Sennsational berries stall.
It is not often that one finds such mature lemons. And what to do with large lemons?
Make a Sicilian salad like my father used to make (he grew up in Ragusa, Sicily before relocating to Trieste). I did wonder if it was a cedro rather than a lemon, but was told it was a lemon and it tasted like one.
I removed the skin and squeezed out some of the juice….this lemon was certainly juicy and the salad should not be too acidic.
This salad likes fresh garlic and I still had some in the fridge that I had bought the week before from the same market, however this time I bought some garlic shoots, added fresh mint, a little parsley and some of the fresh oregano I have growing on my balcony. This oregano plant came from my father’s garden in Adelaide. He died years ago.
The last time I bought garlic shoots was earlier this year when I was in the Maremma, Tuscany.
In our Airbnb in Castiglione della Pescaia I cooked them with zucchini and zucchini flowers as a dressing for Pici, the local pasta shape in Tuscany.
Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:
Some good extra virgin olive oil and salt are a must. The salt brings out the sweetness of the lemon.
So, so good for summer. Think about it accompanying some seafood…BBQ fish? Very good. I took it to my friends place and we had it with a simple roast chicken, a succulent free range chicken.
I have written about lemon salad before. That post also explains what is a cedro and has a photo of a cedro from a Sicilian market.
On this occasion I cooked dairy free and gluten free, stuffed, baked mushrooms (funghiripieni or funghi farciti in Italian).
For those of you who would prefer to use breadcrumbs instead of crumbed gluten free cracker biscuits and you may like to add a bit of grated Parmesan cheese (as I usually do).
Apart from the crumbed cracker biscuits these mushrooms are stuffed with the mushroom stalks, silver beet (or spinach), parsley, garlic, nutmeg, extra virgin olive oil and the herb Nepitella (calamint) that I am growing on my balcony. Nepitella is not very well known in Australia but this aromatic herb it is used in Tuscany and Lazio especially for for the preparation of artichokes, mushrooms but also with eggs and other vegetables.
I have used Nepitella to stuff delicate tasting fish and I also like it with pork. A couple of months ago I was in Tuscany and I enjoyed collecting Nepitella(it grows wild); when i cooked, I used it extensively. Marjoram or thyme also go well with mushrooms. The larger leaves in the photo below are young plants of Warrigal Greens.
No need for quantities…once again, you can estimate how much you wish to use by what what amounts and ratio of amounts I estimated I wanted in my stuffing.
Wipe the mushrooms clean. Remove the stalks and finely chop them. Slice and chop the silver beet or spinach leaves.Crumb the cracker biscuits (or use breadcrumbs). Preheat oven at 180˚C.
Heat the oil in a pan add the chopped mushroom stalks and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until soft and golden. Remove from the stove.
Mix in in the silver beet or spinach, walnuts, biscuit (or bread) crumbs, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, herbs and nutmeg. Spoon the mixture onto the mushrooms. Bake them until cooked through and browned on top; mine were large mushrooms and I baked them for 15–20 minutes, I used baking paper with a little extra virgin olive oil.
This recipe is for mushrooms (funghi) and for this I have used King mushrooms.
FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO is not quite Sicilian. Al funghetto is a cooking method which probably originated in Liguria and Toscana, but which is now embraced by all of Italy and not just used for mushrooms. In Italian, the use of al, allo and alla constructions (e.g. allo scoglio, alla caprese), is the equivalent of the French use of à la (e.g à la parisienne). It means cookedin the style of , and in this case, as cooking mushrooms (funghetto). For example, if I was cooking zucchini or eggplants al funghetto, the vegetables would be cooked in the same way as cooking mushrooms – thinly sliced, sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and flavoured with parsley, garlic (and sometimes a small quantity of tomato).
Usually if cooking al funghetto, garlic cloves are added to the hot oil and then removed, or if you do not mind eating it, chopped garlic is added at the same time as the mushrooms, but because King mushrooms require a longer cooking time, the garlic burns, therefore I sauté the mushrooms before adding the garlic.
In Liguria (the Genova region) as well as parsley and garlic, oregano is commonly used (wild oregano is preferred and is called cornabugia) whereas in Toscana (around Firenze) the oregano is usually replaced with a little calamint (nepitella).
As you can see in the photo, I have also used bay leaves and on different occasions I have used sage (salvia) – to impart a meaty flavour to the brawny mushrooms.
If my relatives were cooking funghi al funghetto in Sicily they would most likely add a little chopped tomato as well as the parsley and garlic (and perhaps oregano), but no sage, no catnip because they are not herbs that are commonly used in Sicily.
King mushrooms are readily available in Melbourne. Many are imported from Asia and tend to be sold very cheaply. Although they are more expensive, I always buy those that are grown locally – food miles and supporting local growers are important factors – and the mushrooms are not likely to have been sprayed with a preservative.
I like these mushrooms because they are very large and meaty.They retain their firm textured and you can eat the whole fungus. I presented them with bread (need I say good sourdough or pasta dura?) as an antipasto but they could also be a contorno (accompanying side dish) or a pasta sauce (lasagne – great!)
I estimated ½ – ¾ mushroom per person. In this recipe I have used the Ligurian choice of herb, oregano, but you can replace it with one of the other herbs mentioned above.
mushrooms, 4 large
garlic (either 2 -3 cloves or the fresh Australian garlic which I buy in bunches- use the green and the bulb)
parsley, ½ cup, finely chopped
oregano, ½ teaspoon of dry, or if using fresh, a few sprigs extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 tablespoons( King mushrooms absorb quite a bit) salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
white wine and stock or water, ½ cup of each
Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth, slice each one into 4-5 even slices.
Heat some of the extra virgin olive oil, add the mushrooms and on medium heat sauté each side until golden. Sprinkle each with salt and add more oil as necessary. Remove the mushrooms.
Add a little more of the oil, add the garlic, parsley and oregano (or sage). Use high heat and stir frequently so that they do not burn or stick.
Add wine and deglaze the pan, add water, mushrooms and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for about 10minutes. The mushrooms will have softened slightly and absorbed some of the flavours.