matsutake


it is that time again, my favorite, especially in this pacific north-west, this oregon, that washington, along the coast, by the river and in the mountains above, where pine trees grow the matsutake hides under a cover of leaves. hard to find, but easy to pluck once revealed and uncovered. this year there is a glut of these mushrooms on account of the long summer and the sudden rain. you'd think the abundance might reflect the price, of course not. between thirty to fifty dollars per pound for the best. this is inexpensive, compared to japan, where one perfect 'number one' can cost you a hundred. 




once you have what you need, preparation is easy. the simpler the better. among the many ways like grilling, frying, simmering, i prefer a slow simmer. as the old translation has it: 'cook the matsutake till you can eat the aroma'. i have a floating lid, cut from one piece of maple, which fits inside one of my pots. the matsutake is sliced thin length-wise, a very mild chicken or vegetable broth at a simmer and the mushrooms float under the lid for some 'half hour'. the kitchen is readily fragrant by then, the mushrooms translucent, crunchy and gently chewy. i serve them in their broth, sometimes adding a few tatsoi micro-greens for color.


stephanie likes to have her matsutake grilled on a bed of pine branches. this is the ultimate, wouldn't you know. crunchy and fragrant of pine, hence: 'matsu'-pine, 'take'-mushroom. it works well with a sauce concocted of a gentle soy, infused with myoga and a splash of yuzu.
to roast the mushroom in hazelnut butter is yet another way, some tiny  german butterballs on the side. but remember: you don't have to have everything in perfection, you only need to master one to go to heaven.


niagara grapes are in their oh-so-short season. it's like one time in the market and that's it. gone. at least here in that pacific coast version of this wonderful translucently green grape. their scent fills the room, their skin is tough and they're by no means seedless. oh, but that juicy fragrance! 


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