Carpaccio of Ovoli Mushrooms
It's always nice to discover something new at the market hall on a Saturday- especially when it is a specialty from "the old country"- like this beautiful, orange, "Ovoli" mushrooms today!
I was assured by Nina, that these were considered the finest of all mushrooms in Italy and that they are relatively seldom to be had- hence the rather high price... But I live alone, I only needed a few to satisfy my inquisitive nature... and what the hell, anyway!
Nina also informed me that the best way to prepare the Ovoli, would be as a carpaccio. Traditionally, she said, they would be served with a dressing made of mint, lemon juice and olive oil... so with that as my inspiration, I set out to see what I could do with my little orange treasures!
My only elaboration on the traditional recipe was to add a little parsley and thyme to the mint, to help give a little more depth of flavor... I just HAD to do SOMETHING... but being as I was not yet familiar with them, I decided to be careful for my first dish. For a change.
Sadly, you can not see from my pictures, the reason that these wonderful mushrooms are called "Ovoli", which is a word originating from the Italian "uovo", or egg. The amazing thing is that when these mushrooms first sprout, they are white and indeed egg-shaped. The orange mushroom is inside and as it grows, it breaks through the thin, white membrane and opens out to be this wonderful, orange umbrella... and how magical is that!?!
One thing that I am always careful about with "real", uncultivated mushrooms, is making sure they do not have any critters in them... nobody wants to be eating little maggots after all! Eeew! So- carefully remove the stems and check them for the little tell-tale holes. If you find any- then discard them... life's too short to risk getting ill! Otherwise- if they look nice and pristine like these- you are good to go!
Not being sure exactly HOW to slice these things into "a carpaccio", I decided to slice them in the direction of the panels, also as a measure to be able to see that the mushrooms were fresh, clean and pristine.
Of course, they did need to be well washed first- do so in plenty of water, give them a good rub, make sure to rinse out those panels on the underside and then simply let them drip-dry on some kind of rack for at least an hour before starting to prepare them.
Once you have sliced your mushrooms finely, lay them out, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and add finely chopped parsley, mint and some plucked thyme nicely and evenly all over. For one portion here (5-6 mushrooms), I used the juice of 1 lemon, which I added first and allowed to soak in, I then added the olive oil and a little lemon zest- just to make things go "zing!"
And as Nina assured me at the market hall... it does taste much, much better when the carpaccio has soaked up the dressing- so I popped the dish into the fridge for half an hour before serving... perfect!
Really simple, really delicious- really amazing! These mushrooms have a nice, rich, rounded flavor... nothing extreme, nothing too "particular", but wonderful indeed with the mint and lemon- and with the added tangy accent that the thyme brings, and the savory freshness of the parsley... I do have to say- I done good!
Well worth it- and come to think of it... when prepared this way, not that expensive at all, because one little mushroom goes a long, long way! Here's to a elegant, light and impressive appetizer for you! And I hope you enjoy it too!