This “small plate” mushroom salad was one of the best things I ate while in Italy last week, and that’s saying something because I ate a lot of wonderful things. So many simple dishes seemed to take seasonality for granted: egg tagliatelle with shaved white truffles or chunks of artichoke, this year’s new olive oil over grilled bread, broth enriched with eggs and cheese, chicory dressed with oil and anchovies, and a thick slice of roasted whole pig tucked into a fresh roll.
The centerpiece of this mushroom salad dish, prized mushrooms rarer even than truffles, are called ovoli (Amanita caesarea), or Caesar’s mushrooms. The name refers to their resemblance to eggs when they are very small. The ones our friend prepared for us had a rounded, egg-shaped cap but were gold-to-orange in color and sizeable. I think almost any mushroom with character (chanterelle, porcini, shitake, even portabella), wild or cultivated, could be substituted. Clean them by wiping them carefully with a dampened towel; dousing them with water will wash away flavor. Very good Parmesan is crucial to the recipe.
- 2 to 3 good-sized mushrooms per person (see above)
- 1/2 stalk celery per person
- 6 to 8 wide shavings of best quality Parmesan per person
- Salt and fresh pepper, to taste
- Best-quality olive oil, to taste
- White wine or champagne vinegar, to taste
Clean (see above) and slice the mushrooms on each plate. Strew them with thinly sliced celery. Cover the pile with the shaved Parmesan. Drizzle on the oil and a little vinegar. Season.