Friday, May 13, 2011

Mushroom Spinach Tortellini

Mushroom picking is often touted as the Czech national pastime (this is of course after hockey, which we don't exactly want to talk about after their devestating loss against Sweden this afternoon.)

While it is true that most Czechs I know have, at one time or another, picked mushrooms, the activity is somewhat falling out of favour. Few young adults have the drive to rise at 6 AM on the weekend to get out there and compete with the scads of retirees who seem to keep breathing only for the purpose of those mushrooms. Does that sound cruel? It wouldn't if you were a member of the 'young adult' group heading to the farmers market at 9 AM on the tram surrounded by little old ladies clutching full baskets of fungi eyeing up everyone who looks as if they've just crawled out of bed with a barely contained smirk.

Yes, they are a proud group these early mushroom gatherers. And for that reason I feel just fine shelling out my hard-earned korun for a few hundred grams of gorgeous fungi from a little old man in a sweater vest.

Please note that while I do have the tendency to over-romanticize things (especially old men at the market) I am not in this case, as the guy who was selling the best mushrooms was really wearing a sweater vest atop an old plaid button down. Is it patronizing to say I wanted to fold him up and tuck him in my pocket?

At any rate, his charm certainly worked on me, as I also succumbed to some type of heritage garlic that had peelings of a dark fuchsia hue. I've always passed up heritage garlic before, wondering how garlic could actually be any better.

I was foolish.

I know this now.

Heritage garlic rocks my world. It's a bit of a pain to peel, to be honest. And when chopping, it seems crunchier and waterier, almost like a water chestnut. But my hubs described the flavours perfectly when he said it was like a young, pure garlic. Not as strong as traditional garlic, but more garlic flavour. If that makes any sense to you. It did to me while we were gobbling up a quick post-market dish I threw together with store-bought tortellini that needed eating.

We had also grabbed a few bunches of spinach. So looking at the mushrooms, spinach, and garlic, it seemed an easy pair with the fresh pasta. Now, it must be said that we used oyster mushrooms, which I know are usually paired with more Asian-esque flavours. However, since everything was so absolutely fresh it worked just lovely as an Italian-inspired dish.

Any mushrooms will do here, cremini, portebello, porcini, or a mix of those. We had some porcini oil waiting to be opened that added to the depth of flavour. I really do recommend a fantastic mushroom (truffle, porcini, or other) infused oil for drizzling over before serving. It may be a bit pricey, but a small bottle will last you quite awhile and imparts a good hit of flavour.

Continue to Recipe...
Recipe: Mushroom Spinach Tortellini
Serves 2 big appetites
Eat with any white wine you fancy. This is a seriously flexible dish, anything from Sauvignon to Chardonnay works just fine.
Time 30 minutes

12 oz (350g) spinach - about three large bunches
10 oz (280g) oyster mushrooms (or any variety really)
2 - 3 cloves garlic
3 big knobs of butter
2 Tb white wine
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
9 oz (250g) fresh tortellini (with spinach and ricotta makes a nice fit)
a splash of porcini or truffle oil
Parmesan (however much you like shredded on top)

Start a big pot of water going for the pasta. Rinse the 'shrooms and wash the spinach. Chop each up into largish chunks. Mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a pan, add mushrooms and cook until soft over medium-low, about 5 minutes. 

Toss the tortellini into the pot of water (which should be boiling by now.) 

Add the garlic, wine, parsley, salt and pepper to the mushroom pan. Cook until liquid mostly dissolves. Add the spinach leaves in two separate batches, waiting until the first cooks down before adding the second. 
The spinach will only take a few minutes to wilt a bit, and then turn off the heat. When the tortellini are soft, strain and add them to the mushroom/spinach pan. Combine well and drizzle some fancy mushroom-infused olive oil over top and grate fresh Parmesan.

The end.


Dobrou Chut'/ Enjoy.
-- Jo


  1. I'm excited to try this one. Pretty sure the mushrooms I buy will be wrapped in plastic/styrofoam and it will be a bored women with a scrunchie in her hair that will sell them without any conversation.

  2. Styrofoam, I doubt that! I know you have a pretty decent market nearby, have you been out that way yet this year? And why knock the scrunchie?! :P

  3. Yum, this looks simple and lovely. I need to make my way out to our Saturday farmer's markets.


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