After my senior immersion to an Aeta community in the mountains of Tarlac, I thought I would never eat mushrooms ever again. Although I sincerely appreciate the kindness and warmth I experienced from the Aetas there, I was simply adamant that I couldn’t stay long there because of one thing I was very particular of: their food. And if there was one ingredient that they overly took pride of, it was the mushroom or kabute. They fed us A LOT of mushrooms especially the lunch we had when we visited their farm. For me though, I saw their meaty mushrooms as an ingredient for many potentially delicious, savory dishes. Instead, the Aetas there simply boiled the mushrooms like what they do with almost every other ingredient, and added vetsin to taste. They also added talbos to give some more flavor. Throughout my three days in the community, I had many bland-tasting mushroom dishes.
However, my view on mushrooms improved dramatically when, a couple of Saturdays ago, my good friend and I planned an Italian night at her lovely home. Bianca came up with the idea of preparing lasagna but it wasn’t any other regular red-sauce lasagna — she thought of whipping up a Mushroom Lasagna.
Giving her a hand, we tried our best to make this certain lasagna. Throughout the process, Bianca and I were both very nervous because both of us have never even made lasagna before. After preparing the ingredients, we were joined by our first judge of the night, Paolo.
We used four types of mushrooms to substitute the usual meat found in lasagna, and these were, namely, Portobello, oyster, shitake and button mushrooms.
I sautéed the mushrooms in olive oil and butter while adding Sicilian sea salt, pepper, gruyere and mozzarella regularly since I was nervous that the mushrooms would be too bland. Likewise, the pot where I was sautéing the mushrooms in naturally became watery and thus, I was fearful that the water or the mushroom’s juices might not taste well in a pasta dish. On the other hand, Bianca was busy preparing the cream sauce for the lasagna. With cream, generous amounts of gruyere and mozzarella as well as some dash of nutmeg, Bianca prepared what was our dish’s saving grace. This was because when we tasted the mushrooms, the shitake overpowered the other mushrooms, making its very Asian flavor stick out like a sour-thumb. We were both on the verge of quitting.
However, our fungus was confronted by a tuber. If the Shitake overpowered the Portobello, button and oyster mushrooms, then Bianca had a way of combating it gracefully: truffle oil.
She poured into her béchamel-like sauce a generous amount of the magical oil from her literally small glass bottle (more like a vial!) of truffle oil, which, by the way, you can easily buy from reliable Santi’s. It smelled heavenly.
We then proceeded in the well-known steps of making lasagna: oil the Pyrex, put the first layer of no-need-to-boil lasagna, then a layer of mushrooms, then some cream sauce, then another layer of lasagna, and so on and so forth. We then covered the last layer with the rest of the heavy-cream sauce, lots and lots of cheese and some basil leaves to give it some Italian taste and aroma. We baked it at 375 for a couple of minutes.
Paolo was our judge and the moment he had his first serving, Bianca and I found out that our Mushroom Lasagna (which we now call Quattro Fungi Lasagna) was a SUCCESS! It was creamy, cheesy but also light because we didn’t use meat but mushrooms! The shitake’s sharp taste was reduced but the tartufo flavor was highlighted. Nevertheless, our fungus dish’s delicate flavors were intact and the lasagna Bianca and I made was realized as having the potential. It was a delicious lasagna.
We paired this with a bottle of red, spicy Chilean wine, a light white cucumber salad tossed in vinegar and sugar that cooled our palette and some Italian sausages sprinkled with herbs.
Dessert was heavenly Bellini Granita, mashed peaches frozen in Prosecco (sparkling wine), and the peaches’ juice, which was boiled with lemon and sugar beforehand.
It was a superb Italian dinner part for Paolo, Bianca, and I. Nicole followed but wasn’t able to eat much since she already came from a family affair. Nevertheless, all of us were able to enjoy the star of that night, our Quattro Fungi Lasagna.
That pasta dish conceptualized by my good friend Bianca is now hecho ayer.
visit also: http://biancarodriguez.wordpress.com/