Pure Gold in the Eye of the Beholder

A good friend and colleague of Offspring #4 stopped by yesterday with a promised gift of hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, otherwise known as quarin in the Piemontese dialect of Italian-Americans in our Illinois town and barbison or quarin in Colleretto and the Castelnuovo area of Northern Italy. Could life get any better? These mushrooms had been harvested hours before, on J’s own property, right before snow began to fall, our first of the season and unusually early for Veterans Day in Southern Illinois.

As soon as J left (with two jars of my antipasto), Hubby D started lusting after the mushrooms that J had already cleaned and cut into generous pieces.

“Have we got any bagna càuda?” D asked.

As if there was ever any doubt. D had referred to the traditional garlic/butter/anchovy sauce the Piemontese enjoy as a dipping sauce for veggies, among other uses. In my case, pint-size jars of the homemade concoction stored in the fridge, and used to enhance meat, fish, veggies, gravy, sauce, or on its own with pasta. D dipped to his heart’s content in a small pot of hot bagna, but only made a small dent in J’s mushrooms so I decided to st-r-e-t-ch the rest of those gems to make them last as long as possible. Not wanting to mess with pickling, I instead opted on a simple sauté before freezing in small portions. Here’s my recipe:

Hen-of-the-Woods (Quarin) Mushrooms, My Way

(Works just as well with other mushrooms)

4 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-size pieces

¼ C chopped onions

¼ C chopped garlic

2 T basil pesto

2 T fresh lemon juice

Salt and optional freshly ground pepper to taste

Over medium stove top heat, melt butter and olive oil in large skillet.

Add mushrooms, in at least two batches to avoid overcrowding.

Allow each pan of mushroom to brown a little without stirring.

Combine all sautéed mushrooms in the skillet and reduce heat.

Add onions and garlic to mushrooms and stir, continuing to cook until soft.

Add pesto and swirl through mixture.

Taste, add salt if needed, hand-ground pepper if desired.

Turn off heat and squeeze fresh lemon juice over mixture.


Ready to enjoy as an appetizer or an accompaniment to polenta, or other dishes.

Or, place loosely in freezer bags or containers and freeze until ready to use.

(My thanks to Diego Bertot, owner-chef of Ristorante Minichin, Colleretto, Italy, for the correct spelling of quarin. And to his brother Diego Bertot for another name for hen-of-the-words—barbison.)


About Loretta Giacoletto

Loretta Giacoletto is an American writer of family sagas, mysteries, and contemporary fiction, all of which contain elements of crime. She divides her time between the St. Louis Metropolitan area and Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks where she writes fiction, essays, and her bi-monthly blog, Loretta on Life, while her husband Dominic cruises the waters for bass and crappie. Their five children have left the once chaotic nest but occasionally return for her to-die-for ravioli and roasted peppers topped with garlic-laden bagna càuda. An avid traveler, she has visited numerous countries in Europe and Asia but Italy remains her favorite, especially the area from where her family originates: the Piedmont region near the Italian Alps. - See more at: http://www.loretta-giacoletto.com
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