Friday, September 11, 2009

Pickle Passport: Cardoncelli Magic Mushrooms

The wild cardoncello mushroom—so called because they grow under thistle, or cardo—is just the Smurfiest. Although they look like the Japanese mushroom cookies with chocolate tops, cardoncelli are typical of the terra alla tavola (earth to table) cooking found in the Murgia, a fertile strata in mid-Puglia.

Cardoncelli season is fleeting, so it’s no surprise they make for ubiquitous pickles in the region’s daily markets and antipasti offerings. Buy in bulk from plastic barrels or opt for the canned, easy-to-bring-home version (sort of easy--damn you, three-ounce rule).

These rascally cardoncelli are from a two-table market in the tiny town of Bitonto, just outside of Bari, where there is an impressive 11th-century Romanesque cathedral.