Falling for mushroom ragu.

Autumn is pressing itself upon us. The entire summer has been fantastically (in my humble opinion) mild, and right when school has started starting (schools have been starting around here just about every week for the past month) suddenly it feels downright chilly outside! A few trees have dropped dry golden leaves for several weeks now, and just this morning we saw a scattering of gorgeous red maple leaves on the sidewalk. My favorite season is arriving!
fall leaves medium
The temperature has to drop but a mere sprinkling of degrees and I’m ready to pull out my stew recipes and stock the pantry with cans of pumpkin. Last weekend was cool enough to warrant the first round of cold weather comfort food, and we were inspired by a Julie-and-Julia-inspired article at the
Sasquatch Books Blog which included a recipe for Mushroom Ragu. The recipe, contributed by Alice Waters, is one of 125 included in Cooking with Les Dames d'Escoffier. We can't get enough of earthy, woodsy mushrooms on pizza and in risotto, so we had to try this ragu.
mushrooms and veggies
We visited nearby
Treasure Island (lookee -- they have an endorsement from Julia herself!) for the assortment of shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms we used in our ragu, as well as a half pound of silky soft, deep plum-colored fresh figs -- which we sliced and paired with sliced fresh mozzarella to snack on while we chopped and sauteed. The earthy (and very sensual) figs were a fitting prelude to those earthy mushrooms.
fresh figs and fresh mozzarella
Naturally, we took at least one shortcut (I am
almost notorious for taking liberties with recipes). Most notably, we did not sautee the three types of mushrooms individually (Alice, forgive us! we were eager to get on to the eating part), and we used a small amount of dried italian herbs instead of fresh thyme -- we rarely use fresh herbs quickly enough so usually they end up a swampy little mess in a corner of the vegetable drawer, or hopelessly moldy. We also had prepared chicken broth for the recipe, but ended up using the heavenly broth brought forth while the mushrooms cooked. Oh, the appetizing aromas in our kitchen that evening ... and there wasn’t even any garlic on the menu!
homely delicious ragu
After you get past all the chopping of onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms, there’s just some sauteeing and about 15 minutes of gentle simmering (in
real cream) before you can ladle this scrumptious and homely mixure onto a bowl of hot noodles (we used Mrs. Grass egg noodles -- this is a dish for noodles not hoity pasta). Yes, homely -- as absolutely delicious as the ragu is, it’s not the prettiest, nor is it very photogenic. I Googled images of “mushroom ragu” and it seems no one can take a really appetizing photo of it. But don’t let that stop you -- chop, sautee, simmer and enjoy this comforting food as these final days of summer change to russet and gold.

Oh, and dessert? Homemade nectarine sorbet from David Lebovitz's
Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments. Nectarines are my favorite summer fruit, and this sorbet is a delicious and easy way to make that taste of summer last. Yum!
nectarine sorbet