Blog Post

Chestnuts and Mushrooms

mushrooms-and-chestnuts-los-angeles-ovenworks-blog-postFall is the season for harvesting and storing, for bundling up and sitting around the fireplace. When I lived in Italy, the simple pleasures of harvesting started in late summer and early fall with mushrooms season, or as the Italians say andare a caccia di funghi, that is, going hunting for mushrooms. It meant hiking into the thick silence of the oak and chestnut woods, where the boars usually roamed undisturbed.

I was lucky that my neighbor, nonna Assunta, took me under her wing and brought me along. Nonna (grandma) Assunta lived a long life farming the land, overcoming incredible hardships with an indomitable spirit. Although 80 years old, she still worked 8 hours a day and pretty much left me in the dust when the carrying of bales of herbs was concerned. I loved listening to her and tried to absorb all she had to teach me. If late summer rains had brought about ideal conditions for mushrooms, she would lead me to her secret spots deep in the woods where we would harvest wild porcini and chanterelle mushrooms. We would victoriously head back home with our baskets full of our “hunt”, part of which was for enjoying fresh and most for drying.

The woods around Oliveto, the small Tuscan village where I lived, were also rich in chestnuts, which we collected and roasted on the fire at night when the weather turned chilly. This is something you can do in a wood fired oven as well.

Wood-Fired Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Use a cast iron skillet or a metal pan, filling it with one layer of chestnuts that have been cut crosswise on top. Slide in the wood fired oven at 500 degrees and shake the skillet or pan a few times during the cooking period. When the skin of the chestnuts start to burnish and the cross cut opens, try one nut: if it feels soft when squeezed between the fingers, you know it is ready to enjoy. Fun to serve in small, brown bags!

Later in November it would be time for the olive harvest and, boy, this was hard work! In Tuscany the olives are pruned heavily to keep the trees small so that they can be harvested by hand. With the help of nets, ladders, and baskets one climbs each tree and running the hand over each individual branch collects the olive fruits. This method and the colder climate is what create the best olive oil on the planet, very low in acidity. We would try out the newly pressed oil on bruschettas, bragging that our oil was better than our neighbor’s!

Here’s a recipe for Wild Mushroom Bruschetta and while you are at it, check out the Holiday Turkey recipe on our website at as well, it will come in handy for Thanksgiving!

Wild Mushroom Bruschetta

Serves 4 people

As it is hard to find wild mushrooms, I have adapted the recipe for Portobella mushrooms instead.

  • 2 Portobella mushrooms, cut in half

For the seasoning

  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and add the balsamic vinegar. Mix until the salt has dissolved. Add the herbs and the pressed garlic. Add the olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Fire up the wood fired oven. Let the fire burn down, this will take about one hour. Move the fire and embers to the right or the left side of the oven. Rake some of the coals of the fire to the front-middle of the oven. Place a free-standing grill over the coals for a few minutes before placing the halved mushrooms on it.

Brush lightly the halved mushrooms with the seasoning mix, then grill the mushrooms.When they are done, chop them and add them to the rest of the seasoning.Grill 4 slices of Italian bread. Add the mushrooms and seasoning on each grilled slice and serve. Buon appetito!

Related Posts

Where to Buy the Wood Fired Oven Used by Master Pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo

Check out this video of Ciro Salvo cooking pizza in one of our wood

How to Roast Chicken in a Terracotta Pizza Oven

Cooking chicken in a brick pizza oven is easy and fast! Particularly if

Pizza Part Two: Kneading, Shaping, Toppings, and the Bake!

The second part of the post about pizza written by Kevin McQuade, you don’t

Pizza Part One: It’s All About the Crust!

In this post we have asked Kevin McQuade, blogger and bread-maker extraordinaire, and owner

Fennel, Gruyere, and Black Pepper Pizza*

When it comes to garnishing pizza, experimenting is really the fun part of it!

Cornish Game Hen with Cherries and Harissa

I experimented in the pizza oven last week and the outcome is this delicious

Ceci in the Pizza Oven!

Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, or Ceci for the Italians, are a beloved staple in all

Wood-Fired Kale Chips plus Carrots and Turnips

Once you fire up your wood-burning oven you might as well use the “left-over”

An Easy Pork Roast for Your Pizza Oven!*

Use your wood fired oven to impress your friends with this easy-to-make recipe.

The Best Tools for Your Wood-Fired Oven

During a visit to a beautiful old church in southern Sweden I spotted a

Baking Bread in Your Wood-Fired Oven

I will be turning over a new leaf, I mean… a new loaf, this

Pumpkin Pizza for the Holidays!

For Thanksgiving this year I thought of offering small pumpkin pizzas as appetizers to

About Flour and Pizza

Once you master the basics of pizza making you will most likely start the

Insulating Your Wood-Fired Oven

It can be a bit confusing at first to figure out how to properly

Mike and Susan Share Their Pizza Oven Project

Pizza oven projects are so varied, but there’s the common thread of passion and

It Started with Pizza on the Island of Capri

Via Krupp. Photo by Raffaele Mastroianni. I remember well the first time I had wood

Walnut & Black Pepper Cookies in the Wood-Fired Oven

I am not known to follow recipe books, perhaps because I like experimenting, following

Fire Up Your Pizza Oven for the Holidays!

Turkey is something one has to do in a wood fired oven to really

Planning Your Wood-Fired Oven Meal

As Francis Mallmann puts it, “Cooking with wood fire is like going on a

Recipe: Wood-Fired Pizzarollis

You will appreciate serving the pizzarollis at your parties because you can conveniently use

Starting the Fire in Your Pizza Oven

It’s funny how you can repeat a process for years and then suddenly your

My Wood-Fired Oven is Ready for Spring!

Have been too busy to post a blog lately… and that’s because I have

Happy New Pizza!

A wonderful crust with fennel, mozzarella and fontina We started the year stumbling upon a

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The Official Cutting of the Pizza A heartfelt thank you to all our friends and

Getting Ready…One, Two, Three, Testing

Thanksgiving is around the corner and if you are planning to bake your holiday

Build a Good Fire

    Even in California the fall is showing off its first chill and some rain.

After the Fires… a Good Fire.

All our outdoor activity stopped for a long week as heat and forest fires

A Summer Birthday

A great grilled appetizer Our friend Mike had his birthday party over the weekend and

Pomodori al Forno

Tomato Harvest It is so much fun to harvest in the garden early on a

Wood-Fired Goodness

Cherries getting ready for the wood fired oven! Tomorrow is the 4th of July and

Life is Sweet

We’ve had such a spell of wonderful weather here in Los Angeles… the cool

Spring Around “Il Forno”

Black Cod with Fennel al Forno As spring vegetables make their appearance here in California,

Verdura

Artichokes – From the Farm to the Wood-Fired Oven In Italy I got accustomed to

For the Love of Pizza!

Hot Pizza Fresh from the Oven At home, my husband Peter is the pizza maker,

Two Words for 2009: Buon Appetito!

Bread by Charles Van Over, Fresh from the Oven The Italian in me has the

Christmas Around the Oven

Enjoying the pizza oven outdoors. In California we can pretty much entertain outdoors almost all

In the Beginning…

Oliveto My fascination with wood fired ovens began in Italy. In the early seventies my parents