Botanical: Boletus zelleri
Description: Cap 4 to 11 cm, convex, nearly flat at maturity, smooth to uneven brown to blackish-brown, velvety, possibly a whitish bloom when young. Pores small, pale yellow to yellowish-green, often (but not always) bruising blue. Stem 4 to 12 cm long, 1/2 to 3 cm thick, dry, solid, smooth, yellow or tan, with red granules or flush. Smell and taste mild. Spore print olive-brown.
Habitat: Scattered on ground in coniferous forests, fall.
Primary keys: Brown to blackish-brown velvety cap; pores slowly staining blue; red on stem; grows on ground.
Edibility: Fair. Not particularly notable, but sometimes fairly abundant.
Note: This is an elegant mid-fall bolete that is easy to identify. Its cousin — B. mirabilis — looks very similar, but always grows on wood. Another cousin — B. chrysenteron — is virtually identical, but has a somewhat lighter cap with cracking in the velvet and less red on the stem. Older specimens are frequently infested with larvae.
Kasha Varnishkes with Mushroom Gravy
2 T. vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. Boletus zelleri, thinly sliced
2 t. fresh thyme, minced (1/2 t. dry)
3 T. flour
1 C. chicken stock
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup kasha buckwheat groats
1 egg, well beaten
2 T. vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 C. chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pasta bow ties
- In a medium skillet, heat 2 T. oil. Add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are dry, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the flour, cook for a couple more minutes, then add the stock, soy sauce and sherry and stir constantly until a smooth sauce forms. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until thickened, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
- Cover gravy and keep warm.
- In a small bowl, mix the kasha with the beaten egg. Be sure all the grains are covered with egg.
- Place a medium non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add the kasha to the pan and, using a wooden fork, flatten it out a bit, stirring and moving it about the pan until the egg dries and the grains have mostly separated. Set aside.
- Boil the bow tie pasta in salted water just until tender.
- In a 4-quart heavy stove-top covered casserole, heat 2 T. oil and saute the onions until clear. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper and the reserved kasha. Stir a bit and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring now and then, until the kasha is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, stir into the kasha, turn out on serving platter and top with mushroom gravy.
Note: Virtually any mushroom except firm/crisp types will work.