Angelo Garro chops wild fennel for a meal.
Fennel cakes fry in a cast-iron pan.
Master hunter and forager Angelo Garro shares his recipes for wild fennel cakes — a springtime specialty — Sicilian poached eggs and his own porcini pasta.
Wild Fennel Cakes
Yields approx. 20 -30 patties
1.5 lbs of wild fennel fronds
1 cup high-quality parmesan cheese
1 cup coarse bread crumbs (made from day-old bread ground up in a food processor or blender)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Directions for gathering and cooking:
Gather young fennel fronds –— about 1 1/2 pounds. Fennel hearts are the bright green, furry piece that is in the center of the stalk of fennel. When you're gathering them, pick only the fronds and lay them in a paper bag horizontally — all the tops should be pointing in the same direction. Keep them laying horizontally as you wash them gently in a bucket of water, holding them in your hands to avoid bruising.
Wash and parboil for 15-20 minutes. Make sure to wash fronds very well. Lay the stalks on the cutting board and chop finely. Taste to make sure they are tender. Drain and dry in own steam — you can stir a little with a wooden spoon to help the cooling process. When the fronds are cold, place in a bowl.
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Form into patties. Heat cast iron or non-sticking frying pan with a very little bit of olive oil cut with a very small amount of peanut oil. Fry fennel cakes on both sides until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drain again on a paper towel. Best when served warm.
Sicilian Poached Eggs
1 to 1.5 cups of water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Salt & fresh cracked pepper
Fresh or dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (red wine or balsamic). Break your egg into the boiling water. Cook for 1 – 1.5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your toast. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and drain off any liquid when done.
The yolk should be soft and the egg white should be solid.
Place your egg over your toast and salt and pepper to taste. Add oregano and a drop of extra virgin olive oil and a drop of vinegar.
Angelo's Porcini Pasta
1 pound of pasta — fresh or dried linguini or fettuccini
Porcini mushrooms — about 1-2 per person
Salt and pepper
High-quality parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic sliced
Porcini mushrooms can be harvested wild if you know exactly what to look for, or bought at any good organic grocery store. When choosing the porcini, select small, firm porcinis with cups not more than 2 to 3 inches across. Brush and wipe clean. Never put in water.
Slice into 1/8 -inches vertically. Heat olive oil in cast iron pan and sauté porcinis until golden. Keep your pan very hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 clove sliced garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Add sautéed porcinis to your plated pasta and sprinkle parsley on top with a drizzle of olive oil. "Serve with beautiful, good parmesan, but not too much."