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California Dreamin’

May 10, 2010

By Pat Tanner

During those nasty, stormy days of February I absconded for a week to sunny California, including a stay in San Francisco. Over a four-day-visit I managed to go to the wonderful Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market two times. The only reason I didn’t go more often was because the market is in full swing only twice a week at that time year.

I was the proverbial kid in the candy shop, practically dancing from one stall to another, one shop to another. I had promised to cook up a market dinner for my daughter and her roommate centered around whatever ingredients most inspired me. These turned out to be wild mushrooms, fresh handmade pasta, arugula, goat cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and Meyer lemons. With those last I made a simple vinaigrette to serve over baby greens. With everything else I called upon a recipe from Alfred Portale, whose Gotham Bar & Grill in Manhattan was the first fine-dining restaurant my daughter ever experienced.

Although I used a mixture of wild mushrooms – including chanterelles and black trumpets – the recipe is just as good with the more prosaic cremini that Portale recommends. The best part of this dish is how the cheese melts into perfect creaminess, coating every strand of pasta. I used California’s Humboldt Fog.


“12 Seasons Cookbook” by Alfred Portale (Broadway Books, 2000)

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

4 cups arugula, coarsely chopped

6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions, but before draining reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring frequently, 2 or 3 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until garlic is soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Toss pasta with mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese. Stir in reserved cooking liquid until cheese becomes creamy. Toss in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6.

**Can’t get to CA? Find a farmers’ market near you.**

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