Porcini shaved paper-thin to make this classic Italian first course
2-ounce piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced fresh fennel
1/2 pound fresh porcini mushrooms, stems removed and the mushrooms thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
bunch of arugula, stems discarded, leaves washed and spun dry
a few drops white truffle oil (optional)
1. Shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano into paper-thin slices with a vegetable peeler and set aside.
2. Combine the fennel and mushrooms in a bowl. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the oil mixture over the mushroom mixture and combine well. Mix in the arugula leaves.
3. Arrange the mushroom mixture on 4 plates and top with the shaved cheese. Drizzle with truffle oil if desired.
Note: Here are the qualities that other raw mushrooms bring to this dish (mushrooms are listed in order of preference):
*Oyster mushrooms: spongy and chewy, like a bowl of rustic pasta- a surprising amount of flavor.
*Portobello: soft like porcini, but little flavor.
*Regular cultivated (or button) mushrooms: a good crunchy chew, but devoid of flavor.
*Fresh shiitake: watery and tasteless.
For the mushrooms lacking flavor, a drizzle of white truffle oil supplies all the flavor you could ever want. We like to leave it off the salad, however, when the mushrooms (like porcini) already have their own flavor.
We're not generally enthusiastic about raw mushrooms. But if they're shaved paper-thin to make this classic Italian first course, they really are delicious. Porcini, of course -- the wild spring-and-fall mushrooms called cepes in France -- are by far the best mushrooms to use for this dish, by dint of their soft texture and deep, bosky flavor. If they're not available, however, you may substitute other mushrooms (see Note). Serves 4 as a first course