Early autumn slips quietly past late summer, announcing itself by the appearance of baskets of chanterelle mushrooms arranged on marketplace tables. The chanterelle is decidedly my favorite mushroom, not only for its golden color, but for its graceful shape and velvet texture. Its bright citrus-like flavor blends well with the earthy portobello in an almost effortless salad.
The artichoke is a beauty. It may vary in color from honeydew to olive tinged with violet and mulberry. Its shape fluctuates from that of a cone to a perfectly round globe. The first artichoke of the spring is often bound into bunches, still attached to its stem with long languid leaves. The artichoke makes for a perfect table setting when put in a mason jar half-filled with water. Eventually it will open and display an intensely magenta thistle.
The best thing about the artichoke are its leaves, particularly when steamed with lemon and served warm in a bowl with olive oil.
Yoghurt with lemon and olive oil blend interestingly into a simple dip. True to the Italian kitchen tradition, a delicious dish depends upon the quality and choice of ingredients. Use yoghurt that is so thick, it stays on your spoon. Squeeze an organically grown lemon. Pick bright green dill. Look for a fruity yet mild extra virgin olive oil. Use a clove of fresh spring garlic. Select an especially good salt. The resulting combination of creamy citrus is a match for grilled or marinated vegetables – is made to be poured over lettuces as a salad dressing – and is meant to be served in a big bowl as a dip for breads.