Learning the hard way
On a recent flurry of collecting forays with friends through orchard, forest and sea, we accumulated a dozen Fuyu persimmons, a heap of coastal porcini mushrooms, and half a dozen Dungeness crabs. These are all among the finest fruits of fall—but could they, we wondered, be melded into one graceful dish, a potpourri of the season?
We decided to chance it, and a crab-persimmon-porcini soup sounded like the sort of dish that might grace the cover of a November issue of Sunset Magazine, especially if we garnished it with a sprig of rosemary. We started gracefully enough, with diced persimmons and olive oil in a hot crock with basic seasonings. The onions caramelized and the Fuyus simmered. The porcini mushrooms went into a broiler doused with olive oil and seasoning while we pureed the persimmons in a blender, then transferred them back to the crock. We added a quart of crab stock, 8 ounces of shelled crab flesh and 1 ounce of dried porcini powder. Perfect golden-brown cross sections of mushroom went on top.
Alas, the soup was cloyingly sweet. Crab, porcini and even rosemary couldn’t subdue the sugar. Yet we learned something: While nature might furnish us with an array of beautiful seasonal items, technology provides multiple burners on the stove. It’s best to use them.