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With thoughts of Festa Italia still on my mind, a request arrived from Nancy Magestro hoping the arancini recipe Ross Parisi used to make at his former Rossario’s restaurant on Monona Drive was available. Sadly, it is not. However, Barb Troia Hildebrand was happy to share one she made with her mother, Mayme Jane Vitale Troia, back in the 1990s that had been passed on in the 1960s by her mother’s friend, Sarah Braschi Jones. Arancini, also referred to as “little oranges,” are fried rice balls often served with sauce.

They were favorites of Hildebrand’s grandfather, Frank Troia, who owned the Village Bar and employed his son, Frank, Barbara’s father. When the Village Bar was sold, her father became bar manager at the beloved Josie’s on Regent Street.

Arancini

1 pound of hamburger

2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste

1 small onion, chopped into small pieces

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup raisins

4 cups of long cooking rice

8 cups of water

2 eggs

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces of butter

2 cans of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

4 cups of oil and ½ cup olive oil

Brown hamburger, drain, and add tomato paste, onion, sugar and raisins. Cook rice in 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cover; simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Let rice cool completely; add 2 eggs, a cup of cheese and butter. Mix all together. Whip 6 eggs for dipping rice balls. To form rice balls, take about 1/3 cup of rice mixture and form in the palm of your hand, then take a tablespoon of hamburger mixture and put in the middle of the rice; add another 1/3 cup of rice to form a ball with your hands. Dip rice balls in whipped eggs and coat with seasoned bread crumbs. Fry in a large pan with enough oil to cover halfway, then turn to fry until golden on both sides. Makes 15 rice balls.

A short time ago, an acquaintance asked about morel mushrooms and I didn’t have an answer. In fact, except for recently watching someone on TV crawl through wooded areas in search of a few morels hidden under leaves, morels are a seasonal mystery for me.

Although I keep a supply of other mushrooms on hand, I felt somewhat deprived by my lack of morel knowledge and turned to my cookbook collection to learn more. In my friend Jerry Minnich’s “North Woods Cottage Cookbook,” morels are described as being “sly and cunning.” This is due to the difficulty in finding them. Once found, his all-time favorite method to prepare them is by cutting them in two, lengthwise, running them quickly under cold water, patting dry with paper toweling, then sautéing in melted butter before drizzling them with a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

Of course, it should go without saying that morel hunting or harvesting wild mushrooms should not be done unless you’re confident you can safely identify the mushrooms you’re looking for.

Within reach was another favorite book, “Fresh Market Wisconsin,” written by Terese Allen, another good friend who spent many years as a regular at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and whose first cookbook was the popular Ovens of Brittany compilation. Her description of morel mushrooms compares them to “small sponges or whimsical forest creatures that need perfect spring weather to survive.”

Celebration salad with morels, radishes, and spring greens

1 large head of Bibb lettuce

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch of radishes

½ pound morel mushrooms

½ cultivated white mushrooms

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

Tear lettuce and watercress apart into bite- size pieces. Rinse in cold water and dry thoroughly in a salad spinner or cotton towel. Clean radishes; cut into quarters. Combine greens and radishes in a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Clean morels by halving each one lengthwise and soaking them briefly in cold water. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Rinse white mushrooms and halve or quarter them.

Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Raise heat to medium-high, add all the mushrooms, and saute until barely tender, stirring often. Stir in lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper (Can be held at this point, with the heat off, until ready to serve.)

To serve: Warm mushrooms briefly just before tossing with the greens. Portion onto salad plates and pass the pepper mill.

6 servings.

As long as we’re sharing mushroom recipes, here is an excellent one using fresh mushrooms a reader submitted from what appears to be a Taste of Home publication. Described as being a “welcome addition to any meal or party buffet,” I also made this using extra virgin olive oil, basil and oregano.

Pickled mushrooms

2/3 cup tarragon vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 garlic clove, minced

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 pound fresh mushrooms

Medium onion, thinly sliced into rings

Finely diced sweet red pepper

In a glass bowl, combine first seven ingredients. Add mushrooms and onion; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with red pepper before serving.

Yield: 4 cups

A few years ago, Elaine Hurda contacted me about a green bean salad recipe served on a relish tray at the old Stamm House back in the 1980s/90s. I’ve made attempts to locate the recipe to no avail, but had clipped one a while ago for a different green bean salad that might be just as good, or at least suffice.

Mediterranean green bean salad

6 cups fresh green beans, trimmed, cut in half, cooked and cooled

½ cup onion, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, cut into 16 wedges

3 hard cooked eggs, halved

25 black olives , halved

4 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled

¾ cup Italian dressing

½ teaspoon salt, optional

Gently mix all ingredients. Chill. Makes 6-9 servings

Tips from a test kitchen: Reduce amount of dressing to ½ cup for a lower-fat version, or add more eggs or cheese if you wish.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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