I’ve been on a bit of a Montana-themed reading bender of late: Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky, a whole slew of Jim Harrison’s short stories (Legends of the Fall, The Beast God Forgot to Invent, The Woman Lit by Fireflies, The Summer He Didn’t Die), and, as of last night, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. As a general rule, I’m not one for forewords in books; I’m usually impatient to get to the work itself, and find myself rushing through the pages numbered i-ix hurriedly–if at all. But the 25th Anniversary edition of Maclean’s book has a forward by Annie Proulx, so I made an exception and sat down for a careful read.
A good decision.
Besides providing helpful background and insight into Maclean’s life, Proulx describes the story in such an achingly beautiful manner: in her words, A River Runs Through It is “one of the rare truly great stories in American literature–allegory, requiem, memoir–and so powerful and enormous in symbol and regret for a lost time and a lost brother, for human mortality and the consciousness of beauty, that it becomes part of the life experience of the reader, unforgettable.” She finds that “[t]here is something large and powerful here about the nature of the event, memory, possibility, and pulling it into a piece of writing.” She then quotes William Gass’s short story “The Pederson Kid,” where the main character observes:
“The wind whooped and the house creaked like steps do.
I was alone with all that could happen.”
To be alone with all that could happen. To be exposed to, experience, and process such observations; to look at the world, at others, at ourselves, in a new light. To ponder human mortality and the consciousness of beauty; to touch the powerful nature of events, memory, possibility. That is why we readers read. And why what we read changes how we are in the world.
Mushroom Frittata with Grilled Garlic Scapes
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1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C tamari or balsamic vinegar
4-6 garlic scapes or scallions
1 portobello mushroom cap, stem & gills removed
8-10 shiitake mushroom caps (stems removed)
8 oz white button mushrooms
1 C spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 C parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 T butter or ghee
1/2 C heavy cream, whole milk, or coconut milk*
1/2 C grated parmesan**
salt & pepper to taste
There are two options for preparing the garlic scapes/scallions and mushrooms: a grill, or a cast iron skillet. Instructions for each are detailed below.
- Whisk the olive oil and tamari or vinegar together in a small bowl.
- Thread the white button mushrooms and shiitake caps onto skewers. Drizzle the oil & tamari mixture over the mushroom kebobs and the portobello cap. Set aside to marinate while the grill preheats (about 15 minutes).
- Preheat grill to high.
- Once hot, grill the mushrooms for 4 minutes, turn the skewers and portobello cap, and grill for 4 minutes more. Remove from heat.
- Grill the garlic scapes or scallions for about 2 minutes per side, until slightly charred. Remove from heat.
- Once the mushrooms are cool enough to touch, remove them from the skewer and quarter the white button mushrooms and slice the shiitake caps. Dice or slice the portobello cap.
If using a cast iron pan:
- Whisk the olive oil and tamari or vinegar together in a medium to large bowl.
- Quarter the white button mushrooms, slice the shittake caps, and dice or slice the portobello cap into thin strips. Marinate all the mushrooms in the bowl for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add the garlic scapes or scallions, and cook until slightly charred, 2-3 minutes per side.
- Reduce heat to medium, add the mushrooms (do not add all the marinade to the pan; just the mushrooms), and saute until the mushrooms have released their water and softened, about 5 minutes. If the mushrooms begin to stick, add a bit of water to the pan. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
- Coarsely chop 2 of the charred garlic scapes or scallions.
- Whisk the eggs and heavy cream, whole milk, or coconut milk* in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the coarsely chopped garlic scapes/scallions, mushrooms, spinach, parsley, and cheese, if using. (Note: if you want to create a design with the sliced portobellos, hold them out and layer them on top of the egg mixture once it’s in the pan.)
- Heat a 10″ cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
- Once the skillet is hot, add 1 T butter and swirl to coat the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Add the egg mixture to the pan, and cook until the edges just begin to set, about 5 minutes.
- Place the skillet in the oven and bake until cooked through. I prefer mine to just barely begin to get golden on top, which takes 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and garnish with the additional garlic scapes or chives.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving to make slicing easier.
* Note: I find that heavy cream gives a lighter and fluffier texture, but all 3 options work and taste great!
** If you are on a paleo plan that doesn’t allow dairy (or if you just love bacon), you can substitute 1/2 C cooked, crumbled bacon for the parmesan.