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Michael Loran Hansel, the subject of this week's Omnivorous, is the landscaper who sourced the wild Italian mint known as mentuccia for Piccolo Sogno chef Tony Priolo. If the piece whetted your curiousity , you won't need to jump the restaurant's patio fence to get your own plant--Hansel will be selling his supply by the end of May.
Hansel told me he used to cook much more elaborately, but these days he goes simple. This dish is different from the one he made for me, but it ought to highlight the herb's unusual flavor. "All ingredients are portioned to the cook's taste," he says. "Use the best ingredients and try not to get in the way of their individual flavors. The mentuccia will bring them together."
tomatoes (fresh and in season), diced
salt & pepper
Fontina or Parmigian-Reggiano cheese, grated
Add oil to a saute pan. Right before the smoking point add shallots. When translucent add garlic. When you smell the garlic add the mushrooms. When they start to wilt, add the diced tomatoes and toss for two minutes. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and add mentuccia for another minute while tossing. (The herb needs to be on the heat for a minute while being tossed to release the oil.) Plate and top with cheese. Enjoy!
In the listings: eleven near-west-side Italian restaurants.