The beach house is closed for the season. The rientro is complete and everyone is back in the city where school and work schedules once again dictate the rhythm of daily life. What’s the first thing a Tuscan cook thinks about in autumn? That’s the question I asked of Valeria Bruni, a busy author and art professor who is also a passionate cook. Her answer was instantaneous. ‘Funghi porcini,’ she said with a big smile. ‘I am always so happy in September because I can eat porcini as often as I like for an entire month!’ Living in Florence, we’ve got easy access to these highly sought-after mushrooms, called Boletus Edulis in Latin (from the stem bolet meaning ‘su-perior mushroom’ and edulis meaning ‘edible’). The Sant’Ambrogio and San Lorenzo markets are great sources of porcini, which are found in pine and hardwood forest areas that provide the shady environment in which they thrive. Their harvest, tied to periods of rainfall, occurs from late summer into autumn.Porcini look the way mushrooms should look, as if a little gnome might peek out from behind the stem at any moment. With fat white stalks topped by broad brown caps, they can be quite large, up to six inches or more across the cap. Their size plays an important role in deciding how to prepare them (giant caps for grilling and smaller ones for sauces and salads). Porcini have a higher water content than other mushrooms; their texture is smooth and they have a nutty, earthy aroma. When buying porcini, how can you find the youngest and freshest? For one thing, the pores on the underside of the caps are white when young and fade to yellow and then brown with age. Also, the older the mushroom, the higher the water content, so the weight and feel can indicate the dampness level. If the water content is too high, the mushroom won’t have the firm texture that it should have. Here are four of Valeria’s recipes, each of them simple, pure and easy to prepare.