Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

THE BLACK TRUMPET (Craterellus sp.) is one my favorite wild mushrooms for the table. Like its cousins in the chanterelle family, it's earthy with a touch of fruity sweetness. On the West Coast, most pickers look for them in the coastal hills of northern California and southern Oregon, where they hide among the leaf litter of forests dominated by Douglas fir, tanoak, and madrone (with a smattering of decayed redwood for good measure). But they can be found elsewhere...

One of the great pleasures of mushroom hunting is sleuthing out the many clues that lead to a full basket. The black trumpet is one of those varieties that requires putting on your detective cap and paying serious attention to the landscape. Cracking the case results in a righteous dinner.

Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

This recipe is adapted from a New York Times recipe by Sam Sifton, who rightly points out that soy sauce and butter make a heavenly combination, particularly in service to fungi, because of the massive umami factor. 

Many home cooks view polenta with trepidation. It doesn't follow directions! Don't be afraid. Polenta is easy and forgiving, even if temperamental—and a perfect vehicle for wild mushrooms. Yes, it rarely cooks the same way twice, varying by brand, weather, elevation, and seemingly by whim. Just add more liquid if necessary and adjust seasoning, cheese, and butter to taste.

This makes a side dish for two. I used a mixture of golden chanterelles and black trumpets.

For polenta:

1 cup water (plus more as it cooks)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

For mushrooms:

1/4 lb (or more) wild mushrooms, roughly cut into pieces
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp porcini powder*, rehydrated with 1/2 cup hot water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

* You can pulverize a store-bought package of dried porcini into powder with a spice grinder. I make jars of the stuff from my #3 mature king boletes to use with rubs and in sauces, stews, and soups. No porcini? Substitute with chicken or vegetable stock.

1. Over medium-high heat, bring water and milk to simmer in a medium-sized sauce pan or pot. Slowly add polenta while whisking to prevent clumping. Season with salt and continue to whisk for a minute or two. Turn heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water as necessary to maintain creaminess.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan sauté garlic and mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook mushrooms until they release their water and then cook off liquid, allowing mushrooms to brown slightly; this might take several minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add 1/2 cup porcini stock to mushrooms. Reduce by half and turn heat to low. Add a splash each of soy sauce and cream and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir together and allow to thicken. Keep warm in pan over low heat while waiting for polenta to cook. If sauce becomes too thick, add another splash of water, cream, or stock. Just before plating, melt one more tablespoon of butter into mushroom sauce and stir.

4. When polenta is thoroughly cooked and creamy, add butter and cheese (and more liquid if necessary). Adjust seasoning. Serve in a bowl and spoon mushrooms and sauce on top.

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October Slide Presentations















Hey Washingtonians, I’ll be giving several slide presentations across the state this October about wild foods, foraging, and my books. Come by and say hello!
Lastly, on October 20 I’m hosting a Fall Foraged Dinner at Lark restaurant for the Field Trip Society. This will be a feast to remember with the season’s bounty.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fall Foraging Classes

This fall I'll be teaching wild food classes by land and sea.

Shellfish foraging and cooking classes, in partnership with Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec and Sound Fresh Clams & Oysters, will take place on Little Skookum Inlet in south Puget Sound near Shelton, WA, on the following dates:


Introductory foraging classes for wild plants and mushrooms will be offered through the Field Trip Society in Seattle, with the first class scheduled for September 26.

Check back here for additional classes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Stir-fried Oyster Mushrooms with Chicken

West Coast woods from NorCal to BC are loaded with oyster mushrooms right now—and it's nice to see the excitement they're stirring in foraging communities. Lately I've been seeing photos of oysters all over online message boards and myco groups. Morels have traditionally commanded most of the vernal ink among mycophagists, but for a majority of us west of the Cascades the oyster is really the local fungus of springtime.

I start looking for oysters (Pleurotus sp.) in lowland forests as soon as the temperature begins to warm and a few days after the first good rains. Some years I find them as early as late February though April is more typical. They'll keep fruiting throughout the spring and sometimes well into summer if regular rain continues, and then again in the fall.

The saprophytic oyster mushrooms in the Northwest will usually be found in association with dead red alder or cottonwood. They look like clam shells growing off the sides of standing snags or fallen trees. Fresh specimens are creamy white, with hues of pink or tan. They have gills and stems that are off-center.

While you can buy farmed oysters at the market, I find the wild variety to be more flavorful, and I use them in all kinds of dishes from around the world, east and west. My go-to recipe of recent years has been a quick, delicate Chinese stir-fry that will appeal to those who prefer a less spicy Cantonese style, which allows the oysters to really shine. If you're vegetarian, skip the chicken or swap in tofu.

3 tbsp peanut oil
3/4 lb oyster mushrooms, cut into half-dollar pieces
3/4 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced into a similar size as mushrooms
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced
salt and white pepper, to taste

Marinade
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp potato starch

Sauce
3 tbsp chicken stock
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp potato starch

1. Combine sliced chicken in a bowl with marinade ingredients, stir, and set aside. Whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In a wok over medium heat, sauté oyster mushrooms in 1 tbsp oil, stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl when slightly browned.

3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok over high heat and add marinated chicken. When the chicken is partly cooked but still pinkish, add garlic, ginger, and green onion. Cook together, stirring, for 30 seconds until aromatic before returning oyster mushrooms to wok. Continue to cook together another minute or so until chicken is barely cooked through.

4. Pour in sauce, stir to coat, and reduce heat. Season to taste and serve immediately with rice.

Serves 2




Monday, February 25, 2019

Spring Foraging Classes

I've partnered once again this spring with both The Field Trip Society in Seattle and Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec to offer spring foraging trips by land and sea. Some of these classes are already sold out, so don't delay.

Below are the classes and dates. Please do not contact me for registration—click on the links. Also, check back for additional classes.
  • March 22: Wild Edibles Hike, Issaquah, WA SOLD OUT
  • March 23: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA SOLD OUT
  • April 18: Wild Edibles Hike, Issaquah, WA SOLD OUT
  • April 22: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA 
  • May 5: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA SOLD OUT
  • May 7: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA 
  • May 31: Wild Edibles Hike, Issaquah, WA
  • June 5: Geoduck Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA 


Monday, February 4, 2019

Huckleberry Snow Cone

What do you do when it snows in Seattle? Make a Huckleberry Snow Cone!

While I was out skiing around the neighborhood this morning, my daughter Ruby was busy cooking down a cup of frozen huckleberries with water and sugar, then blending it in the Vitamix. After a quick straining she had a deep red, sweet and syrupy liquid to pour over packed snowballs—a perfect treat for a no-school Snow Day.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Matsutake Dobin Mushi

Last year my friend Taichi Kitamura, chef/owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura in Seattle, gave me a set of two dobin mushi teapots he'd recently picked up in Japan, where "dobin" means teapot and "mushi" is steamed. 

These ceramic teapots are used to serve Matsutake Dobin Mushi, a favorite seasonal dish in Japan that relies on thinly sliced matsutake mushrooms to flavor a subtle broth as they steam in the pot. Other ingredients such as small pieces of chicken, fish, or shrimp along with a few thin slices of mild greens (e.g., yu choy, baby bok choy, or spinach) are also added. The teapot is served with a small upside-down cup fitted to the lid, with half a yuzu on top. The steaming broth is then poured into the cup with a squeeze of the citrus and sipped like tea, while the ingredients in the teapot are eaten with chopsticks. It's a ritualistic meal that evokes memories of brisk walks in the autumn woods as the leaves turn colors and fall to the ground.

You may see sources online suggesting the substitution of matsutake with shiitake, oyster, or cremini mushrooms. Certainly you can do that—but you won't be experiencing the ethereal and aromatic treat that only matsutke can provide and which the Japanese call "autumn aroma." As for the broth, think umami. I asked Taichi for some tips. He makes a kombu dashi and adds manila clams and black cod bones. Shrimp shells work, too. Avoid aromatics such as onion, carrot, and celery, he advised, because they will over-power the mushroom. Season the broth with sake, soy sauce, and sea salt. Lastly, it's important to allow the matsutake slices to steep in the broth and impart their hints of cinnamon, spice, and fungus. Taichi recommends gently warming the teapots with all their ingredients in a bamboo steamer rather than cooking directly over flame.

Matsutake mushrooms are pungent, with meaty texture—a little goes a long way. If you're buying matsutake in the market you'll be spending a frightening amount per pound (they were $70/lb at my local Japanese grocer the other day), but luckily you don't need a lot, so just get a small button to serve two. And if you can forage them yourself in the forest, all the better. Mine came from a patch not far from Seattle, where I found several pounds of prime buttons pushing up through the moss beneath a Douglas fir. At the time I was hunting chanterelles, but I'll remember this surprise of a spot and return to it next year.

Matsutake Dobin Mushi

Serves 2

2 cups kombu dashi (see below) 20 grams kombu 4 manila clams 4 shrimp, peeled (reserve shells) 1 tbsp sake 1/2 tsp soy 1/4 tsp salt 1 small to medium matsutake button, thinly sliced 6 bite-sized, thin-sliced pieces chicken breast (or white fish fillet such as cod, rockfish, halibut) 2 baby bok choy (or other mild green), halved 1 yuzu, halved (or 2 lime wedges) 1. Make kombu dashi ahead. Soak 20 grams of kombu (dried kelp) in a pot with 4 1/2 cups cold water for several hours or overnight. Bring nearly to boil before removing kombu with tongs. Boiling will turn the dashi bitter. Refrigerate dashi or continue to next step. 2. Heat 2 cups of kombu dashi in a pot with clams and shrimp shells. When the clams have opened, remove all shells. Season broth with sake, soy sauce, and sea salt. Simmer until alcohol has cooked off. 3. Divide equal portions of sliced matsutake, greens, shrimp, and chicken into dobin mushi pots, then add hot broth. Replace lids and heat teapots in a bamboo steamer over a kettle of boiling water for several minutes. (You can also steam in a wok with a rack and lid.) This gentle steaming allows the matsutake to fully infuse the broth while the shrimp, chicken, and greens poach. 4. Serve Dobin Mushi with a half of yuzu or lime wedge placed on top of each inverted cup. After removing the teapot lid, inhale the autumn aroma. Winter is on its way.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Oregon Truffle Festival

Now entering its 14th year, the non-profit Oregon Truffle Festival's mission is to educate the public about native-grown truffles in the Willamette Valley. With events and workshops tailored to truffle cultivators, foragers (and their dogs!), chefs, epicures, and the merely curious, the festival celebrates a burgeoning culinary industry.

Truffles have been enjoyed for centuries in Europe, but it is only in the last decade or so that North American truffles have begun to appear on the gastronomic radar, including those wild black and white truffles endemic to the Pacific Northwest as well as European varieties such as the black Périgord that are now cultivated here.

If you're intrigued by this newly emerging homegrown truffle culture, consider joining me January 25-27 for the festival's Urban Forager Package, an action-packed crash course that introduces food lovers to the fungi's ineffable pleasures. The package includes an Italian-inspired Friday evening at Marché Provisions in downtown Eugene for bites and drinks; a Saturday excursion (hosted by me) with stops at Mountain Rose Herbs, J. Scott Cellars, and the 5th Street Market (for more truffle bites and pairings), followed by the multi-course Grand Truffle Dinner that night; and a Sunday visit to the Truffle Marketplace for tastings, cooking demos, and talks.

Bottom line: You don't have to travel all the way to France or Italy to experience the charms of truffle culture.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Honey Mushrooms

It's time to tackle the honey mushroom. I haven't written about it before because it's not among my favorites in the Kingdom of Fungi, at least from an edibility standpoint, but in a season such as this, when the mushroom gods are being parsimonious with their gifts, the time is right to make use of this abundant species.

The parasitic honey fungus is famous for being the largest organism on the planet. In the Blue Mountains of Oregon, a single individual has been estimated at covering more than three square miles of Malheur National Forest and is killing the fir trees there.

Science once recognized the honey mushroom as Armillaria mellea. We now know it's a complex of similar looking species. This was another reason why I usually passed on the honey; it was rumored among mushroom hunters that not all species within the complex were choice for the table, and that some might not be edible at all. What has become clear in more recent years is that all honey mushrooms, no matter what species, should be fully cooked before serving and that some people, for reasons not entirely understood, will experience what is politely called gastric distress regardless of careful preparation.

Just the same, people all over the world eat and enjoy honey mushrooms, which are so named for their coloration, not their taste.

For more information about identification, check out this video, which contrasts the honey mushroom with a poisonous semi-lookalike, the deadly galerina. I usually find honeys in large clusters on dead or dying trees in the fall, from sea level to sub-alpine woods. They can vary significantly in appearance as they age, and will develop from small buttons into broad open caps. I look for young ones with veils covering the gills and I trim away the fibrous stems. Where I live, I don't have to go far for honeys. They grow in Seattle parks and along trails in the Cascade foothills just outside the city.

In my opinion, honey mushrooms are a lot like supermarket buttons in both taste and texture. They can be mucilaginous—another reason to cook them amply—though some recipes for soups and stews make use of this characteristic as a thickening agent.

I usually prepare them simply. The sautéed mushrooms pictured above were cooked in canola oil over medium heat for several minutes before I lowered the heat and added butter and garlic. After a few more minutes on low, I stirred in some chopped parsley and served. Kinda like garlic bread for the carb-free set.

There are plenty other ways to prepare honey mushrooms. Remember to try just a small portion the first time you eat them, in case you're one of those who can't tolerate this mushroom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fall Classes

In partnership with The Field Trip Society, I'll be offering the following classes and events this fall.

* September 13, 5:30pm, Seward Park, Seattle: "After Work" Wild Edibles Walk

* September 27, 5:30pm, Seward Park, Seattle: "After Work" Wild Edibles Walk

* September 30, 6pm, Seattle: Foraged Dinner at La Medusa

* October 12, 10am, Tiger Mountain, Issaquah, WA: Wild Edibles Hike

Check this page for an updated schedule of events and additional classes.