Monday, July 6, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll

Seattle is bursting at the seams. Growing pains are being felt in all sorts of ways. Besides the traffic, an increase in fishing pressure is not just the stuff of grumbling old salts at the local. Take crabbing. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's web site, "Catch estimates for Puget Sound as a whole show that recreational [crab] harvest more than doubled from 1996 to 2005." I can only imagine what the last ten years show.

The good news is that lots of people are getting outside and connecting with their natural heritage; the bad news is that this means shorter seasons, smaller bag limits, and increased competition. Fish and Wildlife manages the fishery carefully so that the tribes, commercials, and sports all get a piece of the action. In part, the agency depends on ever more accurate data to effectively balance the quotas, which is why crabbers now must purchase a crab endorsement (it cost me $8.75 the other day) in addition to a license and return a crab catch record card at the end of the season, just the way you would for salmon and steelhead. Then the number crunchers take over.

Summer crab season opened this past week for much of Puget Sound. I suppose I should feel lucky that I got a few. My usual spot was swarming with scuba divers. Every year their numbers increase. Out beyond the scuba crowd, a phalanx of small boats was busy dropping pots. On shore, guys were using spinning rods to cast miniature crab traps (the traps, about the size and shape of a suet bird feeder, are baited and rigged with loops of fishing line to snare the crabs). It was crabpalooza out there!

Meanwhile, a free diver such as myself just has to hope he can find some crabs in between the scuba crowd and the bank anglers.

It wasn't easy. I had to get resourceful. I only nabbed a single keeper Dungeness (a couple others were just shy of the 6 1/4-inch size limit and got tossed back). For the first time ever I decided to keep some good-sized rock crabs (pictured above and below). The size minimum is 5 inches across the carapace and these measured 6 inches, which is decent. Rock crabs have less meat than Dungeness, but they have large claws and their meat is sweet and delicious. And while rock crabs aren't as good as Dungies for a West Coast crab feed—their shells are thicker and require more effort to pick—they're still really tasty.



New England has the Lobster Roll. Out here on the Left Coast, we have the Dungie Roll—unless you want to take advantage of an underutilized seafood and treat yourself to a Rock 'n' Roll.

3 large rock crabs, shelled
4 soft French rolls or hot dog buns
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 thinly sliced tomato
1 dollop mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced celery tops (the leafy parts)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tbsp chopped parsley
squeeze of lemon
seasoning, i.e. paprika, white pepper, salt

Gently mix together the crab meat, mayonnaise, diced celery, green onion, parsley, lemon juice, and seasonings. Lightly toast French rolls or hot dog buns, slather with mayo, and assemble with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and dollops of the crab salad. I had to use hamburger buns from the Columbia City Bakery because they were sold out of hot dog buns and potato rolls—my bad for waiting until 4 p.m. on July Fourth to go bread shopping.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bouillabaisse, Northwest-style

Fish stews—bouillabaisse, cioppino, chowder, bisque, fish head soup, and so on—are some of my favorite meals. Don't let the authenticity police scare you into passing on such hearty and satisfying fare. These dishes are meant to be simple, to let the ingredients speak for themselves, even when we gussy them up with pretension.

In Marseilles, partisans have been arguing over the ingredients and presentation of a proper bouillabaisse for as long as anyone can remember. Ignore the guy who tells you you're doing it wrong if you don't use a freakin' rascasse fer chrissakes. (The rascasse, also called a scorpionfish, is a Mediterranean species often used in bouillabaisse…in southern France.) Nor do you need to serve it in two courses, with rouille.

The point of dishes like bouillabaisse or cioppino is to use whatever is fresh and on hand. In fact, I'd bet the origin of these dishes is probably less palatable than many would like to believe. The fish were probably those left unsold by the fishmonger or on the verge of being…shall we say…less than perfectly fresh. Perhaps they were bycatch on the boat, the sort of fishes that wouldn't earn the fishermen any money. Into the stew pot they went, along with whatever else was lying around: onions, garlic, tomato, maybe a fennel bulb.

Since it's the 21st century and most of us won't be cooking this dish on board a fishing vessel at an ungodly hour in between sets, we needn't worry about making use of deck flotsam. We should try to find the best, freshest fish available wherever we live. I happen to live in the Pacific Northwest, not on the Mediterranean, so it makes sense to use local Puget Sound shellfish and cold-water finned fish from the North Pacific. I was in Cordova, Alaska, last week for opening day of the Copper River salmon season. Instead of bringing home a box full of sockeye or king like everyone else on my Alaska Airlines flight, I nabbed me some halibut, which yielded four beautiful fillets and a carcass begging to be used for stock. (The salmon was too valuable as income for my hosts to give away.)

A mix of fish makes a more interesting bouillabaisse. Along with the halibut, I added Alaskan rockfish, Penn Cove mussels, and shrimp. Other choices in my region might include lingcod, Pacific cod, pollock, flounder, Dungeness crab, manila clams, and spot shrimp. You could use salmon, but the strong and distinctive flavor would overwhelm the other ingredients. My nods to tradition included fennel, saffron, and orange zest, though I didn't bother with leeks or Pernod (though a licorice fern infusion could have given it that extra touch of anise flavor).

You can use store-bought fish stock or clam juice, but a homemade stock is best—a good excuse for buying that whole fish at the market and saving a bunch of money by filleting it yourself and using the scraps for stock.

Stock

1 (or more) white-fleshed fish carcass (enough to fill bottom of pot)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 or 2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 handful parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Cover fish carcass (in this case, halibut) with water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add onion, carrot, celery, white wine, bay leaf, thyme, parsley. Simmer together another 20 minutes, until fish flesh is easily separated from the bones. Add more water if necessary. Season and strain. Yield: 1 quart.

Bouillabaisse


2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (or splash of Pernod)
2-3 cups tomatoes, cut up
1 pinch saffron
1 pinch hot red pepper flakes
2 tsp orange zest
1 quart fish stock (see above)
3-4 lbs assorted white fish fillets cut into pieces and shellfish
1 handful parsley, chopped

In a pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion and fennel until softened. Deglaze with a splash of white wine. Add garlic, tomatoes, saffron, pepper flakes, and orange zest. Raise heat to medium-high and cook together a few minutes. Stir in 1 quart fish stock and bring to low boil. Add fish fillet pieces and cook several minutes (depending on thickness). Note: if using a mixture of firm fish and softer fish, add in stages to allow even cooking. Lastly, add shellfish and cover. When the shellfish are cooked, stir in parsley and remove from heat. Ladle immediately over crusty bread (optional: toast bread and rub with cut garlic). Serves 4.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Southern Morels

The Southeast has intrigued me for a long time for its diversity of plants and fungi, a diversity I'd mostly read about in books.

The last time I'd spent any significant amount of time in the region was twenty-five years ago, during a spring break from college that involved some sketchy camping and maybe a little foraging for beer. Earlier this month I had a chance to visit again and speak to mushroom clubs in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Though fungal diversity was nowhere near what it will be come summer, the spring wildflowers were out—and so were the morels.

Aside from the pesticide-laden morels that fruit in California's olive orchards in late winter, Georgia represents the beginning of morel season for many a roving hunter in the U.S. It was April 1 when I set forth on my first hunt in the Goober State, and I didn't come away with any fool's gold—just this big fat yellow below, a Georgia peach of the fungal variety.



The habitat was so different from what I'm used to in the West. Along with members of the Mushroom Club of Georgia, we scouted river bottoms, looking for concentrations of green ash. One spot within the Atlanta Metro area, filled with dog-walkers and picnickers, delivered in spades. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrap my head around all these hardwood trees that were just beginning to leaf out. Oaks and hickories, buckeyes and magnolias—too many to count, much less identify.

And like the trees, the morels were different too. Depending on which taxonomy you're following, they carry the scientific name Morchella americana or Morchella esculentoides. Most people call them yellows. I don't see them very often in the Pacific Northwest, though they do fruit in a few cottonwood bottomlands in select locales.

Another difference with eastern morel hunting: the beasties. I became fanatical about checking myself for ticks. I have friends who have gotten Lyme's disease and it's no fun. One of the little buggers managed to get its teeth into me and now I'm keeping tabs on the wound, hoping it doesn't grow into a bull's-eye.

The other hazard is from the plant kingdom: poison ivy. The nasty stuff was all over the woods, and at one point while I was taking a breather, leaning casually against one of the many bewildering, unidentifiable hardwoods, my companion suggested I might want to remove my hand from the thick vine of poison ivy that was trellising up the trunk. Doh!



While in Atlanta, I also loaded up on some of the local cuisine. Georgia Organics hosted an amazing dinner that featured some of the city's notable chefs. And if you're a Sichuan geek like me, you'll want to run—not walk—straight to Masterpiece restaurant in nearby Duluth. I can easily say it was the best Sichuan I've had since going to Sichuan Province back in the summer of 2011 (don't miss the dry-fried eggplant or the chicken with a bazillion hot chilies).



In South Carolina, my next stop, I visited Mushroom Mountain, where cultivator Tradd Cotter is growing enough mushrooms, such as these elm oysters pictured at right, to interest Whole Foods. As for the wild ones, the yellows that I found were much smaller and grew mostly with tulip poplars. Locals call them tulip morels. Cryptic and incredibly hard to find (see below), they hid among the leaf litter, often barricaded by poison ivy. With help from the South Carolina Upstate Mycological Society, affectionately known as SCUMS to its members, we sleuthed them out, again in river bottom woods.

The Asheville Mushroom Club in North Carolina was my last stop, but we snuck over the border into Tennessee for morels, where we found the tulip variety as well as my first eastern black morels, pictured below, which proved tricky to spot given all the fallen leaves.



We hunted an area on the edge of Smoky Mountain National Park, where trillium, violets, trout lilies (pictured above) and other wildflowers were in full glorious bloom. The Smokies, I'm told, hold the highest plant biodiversity in North America. Whereas we have one species of trillium in the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast has forty!

Next time—and there will definitely be a next time—I'm returning with my backpack and tent so I can disappear into the Smokies or the Blue Ridge for a spell. Brook trout with wild mushroom stuffing, anyone?










Monday, April 13, 2015

Clay Pot Bulgogi with Wild Greens

The other day I scouted some of my early morel spots to see if there might be anything starting to pop, given the ridiculously mild winter we've had in the Pacific Northwest. But no, nada. Seems like the fruiting schedule of morels in my area doesn't vary much more than a week no matter how much snow falls in the mountains, although pickers down in Oregon have been talking about morels coming up two weeks earlier than usual in some of their patches.

Nevertheless, I came away with something nearly as good for my effort: wild watercress. Watercress is one of the first spring greens of the season, and depending where you live, it often has a second act in the fall. No doubt there are patches in Northern California that produce much of winter. As I plucked the tender leafy shoots, I already knew what I'd be making.

I mostly use my Korean clay pot for Soondubu, but after ordering a dish simply called "Beef Stew" at a local lunch joint recently I realized it was time to branch out. Unlike a typical American beef stew that requires hours of slow cooking, the Korean version can be whipped together in minutes if you marinate the meat in advance. And the presentation in the clay pot earns extra points. Like those miniature cast iron skillets you see in restaurants that make such a cool presentation of clams or mussels, clay pots are used for both cooking and serving.



With a little prepping, this bulgogi stew is easy. It's essential, however, to marinate the beef for at least an hour beforehand (overnight is even better). I've used various marinade recipes for bulgogi and kalbi ribs over the years, including Bittman's simple version. More traditional recipes call for an Asian pear to help sweeten and tenderize the meat, as in this recipe, although other recipes omit the fruit. As it happens, my local butcher sells thin-sliced beef trimmings already marinated.

A typical clay pot bulgogi will have some sort of leafy green vegetable such as spinach stirred in at the end; this one owes its vibrant color to the wild and very nutritious watercress that's leafing out across much of the country right now.

1/2 pound marinated bulgogi, preferably thin-sliced ribeye (see marinade recipes above)
1/2 small yellow onion, cut into thin slices (add to marinating meat if desired)
1 cup water
1 cup beef stock or dashi
1 handful cellophane sweet potato noodles, about 5 oz
1 green onion, sliced
1 handful fresh wild greens such as watercress, bittercress, dandelions, lambs-quarters
Other optional ingredients: shiitake or enoki mushrooms, sliced carrots, egg

1. Add cellophane noodles to a bowl of warm water and set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Heat clay pot (or conventional pot) over high heat, then add beef and onions and stir-fry a couple minutes until the meat is lightly browned.
3. Add water and stock. If using a clay pot, leave enough room for noodles.
4. Once boiling, stir in pre-softened noodles and cook until tender.
5. When noodles are ready, stir in wild greens and green onion and remove from heat.

Serves 2 with rice.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Voracious Tasting & Food Awards

UPDATE: We have a winner! Stinging Nettle Spanikopita. This is a recipe I've been meaning to try for a while and the author provided a detailed, if slightly improvised, recipe. I'll post it in the future. Lots of other great ideas, including Nettle Raita, Nettle Larb, and Korean-style Nettle Salad. Thanks everyone for playing!


The Seattle Weekly's 6th annual Voracious Tasting & Food Awards will be held on April 23 at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle. I've been to a few of these in the past and can say without reservation it's a chowhound's night.

Presented by the Washington State Beef Commission, doors open at 7:30 p.m. (6 p.m. for VIP ticket holders) with bites and booze from scores of Seattle's favorite chefs and mixologists.

The nice folks at Voracious food blog have given me a pair of tickets to give away. Since this event has become a regular spring fling, let's celebrate the season. Comment below with your favorite recipe for stinging nettles. I'll choose a winner based on my own very subjective taste (bonus points for a nettles recipe I want to make myself).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wild Greens Workshop

It's that time again for those of us on the West Coast. The woods and meadows are waking up. Wild greens—tasty, nutritious, free—decorate the woods and forest fringes.

To ring in the spring harvest, I'll be teaching a foraging and cooking workshop at Heyday Farm on Bainbridge Island on March 27, with a focus on wild spring greens, especially stinging nettles. As I've said here before, nettles are the backbone of my spring foraging. I use nettles in soups, pastas, and sauces, and I put up large quantities of nettle pesto to have on hand year-round.

At Heyday, we'll spend the morning foraging in the woods around the farm, learning about and harvesting what’s in season. Back at the historic Heyday Farm kitchen and farmhouse, we'll learn several ways to pair and prepare our catch. The class will include a satisfying lunch. Cost is $110. Please sign up through Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation, or by calling (206) 842-2306.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Smoked Salmon Candy

Last week I was forced to play the bi-annual standup freezer defrosting game. My freezer cost me zero dollars to haul away from some guy's basement, but you get what you pay for, and in this case it has a couple dents in the upper left corner that prevent a perfect seal when the door is closed, and though I solved this problem with stick-on insulation strips, over the course of a year or two, ice gathers in this corner until it overwhelms the whole freezer ecosystem and the entire thing begins to accumulate a layer of snowy frost.

The defrosting requires multiple pots of boiling water to steam out the ice and a little chiseling with a claw hammer. Meanwhile, all my wild food waits patiently in four coolers before it can be re-stacked in the freezer.

This is a good opportunity to take stock. I found frozen packages of stinging nettles from 2010; into the trash they went, sadly. The half-quart tubs of salmon stock went happily in the trash; frozen salmon stock is nasty, friends, and the fresh stuff isn't much better, I've decided, with only limited applications.

Speaking of salmon, I've got more than a hundred pounds of kings, silvers, and pinks in the freezer, mostly kings from some very successful fishing trips on the Oregon Coast this summer. I went through my vacuum-sealed packages and found a few with air pockets and less than ideal seals. These had developed some frost inside, and I could see the beginnings of freezer burn. Time to make smoked salmon candy.

5 lbs salmon collars, bellies, or fillets cut into strips

Dry brine:
1 cup pickling salt (or regular, non-iodized)
4 cups dark brown sugar

Glaze:
1/4 cup maple sugar
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

1. Mix the dry brine. My standard brine is a 1:4 ratio of salt to brown sugar for a 12 hour brine. Often I'll add a whole head of chopped garlic and fresh ground pepper to this, and sometimes other spices as well. For salmon candy, I keep it simple: just salt and dark brown sugar.

2. Prepare the salmon. Remove pin bones with pliers and cut fillets into strips (with a large chinook, my strips are 2 to 3 inches wide).

3. Pack the salmon pieces with dry brine in a non-reactive (e.g., Pyrex) dish, skin up for a single layer. If stacking fish in more than one layer, place first layer skin down and second layer skin up, so the fish is flesh to flesh, why the dry brine packed between. Brine overnight or 12 hours. The brine will be soupy by the end.

4. Remove salmon pieces from dish and rinse with cold water under tap. Place skin down on wire racks to dry for 2 to 4 hours. Don't cheat on this step. It's important to let the fish dry and firm up; the exterior should be tacky, not wet. A pellicle forms, which helps retain moisture and flavor during the smoking process. I speed up this step up with an electric fan, but it still takes at least a couple hours.

5. Smoke the salmon in your usual way, low and slow if possible. I use a Weber Bullet, which is a hot smoker, meaning the heat from the fire and not just the smoke contributes to the cooking and smoking process, so I try to keep my bed of coals fairly small and heavily damped down. The temperature ranged from 125 to 150 degrees for the first three hours, and then 100 degrees for the last two hours. Cherry or apple wood is good (I used apple this time). A long, low smoke is preferable, especially for candy. While the fish is smoking, brush on glaze periodically, once an hour or so.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Abalone Sushi

Happy new year, everyone. As you can see, FOTL has taken a vacation since early November. But that doesn't mean we haven't been out there, reveling in the wild bounty.

As in past years when the days turn dark and rainy, I made tracks for the promised land. This time, unlike previous trips in recent memory, the promise was fulfilled: what an extraordinary winter fungi harvest in California. Just add water! as they say. The beleaguered mushroom hunters of the Golden State, pummeled by drought, are seeing the sort of season mostly remembered by old-timers, and all it took was a well-timed spot or two of precip.

I suppose this is the new normal in our era of climate weirding.

I was fortunate enough to join fungus seekers in the Woodlands of Mendocino, a quiet camp among the redwoods about 10 miles inland from the Pacific, where members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco and other local mushroom clubs hold an annual weekend-long foray. And the timing couldn't have been better. The mushrooms were (and are) popping with abandon. Even now, a couple months after my trip, friends continue to text me photos of enormous matsutake hauls. Porcini started fruiting on the coast as early as September, and black trumpets are having a banner season (not to mention the beautiful specimen of western grisette, Amanita pachycolea, pictured at left). I guess the mushrooms figured they better sporulate while the opportunity presented itself. Collectors in camp brought back queen boletes, oysters, hedgehogs, golden chanterelles, even candycaps, another early pop.

But this post is about snails. After the Woodlands Foray, I joined my friends Curt and Carol on the coast for a night of eating from the sea. Earlier that day they had donned wetsuits to wrangle up some abalone and lingcod. This was my first time really getting serious with abalone. After pounding the meat, Carol sliced it thinly and served a first course of sashimi. The second course was an amazing ceviche. For the third course, strips of abalone were sautéed in a creamy sauce with capers and lemon. The final dish was lingcod broiled with tomatoes and garlic.

As a parting gift, they gave me a coveted chunk of ab. Into my mushroom bucket it went, covered in ice for the 14-hour drive back to Seattle. Once home, I prepared a simple sushi dinner. This is a taste that isn't exactly easy to come by, especially outside Northern California, and I wanted to let it stand on its own. Abalone are carefully regulated by California's department of fish and wildlife, with good reason; they're easily overfished, and poachers continue to be a problem. The flavor is mild, slightly sweet, with a butteriness that's unusual in shellfish. Served raw as sushi or sashimi is a perfect way to allow the subtle taste to fully express itself.

One of these days I'll have to slip into the chilly waters of the North Coast myself and pry an ab from the rocks. Eat a few slices of abalone and you'll understand why divers take their chances in waters patrolled by the great white shark.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pining for the Woods

Hard to believe, but I barely got out this fall. Work, kids, the newish book (which, by the way, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award), plus a new, new book to research—all this and more conspired to keep me on the road for much of August, September, and October.

Back around Labor Day, it looked like we might have another stellar fall mushroom season this year, on par with 2013, and I was kicking myself for the overbooked calendar. August rainstorms—never a given in the Northwest despite what many people might think—did their magic, and the porcini started popping in the mountains. But then it dried out and stayed dry for weeks. Evidence was all over the woods of abortive fruitings.

In early October, right before the annual NAMA conference, held near Mount Rainier this year (for non-mushroom geeks, that's the North American Mycological Association), I got to spend a day in the woods with my pal Jonathan Frank, who was in town for the conference. I like to refer to Jonathan as Captain Aquatic Mushroom Man. He's the guy who's been studying the newly discovered underwater mushroom, Psathyrella aquatica, the first of its kind, which was found happily fruiting on the bottom of Oregon's Rogue River.

Jonathan is also doing DNA work on our western U.S. boletes, including the butter boletes and the beautiful brick red-capped Rocky Mountain kings. Sadly, we got nearly skunked in one of my favorite and usually reliable porcini patches (sheesh, was it ever dry through most of September and early October…and then it got really really wet). We did however find more blue chanterelles (Polyozellus multiplex, pictured above left) than I've ever seen, which I happen to think is just a so-so edible, and a beautiful patch of spreader hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum, at right and below), a very delicious species. Once again, these hedgies were among the beargrass, which is a connection that I think bears further study, so to speak.

At home, we ate the hedgehogs for weeks because, you know, they're about the hardiest of all wild edible mushrooms when it comes to just leaving 'em in the fridge. No problemo. We ate hedgehogs in wonderful autumn comfort dishes like pot roast, minestrone, chicken pot pie, and so on. But because I'm boycotting food photography at the moment, I've got nothing to show you. (Seriously, it's so nice to simply eat and not worry about the light conditions or getting a good shot of whatever freakin' mushroom dish you're cooking.)

Later in October I took food writer/photographer Aran Goyoaga on a mushroom hunt, which she wrote about for Condé Nast Traveler (one of her lovely photos graces the top of this post). Again, we found plenty of hedgehogs in a beautiful stand of old-growth hemlock in the mountains, plus good quantities of yellowfoot (Craterellus tubaeformis), a few admirable boletes (formerly Boletus mirabilis, now Boletellus mirabilis), and some bear's head (Hericium abietis). I've noticed that there's tons of Hericium in the woods this year, and even more honey mushrooms. Wonder what that's all about. I  don't bother with the latter, though I'm told they pickle well. The bear's head was aces in a seafood gumbo, pairing very nicely with the Dungeness crab that it mimicked somewhat in its sautéed form and smoked Andouille sausage.

On another one of my few trip into the woods, I guided a couple who had won my services at an auction for Seattle Tilth. We arrived at one of my regular chanterelle patches from the past decade only to find it clearcut. This is a hazard that any serious chanterelle hunter will face at some point in the Pacific Northwest, likely more than once. Those golden chanties are mycorrhizal with young Douglas fir—but the timber companies are even more enamored of doghair Doug fir. And if you live in the State of Washington, well, the powers that be will tell you that the only way to fund the educations of our school children is to whack 'em down on state-owned land. It's crazy stuff like that that sends me running for the woods in the first place, so I hope to do more sanity maintenance in the not-too-distant future.

Photo at top by Aran Goyoaga; fourth photo from top by Jonathan Frank.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Shroom

A new mushroom cookbook has popped up with the chanterelles and boletes this fall. With its up to date, globe-trotting recipes and solid advice, Becky Selengut's Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms is sure to delight foragers and fungally-inclined home cooks from coast to coast.

Becky happens to be a friend of mine, so I can personally vouch for the food herein (I also contributed the book's foreword). When you eat at Becky's place, you marvel at the speed, efficiency, and improvisation that goes so effortlessly into her cooking. Thankfully, she imparts some of those hard-earned kitchen chops here, with guidance on wine pairings, approachable, common sense language ("if you are filthy, take a bath; if your mushrooms are filthy, give them a bath"), and her usual good humor. The headings are a glimpse into Becky's world: For one recipe, she reaches back to a complicated elementary school art project, when her father, who worked as an engineer, taught her the KISS principle—keep it simple stupid. Never was there better advice for grilling porcini!

The book is organized around the many varieties of edible mushrooms one is likely to encounter at a farmers market or in local woods. An introduction lays out the basics on cleaning, putting up for later, and recommended kitchen gear. Subsequent chapters are helpfully titled after the mushrooms themselves. There are chapters on increasingly popular cultivated varieties such as shiitake and king trumpet, but it is with the wild varieties where the book really shines and rightfully takes its place among favorite cookbooks on mushroom cuisine. Wild varieties include some of our most beloved: morels, chanterelles, hedgehogs, porcini, lobster, black trumpet, and matsutake. There is also a chapter on truffles.

Each chapter (and species) begins with a "fact sheet" with information on seasonality, buying tips, preservation, and cooking notes, followed by five recipes ordered from easy to intermediate to advanced. There are 75 recipes in all, of which two-thirds are vegetarian. "I'm a meat eater working on eating less meat," Selengut says; this is smart because mushrooms really are a natural meat substitute, with meaty texture and comforting flavors. This book could be a go-to reference for Meatless Mondays.

The recipes, from soups and snacks to large, composed dishes, are keepers. Traditionalists will find a Beef Bourguignon here to put those grocery store cremini mushrooms to work, but it is the more contemporary, culturally diverse offerings that will inspire today's new breed of urban foragers and kitchen experimenters. Wok-seared Lion's Mane with Bok Choy, Squid, and Roasted Red Chili Paste? Yes, please! And bring me a side of Hedgehog and Cheddar Grits. Black Trumpet and Poblano Chilaquiles with Crema sound good, too. Oh, and wake me up for a midnight snack of Truffle Gougères and champagne.

Of her Acquacotta Soup with Chanterelles, Selengut writes: "While many of the ingredients in this recipe might seem—at first blush—to be gourmet and expensive, if you were a thrifty Italian who knew the woods where you lived, grew some humble vegetables in your garden, had some stale bread lying around, and kept chickens, this soup would cost you hardly anything." So true. Other dog-earred recipes in my copy include a Porcini Salad with Pine Nuts and Lemon Salt; Thai Sweet and Sour Soup with Lobster Mushrooms, Lemongrass, and Shrimp; and a Maitake Tikka Masala.

With gorgeous photos by Clare Barboza, Shroom is a welcome addition to any cook's library, and a necessary resource for fungi fanciers, who should definitely have this new cookbook on their holiday gift-giving lists.

Becky Selengut and I will be teaming up for patch-to-plate slide presentations at Phinney Books in Seattle on October 22 and Slow Food Seattle on November 3.