Thursday, August 20, 2020

Fall Shellfish Classes

Greetings foragers! I hope this finds you healthy and in as good as spirits as possible during these challenging times. With fingers crossed, we plan to run two shellfish classes this fall on South Puget Sound. All necessary Covid-19 protocols will be in effect for your safety. 

These classes will be administered by Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec. Registration opens Wednesday, August 26, at 9:30 a.m.

Class description: Pull on your rubber boots and grab a bucket! Once again I’ve teamed up with Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec and master shellfish grower John Adams of Sound Fresh Clams & Oysters to offer shellfish foraging and cooking classes on Little Skookum Inlet, near Shelton, Washington.

After a crash course in the biology of our local shellfish, we’ll learn how to find and identify a variety of oysters and clams; how to forage them in quantity; and how to process our haul. Then we’ll change out of our boots and cook our catch, learning the finer points of shellfish cuisine, from shucking oysters to making steamed clam dishes that will delight your dinner guests.

The coup de grace is a meal that includes at least two clam dishes and all the oysters you can eat. These gatherings have also been known to involve impromptu beer and wine tastings, homemade charcuterie, and all other manner of hearty food and drink. Each student will go home with a bucket full of clams and oysters.

The cost is $110/person.

This fall’s shellfish classes will meet near Shelton, WA, on the following dates:

  • September 28: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA, 9:30am – 2pm, activity #531810-01
  • October 14: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking, Little Skookum Inlet, WA, 9:30am – 2pm, activity #531810-02

To sign up, please call Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec: 206-842-2302 x-0 (and reference above activity #)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Spring Classes & Events

Introductory foraging classes by land and sea are now scheduled into June with the Field Trip Society and Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec. You can also arrange private classes with the Field Trip Society.

Check back as more events and classes get added.

Spring Classes, Walks & Workshops 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wild Food Holiday Gifts

Give the gift of wild food to the nature lover or culinary adventurer on your holiday list!

My spring class schedule is beginning to take shape. At the moment I have introductory foraging classes scheduled for March and April through the Field Trip Society, with more to be announced soon. Shellfish classes with Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec open for registration on January 8. And I'll be teaching a wild greens workshop at Heirloom Cookshop that will take place in both field and kitchen.

You can also arrange private classes with the Field Trip Society or purchase gift certificates in both online and hard copy formats.

Check back as more events and classes get added.

Spring Classes, Walks & Workshops 

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

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

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.