October 30, 2011

FORAGING - Cranberries, Rose Hips and Mushrooms!

~Rose Hip Syrup~

Last weekend was idyllic, autumn weather and I'd heard that mushrooms were up like crazy out near the coast. Our came the foraging gear and off we went to see what we could find. October is also cranberry harvesting season here in the northwest. So, I had high hopes for the day. 

On the way, we spotted some rose bushes laden with perfect rose hips. We picked about three cups, making sure to leave plenty for the birds to enjoy. I planned to use them to make rose hip syrup for use in tea. 

When we arrived at the coast, we started looking under the shore pines just behind the dunes. There were bolete mushrooms all over the place,as well as a few chanterelles! Jim called to me from the parking lot, "See any?" "Only everywhere," I replied. We could afford to be picky and only take the freshest, least blemished ones. At the end of the day, we had over 12 lbs. of mushrooms and I had a lot of work ahead of me to fry and freeze, dry and bag and to eat now.

We broke for lunch and were served piping hot cranberry apple cider. It was utterly delicious - I had two. After lunch, we headed for the cranberry fields, hoping to buy some fresh ones. There were some people out harvesting, but not many. The cranberry rakers we use out here in the northwest were invented here, as flooding the fields as they do back east isn't practical. No one was selling cranberries, so we got out to take some photos and all along each field were scattered berries that would go to waste. So, we gathered a bag of them and I had visions of my own cranberry cider dancing in my head.  

Hot Cranberry Apple Cider - heavenly!

Bags of cranberries, ready to ship out

It was fun to find all this free food, just going out looking for it. Today, I made the rose hip syrup. The color is so rich and beautiful and the flavor is uniqely its own. Rather like persimmon, but with a little kick. Here is a simple recipe to make your own. It's wonderful in tea, over sliced fruit, on ice cream or plain yogurt. 


2 1/2 c. ripe rose hips, any size
2 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
6 strips of lemon peel
Juice of half a lemon

Trim the blossom ends off the hips and place in small saucepan. Pour water over, then add sugar and lemon peel. Bring to boil, then turn down heat to a simmer. Do not cover! Simmer about ten minutes, then use a potato masher or back of a large spoon to crush the fruit. Continue simmering for another 25-30 minutes, until liquid is becoming thickened. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat, cool slightly and then strain through a very fine sieve (or use one sieve inside of another), crushing fruit as you go to extract as much juice and pulp as possible. Pour into a jar, refrigerate and use within a month. 
Note: spices can be added, if desired, such as cinnamon, cloves or candied ginger

October 18, 2011


Aren't they beautiful?! I look forward to chanterelles all year. Autumn in the Pacific Northwest brings an enviable harvest of many types of mushroom ~ lobster mushrooms; chanterelles; fall oyster mushrooms; cauliflower types; lion's mane; various boletes - including King boletes (porcini), if you're lucky; matsutakes; shiitakes; puffballs;  hen of the woods. It really is a fungi cornucopia! If you're not a mushroom lover, you have my deepest sympathies. This weekend, I'm going on a mushroom hunt in the Olympic National Forest with the South Sound Mushroom Club. I have high hopes for some great finds. But, since I have a basketful of chanterelles today, I wanted to post some photos and a couple of favorite recipes of mine. I hope that, wherever you are, you have access to these earthy, rich, meaty, colorful mushrooms.

As chanterelles (plural) grow in many places around the world, they go by different names. My family is German-American, so I always knew them as "pfifferlinge". The French often call them girolles, Italians call them cantarelli, but most cultures call them chanterelles. Their color glows! The hues range from pale yellow-cream to bright golden-orange. Color depends on age and the weather conditions when they were developing. All sizes and shapes are equally delicious and tender, from button-sized new ones to those fluted, horn-shaped, huge ones like the one on the upper right above. That one is 7 inches by 4 inches in HALF! If you look closely, you can see that it's folded like a clam. The photo below shows just a simple sauté of chanterelles in olive oil, butter, garlic, salt, black pepper and white wine served over newly harvested potatoes from our garden. Often, simple preparations are simply the best.  

I want to share with you one of my favorite ways of cooking chanterelles ~ a wild mushroom ragout that's amazing served over grilled or roasted meats or as a sauce for polenta, potatoes or pasta. The fresh parsley on top at the end really does make a difference, in taste as well as presentation. Eat and be merry!

4 servings

Note: If you are serving with pork or chicken, use Marsala. If serving with beef or game, use the red wine. If serving with pasta or polenta, it's your choice.

2 T. each of butter and olive oil
4 oz. finely chopped pancetta
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh chanterelles or a mix of wild mushrooms, roughly chopped (stems included)
2 T. flour
2/3 c. chicken stock, heated
2/3 c. Marsala OR dark red wine
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt or Kosher salt
Fresh parsley, minced

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté pancetta until just starting to brown. Add shallot, garlic and chanterelles and sauté several minutes, until mushrooms lose their moisture and start to brown. Sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture and continue to stir and cook for one minute more. Add hot chicken stock, stirring constantly. Sauce will start to thicken. Add Marsala or wine, thyme, salt and pepper and stir two minutes, until smooth and aromatic. Serve over meat, poultry, pasta or polenta, sprinkled with fresh parsley.

July 3, 2011


My spring garlic plants put out their scapes in the past few days. They always seem to show up overnight. Suddenly, I see the wild curlicue whorls of the seed heads and stems. So artistic! The scapes are cut off in order to encourage the plant to put its energy into making the bulb grow and enlarge, rather than into making seeds. Even if you don't have your own, they're showing up in farmer's markets more and more often. What many people used to throw away (although my Oma added them to soups) are now a "new" gourmet food item. They'll only be available for a few weeks. Be sure to buy and use them when they're still curly. Once they straighten out, they're too old and will be tough.

They can be used cooked or raw. Sauteed in olive oil, steamed like garlicky beans, added to soup - all are delicious. I decided to make a pesto out of them, with a little bit of Spanish twist with the nuts and cheese. Tossed with hot linguini or spaghetti it is divine. That heady smell of garlic takes over your senses. See if you can find some scapes and give this a try.

Garlic Scape Hazelnut Pesto

15 curly garlic scapes
2/3 c. of a nice, green extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. grated Spanish sheep cheese or Pecorino
1/2 c. grated Pamiggiano
1/2 c. dry white wine
Grated rind of one medium lemon
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. ground hazelnuts or whole pine nuts

Wash scapes and chop roughly to fit into the bowl of a food processor more easily. Add half of the olive oil to the scapes and pulse until the scapes are well chopped. Add remaining olive oil and the rest of ingredients to the bowl and process until smooth, adding more olive oil if you like the consistency more loose.
Cover with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic down onto the surface of the pesto to keep it from oxidizing and turning dark. If using right away, leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. If not, refrigerate up to three days. Toss with hot pasta, cooked al dente, and serve.

June 30, 2011


Italy struck me today in the form of lunch. I made a southernized version of panzanella salad, with anchovies and red pepper flakes added to the usual dish. And, in Italian fashion, had a little red wine alongside. Hey, it was 10 p.m. in Italy, so why not? I had company, as you can see ...

What are we having?

I've had a creative day, writing at the battered picnic table out in the garden. Working on a short story (I think - maybe a long story) that's going very well and I'm really into. It's finally good enough weather to be outside. I prefer writing outside, where my mind has space to wander and imagine scenes. I never compose first drafts on the computer (except for blogs). I like the feel of the pencil on paper and the slower pace of hand writing allows me to think of just the right word. I write in pencil because I feel less constrained, more free to change later. Just a personal, psychological thing. Now that I've had lunch, I'll go play with my words some more - and dream up some new recipes while I'm at it.

March 17, 2011


I've been cooking by rote the last weeks. Today was the first day in a long time that I cooked happy (at least a little). Guess that's progress. Steps, steps.

I went outside between rains and clipped some crabapple branches that are about to burst into bloom, added some white heather sprigs and placed the vase on the table. I played some fado music and some Vivaldi and when I was feeling a bit better, I hit the kitchen.

Experimenting with alternate flours, I came up with a bread recipe today, which turned out really well. Nice crumb, dense and chewy. Great for toast or sandwiches. I included spelt, for its high gluten content and nutty flavor, as well as a little sorghum flour for extra nutrition. The rest was the usual all purpose white flour. Sorghum is a common crop in arid areas and comes from the seed head of a type of grass. The grains can be popped, like popcorn. It contains high amounts of B-vitamins, potassium and calcium. Spelt is high in protein (up to 25% more than in wheat) and B-vitamins. I cheated and used the bread machine to mix, knead and let the bread rise the first time. Then I shaped it and let it rise in a warm place for the second rise.

Spelt White Bread

1 1/4 c. warm water
1 T. dry yeast
2 T. brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. spelt flour
1/3 c. sorghum flour
3 c. all purpose flour
2 T. butter, softened
2 t. salt

In bread machine container, add ingredients in order given. Set machine to "dough" setting. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down gently and shape dough into a tight rounded ball, tucking edges under. Set on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for another hour. Slash top a few times, 1/4 inch deep. Heat oven to 400ºF. and bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and it sounds hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing (yeah, right).
Makes one loaf.

January 10, 2011


Vegetarians, take cover! I received my Christmas present yesterday ~ a heavy-duty meat grinder and sausage stuffer. Now I can make charcuterie and sausages at my house and not always have to go over to my friend's. But, when we do get together, we can go crazy making meaty marvels!

Of course, I had to try it out today. I still need to get some sausage casings, so sausages were out. I decided on a French-style terrine made with beef chuck, pork back fat, shallots & garlic, Marsala, Cognac, side bacon, pistachios and freshly-ground pâté spices. The grinder worked smoothly and quickly to get the meat and fat very fine. The mixture emulsified nicely when added to the aromatics and panada. So far, so good! I did a quenelle test - good spice and saltiness. Then into the terrine it went -- with great, smacking plops to force out any air. That's fun! Pan into a bain marie and patience, patience to wait for it to slowly cook in its bath. Once out, I weigh it with several cans to compact the meat so it slices nicely. It's a little early to break it out, but I cut a slice for you to see...

I was particularly pleased with the natural gelatin it made - the flavor is earthy and authentic - it tastes like the pâtés and terrines I buy in Europe. The Marsala comes through nicely. Here in the states, more specialty stores are carrying these, but nowhere near the variety available there. The main commercial producer here is D'Artagnan. I guess I'll just be making my own :-) I'm envisioning late spring lunches with a friend or four, serving young salad greens from the garden, homemade terrine slices, some chilled pinot gris and broiled strawberries with vanilla sauce for dessert. Yeah, I can see that. Can you?

A couple of months ago, I made this Pâté Grandmère - made with pork shoulder, pork liver, cream, brandy and spices. Voilà! -

Off on my meaty adventures ... I'm thinking some fresh, smoky paprika sausage for breakfast tomorrow.


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