Author Archives: fungifoodie

White chanterelle and kale quiche

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles to find out what we made with the Oregonian chanterelles. Well now you finally get to find out! We made a quiche!

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Gorgeous white chanterelles (Cantharellus cascadensis) that we found in Oregon!

I know next to nothing about pastry, but turns out Roo spent 6 months training as a pastry chef while in college! He has so many skills hidden up his sleeve. I definitely could not have made this delicious recipe on my own, but thanks Roo for teaching me how to make the perfect pie crust. 

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Roo measuring out the flour for the pie crust

Apparently it is essential to own something called a pastry cutter if you are to be a pie crust aficionado. In absence of a pastry cutter, Roo says you can use two butter knives. The object is to mix up the flour with the butter so that the butter and flour incorporate while still saying separate. Sounds tricky, right? It is also imperative to use tools and not your hands so that the butter stays cold. Apparently the secret to a good pie crust is keeping the butter cold until it hits the oven, so there are lots of waiting steps where you let the dough “chill out” the in the freezer.

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Roo mixing up the butter and flour with the pastry cutter

After incorporating the butter and flour, slowly add 4 Tbsp of water a tiny bit at a time until the dough hits the consistency of corn meal.

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Pastry dough is so simple! Just flour, butter, and flour. Make sure it hits the right consistency before rolling it out!

Once the dough hits the right texture, knead it and roll it into a ball. Then stick it in the freezer to chill some more. Pastry dough can be made in advance and frozen for weeks this way.

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While the dough chilled in the freezer, we took the opportunity to hit up the local coop and buy eggs and onions for the filling. Once we got back we started to roll out the dough. Roo couldn’t find his rolling pin, so we got creative with our tools.

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Being resourceful and rolling out the pastry dough with a glass!

Make sure to clean off the counter top really well and spread out some flour before rolling out the dough. Once it’s rolled out evenly, gently place it in the pie pan.

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Pastry dough lining the pie pan

Cut off the edges with a butter knife and make fun pastry treats with them :)

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Roo says it’s important to put parchment paper over the dough and weigh it down with something like dry beans to prevent air bubbles from forming. Then stick the dough in the freezer while you cook the insides of the quiche!

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Weighing down the pastry dough with dry beans before placing it in the freezer

We started off our quiche filling by chopping up an onion and letting it caramelize in butter. Then we added 6 garlic cloves. So much flavor!

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Caramelizing onions for the quiche filling

While the onions cooked I cleaned and cut up the chanterelles. God they were gorgeous!

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This wasn’t going to be some frou frou wild mushroom quiche that you get at a restaurant that has 2 little pieces of mushrooms that you have to search out. No, this quiche will feature loads of meaty mushrooms!

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Delicious mushroom, onion, and garlic filling for the quiche!

We added the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and let them get nice and brown. Once they got a bit brown, we added some salt and pepper.

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This next part was a real treat for me – we cut 3 kinds of kale straight from the garden! I live in a bit of a concrete jungle so this was quite a novelty for me to have freshly cut greens.

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Three kinds of kale fresh from the garden!

How beautiful is this kale?

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Once we had cleaned and chopped the kale we braised it in olive oil for a few minutes.

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Kale braised in olive oil.

Now we were finally ready to start putting together the quiche!

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Roo says it is important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty when the quiche cooks. He dropped so many nuggets of pastry knowledge!

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It’s important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty!

After cheese we layered in the garlic, caramelized onions, and chanterelles. This quiche is nice and shroomy so skimping out on mushrooms here!

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No skimping out on mushrooms in this quiche!

IMG_2426Next, add the kale on top of the mushrooms.
IMG_2430At this point, we whisked 1 cup whole milk with 3 eggs and poured it on top of the mixture.
IMG_2431Then bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
IMG_2433Cutting into it you can see the thick mushroom layer! Roo says it was his best crust he’s made it years! There you go, now you can make bakery quality pie crusts from now on :)

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Sun in my eyes but excited to eat this quiche in the lovely garden where the kale grows!        Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift

Ingredients:

Pie crust:

  • 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1.5 cups flours
  • ~ 4 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for rolling the dough

Filling:

  • 1 large onion
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • mushrooms
  • kale
  • jack cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
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White chanterelle and kale quiche. Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift

Mushroom hunting in Oregon!

Yay chanties!!

Yay chanties!! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you know California has been experiencing an epic drought. I’m teaching a class in mushroom identification at Berkeley right now and it’s been super difficult to find good specimens for class. Luckily last weekend I went to visit my friend Roo in Oregon where there are mushrooms galore and I finally have some mushrooms to blog about!

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Old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascade mountains in Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we approached the trailhead of the old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascades, I noticed  puffball mushrooms in the genus Lycoperdon carpeting the forest floor. I’ve never seen so many in one place! They have a common name wolf’s fart because if you tap on a mature one tons of brown spores puff out. It’s always a fun one to show to mushroom newbies!

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Lycoperdon puff balls AKA wolf’s fart Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was so exciting to see mushrooms again I was even excited to see fungal diseases such as the brown cubical butt rott. The mushroom responsible for such a funny named disease is actually quite beautiful, and lots of people like to use it for dye.

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Phaeolus schweinitzii AKA brown cubical butt rott Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to diseases I also saw lots of wood decay mushrooms. Can you believe these cute little mushrooms decay these giant Douglas fir logs?

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Cute little Xeromphalina campanella decaying a log Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fungi also come in many amazing forms and colors. Did you know that mushrooms can also look like corals?

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Beautiful coral shaped Ramaria species Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I study ectomycorrhizal fungi, which are mutualistically associated with tree roots. These Suillus lakei are partners with all of the giant Douglas firs in the forest, and they were super abundant!

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Suillus lakei ectomycorrhizal fungal partners with Douglas fir trees Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To add more layers to the story, there are also fungi that parasitize other mushrooms! Gomphidius subroseus is a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei – how crazy is that?

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Gomphidius subroseus

Gomphidius subroseus, a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How cool is it that I even found a Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to a Suillus lakei?

Gomphidius subroseus and Suillus lakei

Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And check it out, another species of ectomycorrhizal fungus, poking out of the soil.

What's this poking out of the soil?

What’s this poking out of the soil? Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out how massive this mushroom is!

Giant Russula brevipes

Giant Russula brevipes, another ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course all of these mushrooms were super fun and beautiful, but I know what you are all thinking, where are all of the edible mushrooms?

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Bouquet of giant Armillaria mellea mushrooms AKA the honey mushroom Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately Armillaria mellea is not supposed to be super tasty, but it does make gorgeous designs on wood with giant black rhizomorphs.

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Is that art or is it a fungal pathogen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then finally we started finding some more tasty edible mushrooms. Here is a cute edible toothed mushroom commonly known as the lion’s mane called Hericium abietus.

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Check out the cute teeth on this lion’s mane Hericium abietus! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leccinum manzanitae is another edible ectomycorrhizal fungus. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard it’s delicious. Next time I find a larger collection of it I will have to try it!

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Leccinum manzanitae, and edible ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most disappointing fungus by far that we found was the false chanterelle Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca. I kept getting excited seeing beautiful orange caps everywhere only to flip them over and see gills :(

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Watch out for these false-chanterelles Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But finally, our patience was rewarded and we found these gorgeous and giant chanterelles!

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Gorgeous and giant white chanterelles Cantharellus cascadensis! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned to find out what we cooked with the gorgeous Oregon chanterelles!!!

So excited to find white chanterelles!

So excited to find white chanterelles! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the OSU and UO crew for helping me find so many gorgeous mushrooms and showing me around the beautiful Oregon forests :)

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The mushroom hunting team made mushroom art on this Ganoderma applanatum AKA artist’s conk! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morel mushrooms!


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Morels are a quintessential spring time mushroom in California. Morels, mushrooms in the genus Morchella, are funny looking ascomycetes with wrinkly caps and hollow stems. Mushroom enthusiasts go gaga for their earthy flavor.

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Morels are considered to be associated with fires, and mushroom hunters seek out recently burned forests in order to find them. In California, there is no shortage of fires and newly burnt forests. While this is bad for the trees, there is one benefit for mycologists- morels!

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Although I do research in forests burned by wildfires, I unfortunately missed the mushroom season in my field sites last year. I wasn’t able to get to the burn sites during the spring rains because I was in Switzerland giving a talk at the Mycorrhizal Symbiosis meeting and then I got to visit my cousins in Italy – I know, poor me :P. Fortunately, a local mushroom hunter came to visit my lab a few weeks ago and brought some of these soil borne treasures.

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A word of caution though before you set off to hunt for these epicurean delights on your own – be sure that you know what you are doing! There are some sneaky look alikes called elfin saddles that contain a toxin similar to rocket fuel! However, once you get the hang of it the pitted caps of these mushrooms are fairly distinctive. Luckily, I have access to many world experts in mycology so I know that my mushrooms were safe to eat :)

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Since I hadn’t tried wild picked morels before, I decided to cook them and try them in their purest form so I could really get a feel for their flavor. I sautéed them in butter, added a little salt, and put them on some multigrain toast. They were delicious!

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Morels cleaned, sliced, and sautéing in butter

Patrick Hamilton, a chef and mushroom enthusiast that I met while giving a talk at the Sonoma County Mycological Association, gave me the tip to let them cook for 8 minutes.

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Morels getting all brown and crispy and delicious!

The first time I tried them I put them plain on toast. I wanted to try them plain and simple in all their earthy mushroomy glory.

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Morel art! Reminds me a bit of a Georgia O’Keefe painting…

The next day I invited my friend Judy over to try the morels. I still kept it simple but this time I added cheese!

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Morels on toast with some shredded mozzarella

Here is Judy enjoying morels while appropriately sporting the Berkeley mycology shirt!

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Mmm Mmm mushrooms!!!
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Beet, avocado, and pea Salad with beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac

The news today is…..I got Plenty More!!!!!! My wonderful friend Gabrielle Haug got it for me as a thank you gift for staying at my house while on a visit from NYC. I’m am soo excited to have the newest book from my main man Yotam Ottolenghi. The first dish I made from this brilliant vegetarian book is the Beet, Avocado, and Pea Salad featured on pg 65 and online here. I paired it with beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac that I found the recipe for online here.

Beet, avocado, and pea salad with beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac 3

Beet, avocado, and pea salad with beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac.

I’m not going to lie, this dish is kind of a mess to make. And by kind of a mess, I mean beets are really freaking messy. They get bloody looking beet juice everywhere! But it is so good and beets are so healthy that I’m going to go ahead and say that it is worth it. It is so worth it, in fact, that I made it twice in the same week. So there you go.

Peeling and thinly slicing beets is messy work

Peeling and thinly slicing beets is messy work

First, peel the beets and cut them into thin slices. This is the messy disaster zone part, so wear an apron.

Boiling beets looks a bit like a witch's brew, doesn't it?

Boiling beets looks a bit like a witch’s brew, doesn’t it?

Then blanch them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. This is the part that is really genius. Making beets is usually such a pain because they take so long to roast. But, blanching them for a few minutes in boiling water is so much quicker!  Place them in boiling water for a few minutes, then rinse them in the sink in a colander, dry them off, then mix them in a bowl with chopped red onion, 3 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1-3 tsp Cholula Hot Sauce, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Once that is mixed up place it in the fridge for a while to let the flavors meld. I think this recipe tastes even better the next day because the beets have more time to soak up the flavors and get softer from the vinegar.

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Beets with onion, vinegar, oil, and spices.

Next, prepare the green part of the dish. I love all of the fresh herbs that Ottolenghi incorporates into his recipes. It makes everything taste so flavorful, fresh, and healthy! It is the perfect way to infuse some freshness into this wintry root vegetable dish. Cut up 2 avocados and add some peas. I used frozen peas and blanched them for a few minutes in boiling water.

Peas and avocado for the salad

Peas and avocado for the salad.

Wash and tear up some mint leaves, cilantro leaves, and pea shoots. I was amazed to find pea shoots at the Berkeley Bowl (that place has everything!), but I had never used them before so if you can’t find them just use some other sort of fancy green.

Mint, cilantro, pea shoots, avocado, and green peas3

Mint, cilantro, pea shoots, avocado, and green peas3

Then you just set these items aside and wait to mix them together until you are ready to eat. I chose to cook the meatballs in the meanwhile but you could easily prepare these two parts in advance and mix them together when you are ready to serve later that day or even the next day. I think the beets taste even better the next day because all of the flavors meld. Earlier in the week when I made the salad, I paired it with the chicken with cardmom rice dish that I had made in Naples, Italy for my cousin and his wife.

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Beet, avocado, and pea salad with chicken with cardamom rice

This time I decided to try out a beef dish, so I found this meatball recipe online. As you all know, I don’t cook meat dishes very often. With all of the delicious vegetarian recipes to choose from in Plenty and now Plenty More, and of course those hearty meaty mushrooms that I love, it’s hard to miss the meat. However, I am a complete omnivore these days and I thought meatballs would go really well with this dish. The first step was to mix together the beef, onion, parsley, breadcrumbs, allspice, salt, and pepper with my hands and form the meatball shapes. Ottolenghi says the recipe is supposed to make 20 meatballs, but we only got 10. Go figure!

Beef meatballs with onion, parsley, egg, breadcrumbs, allspice, salt, and pepper

Beef meatballs with onion, parsley, egg, breadcrumbs, allspice, salt, and pepper

Heat a pan with 2 tbsp olive oil, then sear the meatballs for 5 minutes on each side.

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Meatballs searing in olive oil

Once the meatballs are seared on each side, remove them from the pan.

Seared meatballs

Seared meatballs

Add celeriac, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp each of ground turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, and 1.5 tsp fennel seeds. I forgot to add the paprika and added way more than 3 garlic cloves, and it still turned out really yummy, so I think the spice amounts are open to interpretation. Celeriac is probably the oddest ingredient of the bunch. It’s a variety of celery cultivated for its roots, and looks a bit like what I imagine a parsnip mixed with a pineapple would look like.

Celeriac with turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic.

Celeriac with turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic.

Celeriac is very plain on its own and it soaked up the flavor of the spices very well, so it was a tangy addition to the meatballs. It was crunchy but less heavy than a potato would be. Cook the celeriac on high heat, stirring, for two minutes. Then return the meatballs to the pan, and add 2 cups of chicken stock. The recipe calls for 3 tbsp of lemon juice, but I love lemons, and I love my lemon squeezer, so I added in the juice of about 3 fresh lemons, which was probably closer to 5 tbsp. Add some salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, Ottolenghi says to remove the lid and leave to bubble way for 10 minutes, until the sauce is quite thick. While this was happening I took the opportunity to make couscous to serve with the meatballs.

Beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac on a bed of couscous1

Beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac on a bed of couscous1

Here is what the beet, avocado, and pea salad looks like when everything is mixed together:

Beet, avocado, and pea salad

Beet, avocado, and pea salad

 

Here are my friends enjoying the beautiful wintry meal!

Patrick, Gabbie, and Hrach enjoying the meal. Gabbie isn't looking but everyone looks so happy in this picture I had to include it!

Patrick, Gabbie, and Hrach enjoying the meal. Gabbie isn’t looking but everyone looks so happy in this picture I had to include it!

Ingredients for beet, avocado, and pea salad:

4 medium raw beets
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
½ tsp sugar
1-3 tsp savory chilli sauce or paste (Tabasco or Mexican Cholula hot sauce, for instance)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium avocados, peeled and thinly sliced
10g coriander (parsley) leaves
10g mint leaves
20g pea shoots
150g peas

Ingredients for the beef meatballs with lemon and celeriac:

400g minced beef
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
120g breadcrumbs
20g chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 tbsp extra, to garnish
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp ground allspice
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small celeriac, cut into 5cm x 1.5cm batons
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp each ground turmeric, cumin and cinnamon
1½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
¾ tsp smoked paprika
500ml chicken stock
3½ tbsp lemon juice
60g Greek yogurt

Spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt

Up until this weekend, when we thankfully received our first rains of 2015, it hadn’t rained in Berkeley in months. With no mushrooms to inspire me, combined with the fact that I’ve been in hardcore dissertation writing mode lately, I haven’t taken as much time to cook. But I’m still a poor PhD student and cannot afford to eat out every night, so I was in search of a dish that was healthy, cheap, and easy to prepare. I turned to my old friend Yotam Ottolenghi for some inspiration, and I found this lovely lentil dish “Spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt” on p. 221 of Plenty, which can be found online here.

Ingredients for curried red lentils

Ingredients for spiced red lentils.

I do not know why it took me so long to discover lentils. Lentils are the perfect food, especially for a PhD student low on funds such as me.  Lentils are really healthy and cheap, and when prepared correctly, can be super delicious and satisfying. Let me tell you, this dish prepares them correctly. This dish is THE BOMB.  It has flavor and spice up the wazoo. As a fair warning, there are a lot of spices involved, all of which I thankfully already own due to the spice buying investments I’ve been making over the last year. But trust me, this dish is so worth it.  You have to soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking, and since I already had the lentils, I placed them in water before heading out to the Berkeley Bowl to grocery shop, so they had ample time to soak.

Limes, cucumbers, ginger, garlic, and onion

Limes, cucumbers, ginger, garlic, and onion for the curried lentils.

Upon returning from the Berkeley Bowl, I started by making the chopped onion mix. I cut off the stalks of the cilantro and roughly chopped the leaves and set those aside. Then I stuck the cilantro stalks in my food processor, followed by a finely diced onion.

Onion mixture in the food processor

Onion, garlic, ginger, green chile, and cilantro in the food processor.

Then I added 3 peeled garlic cloves, 2.5 inches peeled ginger, and a fresh chile. I used a serrano chile, which I removed the seeds from, but presumably any green chile would work.  This mix is a flavor powerhouse. It smelled so fresh and delicious.

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This onion, garlic, cilantro, chile mixture was a flavor POWERHOUSE. It smelled so good!

Place a large pan on medium heat and put the mustard seeds in it and wait for them to pop. They start to sound sort of like popcorn – it’s pretty fun! Then add the 4 tbsp sunflower oil and the onion mixture. This is such a flavorful mix – I’m definitely going to have to start employing it in more of my cooking.

While the onion mixture cooks, I mixed together the spices. Mix 1.5 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cumin, 0.5 tsp turmeric, and 0.25 tsp (sweet) paprika. I used regular paprika since I don’t have sweet, but all in all this is a pretty standard curry mix. The one ingredient I did not have was the curry leaves, which I read online you could substitute with basil and a dash of lemon. After the onion mix has been cooking for 10 minutes, add the spices and leaves and cook for 5 minutes.

Coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika spice mix

Coriander, cumin, turmeric, and paprika spice mixture.

The spices and onion mixture smelled so good while they were simmering! My whole apartment smelled amazing. Two friends dropped by my apartment to pick something up while I was cooking and commented on how good it smelled as soon as they entered the door. Between you and me, I think they were pretty jealous that they weren’t invited over for dinner!

Onion mixture with spice mix and basil leaves

Onion mixture with spice mix and basil leaves.

While the mixture is cooking, take the time to open up a can of peeled chopped tomatoes or to chop up some fresh tomatoes. Peeling tomatoes seemed like too much work for me so I just threw them in whole, and then I added the red lentils with the water they had been soaking in.

Spice and onion mixture with red lentils and tomatoes

Spice and onion mixture with red lentils and tomatoes.

While the lentils simmer for 30 minutes, mix together the Greek yogurt with diced cucumber and olive oil. Once the lentils are cooked, stir in some butter. Ottolenghi suggests 1/3 cup unsalted butter, but I used closer to 2 tbsp. Squeeze the juice from 1 fresh lime and add that to the lentils, and mix in the chopped cilantro leaves that you had set aside earlier. Serve the lentils in bowls, and top with a dollop of the Greek yogurt mixture. While this may not be the best photogenic dish ever, I swear it tasted divine.

Curried red lentils with Greek yogurt and cucumber

Curried red lentils with Greek yogurt and cucumber.

This is definitely going to be my new go-to for a simple and healthy mid-week dish. Especially when there are no mushrooms around!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup split red lentils
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 2.5 inches fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 mild fresh green chile
  • 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 0.25 tsp sweet paprika (I don’t have sweet paprika so I used plain paprika)
  • 10 curry leaves (I didn’t have these so I used basil with a dash of lemon juice, which I read online was a good substitute)
  • 1.75 cups peeled chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 0.25 tsp fenugreek (I didn’t have this so I used garlic salt)
  • pinch of asafetida (optional)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 finely diced cucumber
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (as much as you like)
  • 1.5 tbsp lime juice

Pesto pasta with yellowfoot chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms

I’d been wanting to go back to Humboldt and Del Norte Counties ever since I visited them for the first time last year. MLK weekend gave the perfect opportunity to make the long drive north. Hiking through the majestic giant redwood forests made me feel like I took a giant leap back in time; I wouldn’t be surprised if a T-Rex came rambling around the next corner.

Majestic giant redwoods in Redwood National Park

Majestic giant redwoods in Redwood National Park

Humboldt is truly spectacular. The towns of Eureka and Arcata are charming, friendly, and have fantastic food. Humboldt County gets an average of 55 inches of precipitation per year, which is nearly double the precipitation of Berkeley at 25.4 inches of rain per year. This means good things for mushrooms! People really appreciate foraged food up there, and I ate a delicious wild mushroom casserole at this cozy gem in Eureka, Brick and Fire Bistro. Usually when I mushroom hunt I just use the Berkeley Mycology baskets that I borrow from lab. But in Arcata they were selling beautiful mushroom baskets, and I finally got one my very own!

My very own mushroom basket!

My very own mushroom basket!

I was lucky to get some insider tips on some legal places to mushroom hunt, and here we are foraging in one of those special spots. Isn’t it spectacular?

Taking a walk through 'mushroom heaven' in Humboldt

Taking a walk through ‘mushroom heaven’ in Humboldt

We found some some awesomely giant yellow foot chanterelles, which were at least double in size beyond what I’ve ever found before. Must be all that rain they get in Humboldt!

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Giant yellow foot chanterelles

I also found some adorable hedgehog mushrooms, which if you’ve read my previous blog posts, you might remember are distinguished because they have teeth instead of gills.

Hedgehog mushrooms have teeth!

Hedgehog mushrooms have teeth!

Now what to cook with my gorgeous mushrooms? I’ve already made lasagna, polenta, frittata, risotto, and pizza featuring wild mushrooms. This time I wanted to make something simple and filling but that would highlight the delicious prized edible mushrooms. I always clean my mushrooms and start cooking them first before starting with the rest of the meal because it is important that they are cooked well, and of course I view them as the centerpiece of the dish :) This time I decided to try making a quick pesto pasta to serve as a bed for the mushrooms.

Browned hedgehog mushrooms.

Browned hedgehog mushrooms.

The trick with cooking mushrooms is that it is really important to just leave them alone after you put them in the hot pan that has been coated with oil or butter. They need time to just hang out and do their thing. It takes a while for all of the excess water to boil off  – it never ceases to amaze me how much mushrooms can shrink down! Then it takes a while for them to get that nice brown color and crispiness that makes them taste so good. So trust me when I tell you to relax and go do something else while the mushrooms are in the sauté pan, and let them get nice and brown before you start mixing them up with your spatula. At the very end you can add salt and then set them aside.

Yellow foot chanterelles

Yellow foot chanterelles

While the mushrooms were browning, I got started on the pesto. Having never made a pesto sauce before, I turned to the internet and found a great recipe here. Why have I never made pesto from scratch before? It is so easy! It is so much more vibrant and fresh tasting when you make it at home and the ingredients are very simple. It is also very easy to modify if you have a specific nut or cheese allergy. The recipe I used suggests using walnuts as an alternative to pine nuts, and I’ve also heard of people replacing the pine nuts with almonds.

Ingredients for the pesto: olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese.

Ingredients for the pesto: olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese.

The ingredients for pesto are simple: olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, and pine nuts. The first step is to wash the basil leaves and place them into a food processor with the pine nuts and pulse them a few times.

Pine nuts and basil in the food processor

Pine nuts and basil in the food processor

Next, add the garlic cloves and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Basil, pine nuts, and garlic.

Basil, pine nuts, and garlic.

Basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan

Basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese.

Next, pulse several more times until well mixed. Then slowly start streaming in olive oil as the food processor is mixing the rest of the ingredients. I would say the amount of olive oil you add is up to you depending on how chunky you like your pesto. Prior to making the pesto, which is really quick and only takes 5-10 minutes total, I had boiled some water and made some pasta. Once the pesto was finished, I mixed it in with the pasta and added a few extra pine nuts and some shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

Home made pesto mixed with  pasta topped with extra pine nuts and Parmesan.

Home made pesto mixed with pasta topped with extra pine nuts and Parmesan.

To me, the point of the pasta was really only to play a supporting role to the freshly foraged mushrooms, so I loaded lots of crispy sautéed mushrooms on top.

Pesto pasta with hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles on top.

Pesto pasta with hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles on top.

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Simple pesto pasta to accompany freshly foraged hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles.

It turned out deliciously. Patrick was obsessed with the pesto and scarfed down all of the excess pesto that wasn’t used for the pasta by spooning it onto pieces of baguette. For me, I cannot wait to get back to Humboldt and hike in the redwoods and forage for mushrooms again. For Patrick, he cannot wait for me to make the next batch of home made pesto!

Wild mushroom pizza with my first Matsutake!

The other weekend I went hiking in Marin County. It’s been pretty dry the last couple weeks, so I was expecting a beautiful hike and lots of waterfalls but I did not have my hopes up for good mushrooms. Much to my joyful surprise, I found tons of mushroom diversity on the hike and I even found the prized Matsutake for the first time. Matsutake is very popular in Japanese cuisine, and apparently the Japanese Matsutake can fetch as much as $100 per mushroom. The American version typically sells for significantly less at $20-35/lb, but still, it’s a pricey mushroom. So when Patrick looked down and saw a big whitish mushroom sticking out from under the huckleberry bushes and asked me what it was, I was super excited when the revelation of what exactly I was holding onto dawned on me.

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My first ever Matsutake!

Matsutake goes by multiple scientific names but going into the vagaries of scientific naming conventions is beyond the scope of this blog. Suffice it to say that it is a white mushroom that tends to stain brown on the stem, has a very thick white ring around the stem called an annulus, and has a very distinctive smell. David Arora describes the “unique spicy odor” as a “provocative compromise between ‘red hots’ and dirty socks” in Mushrooms Demystified. My friend Melina says it smells like “jock strap and cinnamon red hots.” I personally have always thought of it as smelling like an old gym, so the thought of eating it never particularly appealed to me. However, given that so many people love it so much and are willing to pay $$, I was very intrigued to try it when I finally found one of my own.

The American Matsutake: Tricholoma magnivelare

The American Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare)

Since it is a very special mushroom with a distinctive smell and flavor, you can’t just sauté it in butter or olive oil and add it to anything like you can with a chanterelle or porcini. I found some great tips and recipes on “Cooking the Magnificent Matsutake” from the forager and blogger extraordinaire Hank Shaw. However, the recipe that I ultimately decided to go with came from my friend and fellow mycology PhD student Roo, who suggested that I make a Matsutake pizza. There were definitely times when the mushroom was in the sauté pan with the garlic, and I smelled garlic with an undertone of funk; I was a bit scared of what I was getting myself into. I must say though, Roo was quite right about his recipe. The Matsutake pizza was delicious!

Pizza dough rising

Pizza dough rising

The recipe is quite simple. Start with a homemade dough and sprinkle with olive oil. Then, add the sautéed mushrooms with a bit of onion and garlic, and a sprinkle of good quality mozzarella. Bake in the oven at highest heat for 5-10 minutes, then top with good parmesan after it is cooked.

Max happily rolling out the pizza dough

Max, a fellow mycology PhD student, happily rolling out the pizza dough

I’ve never made pizza before, so I found this simple pizza dough recipe online, and enlisted help from my friends. Since I was a bit afraid that I would not enjoy the Matsutake and its particular ‘funk’, we also made a classic margherita and a vegetarian pizza.

Matsutakes

Matsutakes

The first step of course was to clean off the dirt from the Matsutakes, then to cut them up and sauté them.

Matsutakes cleaned up

Matsutakes cleaned up

Mushrooms cleaned and sliced in the sauté pan:

Matsutakes cleaned and sliced in the pan

Matsutakes cleaned and sliced in the pan

I let the Matsutakes sit in the sauté pan for a long time. We rolled out the dough and made the first two pizzas while they cooked. Eventually, I added several cloves of garlic to add some flavor.

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Matsutakes sautéd in olive oil with a bit of garlic – they are starting to get brown and beautiful!

Once the mushrooms were browned, Max rolled out the dough onto a baking sheet. Unfortunately, I do not have a pizza stone, so a baking sheet had to do. Be careful to sprinkle flower to the pan before adding the dough.

Max rolling out the pizza dough onto the baking pan

Max rolling out the pizza dough onto the baking pan

Next, we sprinkled with olive oil and added the sautéd Matsutakes with some onions and garlic:

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Starting to look pretty good, right?

After that, we added some mozzarella balls to the pizza:

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Home made pizza dough, sprinkled with olive oil, sautéd Matsutakes, onions, garlic, and mozzarella

We baked it in my oven at 500 degrees F for approximately 7 minutes.

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Here are my friends patiently sitting at the table with the cooked Margherita and vegetarian pizza, looking stoked to sample the pizza buffet:

Simone and Max looking super excited to try the pizza!

Simone and Max looking super excited to try the pizza!

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

And the pièce de résistance, the Matsutake pizza!

Final product: home made Matsutake pizza with mozzarella and parmesan reggiano sprinkled on top

Final product: home made Matsutake pizza with mozzarella and Parmesan Reggiano sprinkled on top

Thanks friends for helping me bake and eat all of this delicious pizza!

Simone, Max, and Patrick, being good sports while I take pictures of everything before they can eat it

Simone, Max, and Patrick, being good sports while I take pictures of everything before they can eat it

Here is a plate loaded up with salad and all 3 pizzas:

Plate loaded down with salad and all 3 pizzas

Plate loaded down with salad and all 3 pizzas

Despite my trepidation at the funky smell, the Matsutake pizza was my favorite in the end. The funky flavor comes through more strongly when the mushroom is not thoroughly cooked, but the well-cooked sautéed mushrooms permeate a delicious flavor without being too funky. Perhaps one day, I will get to the point where I am all about that funk and want to use the Matsutake mushrooms raw. For now, though, cooking them in a pizza was the perfect entryway to this mushroom. Thanks, Roo!

Puréed beets with yogurt and za’atar and butternut squash and tahini dip

These are the dishes that started my love affair with Yotam Ottolenghi and inspired me to start writing this blog. Last year at Christmas, Meera’s roommate invited me to their house and she made these dishes. Quite frankly, they blew my mind.

Puréed beets with yogurt and za'atar

Puréed beets with yogurt and za’atar

A year later, when I was invited to Christmas dinner at Patrick’s house, I made these dishes again. It was a commemoration of the past year, going back to where it all started. I’ve come a long way in the last year in terms of my cooking. As my sister Reva likes to say, a year ago I barely knew how to open a can. She exaggerates, but it’s true – I’m much more comfortable in the kitchen now than I was then! Of course, another exciting thing about this year is that it’s been raining a ton in Berkeley this past month, and there are mushrooms galore! This fungi foodie is very happy about that :)

Here I am super excited to be picking mushrooms on Berkeley's campus this year

Here I am super excited to be picking mushrooms on Berkeley’s campus this month

I’ve already blogged about the butternut squash and tahini dip, in a previous post. Briefly, peel and chop a large butternut squash into chunks, sprinkle with cinnamon, salt, and olive oil, and roast in the oven for 70 minutes. Next, put it in the blender with greek yogurt, tahini, and garlic. When ready to serve, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds and date syrup. That’s it! I got my date syrup at the airport in Tel Aviv right before I hopped on the plane back to San Francisco, but I imagine you could find it at any Middle Eastern specialty store. Don’t forget the date syrup – it makes the dip pop! The date syrup is also necessary for the beet dip, which is a savory contrast to this sweet spread.

Butternut squash and tahini dip before date syrup is added

Butternut squash and tahini dip before date syrup is added

While I personally prefer the sweeter butternut squash and tahini spread, the beet dip seemed to be a bigger hit with the men at the party. I’ve been on a bit of a beet kick lately. I’ve even been adding them to my morning smoothies! The first step of this dish is to roast 2 lbs of beets in the oven at 400 degrees F for a very very long time. Ottolenghi suggests roasting them for about an hour, but I had to roast them for nearly 1.5 hours to get them to the point where a knife can easily slide into the beet. In the meanwhile, assemble the rest of the ingredients, as pictured below. I found this recipe on pg. 53 of Jerusalem, but it was also featured online here.

Ingredients for the beet dip: hazelnuts, green onions, red chili, Greek yogurt, za'atar, date syrup, salt.

Ingredients for the beet dip: hazelnuts, green onions, red chili, Greek yogurt, za’atar, date syrup, salt

Once the beets are soft enough, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Then peel them with your fingers and cut them into pieces and place them in the blender. This part is really really messy so arm yourself with reinforcements. Patrick was a great help with peeling the beets :) Blend them with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 small red chile, and 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt, seeded and chopped red chile, garlic

Greek yogurt, seeded and chopped red chile, garlic

Blending in the beets

Blending in the beets

Once the yogurt, chile, garlic, and beets are blended, place them in a bowl.

Beets are so pretty!

Beets are so pretty!

Next spoon in 3 tbsp olive oil, 1.5 tbsp date syrup, 1 tbsp za’atar, and 1 tsp salt.

Puréed beets with olive oil, za'atar, date syrup, and salt.

Puréed beets with olive oil, za’atar, date syrup, and salt

Mix with a spoon. Then chop up 2 tbsp of roasted hazelnuts, and slice two green onions, and spread them on top. Ottolenghi also calls for 2 oz of goat’s cheese on top, but I am not a huge fan of goat’s cheese, so I refrained.

Beet dip with roasted hazelnuts and green onion garnish

Beet dip with roasted hazelnuts and green onion garnish

Both dips are unexpected and delicious, and are great with pita, crackers, carrots, jicama, or peppers. Middle Eastern mezze on Christmas, a new tradition?

 

Hedgehog and chanterelle wild mushroom frittata

Thanks to all of this wonderful rain, the hunting is finally good for mushrooms! I was super lucky at the annual Mendocino mushroom foray and this time I found the mother lode of hedgehog mushrooms :) Hedgehogs are related to chanterelles and many of my mushroom hunting friends like them even more than their beloved cousins.  The scientific name is Hydnum umbilicatum, but they are called hedgehogs because they have spiny teeth instead of gills !

Check out the spiny teeth on un the underside of these beautiful hedgehog mushrooms!

Check out the spiny teeth on un the underside of these beautiful hedgehog mushrooms!

I’ve never found so many choice edibles in one spot before. I was very excited to bring some home to Los Angeles over Thanksgiving break! On that Friday morning, I went to my friend Lauren’s house to share my mushrooms with friends and enjoy a post-Thanksgiving day breakfast.  With all of these gorgeous mushrooms, I decided to make a frittata. A frittata is a simple, baked egg dish where you can basically add any ingredients you want (any vegetable you have lying around, meat, cheese, herbs, you name it!), and then you throw it in the oven. Since I’ve been so mushroom deprived until now, I decided to keep it simple and keep mushrooms front and center in this dish. I caramelized a white and red onion to add some flavor, but that was the only other ingredient besides mushrooms and eggs (and salt and pepper of course!).

Hedgehog mushrooms cleaned and cut in a heated pan

Hedgehog mushrooms cleaned and cut in a heated pan

I kept the stems on the mushrooms but cut off the dirt off from the tip. I then rinsed them under water in a colander. Some people will tell you never to wash mushrooms because they soak up all the water and get soggy, but it’s really hard to get off all that dirt if you don’t rinse them in a colander, and if you cook them in the pan long enough all the water will boil off. I heated up a pan on medium heat, added oil, then added the cleaned and roughly chopped hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs starting to cook and giving off a lot of water

Hedgehogs starting to cook and giving off a lot of water

Mushrooms are something like 80-90% water, so they will cook down a lot. Good thing I had so many :) It will take a while for all of the water to boil off, but be patient and let them cook for a long time until they start to brown.

Beautifully browning hedgehogs

Beautifully browning hedgehogs

Kinda crazy how much they cook down, huh? Notice the nice brown color that they are starting to get – keep sautéing them and mixing them with a spatula for a few more minutes. We also chopped up the last of my yellowfoot chanterelles and added those to the mix.

Whisking together the onions, mushrooms, and eggs for the frittata

Whisking together the onions, mushrooms, and eggs for the frittata

I cracked about 10 eggs and added them to a big mixing bowl with the onions and the mushrooms. I mixed well with the whisk, added some salt and pepper, and put the mixture into Lauren’s lovely baking dish.

Frittata mixture ready to go into the oven!

Frittata mixture ready to go into the oven!

Baking a frittata is not an exact science. It really depends on the oven and the size of the frittata. I suggest setting the oven to around 400 degrees and checking it every 5-10 minutes. I had preheated Lauren’s oven to 400 degrees prior to cooking, but the frittata took a lot longer to cook than expected. After 10 minutes it was still completely liquid! What can I say, I’m still learning :P I ended up cooking the frittata for about 30 minutes – it was a really big and the baking dish was heavy and thick. There is no rule of thumb as to how long it will take – but expect 10-30 minutes depending on your dish, oven, and the size of the frittata. Luckily, when it finally came out it was beautiful :)

Me showing off my wild mushroom frittata with mushrooms that I foraged myself :)

Me showing off my wild mushroom frittata with mushrooms that I foraged myself :)

Here are my friends enjoying the frittata in Lauren’s lovely apartment:

Sara, Sarah, and Lauren enjoying the frittata with bagels

Sara, Sarah, and Lauren enjoying the frittata with bagels

What is better than mushrooms and friends? Not much! Here is a closer look at the gorgeous hedgehog and chanterelle frittata:

Hedgehog and chanterelle wild mushroom frittata

Hedgehog and chanterelle wild mushroom frittata

Black trumpet, hedgehog, and chanterelle wild mushroom risotto

Last weekend I went mushroom hunting in Mendocino with the UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and SF State mycology classes. It was AWESOME. The mushrooms were out in abundance. After such a dry and disappointing mushroom hunting season last year, I was stoked to say the least.

Yay for mushrooms!!!

Yay for mushrooms!!!

I was so excited to finally find mushrooms after so much terrible dry weather things got a little extreme…

Me with the mushroom-fever-crazy-eyes

Me with the mushroom-fever-crazy-eyes

I found black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) for the first time ever! They really blend in with the redwood duff so it is hard to find them:

Can you see the black trumpet mushrooms in this photo?

Can you see the black trumpet mushrooms in this photo?

I climbed up a super steep slope to find these but it was totally worth it :) I’ve never collected these mushrooms before and I got a pretty good amount of them:

Black trumpet mushrooms that I collected from the redwood tanoak forests in Mendocino

Black trumpet mushrooms that I collected from the redwood tanoak forests in Mendocino

In addition to black trumpets and oak and golden chanterelles (Cantharellus californicus and formosus), I found a bunch of yellow foot chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis), which were out very early this year. Usually, they don’t start coming out until December or January, but I’m not complaining!

yellowfoot AKA winter chanterelles

yellowfoot AKA winter chanterelles

The mushrooms that I found in the greatest abundance were hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum umbilicatum). I’ve never found so many in my life.

Bowl of hedgehog bounty

Bowl of hedgehog bounty

These are a really good edible, so I was very excited to find so many! They are also a good mushroom for an amateur since they are very difficult to misidentify. They call them the hedgehog mushroom because instead of gills they have teeth. Can you see the teeth in this photo?

Can you see the teeth? That's why they call it the hedgehog

Can you see the teeth? That’s why they call it the hedgehog

With all of my beautiful mushrooms, I decided to invite over some friends and make a wild mushroom risotto. I sauteéd up some of the chanterelles, hedgehogs, and black trumpets in olive oil and put them on baguette toasts for everyone to eat as an appetizer while the risotto was cooking.

wild mushrooms (chanterelles, hedgehogs, black trumpets) on toast

Wild mushrooms (chanterelles, hedgehogs, black trumpets) on toast

I have only cooked risotto once or twice before, so I turned to Google for help with finding a recipe. I decided to base my recipe of off this mushroom risotto. Risotto is actually rather easy to make. All you need to do is sauté up some onions and garlic and whatever vegetables you like, then add 1 cup of arborio rice, and slowly add liquids while stirring continuously. Whether you decide to add milk, cream, vegetable or chicken stock is completely up to you! I started out with sautéing 3-4 chopped shallots and a few cloves of garlic in oil. I added a bit of minced celery, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. Then I added a bunch of hedgehogs, black trumpets, and golden chanterelles to the pan. I used a lot more mushrooms than was recommended, but in my opinion they are the best part :)

Shallots, garlic, parsley, celery, hedgehogs, chanterelles, and black trumpets sauteeing

Shallots, garlic, parsley, celery, hedgehogs, chanterelles, and black trumpets sautéing

After the mushrooms are sautéed, you add milk and cream to the mixture. I decided to increase the size of the recipe to make sure I had enough risotto for all of my friends, so I added 1.5 cups of milk and 3/8 cups heavy cream. The recipe called for whole milk but I found that skim milk still made a very creamy and delicious risotto and was slightly healthier – but you can use whatever you’d like! Next I added 1.5 cups of arborio rice.  After adding the rice you start to add stock/broth one cup at a time. I used vegetable broth because one of my friends is a vegetarian, but you can use whatever kind of stock you want. This is what the risotto looks like when you first start to cook it:

risotto cooking

Risotto cooking

Risotto requires a lot of stirring. I’m talking like 25-45 minutes of non-stop stirring. You are supposed to stir continuously and add the broth one cup at a time as it absorbs. There is no magic number for how long it takes, you just cook it until it’s done. Make sure you invite a lot of friends over to help you stir :)

Meera being a good friend and helping me stir the risotto

Meera being a good friend and helping me stir the risotto

Stirring is tiring stuff. Patrick takes over the stirring for a while.

Stirring is tiring stuff. Patrick takes over the stirring for a while.

Taste test the risotto to tell if it’s done cooking. It should be creamy but still a little bit al dente. This recipe took about 4 cups of vegetable broth and 45 minutes of stirring. At this point, we added the cheese. The recipe calls for grated Parmesan – we decided to use a mix of Parmesan Stravecchio and Reggiano. I skipped adding the butter because I thought it was rich enough.

Finally the stirring is done!

Finally, the stirring is done!

I was concerned my risotto looked a bit drab but luckily Kari was there to suggest that I sprinkle parsley on top to color it up. It worked beautifully :)

Wild mushroom risotto with parsley sprinkled on top

Wild mushroom risotto with parsley sprinkled on top

I served the risotto with a giant vegetable salad. It was a nice light accompaniment to the rich risotto and made us feel slightly healthier :)

wild mushroom risotto served with salad

Wild mushroom risotto served with salad

And of course the most important part of any meal is having good friends to share it with! Thanks to all my friends who came over and helped me cook this delicious wild mushroom feast!

Gavin, Patrick, Meera, and Kari helping me eat the risotto

Gavin, Patrick, Meera, and Kari helping me eat the risotto

Bon appétit!

Me showing off my wild mushroom risotto and my awesome mushroom apron

Me showing off my wild mushroom risotto and my awesome mushroom apron

 

Ingredient list (to make 5 generous servings):

  • 4 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 0.5 cup parsley
  • 1 celery stalk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups skim or whole milk
  • 3/8 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups arborio rice
  • 1-2 cups grated cheese of your choice (Parmesan-like)