Tag Archives: mushroom

Sparassis stir fry!

Living in so cal again has been wonderful except for one main thing missing from my life – mushrooms!! It’s been pretty tough for me living in a place without a distinct mushroom season, so I planned a destination mushroom hunting trip to Portland this last week to get my mushroom fix :) It was so fun to tromp around through the woods in the beautiful and wet conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately I missed out on finding any porcinis or chanterelles or matsutakes, but I did happen upon a relatively rare and special find Sparasiss radicata, commonly known as the cauliflower mushroom.

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Sparassis radiata, the cauliflower mushroom

Sparassis radicata  is a wood decay fungus that tends to be found on the ground under dead conifers. I have only found one other Sparassis in my life and they are very tasty and hearty so I was super excited to find it again! It was about 35 degrees F, raining, and hailing, so I definitely worked hard for my find, but looking at the huge smile on my face you can tell it was worth it :)

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It was worth it to trek through the rain and hail to find this mushroom!

It was dark and rainy in the understory, which made it difficult to get a good photo, but you can tell that I’m super happy to finally have a giant edible mushroom in my hand.

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Cold and wet, but smiling huge with my giant Sparassis radicata mushroom bounty :)

The last time I found one of these was back in in 2013 in Mendocino, CA. I typically think of it as a mushroom that you need a relatively old growth forest to find, so it is not a mushroom you find very often. Again, you can see the huge smile the Sparassis puts on my face :)

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2013 -Last time I found a Sparassis – this mushroom sure knows how to put a smile on my face!

Sparassis has a very unique texture and makes a great replacement for egg noodles in a stir fry. Since my friend Zoie who we are staying with is vegan we decided to make a vegan vegetable and tofu stir fry with Sparassis as the base. Sparassis takes a while to clean since it grows on the ground and can accumulate a ton of conifer needles in all of its crevasses. I started by washing the Sparassis very well in the sink and roughly chopping it and storing it in a bowl.

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Sparassis washed and chopped and ready to be cooked!

We first washed and chopped up all of the ingredients for the stir fry. We chose onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, red pepper, broccoli, and tofu, but you can be as creative and flexible as you would like with your stir fry ingredients! Once everything was chopped and ready to go, we heated the pan, added olive oil, then placed the roughly chopped onions and the chopped Sparassis to the pan.

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Chopped onions and Sparassis mushroom sautéeing in pan

I will warn you this is not a quick stir fry. It takes a while for the mushroom to get rid of all of its water and fully cook. The pan will start filling with water from the mushroom, and you will have to be patient while it evaporates so the mushroom can start to crisp up. The mushroom will have a fairly crunchy texture but it lends a nice meatiness to the dish. After 10-15 minutes, we added a ton of chopped garlic and fresh ginger, which infused into the mushroom and added a lot of flavor. Next, we added chopped broccoli.

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Onions, garlic, ginger, Sparassis, and broccoli sautéing in pan

Of course you can add any vegetable you want to your stir fry. We like lots of vegetables and color so we added red peppers next after the broccoli.

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Don’t the red peppers at a nice fresh pop of color?

After the broccoli and red pepper cooked for ~10 minutes, we added thinly slivered carrots to the pan. Isn’t the stir fry beautifully colorful? We also had a separate pan for the tofu, which we stir fried in olive oil in its own pan to get a crispier outside.

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In the meanwhile, Zoie whipped up a delicious sauce to add to the stir fry. We whisked together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, a little bit of sugar, and a bit of sriracha and chile. Again, this dish is flexible so you can mix any flavors you like for this sauce. The world is your oyster mushroom :)  We added the sauce and let the flavors meld for another few minutes. Finally, we were ready to serve!

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We were all super enthusiastic and delighted at how well this dish came out. It was absolutely delicious! If you ever are lucky enough to come across as Sparassis at the farmer’s market or in the woods, go ahead and stir fry it up! Thanks Roo, Zoie, Kim, and Heather for joining me on an awesome Oregon mushroom hunting adventure :)

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!

Barbecued maitake and mee goreng

Maitake frondosa, known to some as ‘hen of the woods’ is a saprotropic fungus that makes a living by eating decaying wood.   While that may not sound incredibly appetizing, this ecology makes them fairly easy to cultivate and to produce reliably for consumption. This is lucky for me since they are not native to California and I can’t easily forage for them!  Since they are not native California mushrooms, I had never cooked these beautiful and intriguing mushrooms before, and I did not quite know what to do with them. Luckily, Justin Reyes from Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc suggested a delicious marinade inspired by this youtube video from chef Louisa Safia of LucidFood, which turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser. It was so popular in fact, that my friends Meera and Judy asked me for the recipe immediately after the dinner, and Meera went home and tried it out the next day!

Maitake Frondosa

Maitake Frondosa or ‘hen of the woods’

The first step is to make the marinade the night before you want to cook the mushrooms and let them soak it up overnight in the fridge.  Unfortunately, I only realized this last minute and found myself mixing up the marinade at midnight the evening before I cooked these mushrooms, but hopefully you can be smarter and plan ahead – trust me, this marinade is worth it!

Marinated maitake

Marinated maitake

Here are the ingredients for the marinade:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, green and white parts
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 3 lbs Maitake Frondosa

Blend the olive oil, whole pieces of scallion whites, whole garlic cloves, honey, 2 Tbsp wine, salt and fresh ground black pepper in blender. My handy dandy immersion blender worked great for this :) Then you either need to find a giant zip lock bag or a bowl and pour the sauce over the mushrooms and let them soak it up in the fridge over night. Save half a cup of the marinade for the reduction sauce the next day. While this recipe suggest barbecuing the mushrooms or using a cast iron skillet, I unfortunately had neither so I just used a big pan to saute them up. Don’t worry -they still tasted great! Just make sure to leave them alone and let them cook for a really long time until they start to get brown and crispy. While they are cooking, you can make the reduction sauce by adding 3 Tbsp of white wine to the reserved 1/2 cup of marinade and reducing it to a simmer after you’ve brought it to a boil. When the mushrooms are nice and crispy you can spread the reduction sauce on them and it tastes so good!

Barbecued maitake

Barbequed maitake

I decided that this meaty mushroom  would make a great accompaniment to the vegetarian mee goreng from Plenty, which I featured in this post.  Mee goreng is a Malaysian street food that is super healthy and super simple, and takes only a few minutes to stir fry up after all the vegetables have been chopped and prepared.

Mee goreng

Mee goreng

Ottolenghi suggests serving the mee goreng with shredded lettuce, fried shallots, lemon wedges, and a Malaysian spicy chili sauce called sambal oelek. Fortunately I was able to find sambal oelek  at Berkeley bowl, but it looks like it is super easy to buy online!

Mee goreng with lettuce, lemon wedges, sambal oelek, and fried shallots

Mee goreng with lettuce, lemon wedges, Sambal oelek, and fried shallots

Here is my plate all loaded up with mee goreng:

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Here is the mee goreng served as suggested with the shredded lettuce, lemon wedges, fried shallots, and sambal oelek on top:

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It went really well with the maitake mushrooms and my friends Judy and Meera gratefully gobbled it up. They were both super fun to cook for and claimed that these dishes induced euphoria and it was hands down one of the best meals they’d eaten that year.  This meal was probably the easiest and simplest of my three Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. feasts. It was also probably the most delectable! Don’t you just love when that happens?

Mee goreng with bbqed maitake

Mee goreng with BBQed maitake

porcini feast!

So yesterday I drove nearly 4 hours and hiked for over 5 hours and while I had tons of fun and saw tons of mushrooms – I found no chanterelles or porcinis.  But today, sticking around campus and barely moving a few hundred feet from my house, I found a whole boat load of porcinis!! Go figure. Mushroom hunting is a fickle beast – but it does make finding the best edibles that much more exciting. And eating mushrooms that you hunted yourself – it just can’t be beat! I’ve been on a quest to find porcinis all year since I’ve never found them before – so today was super exciting :) While it wasn’t the king bolete Boletus edulis, it was still a delicious choice edible in the same group, Boletus barrowsii.  Here’s my nifty and professional looking UC Berkeley Mycology basket filled with them!
Boletus barrowsii

Boletus barrowsii

So beyond finding a delicious choice edible that had been on my mushroom bucket lease, today was also exciting because I was being filmed for a news segment on urban foraging.  I am currently teaching a course at Berkeley called Environmental Issues, and one of the graduate students that I teach with is a journalist, and she decided to do a story featuring yours truly :) So you will get a chance to see my mushroom hunting in action on the news! Keep posted for the video link!

Tons of boletes!

Tons of boletes!

I was so lucky to find so many mushrooms and in such good condition! They were super clean and not buggy at all – this is super lucky as boletes can sometimes be filled with maggots – yuck! So you have to be careful and cut off the bottom of the stem and check for maggots. Mine are super clean – no sign of bugs at all!

super clean boletes

super clean boletes

I cut off the bottom of the stems with all the dirt and threw that in the trash and then I gave them a quick rinse in the sink and rubbed off the dirt, then I let them dry a bit on a towel.

Boletus barrowsii caps

Boletus barrowsii caps

How gorgeous are these mushrooms?

Boletus barrowsii cleaned up

Boletus barrowsii cleaned up

So the trick with porcinis is that you have to slice them up and cook them really well. You want to make sure they are cooked all the way through and nice and browned and crispy. Most people don’t like to eat the tubes so it’s best to pull them off. Luckily they tear off really easily. Slice them up thin, heat up a pan with butter or oil, and let them simmer for a while. Go do something else while they are simmering and stay distracted because they need to stay untouched and cooking for longer than you probably think. Wait til they start to get nice and brown.

sauteeing porcinis

sauteeing porcinis

They are super meaty and flavorful mushrooms. They would work really well in an omelet, in a sandwich with mozzarella and pesto, in a pasta..or as the main event! Get ready for lots of recipes featuring these delicious mushrooms this week :)

On Tuesday January 28, I made the mushroom and herb polenta from Plenty (recipe found here). While it’s been super dry and there are no mushrooms to forage, I figure I can always forage in the mushroom aisle at Monterey markets!  It also finally gave me an opportunity to use the truffle oil that I bought at the MSSF fungus fair up at the Lawrence Berkeley Hall of Science several years ago.  This dish is super rich and would be partnered really well with a simple light arugula and tomato salad or a nice crusty baguette.  We used a combination of cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms for this polenta.  Chervil is apparently just french parsley, but I used regular parsley and it seemed to work just fine! This was also my first time using Taleggio, which is a very creamy and rich soft cheese.

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This meal came out super delicious!

with the sauteed mushrooms on it, hot out of the oven!

with the sauteed mushrooms on it, hot out of the oven!

I finally got a great opportunity to use the mushroom dish towel that my mom bought for me :)

mushroom and herb polenta on mushroom dish towel!

mushroom and herb polenta on mushroom dish towel!