Mushroom hunting

Last Sunday we found ourselves in a not to far, large wooded park. It’s a treasure to have parks like this when you live in an urban area and we find ourselves there pretty often. This one is lined with lots of trails, through tall cedar trees and cliffs that overlook the puget sound. This day however, we were there for more than just the scenic beauty and fresh air, we were on a mushroom hunt.

Have you ever gone mushroom hunting? This was my first. I lived in five acres of densely wooded land when I was growing up, and always admired the mushrooms I found for their silent beauty and fairy tale-like mesmerization, but never had I dared to pluck one from the ground, stow it in my pocket, and bring it home to eat. I had heard the stories of mushroom poisonings or hallucinogens that can happen if you have no idea what you’re looking for, so I treaded on the safe side and instead felt humbled in their presence.

Following the foragers number one rule “never eat something unless you are 100% sure what it is,” we joined a friend who knows what he is looking for. We followed the trails until we came to a few spots where he picked chanterelles in the years before. Then it was into the bushes and over fallen logs, each step sunk into pine needle and mossy ground. We were out there for hours, but it only felt like we had just begun. We came out with only two mushrooms; one for him and one for us.

We were expecting so much more, but it was thrilling and so natural to just be out there that I didn’t even care once we got home. I held the chanterelle close to my nose and took in the earthy forest smell, then sliced into it, sauteed it in a little butter, garlic and herb mixture and served it on a slice of toast. It was delicious and enough. At least until we forage for more.

Wilder Tapanade

There are so many things that are seeming to come back into our lives these days. Foraging, a forgotten hunt and gather, that our ancestors relied on for food and livelihood is one, but also print. The one tool that has been around for centuries and is used to tell stories, send letters, document, enjoy over a cup of coffee or tea, and line itself up on bookshelves. None of these things are going away per se, but less and less are becoming tangible things. I like when I can touch something and write my own notes in it, or the thrill of finding my own grandmas handwriting on a scratch of paper.

There has been a decline of print magazines because everything is going online these days, but there are still a few who have claimed it is not yet gone and are paving the way. Wilder Quarterly is one of those magazines. Here’s a little of what they’re about from their website:

The first thing I noticed, besides the beautiful cover shot, was the paper choice. This may not be something many people think about, but coming from a design background, it kinda means a lot to the whole experience. Inside, every single image or drawing is absolutely beautiful and pulled from talent all over. I found myself curled up with each story and took away knowledge of subjects I never new I was interested in. There’s a handful of recipes mixed in throughout and I pulled out this one to share with you here. A lovely recipe for smashed potatoes that get a golden crunchy crust and are topped with a briny salty olive tapanade. I served mine over a bed of arugula for a light salad meal, but they would be the perfect starter to any meal if you have a few people around to share with.

Smashed Potatoes with Olive Tapanade
Recipe by Francis Mallmann’s Seven Fires of Argentina via Wilder Quarterly: Fall 2012 Issue

for the tapanade
1 cup kalamata olives, minced
2 tablespoons capers, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground black pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl and allow to stand for a while to blend. You can whiz everything in a food processor to make it easier. Don’t skip the lemon zest and juice. They are delightful in this.

for the potatoes
about 1 1/2 lbs. of waxy small red or white potatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns

Wash potatoes. If not uniform in size, cut to size and boil, with all added seasonings, until tender. Drain and discard seasonings. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly, then gently crush them with your palm so they break open, but don’t bust them apart too much.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cast iron works beautifully for this. Add a small amount of butter and oil and swirl to coat the pan. When hot, place potatoes in a single layer in the pan. Cook 10 minutes or so, until a good crust forms on the bottom. Dot the top with about 1/4 cup of the tapanade, and carefully turn the potatoes over. Allow to cook on the other side for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with tapanade on the side.

*Full disclosure: Recipe re-printed with permission from Wilder Quarterly. I was not paid to endorse Wilder Quarterly, but all photo’s, text, and opinions are my own.