Foraging for Mushrooms in Oregon

While you were sipping cocktails and yucking it up with sexy assistants at your cushy office job, I was trudging the hills of Oregon looking for a morsel to eat, dear David. That’s right, I spent the entire Fall with an empty mushroom basket. I searched high and low, under leaf and stump only to find a few empty shot gun shells and a small plastic bag smeared with a white powdery residue.

I spent many an evening in dive bars, bowling alleys and VFWs. I pushed my way through cobwebs, past decrepit taxidermy to the sticky bar top at the Safari Club. I listened to the spittle-soaked, slurry speech of Estacada hillbillies in hopes of getting a tip on good mushroom hunting grounds.

Then came the rain. Drizzle became downpour and when it stopped, thousands of toothless Oxy zombies were crawling the hills with gunny sacks. Yellow chanterelles were popping up faster than I could pick them. I filled my basket, then a few paper grocery bags and ultimately the entire bed of the wobbly pick-up truck I won in a card game from Pickle-Arm Pete the night before.

I spent days cleaning mushrooms that ranged from delicate sprouts to meaty monsters with caps the size of my hand. I slaved over the stove making gratins, soups and risottos to create recipes you could use to impress your stable, David. You owe me.

This Philly Cheese Fake Steak recipe should impress your current flame — your curly-locked, vegetarian, South Philly Princess. I think that’s a perm by the way.

1 crispy baguette
1/2 pound sliced gruyere
Sauteed green Portuguese peppers or poblanos
Sauteed chanterelle mushrooms
Caramelized shallots

The Shallots
2 tablespoons butter
3 large purple shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup Nero d’Avola or other Sicilian red wine that is un-oaked
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt

Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat. Add the wine, salt and thyme leaves. Cover and cook slowly over a low flame until the wine evaporates and the shallots are caramelized, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

The Peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 green Portuguese Peppers or 2 small poblano peppers, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Sea salt and freshly cracked pink peppercorns

Heat the oil in medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

The Mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 pounds sliced chanterelles mushrooms
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked pink peppercorns

Heat oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the mushrooms are golden brown. Add the butter, salt and cook a minute more. Stir in the parsley and cracked pink peppercorns. Top with slices of gruyere and cover the pan to melt the cheese.

Cut the baguette on one side and spoon in the shallots, peppers and mushrooms. Serve with a French farmhouse ale, a funky gamay or a glass of Coenobium Rusticum.

Breakfast Pizza

March 20, 2011

Duck Egg, Gruyere, Rubia Basil and Mint

You’ll be an adult film star when you serve these minis to your cuddly lamb in the covers. Nothing exudes intense passion more than an oozing duck egg atop crispy crust and the chiffonade of fresh herbs will show your softer side.

Pair it with a hot cup of dark roasted Oaxaca or Ethiopia Harar Longberry.

The Dough
Makes three 6 inch pizzas, in case you have more than one cuddly lamb in the covers.

I’m not a baker, but I can spot a good dough recipe. This one makes a fantastically crisp crust. I like to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before I’m ready to use it.

The Sauce
Put down the can! Adult film stars only use fresh tomatoes.

1 lb san marzano tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup onion minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 or 6 Genoese basil leaves
Sea salt

Heat olive oil over medium flame. Add the onion and cook about 3 minutes until the starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook 3 minutes more.

Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer 3 minutes more. Add another pinch of salt, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste for salt. Add the fresh herbs and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for salt once more.

You can leave the sauce chunky or give it a whirl in your food processor for a smoother consistency. I opt for the latter when making this breakfast pie.

Preheat the Oven
Place a pizza stone on floor of gas oven (remove racks). Preheat oven to 550–600 degrees for 1 hour.

Assemble the Pizza
Hold the top edge of 1 dough ball in both hands and let the weight stretch it out. Move  your hands around edge like turning a wheel. Hold dough on back of your hand and stretch it out with your other hand into a 6-inch round. Transfer dough to a pizza peel dusted generously with semolina. Press edges out with your fingers.

Add 2 tbs of sauce and spread in a circular motion. Add 1/4 cup or more grated gruyere. Crack the duck egg in the center of the pizza.

Bake for 10 minutes until crust is a crisp, golden brown and the egg is still slightly loose. Remove pizza with peel and add fresh herbs. Serve wearing a dark gray silk robe.

Kabocha Velouté

October 6, 2010

Ras el hanout, local pecorino, crispy shallot

Some say the kabocha was born from the womb of Princess Tochi in the Omi province of Japan. What do you think Prince Otomo was thinking when out popped this pumkin? I’m sure none of the royal court were impressed except her jealous lover and sower of seed, Prince Takechi

A more digestible version of the story has a Spanish manwhore pillaging South East Asia and finding this sweet, smooth fleshed pumpkin in Cambodia. He allegedly gave a sack full of these vegetables to his Portuguese girlfriend Betriz, who slipped the seeds into her husband’s crop rotation.

Betriz’s farm was pillaged by a group of Portuguese pirates who took their booty on World Tour 1549. The sea dogs made friends with Japanese groupies dressed in silk and traded the pumpkins for a few copper coins. Following, the Japanese mocked the mentally challenged Portuguese and cultivated their newly prized vegetable. They called it kabocha from the misinterpreted Portuguese word for Cambodia.

You believe what you wish.

The kabocha I used for this rich, velvety soup was the product of a Jewish farmer and his Muslim wife. Together, they grow a bounty of organic, peacekeeping vegetables with the help of several small Korean children. You can find them on the East side of Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays.

Ras El Hanout
Grind this mixture from your spice cabinet or head to your local spice shop for a premix.
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 balinese long peppers
1/2 tsp pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice berries
1/2 tsp grains of paradise
6 cloves
Thumbnail sized piece of dried cayenne, no seeds
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Roast the Kabocha
2lb Kabocha Pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cut the kabocha in half from stem to bottom. Remove the seeds and fibers and set aside. Place the kabocha flesh side down on a sheet pan. Roast in the oven until soft and the skin side of pumpkin yields to your forefinger, about 45 minutes to an hour. Reserve any juices and set aside to cool

The Stock
Kabocha seeds and fibers
1 bulb of rocambole garlic (bulb, not clove), crushed
2 medium onions, skins removed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 stalks of celery
1 tart apple, seeds removed
12 pink peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
6 sprigs of thyme
2 Tbs Sicilian olive oil
2 Tbs salt
1 gallon spring water
1 cup of white wine

In an 8 qt. stock pot, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the wine and simmer 5 mins more. Add the water and remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Cool and strain the stock into a smaller pot.

Make the Soup
Roasted kabocha flesh
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, heart removed, coarsely chopped
4 cups stock
1 cup farm fresh heavy cream
3 sprigs thyme
1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout
2 tablespoons fresh, local butter
Salt, to taste
Freshly grated local pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano

Scoop the flesh from the kabocha. Sautee shallots in butter for 3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes more.. Add the cooked pumpkin, reserved juices, cook for 5 minutes more. Add the stock, 1 teaspoon of the ras el hanout and thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes.

When the soup is cool, remove the herb stems and pass through your food mill or puree in your blender. Put the soup in a clean pan, add the cream and heat slowly over a low flame. The soup should be a thick, rich and velvety, but not too thick to sip from a sherry glass. Add a little more stock if necessary. Adjust the salt and ras el hanout.

Cover and let sit on the warm stove for at least one hour.

Crisp the Shallots
2 large shallots
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil

In a small frying pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add 1 layer of shallots to the pan and cook over moderately high heat until brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining sliced shallots.

Plate It
Serve the soup very warm, but not hot, in a Champagne coupe garnished with crispy shallots.

Shrimp and Lobster Salad

April 15, 2010

You’ll want shrimp and lobster just plucked from the sea for this salad, so you’ll need to do some careful planning in order to serve this to your beloved for a late, but not too late lunch. Timing is crucial here, David.

Start on the Gulf, somewhere around Campeche with a large net. Once you’ve filled your dinghy with the largest, shrimp in net, put them on ice and paddle North, round the corner at Cancun and head for Isla de la Juventud just South of Cuba. There, you’ll find the sweetest lobsters at a little beach near Carapachibey. Fashion a hook from found objects on the beach and dive into the waves headfirst. Be sure to capture it all on video so you can post it on YouTube later.

Now that you’ve wrestled a lobster or two from the rocks, you’ll need fresh eggs and herbs. Hike up the dune and through the pine forrest with your cooler full of fresh seafood to the organic farm nestled in San Pedro. There you’ll find the eggs still warm if you arrive before 10 am. While you’re gathering a dozen, Flora will cut the basil and cilantro for you.

Bring your ingredients back to your chosen one, pour her a glass of agua de maracuya that you picked from Flora’s vine and whip this salad up while you spin fish tales.

Serves 2
1 lobster tail, steamed in white wine, removed from the shell and cut into manageable-sized pieces
6 large shrimp, steamed in the same white wine, cleaned and deveined
A few leaves of roquette or other peppery green
Small handfull of basil chiffonade
Cilantro leaves for garnish

The Aoili
1/2 cup French picholine olive oil
1 farm fresh egg yolk
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of lemon
Sea salt

Don’t bother coddling the egg. Since you’re using this morning’s egg, you’ll have no worries.

Mix the egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl. In the tiniest, slowest stream, whisk in the olive oil. If the olive oil doesn’t completely combine with the egg, stop pouring and keep whisking. When combined, continue whisking and pouring in a slow steady stream.

Add the crushed garlic and salt. Cover and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Toss the shrimp and lobster with the aioli and the chiffonade of basil. Serve with leaves of roquette and garnish with whole leaves of cilantro. If the Caribbean wind blows your garnish into the sea while you’re lunching al fresco, c’est la vie. Mira su amor in the eyes and toast with a glass of Rueda Blanca. A USTED!

Sbrinz

December 25, 2009

There’s plenty of sunshine and crystal clear water here on the Yucatan Peninsula, but we find very little raw, whole milk cheese. Sometimes we get a craving and go to extremes to satiate it. Last week, Jennifer decided she needed a wheel of the Grandmother of Hard Cheeses. Retrieving a 90 pound round of Sbrinz is no easy feat as it’s only made in one small area in central Switzerland.

Our journey started in a 20 foot ponga on rough seas. We were soaked and battered when we found Señor Escalarte in the Nomad sub two miles out from shore. With a snifter full of dark rum and a fine cigar we crossed the pond on cushy leather club chairs gazing at great whites and giant squid. We entered port in La Teste de Buch and headed for the old alpine trading route in a broken down Citroen taxi huffing the carbon monoxide wafting in from under our seat. Our gnomish driver muttered in between screams of PUTON at passing cars.

In Lausanne we picked up thick socks, hobnail boots and a leather vest, then headed East for the Savoy Alps. Jennifer is not one for camping so my pack was quite heavy with the large, Arabian style tent, king size paduk sleeping chamber and bidet with gold plated fixtures. Jennifer read Vogue from her perch atop my shoulders as we hiked the mountains by day. I fed her gruyere and grapes inside the our makeshift saffron walls in the evenings while the sounds of the rivers lulled us to sleep.

Five days later, we struck gold in Giswil when we stumbled upon a dairy farm with a cellar full of gorgeous wheels. At least as big around as his cheeses, Beeler proudly shared his samples ranging from 1 to 4 years old with red wine from Val Formazza. The youngest of the Sbrinz was a semi-hard paste that was mild and nutty. The oldest was crystallized and spicy with deep hints of butterscotch.

When our bellies were full and our appetite satiated, Beeler’s wife made us hay beds in the barn, patted us softly and read bedtime stories while the brown cows sang chorus. Her chubby hand wandered a bit during the patting, but I only had to reprimand her mildly. Those crazy farm folk. We dreamt of cheese and the clear, blue Caribbean waters awaiting us in Xcalak.

Tacos de Dorado al Rubirosa

October 21, 2009

DSC_1938_tacos

Jennifer and I flew the A16 Falcon equipped with a Wii Joystick to San Carlos on the Sea of Cortez and hopped a Deep Flight sub headed for the fishing village of Zipolite on the Sea of Cortez where we heard the Dorado were jumping.

We checked in to a bungalow at La Loma Linda and found a farmer’s market in Pochutla just a short bike ride inland. The stands were overflowing with all sorts of heirloom tomatoes, colorful chiles and a variety of mints including Chinese, Lime and Bergamot Spearmint. We stuffed our baskets full and headed for the hang gliders at the top of the hill.

Once airborne, we spotted a fisherman battling a dorado and Jennifer swooped down like a sea hawk to snatch the dorado from the water with a grace befitting a stylish woman piloting a hang glider. She tossed the fisherman a couple of coins with her free hand and we caught a thermal back to the bungalow to prepare the catch.

With our hunting and gathering complete, I popped the tops on 2 bottles of León and squeezed limes for cheladas. We sat back and enjoyed the view of the bay before whipping up these spicy tacos.

Tacos for 2

The Fish
1 lb of fresh dorado filet
1/2 tsp cumin seeds toasted and ground
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground pink peppercorns
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Sea salt

Cut the filets into 3/4 in. cubes and toss with the spices. Put the cubes on skewers, cover and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

The Tortillas
We made our tortillas by hand, but if you’re short on time, head to the tortillería for a half kilo. I use butter in this recipe for a richer flavor, but you can use the traditional lard if you wish.

2 cups masa harina
1/4 cup unsalted softened butter
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine the masa and butter and slowly add the warm water to form a dough. Knead the dough for about five minutes until smooth. Wet your hands, then divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. Cover the dough until your ready to use.

Heat your comal or a cast iron frying pan until very hot. Press each ball of dough into a flat tortilla in your antique wooden Zapotec tortilla press. If the dough is sticking to the press, you can dust the dough and the press with masa harina.

Place the tortillas on your hot comal and cook for about 1 minute per side.

The Salsa
1 medium sized Zapotec tomato diced
2 jalapeños, deseeded, deveined and minced
1 fresh guajillo, deseeded, deveined and minced
1 yellow habanero, deseeded, deveined and minced
A small handful of whole lime mint leaves, washed and dried
A smaller handful of whole cilantro leaves, washed and dried
1 tsp of olive oil
Juice of half a lime
Sea salt

Combine all ingredients, mix gently so you don’t bruise the tomato or herbs.

The Assembly
Cut an avocado into thick slices and coat with lime juice.

Grill the skewers of fish on two sides until not quite opaque, rare to medium rare. Remove the fish from the skewers and place a few cubes in the warm tortilla along side a slice of avocado. Top with a tablespoon of salsa and serve immediately with a chelada obscura.

Fluke Tartare

Tell me you wouldn’t shave your bottom and make love to a sweaty Philip Seymour Hoffman if he put this dish in front of you, David. The crisp flavors pair perfectly with a Loire Muscadet and might help you forget that Mr. Hoffman is huffing atop your powdered buns.

Serves 2 reasonably sized persons, substantially smaller than Philip
1 whole fluke just plucked from the water, about 1–1.25 lbs. or 1/2 lb. of filets, finely diced
3/4 teaspoon of dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 an habanero, seeded, deviened and finely minced
2 tbs olive oil from Southern France or other fruity varietal
Sea Salt
4 Plum radishes of varying hues, finely grated
4 Shiso leaves
1 Tbs chives, finely chopped
1 bottle of Muscadet, chilled

Pop the cork on the Muscadet and pour two glasses.

Filet your catch and gently toss the sweet, diced filets with mustard, lemon juice, habanero, olive oil and sea salt.

Grate the radishes and drain.

Plate the tartare on top of shiso leaves or fill and roll the shiso leaves into cigarillos and top with the grated radish. Garnish with chives and course pink sea salt.

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