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Kitchen Garden Journal

Wild Mushrooms!

I am an amateur wild mushroom hunter. These days I have little if any spare time for wandering around in the woods in the summertime looking for mushrooms. So my mushroom hunting is mostly confined to the driver’s seat of my car, scanning the landscape for any protruding irregularities.

Last Friday—remember that warm, drizzly, mushroomy day?—I spotted a big score of oyster mushrooms growing out of a tree by the side of the road in the center of Hadley. This is just the kind of windfall that automotive mushroom hunting relies on, and I just about had an accident as I made my abrupt, rubbernecking U-turn.

That tree yielded about 5 pounds of perfectly fresh, pristine mushrooms. When I got them home I immediately tore up a few into some hot oil and had mushrooms on toast, which is, in my opinion, the best way to savor fresh mushrooms. (Recipe below.)

Emboldened by my good luck with the oysters, I got the whole family in the car on Saturday and drove out to my chanterelle spot. It seemed the perfect day to go out looking for chanterelles: month of July, after a rain, warm day. Check, check, check.

The spot was “given” to me by our friend Tony, who used to be the chef at Green Street Café, when he moved away from the valley. Tony, a fellow-amateur mushroom collector, came across the patch of chanterelles when he, in turn, was driving past them in his car and spotted blotches of bright fluorescent carmine dotting a mossy swath of roadside in the forested outer reaches of Northampton.

It’s a bit of a drive to get out to the spot, but we were just in time. They seem to have emerged that day and were in perfect condition. No slugs, not oversaturated by heavy rain, just perfect, tiny, tight little buttons of fungus emanating their heady chanterelle perfume.

Now that I’m stocked up, I can cook all of those amazing simple preparations that highlight the essential flavors and textures of these mushrooms. There are a few rules for cooking mushrooms: 1.) keep it simple, 2.) use plenty of fat, and 3.) like Julia Child always said, “don’t crowd the pan.”

Mushrooms on toast. Mushrooms with garlic and parsley on pasta. Mushrooms in cream on pasta (sometimes with fresh peas also). Mushroom and onion omelet with Gruyere. Those are really the only ways I ever cook wild mushrooms. All of these recipes are based on the simple technique of sautéing.

If you are not a mushroom hunter, your best bet for local wild mushrooms is to find Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles at the Tuesday Market in Northampton or the Greenfield Farmers Market on Saturdays. Get there early, of course, for the choicest specimens.

Basic Mushroom Sauté

Ingredients:

Cooking Oil (olive or other)

Mushrooms

Garlic or shallots or cipollini onions, usually not more than one of those

Ham, bacon or pancetta, optional

White wine, sherry, Port or Madeira, optional

Butter

Salt 

Parsley

Cream, optional

Heat the oil and mushrooms in a wide, heavy skillet over medium high heat. The mushrooms should all fit in the pan in a single layer with a bit of breathing room between them. (Otherwise, when the mushrooms start to heat up and release moisture, they will steam each other rather than brown. If you have a lot of mushrooms to do, work in batches.) Sometimes I add some bacon as well (like 2 slices, max, diced pretty small), for that extra umami kick. Keep it moving but refrain from stirring constantly.

When the mushrooms have taken on some color and are about halfway through cooking, it’s time to add the garlic or shallot or onion and a nice knob of butter. I also usually salt and pepper them at this point. Keep sautéing them until the alliums are golden and caramelized and starting to stick to the pan. (If you had added the butter and garlic in the beginning, they would be too burned by the end.)

Now it’s time to add the wine. Stir until completely evaporated. Your pan will look greasy again like it did before. 

Just before turning off the heat add the minced parsley, not too much. If you want to turn this into a cream sauce, add the cream now, bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes longer. 

Now you can serve it with the starch of your choice. I like toasted white artisan style bread or fresh egg pasta like homemade tagliatelle. (I use the packaged Bionaturae brand pappardelle when I feel lazy.)

 

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to all of our readers and eaters out there! I'm taking a week off from writing because I'm off to the farm to pick garlic, onions, cilantro, etc. and bring them to my friend Neftali's to make salsas in anticipation of the pig roast he's throwing tomorrow. I spent the morning making up a fresh batch of masa dough from our own corn for tortillas that I'll make tomorrow. Nothing beats a fresh tortilla for scooping up a hot dripping piece of roasted pig.

So happy 4th to all of you and enjoy whatever foods you are enjoying this weekend! On this occasion I am reminded of how awesome this country that we live in is. No other place in the world is as welcoming to the people and foods of other cultures. With each new generation, more and more different types of flavors are added to the pantheon of what we consider to be "our" food. We combine the best of them with the best of what had come before and a new "local" or regional cuisine is born. 

So if you are celebrating with hot dogs and hamburgers, steamers and lobster, galumpkis, roast pork tacos, or even a salad of golden beets or some grilled cousa squash that you picked up from the farmers' market, I salute you.  

 

Tags: cooking

All About our Spring Cabbage

Cabbage is just now coming into season and because this year’s spring crop looks so nice, I thought I would share a few thoughts about it. 

First of all, you ought to know that not all cabbage is created equal. There are different types of cabbage for every purpose, and unfortunately, many people’s low opinion of this awesome vegetable is probably due to the fact that people use the wrong kind of cabbage for all the wrong reasons.

Our spring cabbage—we grow a variety called Tendersweet and I assure you it is both—is meant to be eaten when freshly picked. When cooked, it becomes very delicate and meltingly tender. (My mother in law makes stuffed cabbage with some frequency and swears by our Tendersweet.) But I think that it is really at its best when eaten raw.

In fact, cabbage itself is my favorite of all the members of its tribe (radishes, turnips, broccoli, etc) to eat raw.

But I wouldn’t eat just any cabbage raw. Our spring cabbage, because it’s meant to be eaten right after it’s picked, has traits that other types of cabbage can ill afford: a thin, tender leaf with a high water content. It’s very mild tasting; sweet, crisp and crunchy. 

Cabbage grown for long-distance shipping or winter keeping, on the other hand, has thick leaves with low moisture. That’s why when you eat most cabbage raw it has a squeaky, rubbery texture and a funky, sulfurous flavor. Not the kind of thing you want to make into slaw and serve with burgers at a 4th of July cookout. 

In other words, our cabbage is the heirloom tomato of cabbages. It would simply not endure rough treatment or long journeys but it has a flavor that is truly wonderful and unique.

So, how do I love to enjoy raw cabbage in the summertime? Let me count the ways! 

My classic coleslaw, for one. I wrote up the recipe last year and published it on our site and got more feedback on that than any other recipe. Another perennial favorite is an Asian flavored slaw with roasted peanuts and herbs like cilantro, mint and Thai basil in a fish sauce-sugar-lime dressing. SO GOOD! 

A German-inflected slaw with a mustard vinaigrette and caraway seeds is another alternative to the classic. And easiest of all, when I was in Italy in the summer I was often served thinly sliced cabbage (they call this variety “cappuccio”) simply dressed with olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper as the salad course at pranzo, the main meal of the day.

But lately, my favorite way to eat cabbage is a Mexican-inspired slaw that I like to call chile-lime cabbage. It is amazing when served with tacos (see last week’s post about spring pico de gallo).

Chile-Lime Cabbage

(Pictured in top of frame)

These days I am really loving vegetable dishes that are part-salad and part-pickle. Salads made with sturdy vegetables like cabbage or cucumbers (unlike lettuce or field greens) actually improve by marinating in the fridge for a day or two. So if you don’t feel like eating it all right away it doesn’t go to waste. 

½ head of Tendersweet cabbage, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline slicer

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

Powdered red chile to taste (I like to use about 1 Tbsp Korean hot pepper powder. It is made from seeded red chili peppers and is intensely flavored without being too hot. It also gives a nice red color. Hungarian hot paprika would make a good substitute.) 

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp white, rice or sugar cane vinegar, or more to taste

Silce the cabbage into a large bowl. Add salt and sugar and massage into the cabbage with your hand. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and serve. It is best to wait at least 30 minutes for the cabbage to go fully limp and absorb the flavors. It can also be made a few days in advance also. Feel free to add any other ingredients you want like cilantro, onion, garlic, scallion, fresh chiles, etc. 

The Week in Photos

This past week started just like every week does this time of year, with our Monday morning harvest. It takes us a while to wake up and get our heads around what kinds of superhuman tasks we're supposed to accomplish during the week. So it's nice to start with something utterly mindless like picking baby salad mix out of the weeds as the caffeine slowly kicks in. Caroline and Dan look like they are doing their best to focus on what good things have come from all this rain, like the size of our rainbow chard.

By Tuesday we're rushing around trying to get everything picked and washed and packed up for the Springfield market, wholesale deliveries, and CSA distribution. I like to pick beets because they're so colorful. Since I have to always tell everyone what to do, I always tell myself to pick the beets.

On Wednesday it started to clear up and it was a beautiful warm, sunny day. Caroline took a load of stuff down to the brand new Wednesday Amherst Farmers Market in Kendrick Park. I brought Lily and Oliver to hang out there after they got out of school. We sat on the grass and ate a lot of these beautiful Warner Farm strawberries as we caught up with so many friends. If you missed the market this week, come check it out. It's pretty nice. Lots of grass to sit on, produce to buy, and prepared foods to eat from places like Chez Albert (which are made with our veggies!).  

Wednesday night it rained hard again and it woke me up to the fact that I needed to seize every minute of sunshine to get caught up on my tractor work. On Thursday I was able to make lots of beds for planting, which was well-timed because Friday was the perfect day for it. Wet, drizzly conditions are good for some things--like setting out transplants. Heather and Alice dug out the leek seedlings from their nursery bed in the back corner of our greenhouse.

We got them in, buried up to their tipppy-tips so they will make long, white shanks. Just in time for some more heavy rain (WTF?!).

This is a shot from our Saturday market stand in Northampton. It was a busy day and we sold mostly everything we brought. The fennel really loves the rain. We also had the first of the fresh garlic, our Spanish Roja variety that matures a good two weeks before the other varieties. 

All in all it was a pretty good week and, as ever, we couldn't do any of it without our amazing crew. Thanks to Heather, Alice, Brian, Alissa, Dan, Joe and Ben, as well as Dorothy, Bob, Celia and Barbara who look after our kids. You guys are amazing!  

Spring Pico de Gallo

I love tacos. There's nothing quite like that combination of fresh corn tortillas, crispy, fatty meat, pickled vegetables and cilantro. Before tomatoes are in season I like to make this spring version of pico de gallo using baby root vegetables, spring garlic or scapes, green onions and the first of the homegrown cilantro. 

I served this at my Wednesday lunch this week along with my goat meat tacos made with an amazing piece of goat shoulder from Wild Mountain Farm at our Tuesday Springfield market. FYI, I made the goat meat according to this method for making carnitas. I also made some cilantro cream to drizzle on top, which was truly a revelation. I took cilantro, garlic scapes and the juice of a lime and whizzed it with the stick blender with a pint of sour cream. It's like Mexican tzatziki.

Caroline just picked me up a new bag of pickling lime from the Greenfield Farmers Coop so I can make another fresh batch of masa for tortillas with the corn from last year. I'm so excited.

1 bunch baby carrots

1 bunch radishes or Japanese turnips

1/2 bunch spring garlic or a handful of scapes

1 bunch scallions or spring onions

fresh or frozen chili peppers to taste (I used 3 Thai chilies from the big bag in my freezer) 

1/2 bunch cilantro

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

Dice the vegetables and herbs into small cubes. Add, salt, lime juice, vinegar, sugar and stir. Good the next day, too.

Summer’s Here! (or isn’t)

This week I’m not going to talk about the weather. Well, let’s just say I feel jerked around. 

The good news is that after last week’s heat wave and storms, we had a massive bursting forth of growth on the farm. The squashes are pumping, the beets are plumping, we’ve got the first cucumbers from the greenhouse, and generally everything looks twice as big as it was last week. 

So do the weeds. We were staking tomatoes last week and kind of squandered a great opportunity for hoeing.

But let’s not dwell on that for a moment. What I’m enjoying right now is the feeling of having some real food to cook with.  Summer always seems to start for me when the first herbs come in. Our three favorite herbs are basil, cilantro and parsley and I can hardly think of a summer meal that doesn’t begin with at least one of these three. 

I love insalata caprese (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, & basil), and I am looking forward to harvesting June tomatoes next year from our newly completed greenhouse. I love pasta with the first basil and the first zucchini. I love clams or mussels steamed with garlic, white wine, and parsley. I love spaghetti alle vongole (clam sauce). 

I love pico de gallo made by dicing up whatever vegetables are fresh and combining them with chilies, lime juice and cilantro. I love it with chips, I love it with tacos and burritos and beans and rice. I love cilantro and mint wrapped into a Vietnamese rice paper roll with fresh lettuce, rice noodles and grilled lemongrass pork. I love tabouleh, the greener—with parsley and mint—the better, especially when served with a spread of Middle Eastern or Greek foods. 

Oh yes, all of this is what I think of when I think of summer. But the thing I love best about all of these foods is making them with the fresh herbs that we grow. Everything takes off from there.