Fungophobe or fungophile? Fall is a mushroom hunter’s delight in the Pacific Northwest. If you are not a mushroom lover, then you better stay out of the woods. Are you a hopeless fungophile? Then you better stay out of my woods!
Mushroom season ignites all five of the senses: hearing, smell, sight, touch, and taste. You may be wondering, how do you hear a mushroom? The pitter-patter of autumn rain alerts a true fungophile that the dirt dwellers are awakening from dormancy. Bursting forth from the ground, each variety of mushrooms expels an identifiable scent, from peppery to deeply earthy to light and colorful. Just as intriguing are the rainbow of colors in the fall varieties: ruby red amanitas, orange flamed witch’s butter, sunshine yellow chanterelles, greenish tinged porcinis, blue-green anise mushrooms, purple blewits, and striking violet shrimp. Crayola could have a new marketing enterprise; the normal clientele base would not be happy.
Believe it or not, fungophobes, not all mushrooms are slimy. Witch’s butter, yes. Maybe the slimiest of them all, but then there is the delicately firm (I realize this is an oxymoron) chanterelle, spongy boletus, spiky hedgehogs, and inflated puffballs, to name a few.
Taste is the obvious, the reason we foragers tie the laces on our hiking shoes, gather our baskets, knives, and guidebooks, and walk in circles. Each variety delivers a striking blow to the palette. Richly diverse in flavor, and highly valuable in minerals, wild mushrooms take an ordinary meal to gastronomic fare.
Common Sense Mushroom Hunting
A sixth sense that I would like to add is common sense. Not all mushrooms are edible, and no wild mushroom can be eaten raw. Never eat anything you have not identified with one hundred percent confidence. Some varieties will put you on a gastrointestinal rollercoaster, while others are pure poison. If you have read my previous article, False Versus Edible Morels, then you are keenly aware that I am guilty of mis-identification. I am an adventurous person who takes calculated risks, and unverified wild mushroom sampling is not a gamble anyone should take. The adage speaks to be true: there are old mushroom hunters; there are bold mushroom hunters; however there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.
Several user-friendly mushroom guidebooks are on the market. Buy one specific to your region. For a pocket guide, I use All That the Rain Promises and More, by David Arora; a companion to the bigger volume Mushrooms Demystified. Even better than a guidebook, join a mycological society where regular outings and gatherings are part of the trade.
Check back soon for the next set of articles that will focus on particular species of wild edible mushrooms, including: key features for identification, locations, and tips for harvesting and preparation. A few highlights will include: chicken of the woods, chanterelle, and porcini, and perhaps more seasonal surprises, like my prince charming.
Sometimes food heritage sites gain new life, years after their original purpose has been superseded. Such is the case with a Chicago meat-packing facility built in the Union Stockyards in 1925.
The company began much earlier than that, right after the Civil War. It was established as a meat-cutting and curing firm by a German immigrant from Stuttgart named Christian Buehler in Peoria, Illinois. His sons went on to create a string of stores called Buehler Brothers Meat Markets in Chicago, in 1894. And then later the packing building, to serve the markets. The company name changed to Peer Food Products in 1944.
But then, in 2006, Peer sold, and a new firm stepped up to take possession of the old brick building in the Stockyards.
Bubbly Dynamics bought it in 2010, and resolved to keep as much of the 93,500 square foot old construction as was reasonable.
The company is retrofitting the place they call The Plant to create a “net-zero energy, food business incubator.”
“The Plant will hold indoor demonstration farms and educational facilities operated by Plant Chicago, NFP and will incubate sustainable food businesses by offering permanent tenant spaces at low rent and low energy costs.”
The intention is to do aquatonics at The Plant, or grow fish and veggies in water.
You can read more about this re-purposing project of a food heritage site here.
For more food history and food heritage info visit The Food Museum.
It’s that time of year again: The time when cooler days have me itching to bake bread once again, but when the zucchini is threatening to take over unless I harvest it. I have been frantically using zucchini in everything; zucchini pie, stuffed zucchini, zucchini pickles, even zucchini brownies. But still, the zucchini keeps coming. I have an especially prolific patch of yellow zucchini this year. Out of desperation, or perhaps fear of the zucchini rising up like zombies, I decided to combine zucchini with my love of bread.
Zucchini bread is usually a sweet bread, but I was looking for something to use with sandwiches. The first experiment resulted in a moist, savory Golden Semolina Zucchini Tomato Bread. The experiment must have worked, because most of the loaf disappeared in mere hours. That encouraged me to design this Zucchini Olive Yeast Bread.
For the tomato bread I used golden semolina flour to boost the protein level. But olives can stand up to something with more body, so I added a bit of white whole wheat flour. If you can’t find white whole wheat flour in your area, regular whole wheat flour would work well too.
If you have ever purchased a loaf of olive bread that was tasty, but so hard your jaw hurt from chewing, this is the recipe you have been looking for. The zucchini keeps the bread almost white-bread moist. Real Mediterranean flavor results from the added Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and toasted pine nuts. We served slices dipped in olive oil. And better yet, the bread stayed fresh for 3 days. It may stay fresh even longer, but we ate it all in the first 3 days. I would like to say that we had company to help us devour it. We didn’t.
Since the bread is very soft, it needs the structure of a pan to keep it together. Using a smaller loaf pan will give you a very high loaf, like that in the photo. A larger loaf pan will yield a flatter loaf.
Zucchini Olive Yeast Bread Recipe
¾ cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 - 3½ cups bread flour, separated
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cups grated (not pureed) zucchini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup pine nuts
In a large bowl, or the stand mixer bowl, combine the water, yeast, and honey. Stir and let stand 15 minutes or until the yeast is foamy. Add 1 cup of bread flour. Beat to combine. Cover and let sit for 2 hours. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat until just browned (about 5 minutes). Set aside to cool. Add the remaining ingredients except the olives and pine nuts. Knead for about 4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to keep dough held together. Add the olives and pine nuts and continue kneading for another minute or until they are well combined with the dough.
NOTE: This dough is very soft due to the zucchini moisture. You want the dough to hold together, but not to be too dry. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size. Scrape dough out onto a floured board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Form dough into a loaf and place in a greased 8½ x 4½ inch pan or 9 x 5 inch pan. Cover and let rise ½ - 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Score the top of the loaf. Bake for 50 - 75 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Remove from oven. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and completely cool before slicing. This bread is delicious dipped in extra-virgin olive oil and served with a simple meal. It also turns everyday sandwiches into something special. Toasted slices make a nice bruschetta or crostini
Both of these experiments have worked out so well, I am planning to create something else. Maybe a zucchini herb yeast bread or a zucchini ricotta yeast bread. Or maybe both — the zucchini patch doesn't seem to be slowing down.
I always feel guilty of throwing out any sourdough starter. But not always in the mood to put in the effort to make amazing bread. So here is a great recipe for crackers. I don’t know about you but I am a snacker. I am more about it being easy, rather than what is good for me. Sorry, but that is the honest truth. I think there are a lot of people out there like myself. So these crackers are perfect for me.
Sourdough Crackers Recipe
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup flour
¼ cup melted butter
Combine flour, starter, and melted butter. Add enough flour to form a stiff ball. Cover and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Roll dough out very thin. Baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (and other ingredients that will be mentioned below) to you taste bud liking. Cut dough into squares or whatever shape you like. A pizza cutter works great for this. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. After this time keep checking on the crackers because they tend to cook quickly. Light brown and crisp is the goal. When you remove them from the oven let them cool completely before storing.
This is such an easy recipe. The variations are endless with this sourdough cracker recipe. Sourdoughs International has a great whole wheat starter called the South African that makes amazing crackers. You can put different cheeses on these crackers, fresh herbs, cinnamon and sugar, the list can go on and on. What is also wonderful is that these are so easy they are great to do with kids. They can cut them into different shapes and top with what they like. Easy and fast and taste great too. Can’t beat that. A fun treat for everyone.
Summer is winding down, particularly in the garden. The tomatoes are done, eggplants are still working on a few more, well, eggplants, but the cucumbers? We’re overrun! And there’s more coming, too. I’ve been trying to find ways to put them in and on everything. My friend Irene has suggested cold cucumber soup, which is about the only thing I haven’t done. One of my favourite ways with cucumbers is cucumber salad, a Scandinavian dish that is simple to make, and uses cucumbers, at least 2 at a time. My favourite cucumber recipe is cucumber sandwiches, but alas, doesn’t use a lot. Suffice it to say, cucumbers are on the menu everyday here, and will be for a while. I just brought another five in today. If I looked really hard, there’s probably more out there, which is a scary thought.
On to the salad. In true Scandinavian fashion, fresh dill here is the best for flavor.
Scandinavian Cucumber Salad Recipe
2 cucumbers, scrubbed, ends removed
1 tsp table salt
½ cup sour cream, more if desired
1 tbsp fresh minced dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional dill for garnish
If you like the peel of the cucumber, by all means leave it on, otherwise, you can peel the cucumber. I prefer the peel on, as it gives crunch and colour. Slice your cucumbers very thinly, and place in a large bowl. Add the teaspoon of salt to the bowl and cover with cool water. Let sit for about an hour.
After the hour is up, drain the cucumbers and rinse to get the salt out. Squeeze them out gently to get rid of any excess water; otherwise they may become too watery. Mix in the sour cream, fresh dill, and salt & pepper, if using. Once well combined, refrigerate until serving time, at least an hour or two. If desired, you can sprinkle more fresh dill over the top, or place some decorative sprigs, if you like.
As the weather begins to cool ever so slightly and the kids go back to school, I’m reminded that cold season is right around the corner. My number one preventative and cure is good old fashioned chicken soup. My family drinks a mug of warm, nourishing chicken broth just about every morning to start the day but that’s just one of the many ways we enjoy this delicious stuff; you can make it and freeze it for use weeks or even months later, use it as the base for delicious soups, put a little in a pan to reheat everything from brisket to pasta, cook rice in it- the list just goes on and on!
The feet in this recipe are optional but if you have access to them, use them. They will release tons of gelatin making your stock beautifully silky and flavorful. Gelatin is also very healing to the gut so there’s nothing better for a touchy stomach. Adding feet can be the difference between a great broth and an exceptional one.
Homemade Chicken Broth
1 large stock pot or slow cooker
1-2 chicken carcasses
2-4 chicken feet (optional but strongly recommended)
2 TBS apple cider vinegar- I like to use raw
1 tsp sea salt
1. Roast bones in oven at 375 for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown.If you’re using the bones of a roasted chicken there’s no need to roast the bones again, just toss them in the pot.
2. Put bones in a slow cooker or pot, cover with cool water, add apple cider vinegar and let sit for one hour
3. Add sea salt, bring to a boil, skim off any foam from top, reduce to barely a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-24 hours adding more water if necessary.
4. Take off of heat, cool, strain and store in refrigerator or freezer
You can use this recipe with beef, lamb, fish turkey or any other kind of bones you may have.
For an especially flavorful and even more nutritious broth save carrot peelings and the end pieces of onions, garlic and celery. Add these to the stock about four hours before the stock is finished. I have a ziplock bag in my freezer that I store these things in until I’m ready to use them.
Add fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, rosemary or thyme for the last 15 minutes or so for extra flavor and health benefits.
Chicken bones cooked for 24 hours will be soft and are a wonderful treat for your cat or dog.
One of my favorite things to do with this broth is to make a stock based veggie soup. It’s wonderfully simple and fantastic for any day of the week. Both of my sometimes picky kids love it and it’s the perfect thing to freeze and reheat. It’s also ideal to drop off for a sick or homebound friend.
Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe
Use two cups of water for every cup of broth (the above recipe will make a much more concentrated broth than what can you buy in the store). Fill a pot about halfway up. Add:
1 chopped onion
3 sliced celery stalks and leaves
3-4 sliced carrots
1-2 handfuls lentils (rinsed)
⅓ cup brown rice (rinsed)
6 cloves of minced garlic
any bits of roasted chicken you picked from the bones and saved (optional)
Bring to a boil, skim, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-2 hours depending on personal preference.
Add any other veggies that you have on hand. Things like corn, peas, green beans, potatoes, squash and zucchini are all wonderful. It’s hard to mess this one up!
Save the rind of Parmesan and add to soup for extra flavor. Discard it when the soup is finished.
Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease begins in the brain up to 20 to 30 years before the first inkling of memory loss? Were you aware that Alzheimer’s is mostly caused by poor diet and lifestyle habits? According to Alzheimer’s specialists, this means there is plenty of time for people to make brain-healthy lifestyle and dietary choices to potentially delay the onset of this dreaded and devastating disease. If you’ve been wondering how to prevent Alzheimer’s, you need to know about the latest research showing how your daily food choices affect your risk.
How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Using Mediterranean-Style Diets
This year, two separate teams of researchers from prominent medical institutions concluded that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. [1,2] The Mediterranean diet generally emphasizes vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, monounsaturated fats (olive oil), fish, and mild-to-moderate alcohol intake. It limits meat, dairy, saturated fat, and high amounts of alcohol.
After reviewing dozens of studies, researchers from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College found that not only does the Mediterranean diet has the strongest evidence for decreasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but it also improves cognitive function in those who already have the disease. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic also found that if you already have mild cognitive impairment, eating Mediterranean style reduces your risk of transitioning to Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating More of This and Less of That Reduces Risk by 90%
Another important recent study examining how to prevent Alzheimer’s with diet is the first in the world to investigate how diet in midlife affects the risk of developing dementia much later in life.[4,5] Researchers from Finland rated the diets of 2,000 random Finnish participants and found that those who ate the healthiest diets at the average age of 50 had an almost 90% lower risk for dementia over the next 14 years compared with those whose diets were least healthy.
The most important dietary changes to make to prevent dementia, concluded the researchers, are:
Eat more vegetables, fruits, and berries.
Eat more fish.
Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats (for example, choose vegetable oil instead of butter and low-fat dairy products over high-fat dairy.)
Reduce consumption of sausage and other high-fat meat products.
Reduce salt consumption.
Reduce sugar consumption.
The Best Diet for reventing Alzheimer’s
These are just a few of the recently published, groundbreaking studies showinghow to prevent Alzheimer’s and improve brain function in later life by eating a healthy diet now. Other studies also support the Mediterranean diet as well as other dietary patterns that promote increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, while decreasing sweets, salt, and saturated fats.[6-9] Based on the best evidence so far, eating this way is your best bet for reducing your Alzheimer’s risk as you age.
Find more ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease here.
Medscape Med News. 2014 Jun4.
66th Ann Meet Am Acad Neur. 2014 Apr26-May3; Abs P5.224.
J Alzheimers Dis. Jan 1, 2014; 39(2): 271–282.
Medscape Neur Min. 2014 May14.
Univ Eastern Finland. Dissertations Health Sciences, no. 220.
PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e94042.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;98(5):1263-71.
Eur J Nutr. 2014 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print]
Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]