Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wild Mushrooms

Never say never...

The Kitchen Genius has been on a quest to forage for wild mushrooms for years, but they just plain scare me.  Nonetheless, we took a class with Lawrence Schuster, a member of the Boston Mycological Society,
last year thinking maybe if we learned more about it, it wouldn't be as dangerous - or scary.  I was wrong.  The class just convinced me that I would never eat a wild mushroom, never, ever, ever.

I publicly declared that sentiment in a story I wrote for the Cape Cod Times that ran yesterday.  The focus of the story was that wild mushrooms were to risky, so last Friday KG and I attended a workshop to learn how to cultivate shiitake mushrooms.  It was an awesome workshop taught by food writer Tamar Haspel who also has a fabulous blog called Starving off the Land that anyone who's into gardening and foraging for food will love.

After reading my Fun With Fungi story in the newspaper, local writer/fisherman Peter Budryk called me to tempt me to change my mind.  I met Peter a few years ago when I wrote a story about his excellent book, The Innermost Waters: Fishing Cape Cod's Ponds & Lakes.

Peter took the mushroom class with us last year and became obsessed with foraging for mushrooms.  He saw the story I wrote and wanted to know if I wanted a puffball mushroom he found yesterday.  He assured me that it was completely safe, so I headed over to his house to pick it up.  It was a big as a basketball!

While I was at Peter's house, he cut the Puffball in half to show me how to ensure it was safe. The flesh must be pure white inside and look like sliced white bread. If it looks like there is another mushroom growing inside, throw it away. That means that it is not a Puffball, but an immature Amanita and the Amanita genus includes some of the most poisonous species of mushrooms.

Peter also gave me a piece of the Chicken of the Woods he found.  Isn't it beautiful?

So last night was wild mushroom night at Casa Higgins.  We had already planned on cooking burgers on the fire pit, so mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment.  I sliced the Chicken of the Woods and sauteed it in butter for about five minutes and then added chicken stock and simmered it until it was tender.  The name comes from the fact that the mushroom is thought to taste like chicken.  I'm not so sure about that, but it was delicious. 

Not knowing what to do with the Puffball, I turned to the Internet, where I found a wonderful recipe from Hope Miller, co-author of Mushrooms in Color. Following her directions, I cut the Puffball into half inch slices, and dipped them in seasoned flour, egg and then coated them with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  I fried them in butter until they were golden brown.

They were absolutely delicious.  The flesh of the Puffball was soft and creamy and didn't have a strong flavor on its own.  Adding the cheese coating made it taste just like a cheese stick.  We ate some of them as snacks while the burgers cooked and then added a slice to the burgers when they were finished.  Total YUM!

Parmesan Puffballs
(recipe from Hope Miller, author of Hope's Mushroom Cookbook)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour
About 1 pound puffballs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 egg, slightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter or more if needed
2 tablespoons oil or more if needed

Mix the salt with the flour. Dip the mushroom slices in the flour, then in the egg, and last, in the cheese. Melt the butter and oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the mushrooms slowly until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve at once.

* Other mushrooms you can use in this recipe: Boletes, oyster mushrooms

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Turf than Surf this Labor Day

It's hard to know where to start after such a long absence from blogging.  Do I just continue as if I never took a break, or do I explain the break?  The two are kind of tangled in this post, so bear with me.  First the food!  For years we have celebrated both the beginning and ending of summer on Cape Cod by eating lobster every Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

This summer has been so hot, I thought lobster rolls would be a better choice than our usual steamed lobster.  I even published the fact that we would be eating these lobster rolls along with this photo and recipe in the local newspaper.  That's how sure I was of our menu.

The Kitchen Genius had another idea.  He wanted to play with fire.

And he wanted meat!  Steaks to be exact.

Campfire steak
Of course corn on the cob was on the menu, and he threw the blanched ears right on the fire as well.

Add some freshly dug potatoes from our garden, roasted in the oven, and dinner was complete.

As for the break:  I am a writer by profession who blogs as a hobby.  I briefly flirted with the idea of trying to earn money from my blog in the early days, but quickly decided that since this is more personal than my other writing, I didn't want to clutter it up with ads, etc.

This summer my professional writing life has been busier than ever.  I was a regular contributor to four newspapers and three magazines and had anywhere from six to ten deadlines a week.  I was literally writing every single day and night and blogging fell by the wayside.

I wrote alot of fun stories this summer, but the ones that satisfied my blogging urges the best were the short weekly stories, complete with recipes and photos, that ran in Cape Cod Day about how to cook the local seafood.  (Sample here.) It was exactly like writing a blog post (only without the fun feedback!)

It was supposed to just be a summer job, but my editor liked the stories enough to offer me a weekly column year round at their mother ship newspaper, The Cape Codder.  She also told me she would include a link to my blog, so I'd better get blogging.  And so I's so good to be back.

KG is the master of the fire, so I'm including the lobster salad roll recipe I originally planned to make.  I like the flavor of lobster to shine through without gunking it up with too much mayo.

Lobster Salad Rolls

Serves 4

4 cooked lobsters (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds each)
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
4 New England style (top sliced) hot dog buns
1 tablespoon butter

Take all the meat out of the lobsters and cut into chunks. Mix celery, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, mayo, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add lobster and toss lightly until lobster is coated with sauce.

Butter sides of hot dog rolls and grill until golden on both sides. Divide lobster meat evenly among the four buns and enjoy!