fungstravaganza: wild mushroom soups and dumplings!

IMG_9282I spoke to a full house at the mushroom festival on Sunday.  A full house, I’d like to believe, that was there to soak in my culinary wisdom and wit about mushroom soups and dumplings, but I am not too vain to know they were there because they were soaked.  The makeshift stage, arranged as one does at rural festivals with hay bales and sheltered by a fabric tent, provided a reason to come sit and listen to my radio voice in the downpour.  Heck, it was the only dry spot with seating in the entire joint, and one that smelled like garlic and pork and ginger and mushrooms, so I know it was a natural place to hang out.  Yay!

If you’re here because of the demo, welcome!

IMG_9285So I talked about three mushroom soups using wild mushroom stock, and promised to provide the recipes here.  One was a creamy, full-bodied soup from Eastern Europe featuring sauerkraut and pork, and the other two were lighter and good for vegetarian dining. I also discussed two mushroom dumplings: bolete (a.k.a. porcini or cep) spaetzle and chanterelle potstickers.  The spaetzle is good in soup, the potstickers, of course, are good as an accompaniment to soup.

Wild mushrooms in these recipes can be used interchangeably with what you have on hand, but I suspect most of you will have chanterelles or hedgehogs or boletes if you forage in Oregon, or you can rely on the markets to get others and the dried shiitakes or boletes or Chinese brown mushrooms you’ll need for the stock.

I don’t have any magic way to make pictures of brown or creamy soups look good, so enjoy this picture of spaetzle with pork medallions in a creamy chanterelle sauce I snapped in Germany.

20141020_142010Interested in more wild mushroom recipes?  Check out the brand new and comprehensive community cookbook compiled by the Cascade Mycological Society as a fundraiser for scholarships.  If you’re new to foraging, this is THE local organization to know.

Wild Mushroom Stock

This recipe is based on a stock I made for a Japanese vegan dinner using only dried shiitakes and soy, and a more complex stock popular at Greens restaurant in San Francisco.  It’s dark and well-rounded in flavor, and great for vegetarian soups and stews.

  • 10 cups water
  • 2 cups dried mushrooms, mixed or single variety (shiitake, Chinese brown mushrooms, boletes, morels)
  • Any trimmings of fresh mushrooms you have
  • two leeks, including the tops
  • one celery stalk with leaves
  • one yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • a dozen black peppercorns
  • handful of fresh herbs: fresh parsley, bay leaf, thyme
  • salt to taste

Bring water to a boil, then add dried mushrooms (they will reconstitute in the boiling water) and the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 1 hour or more, then let cool in pot.  Remove vegetables, reserving the mushrooms for other uses (like fried rice), if you like.  Clarify stock using an egg raft or several coffee filters and a sieve.

For the simplest soup recipe, serve cups of hot broth with tiny slivers of:

  • fresh ginger, preferably new ginger
  • carrot and/or burdock
  • fresh mushroom
  • and chopped chives.

Add just before serving.

Another idea for this stock is a vegetarian version of the classic French onion soup, enriched by caramelized onions and topped with a melty cheese toast.  Wild foods expert Butter Wilde has a recipe for a gorgeously rich Porcini French Onion Soup on Hunger and Thirst, her blog.

Wild Mushroom and Sauerkraut Pork Goulash (Szekely Goulash)

Chanterelles are a delicious addition to this traditional Transylvanian stew. This recipe is very popular every time we do a sauerkraut class with the Master Food Preserver trainees, and I make it frequently.  It’s a good use for your homemade fresh sauerkraut.  Consider rinsing your kraut if it’s very salty; I usually don’t. The pork browns on top of the sauerkraut as it’s baking, so no need to brown ahead of time.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a shake of paprika on top.

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 cups chanterelles or boletes, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons imported sweet paprika, or a mix of sweet and hot
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dillweed
  • 1 lb. sauerkraut, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes, tossed with some salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups mushroom stock or chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a heavy dutch oven or similar pot with a lid, heat onions, garlic, and caraway seeds with oil until onions are limp and golden brown.  Add chopped mushrooms and saute until liquid cooks away, then add paprika, bay leaf, dillweed, and sauerkraut, stir well.

Layer pork cubes on top of sauerkraut and add stock.

Bring to a boil, then cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours, or until pork falls apart.

After removing from oven, add cream and let flavors meld for 15 minutes or so before serving.  Do not boil again after adding cream.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Hazelnut Spaetzle

Bring mushroom stock up to a simmer, then add cooked spaetzle (see recipe below).  While soup is heating, sauté tiny cubes of carrot, potato, celery hearts, and shallot in a little vegetable oil until browned, then add to soup dishes.  Pour soup on top, dividing spaetzle evenly between the bowls.

Wild Mushroom and Hazelnut Spaetzle

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts or almonds, or similar nut flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered dried bolete/porcini/cep mushrooms (grind dried mushrooms in a clean coffee grinder to a dust, pick out any remaining large pieces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

Mix dry ingredients, then add egg and half the milk, and beat well.  Add more milk until the batter is stiff but not yet a dough.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In a medium pot bring several cups of slightly salted water to a boil. The water should fill the pot about halfway.  Turn down to a simmer.

Method 1:  Using a ricer, spaetzle-maker, or colander with large holes, push a portion of the batter through the holes in large strands directly in the simmering water.  Repeat after dumplings float to top (see below).

Method 2: Spread the batter out flat on a large cutting board or tray without sides. with a long knife, cut off bits of batter in very thin strips, pushing them into the boiling water as you cut.  Move quickly so the dumplings will cook evenly in a batch.  Repeat after dumplings float to top (see below).

When the cooked spaetzle are ready, they will float to the surface.  Remove and drain, then toss into a bowl with a teaspoon or two of oil and stir gently to lubricate, so they won’t stick.

These are best in any clear soup, or drain well after cooking, then toss in some hot butter and brown a little before serving with a saucy main course as one would noodles.

Serve immediately.

Oyster Mushroom Potstickers

Follow the method outlined on my “little green potstickers” post, substituting the following ingredients for the filling:

  • 2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms, cleaned, chopped finely, and dry-sautéed with a splash of soy sauce (2 t. or so) until all the liquid is gone.
  • 1/4 cake regular (firm) tofu, drained well of water
  • 1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 3-4 green onions, white parts only, minced
  • 2-inch long piece ginger, grated finely
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 t. salt

Let dry-sautéed mushrooms cool, then combine with filling ingredients and proceed as in the post linked above.

culinaria eugenius in germany: mushrooms, here and abroad

IMG_6727IMG_9182IMG_9179IMG_6816IMG_681520141018_174446 20141020_142010IMG_6864 I’ve been in Germany, fitted with a stylish orthopedic boot for my lame foot, and sampling wild mushrooms and newly fermented wine and sausages.

Now the foot’s healed and I’m back just in time for our own mushroom festival at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum today, rain or shine.  They’ve decided to experiment with cooking demos, so I’m hauling my little portable cooktop down to the festival to whip up some delicious soups and dumplings featuring the ingredient of the day!  Thrilled to be a part of one of the best festivals we hold, with a huge mushroom display and walks, activities, music, and food.

Come see me at 11-12:30 on the Moon Stage!  I’ll be sampling wild mushroom broth with spaetzle and creamy mushroom sauerkraut goulash for the soup demo, and oyster mushroom potstickers for the dumpling demo.  Recipes later!

The images above show the Alps from Garmisch; wild mushrooms at the Kleinemarkthalle and little marzipan boars rooting about in acorns in Frankfurt; pork medallions with spaetzle in Heidelberg; and glorious fall leaves in Wuerzburg.

think pink

Finally, beautiful weather.  I celebrated Earth Day with the fuchsia tones of my blooming azaleas, beets as long as my arm, and jeweled sushi.  We weeded the garden and planted more seed, including poppies, carrots, leaf celery, dill, and borage.

I took advantage of the beet stems and greens, something I highly suggest.  Made beet stem pickles using my pickled chard stem recipe, but the beet stems are stringy, so it’s best to chop them up.  I was thankful I thought to experiment with a chopped quick pickle relish using the leftover vinegar and bits of stems, spring onion, carrot, dill flowers, and fennel seed.  Made a terrific addition to bean tacos, a barley salad, and salmon.

The mushrooms, beets, and bright pink radishes all came from the Lane County Farmers Market on Saturday.  The sushi was yet another delicious meal from Kamitori.  Chef Masa worked with the Cinema Pacific staff to host a dinner reception after Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about a 3-Michelin-star sushi restaurant’s 85-year-old chef in Tokyo.  If you haven’t been to Kamitori, on Willamette and 11th, you really should go and experience Japanese sushi.  It’s unique in Eugene.  See my review in the Register-Guard by following the links here.

mushrooming with hank shaw and peg boulay

Part of Hank Shaw‘s recent visit to UO was a mushroom foray to the coast with local wildlife ecologist and co-founder of the Cascade Mycological Society Peg Boulay.  Though Hank and Peg were able to score some fascinating edibles, beginners like me foraged for chanterelles and king boletes (aka porcini), very common in early November, as it was a tad too early for matsutake. Sadly, we struck out on all but the last, elderly kings and a few chanties.

We did find some rather lovely non-edibles, like these purple coral mushrooms that spring up from the soil and the poisonous red spotted Amanita muscaria, also known as the fly agaric, also known as every single kid’s picture of a mushroom.

Hank and Peg were great guides: Peg made sure we all had a good lesson in mushrooms from the samples we found, and Hank pointed out edible wild plants we might use in the future.  I have to say, too, that our group was rather dapper.

It’s thrilling to experience our unique and diverse ecosystem in Lane County, which stretches from east of Eugene to the coast.  And I have to say I’m rather enamored of these little strange fungal growths.  There’s something anthropomorphic about them, no?

The thrill of the hunt also unexpectedly brought out the bargain shopper in me, scouring the floor (literally) for the jackpot find.  It also reminded me that life surprises us when we least expect it with a tiny bit of hope that keeps us going.  For you never know what you’ll find.

hunter, gatherer, conservationist: finding the forgotten feast with hank shaw, nov. 14

I’m so pleased to announce an event that’s been in the works ’round these parts for months.  Wild foods expert Hank Shaw will be talking to UO students and researchers in my Food in the Field research group, and giving a public reading on November 14 for the entire Eugene community.  Free event and open to all.  This is the last stop on a nationwide book tour for Hank, so let’s give him a warm welcome!

Can’t read the fine print? click here for a .pdf.

Hunter, Gatherer, Conservationist: Finding the Forgotten Feast
Book Reading and Discussion
Author Hank Shaw
Monday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
282 Lillis Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene

Hank Shaw is a wild foods expert, hunter, angler, gardener and cook, based in Sacramento.  His exquisite and unusual wild foods blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (, has been twice nominated for a James Beard Award, and was awarded best blog from the International Association of Culinary Professionals organization in 2010 — two major achievements in food writing.  He is on tour for his already acclaimed new book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast (Rodale Books).  The book explores North America’s edible flora and fauna, explaining how to track down everything from wild mushrooms to mackerel to pheasant, and to create locally sourced meals that go far beyond the farmers market or campfire cuisine.

At a public reading for the University of Oregon and Eugene area community, Shaw will share his experiences in the field and in the kitchen, discussing not only his sophisticated recipes and innovative techniques for preparing wild food that grows and roams in the Pacific Northwest – camas bulbs, venison, and wild berries, to name just a few examples – but also the political, social, and environmental issues surrounding hunting and gathering in the twenty-first century.  Books will be available for purchase and signing.

dark days challenge #3: wild mushroom shepherd’s pie

This weekend was the perfect storm for wintery cuisine:  (1) the last day of school was Friday, (2) I’m working on some cookbook reviews for the Eugene Weekly, and (3) it has been freezing — the cold front will hover for most of the week.  So I spent considerable time cooking warm comfort food: a rosemary leek bread pudding, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, baked Korean ribs with a Brussels sprout stir-fry, buttery rosemary roasted sweet potatoes, and on and on.

The holiday market at the Fairgrounds is in full swing, and bustling with shoppers buying local crafts.  We picked up a woven wool scarf for Retrogrouch from John Meyers, but spent most of the time mulling over winter produce at the farmer’s market area.  This year it’s in the room adjoining the holiday market instead of the building to the north, and I’m sure that increases foot traffic.  I was amazed and pleased by the range of offerings.  I managed to snap up the last local sweet peppers in town for freezing, celery, carrots, leeks, three different kinds of persimmon and three different kinds of wild mushroom (plump golden chanterelle, hedgehog and candycap), and some potatoes, garlic, and storage onions.

I wanted to crawl inside an insulating snuggie made of mashed potatoes, so I did.

Making a shepherd’s pie is easy.  This old English one-pot supper is basically a layer of juicy ground lamb, fortified with an army of peas, carrots, and onions and a moat of broth all nestled under a topping of mashed potatoes.  The dish is finished in the oven, where the mashed potatoes are browned on top. When you scoop into the pie, the brothy meat juices mix with the potatoes, and you have the most wonderful, comforting dish ever.

The picture immediately above is the dish ready for its final oven browning.  With the local base vegetables I bought at River Bend Farm and Groundwork Organics (potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, carrots and celery), and Cheviot Hill ground lamb, I had a terrific start on this pie.  After browning the lamb and onions, I added the rest of the aromatics — carrot, leek, garlic, and celery.  When everything looked soft and slightly caramelized, I combined the vegetables with the lamb, added rosemary, a bit of wine and a chunk of tomato paste from the freezer, then loosened the fond from the pan with about a cup and a half or so of chicken broth.

Unsatisfied with pure meat in mah pie, I thought I’d add a layer of earthiness with all the wild mushrooms I had bought — probably about a pound’s worth.  Our golden chanterelle season is just about over, but the hedgehogs and candycaps are plentiful.  Candycaps add a slight maple-syrupy sweetness to the lamb.  (I used about half of the cup or so I bought, and dried the rest for future experiments.)  The mushrooms were sautéed in butter and salt, and then layered atop the lamb with their juices.

The rosemary was from my own garden, and I used a heavy hand.  Butter and cream were from Noris Dairy, as usual, and the chicken broth was from my freezer, via Draper Valley (not local but nearby in WA).  The only thing you really need to remember with shepherd’s pie is that you need the bottom layer to be quite brothy — I think I used two cups total, plus the liquid from the cooking mushrooms, for a standard 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  A nice slug of local red wine finished it off.

Also not local:  a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, and allspice.

I served the dish with some steamed local broccoli, simple as can be, and some homebaked chocolate chip cookies.   My husband thought he had died and gone to heaven.  It was that good.

caught on camera by the wild mushroom paparazzi!


A group of us gathered for an edible mushroom seminar yesterday at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum.  The program, led by mushroom enthusiast Josiah Legler, featured a short lecture on mushroom identification, a forest hike on which we found several edible and non-edible species, and a return to the arboretum’s visitor center, where, armed with thick mushrooming books, we learned how to use the dichotomous keys to identify some of our findings.

I’m planning to write more about mushrooms soon, but wanted to share my favorite photo from the series I took on the hike.  The wild mushroom paparazzi swarm Josiah and a perfectly beautiful, dimpled, fleshy pink hedgehog mushroom, caught unaware in the brush.

If you’re interested in Mt. Pisgah’s mushroom walks or any other program, check ’em out here.  They fill up quickly, so don’t wait to register.

fungus among us

Retrogrouch and I went to the Mt. Pisgah Mushroom Festival yesterday.  I like this festival more than others, since it mingles the usual Eugenian tchotchkes, Peruvian handknitted sweater-wearing tots, and environmentally-aware folkish guitar music with poison.  And the whole place smells kind of musty and funky, and I don’t mean play-that-funky-music-environmentally-aware-white-boy funky.  It’s all about mushrooms, the edible kind and those that will wipe you off the face of the planet.

We bought four bags of various kinds, including giant white puffball-shaped lion’s mane, yellow oysters, maitake, and elongated buttons called butter caps.  Then we spent a great deal of time shuffling along the tables of all the specimens one can find in our area.  It’s amazing how many mushrooms are out there.  The Cascade Mycological Society provides the specimens of mushrooms and their ilk, including a lichen table, a section on slime molds, and another on truffles. There’s also a table, staffed by an expert, for look-alikes and poison mushrooms.  I listened to her patiently explain to a couple that a certain perfectly respectable mushroom could be bad-tasting when grown on a certain tree and sickening when grown on another.

There’s a certain element of fear — and for good reason — in eating wild mushrooms.  It’s not surprising that mushrooms aren’t used much in American cuisine, and that we rely on the standard European varieties like chanterelles and porcini, or giant portobellos, when we use mushrooms.  I like that idea, flavoring your soup with the scent of fear, something wolves can sense but your husband…yes, YOUR husband, the one that announced to all present in the crowded room that “SURE, EUGENIA, YOU CAN TAKE UP MUSHROOMING, AS LONG AS YOU BRING A DOCTOR TO GIVE YOU A LIVER TRANSPLANT AFTERWARD!”…can’t taste from umami.  Something to consider.  Yes.

In that vein, I was most pleased to see a real, live Wiccan dude in a witch hat pointing out the fried chicken mushrooms to his companion.  Because witches don’t eat KFC.

But embracing the edible wild mushroom is a duty for all PNW residents, I feel, and there are many American native mushrooms that can be incorporated into cooking.  We’re fortunate in Eugene to have fresh wild mushrooms of several varieties available to us in season, and they can really transform stocks, rice, pasta, burgers, stirfries, etc., etc.  Embrace the fungus among us.  The musty, earthy, meaty flavor is probably the best example there is of American Gothic cuisine.

The festival also features a scarecrow contest, and this year there were not one but two Joe the Plumber scarecrows, and several others that were actually quite lovely.  The cider press was set up, too, with proceeds going to a charity whose name completely escapes me.  I thought we were particularly fortunate that the weather has been so fabulous, we usually have to trudge through the festival in the rain.

We ate our maitake, yellow oysters and butter caps in a sauce over penne made with garlic, butter, onions, chopped chicken breast, tomato, tarragon and a touch of sour cream, by the way.  Yum yum.

gyro-stuffed mushrooms or mini-footballs, you decide


I don’t much care for stuffed mushrooms, since they always seem too bland and soggy. There are a couple of exceptions. One is grilled spicy tuna-stuffed mushrooms that they make at certain sushi/teppanyaki restaurants. The other is this recipe, which I invented because I like me some gyros. If you like you some gyros, too, try these stuffed mushrooms: they are filled with herbed lamb and pine nuts, then topped with creamy cucumber-garlic dollops. They also kinda look like little footballs, so you can serve them for the game with your vegetable tray.

Mini-Footballs with Creamy Garlic Sauce


Deconstructed Gyro-Stuffed Mushrooms with Dollops of Tzatziki

Serves: 8-10 as an appetizer

Martha Stewart’s book on appetizers provided the technique for pre-cooking the mushroom vessels. Removing as much liquid as possible is crucial, and this method makes for dripless mushrooms.

24 large white mushrooms
olive oil
1 piece pita bread
1/4 cup milk
5-6 cloves garlic
1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt (if you use the American kind, you’ll need to drain it overnight because it must be thick like sour cream)
1/3 cup grated fresh cucumber (peel and remove seeds first)
1 lb. ground lamb (don’t use hamburger, you need the flavor)
2 shallots or a few tablespoons of red onion
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
juice from 1/2 lemon
fresh oregano
fresh mint
fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Tear pita bread into pieces and soak in a small bowl with milk to cover.


For Dollops of Tzatziki: grate cucumber using a box grater. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, place in small bowl, then salt with about 1/2 t. salt and let sit to remove more water. After 15 minutes or so, squeeze again and blot with paper towels. Mix together salted cucumber bits, yogurt, a few tablespoons of chopped mint, and a large clove of garlic, pressed in a press. Refrigerate until immediately prior to serving.

Scoop out stems from mushrooms with a small spoon make pretty vessels. Chop mushroom stems and set aside in bowl. Rub baking sheet and mushrooms with olive oil (you could use a brush, but I just use my hands). Bake, cap-side up, for 7-10 minutes. (But I messed up and did cap-side down, to no great harm). Mushrooms will turn golden and will exude liquid when they are ready.

While you are baking the mushroom caps, brown ground lamb in olive oil on medium high heat. Add chopped mushroom stems, 4-5 cloves chopped garlic and a couple of chopped shallots after cooking meat for a few minutes. When nice and brown, remove from heat and add salt and pepper.

In a large food processor, pulse the soaked bread and the meat mixture to combine. Don’t turn it into a paste; you just want it smushed together so it will hold. Return to saute pan and add a handful of chopped parsley, a few tablespoons of chopped oregano, lemon juice, and pine nuts.

Remove mushrooms from baking sheet, drain and blot dry as much as possible with paper towels. Return to baking sheet for stuffing.

Preheat oven to broil on high.

Stuff mushroom caps and broil close to the heat source for a few minutes, or until browned and crusty on top. Watch carefully, since they can burn easily.

Serve on a white platter with dollops of tzatziki sauce on top. These hold well, since you’ve been diligent about liquid removal, so it’s ok to let them sit, but add chilled tzatziki only immediately prior to serving. If you’re fancy, garnish each mushroom with an oregano leaf.

I’d imagine this would also be good stuffed in tomatoes or peppers.