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For Foraging Fanatics: Mycophilia and Wild Flavors + A Foraging-Friendly Pasta Recipe

These days we all probably know a forager and even a kitchen drawer mushroom cultivator or two -- somewhat challenging friendships when it comes to gift-giving. (Edible backyard weeds, leftover coffee grounds for growing mushrooms?)

And so, in honor of our friends who have a somewhat "unique" cookbook and bedside reading needs, we suggest Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms.

If fungi aren't enough, Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking From Eva's Farm. And yes, Hank Shaw's Hunt, Gather, Cook, out earlier this year, would also be an excellent choice.

Consider the "forager's pasta" recipe that follows an early holiday bonus. Then again, we're not exactly your average holiday wish-list sorts, either.

And so for the mushroom-obsessed, Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone is, as expected, an excavation of fungi history and her personal foray into fungi: "My journey into the realm of fungi started with basic venality. I love to eat wild mushrooms, but I don't love paying for them. They're hellaciously expensive in Manhattan where I live."). Yeah, we can relate.

The book begins with Bone's discourse on joining her local Mycological Society (we have a great one here in L.A., too), followed by chapter outtakes on the mushroom-obsessed ("Hunters, Gatherer's and Thieves"), exotic varieties, the mighty truffle, a chapter on that good old American staple the button mushrooms and yes, another chapter on shrooms.

By the time she wraps up in Chapter 12 ("The Superorganism," a chapter that hovers on the philosophical), Bone's mushroom-colored glasses have forever changed. Despite how silly a first person account of truffle love sounds, it's actually a very engaging book for exactly that reason (imagine the staid academic tome alternatives). That Bone is a well-seasoned journalist helps keep Mycophilia informative rather than on that downward spiraling path of self-obsession that so many of today's first person blog-centric books can suffer.

But if you're keen on getting straight to those mushroom recipes, Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking From Eva's Farm is the way to go. Simmons says she got hooked on foraging after meeting Massachusetts farmer Eva Sommaripa, who is known to local chefs as the woman who can fulfill your uncommon herb and weed dreams with the hundreds of varieties she grows. The book follows Simmons and Sommaripa's developing friendship over foraging and cooking.

Recipes are divided by season and then by ingredient, so this time of year you'll find kale with apples, raisins and walnuts, a leek miso soup, and spaghetti squash with lentils and sage. If the ingredients don't sounds all that forage-able, Emmons makes no excuses. While some ingredients like curly dock, wild roses and knotweed (in the pasta recipe below) she finds from her Boston forage runs, several of the ingredients she sources at farmers markets (and makes notes of where to find them).

Much as we loved The Borreal Gourmet, it makes this book more accessible -- fungus love or not -- on the foraging front than those with a very focused regional focus.

Forager's Pasta

From Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons.

Makes: 1 to 2 servings

Note: Per Emmons: "Rarely is a recipe so good that I begin typing it up as I'm eating it. I had been foraging one afternoon with David Craft, a spry young man who collects much of his food through foraging. We picked knotweed, curly dock, and stinging nettle, practically in my Boston backyard. The cooking takes all of five minutes, and besides garlic, pasta, and olive oil, all it needed to achieve greatness was a little kimchi du jour and some good grating cheese. I use an organic sheep's-milk cheese from Northland Sheep Dairy in New York State called Tomme Berère, but a good Pecorino or Parmesan will do. Remember to wear gloves when handling raw stinging nettle."

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

3 cups cooked whole-grain pasta (a small pasta like penne will do)

Big handful curly dock or sorrel (about 1 cup)

Handful stinging nettle, stems removed, or another handful curly dock (about 1 cup)

2 medium stalks Japanese knotweed or 1⁄2 stalk rhubarb, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons chopped kimchi

2 tablespoons chopped kimchi or 1 tablespoon capers

2 to 3 tablespoons good grating cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the garlic. Once the garlic is sizzling, after just a few seconds, stir in the pasta, followed by the curly dock, stinging nettle, and knotweed. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, until everything wilts and gets quite hot.

2. Turn off the heat, add the kimchi, and stir. Pour the pasta into bowls. Top with grated cheese and eat right away.


[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com ]


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