Tag Archives: porcini

Wild porcini, bacon and spinach quiche

It’s been a helluva good mushroom season so far. This week I found three primo porcini in my yard. I wanted to try something different from my typical porcini and pasta recipes. Quiche sounded about right.

I’m not familiar with making quiches. I know it’s a crust, some egg, cream, cheese and filling, but beyond that I have to follow a recipe. When I asked my coworker, Allison, today if she has ever made quiche she gave me a resounding “yes.” She had a few quiche tricks up her sleeve and was happy to share them.

Instead of following a recipe, I winged it using Allison’s advice. What came out of the oven was smoky, mushroomy, fluffy and not overly eggy.

Wild porcini quiche with bacon and spinach | a recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Continue reading Wild porcini, bacon and spinach quiche

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White vegetarian lasagna with wild porcini

This is my favorite time of year in Anchorage. It’s cool, rainy and chock full of mushrooms. It’s a mushroom wonderland out there!

Aspen scaber stalk bolete mushrooms Inedible mushrooms found in Anchorage forests Inedible mushrooms found in Anchorage forest

I grew up eating boletus mushrooms and this year they have been abundant. If you’re interested in picking them, check out my handy mushroom guide.

Continue reading White vegetarian lasagna with wild porcini

Spaghetti & Chicken with Lemon Thyme Mushroom Sauce

Sometimes I just don’t want to plan dinner. Today was the case as I opened my fridge at 5:10 p.m. to figure out what to prepare for my family. I came up with frozen chicken breasts, frozen broccoli, lemon and fresh thyme. I was uninspired, but decided to put the frozen chicken in the pressure cooker and figure it out as I went along.

Then, when my son called me out to the yard to look at the newest addition to his playhouse, the best thing happened: I found two pristine king bolete mushrooms standing proudly under our large spruce trees.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

I’ve been waiting all summer for this moment. King boletes are the most delectable of the mushrooms my family gathers and they happen to grow in my yard every summer from late July to early September. For the past three weeks I’ve been checking the areas under the spruce trees for these meaty, delicious fungi. They pop up overnight and you have to pick them when they are fresh otherwise bugs will lay claim to them.

As soon as I cleaned my two treasures I had formed a supper strategy. Lemon, thyme, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, chicken and pasta — yeah, that’s a good combination. By 6:15 I had a decent meal that was a real crowd pleaser.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Of course you can use store bought mushrooms, but if you happen to have wild porcini, I encourage you to cook them as soon as you can.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a Lemon Thyme Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry cooking sherry (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup of chicken stock in a pressure cooker. Line the bottom of the cooker with lemon slices. Add the frozen chicken, zest, thyme and salt and pepper. Set the pressure cooker to 35 minutes. When it’s done, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside and reserve the cooking liquid as well.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place broccoli and 1/4 cup chicken stock in a large sauté pan. Cover and steam over high heat for 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Set broccoli with stock aside.

In the same sauté pan, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat on medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms have given off their liquid and they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the sherry and let it evaporate, about 2 minutes.

Create a slurry with the flour and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Add this to the mushrooms and garlic. Once it’s thickened, add some of the stock from the pressure cooker until it’s a sauce-like consistency. Add some more butter if you want it creamier. Add the drained pasta, broccoli and chicken. Toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Mini meatloaves with mushroom marsala sauce

Growing up I rarely had the chance to eat classic dinner foods such as tuna noodle casserole and meatloaf. I absolutely love these dishes. My mom started making meatloaf after I had moved out of the house and it quickly became a favorite. I don’t know what magic she puts into her recipe, but I’ll never know because, like me, my mom just throws stuff together and doesn’t keep track. Well, tonight’s meatloaf was worth remembering.

I doubled the recipe so there’s plenty of leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches, which are almost better than fresh-out-of-the-oven.

Mini meatloaf with mushroom marsala sauce | An easy recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Mini meatloaf with mushroom marsala sauce

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios or cashews (optional)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 slices of good white bread
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento olives (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. dried parsley
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

Mini meatloaf with mushroom marsala sauce | An easy recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

For the sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • splash of beef broth
  • up to 1 cup of reserved mushroom liquid (read recipe for details)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

Mini meatloaf with mushroom marsala sauce | An easy recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl with hot water. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. In another small bowl, tear up the bread and add the milk. Let sit for a minute and mash up with a fork.

In a Kitchen Aid bowl add the meat, nuts, yolks, soaked bread, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion, garlic, cheese, olives, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Finely chop the mushrooms and add them to the mixture, reserving the mushroom liquid for the sauce. Use the paddle attachment on a low setting until well combined.

Pour the bread crumbs on a tray or pie plate. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Form four small loaves and dredge them in the bread crumbs. Brown the loaves in the pan two at a time.

Place the loaves in a casserole dish. Top each loaf with decorative olives if you’d like them to resemble a 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the center of the loaf reads 140 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven, transfer loaves to a cutting board and let sit, covered, while you make the sauce.

The sauce: Reheat the pan that you used to brown the loaves. Pour any drippings from the casserole dish into the pan. When the pan is hot add the marsala and tomato paste and whisk until everything is well combined. Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat. Add about 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and a splash of beef broth. Add more mushroom liquid if it’s too thick. Add parsley just before serving.

Mini meatloaf with mushroom marsala sauce | An easy recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Slice loaves into thick slabs. Serve with egg noodles and green beans. Slather with delicious meat sauce.

mini meatloaves with mushroom marsala sauce
Yay, leftovers!

Wild Mushroom Marinara

Last week as I was scrolling through a local online events calendar I saw that Habitat Housewares was having a recipe contest. I’ve not entered a recipe contest save for last week when my husband’s work hosted a chili cook-off. I disqualified my recipe after discovering my husband failed to start up the Crock Pot properly and the beans were still crunchy.

That being said, I was determined to redeem myself purely for my own satisfaction. This contest also had some sweet prizes, namely a $500 gift card to a fantastic kitchen supply store and a Le Creuset dutch oven, retailing at $230.

The contest was for an original pasta sauce recipe. One of the judges was head chef at Villa Nova, one of the only originally Italian-owned restaurants in Anchorage (most Italian places are owned by Greek families here). The other judge was a local food writer who is all about local foods. The third was a local celebrity with whom I once performed “The Rocky Horror Show” at a local gay bar. I knew I had a chance.

Turns out I won second place and scored a pretty awesome dutch oven. First place was a stunning creamy Alaska seafood sauce that was a perfect blend of flavors.

I hope you enjoy my second-place pasta sauce.

Wild Mushroom Mariana Sauce | A recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Mushroom Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1.5 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

6 oz. baby Portobello or crimini mushrooms, sliced

½ cup chopped onion

8 cloves garlic, crushed

2 Tbs. red wine

1/3 cup reserved mushroom water

42 oz. crushed Italian tomatoes (1 ½ 28-oz. cans)

2 dried red chilies

2 tsp. sugar

1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped

2 Tbs. butter

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil 2 cups of water. Place the dried porcini in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms through a sieve and reserve the water. Roughly chop the porcini.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high flame. Add the garlic, turn heat to medium and cook till garlic is lightly browned. Add the porcini, Portobello and onions. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Sauté till onions are soft and mushrooms have lost much of their liquid, about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and a couple of tablespoons of mushroom water. Transfer to a saucepan and set over medium-high flame. Add the tomatoes, remaining mushroom water, chilies, sugar, basil, oregano and butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for an hour.

Pour over pasta of your choice, cooked al dente. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve alongside Italian sausage and steamed green beans.

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

It’s nearly mushroom season in Alaska so I thought I’d repost my boletus mushroom guide from my old blog. With a little knowhow, you can join the foraging movement and become a mushroom hunter.
Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms | Alaska Knit Nat

Here is my DISCLAIMER: I’ve been foraging for mushrooms my whole life and I am positive that what I’m picking is edible. I am not a mushroom expert but I can give you great advice on how to discern boletus mushrooms from inedible ones. Pick at your own risk! Some people experience gastric upset after eating boletes even though they aren’t poisonous. Never eat a bolete unless it’s been thoroughly cooked. When in doubt, throw it out!

Feel free to contact me and e-mail me photos of your finds if you ever have any questions. There are quite a few edible mushrooms in Alaska, but I’m only knowledgable about boletus.

So here we go:

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

There are several types of boletus mushrooms and you can find many of them in the Anchorage area. Most are edible and the ones that are poisonous will let you know by their scary color.

The U.S. Forest Service has a great Alaska mushroom guide. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

The only inedible boletes I’ve come across in Alaska are boletus ludiformus  and boletus coniferarum. Ludiformus is red, which to me is a signal to not eat it. The coniferarum has yellow flesh that when bruised or cut will rapidly turn inky blue. Keep in mind that many edible types of boletus will oxidize, but not nearly as quickly as the coniferarum turns from yellow to blue. It looks pretty cool, but tastes extremely bitter (but will not kill you if eaten).

*Note: a mushroom enthusiast commented on my old blog that the mushroom in the photo below is edible. I would just avoid it if you find it. I’ve never seen one before, but my father took the photo below so it’s definitely out there in Southcentral Alaska.*

Boletus ludiformus

Ok, now that we have the inedibles out of the way, let’s start becoming mushroom detectives. Before you go out and pick these mushrooms, let me prepare you…

  • You will probably encounter bugs
  • You will probably encounter little maggots (baby bugs!)
  •  You will probably get dirty and wet

You’ve got to get over these factors if you’d like to carry on.

OK? ok….

First, all edible boletes have sponge under the caps instead of gills. Boletes are the only mushroom in Anchorage forests that have sponge instead of gills besides the hawks wing mushroom, which has hedgehog-like spines underneath (and it’s edible if you boil it). You can exclude any mushroom with gills because it will not be a bolete. This one fact makes bolete hunting reassuring because there is so much you can rule out. There are deceptive mushrooms that really look like bolete caps, but when you turn them over and see gills, just let them be. They tricked you!

Here are the common types of boletes you’ll come across in Anchorage forests:

Aspen Scaber-stalk — these are found in birch and spruce forests, typically around moss, low-bush cranberry and crow berry bushes. They have sienna-colored caps with dirty-looking stems (almost looks like the texture of a terry-cloth towel). The flesh also tends to oxidize and turn black when cut.

*Note: a person commented on my old blog post that the scaber-stalks can cause gastric upset. I have been picking and eating this mushroom most of my life and never experienced upset stomach, but I thought I should let it be known.*

Aspen scaber-stalk
Stem of most forest boletes

Alaskan Scaber-stalk — these look a lot like the Aspen scaber-stalk but darker with a narrower stem.

Alaskan scaber-stalk

Boletus Miribilis — I have never encountered this bolete, but thanks to the folks at the Girdwood Fungus Fair, they have provided me with a lovely photo. I’m so excited to try and find some next summer!

image

King bolete — this is the purest, most prized bolete and is the equivalent of a wild porcino mushroom. These have light brown caps and white stems with no terry-cloth look to them. The sponge will turn yellow with age.

Freaky melded-cap king bolete. Still delicious
King boletes

In addition to the U.S. Forest Service, here is another great site about Alaska boletes.

All right, now let’s set out to find some mushrooms! But where, might you ask? Well, boletes like to grow near spruce roots, birches and in mossy areas. You can often find boletes growing in people’s yards. You usually won’t find them in areas with long grasses and ferns or anywhere with tall vegetation. The trail system in Anchorage is a great place to start. You could also try Thunderbird Falls, Bird Creek and Girdwood.

The best time to pick boletes is from late July to mid-September. Over the years I haven’t found a true rhyme or reason to how boletes grow. Sometimes you’ll have a summer with hundreds of pounds and others you won’t find any. Usually they grow during the rainy and damp times of Alaska summers.

Boletes can grow to be pretty huge, but it’s best to pick them when they are just a couple of days old because bugs love boletes as much as humans do. They will flock to them pretty much as soon as they surface. It’s rare to find a bolete that hasn’t been lived in by a beetle or some sort of fly eggs, but if you pick them early on it doesn’t affect the quality or taste of the mushroom. I’ll show some photos later.

This large bolete was literally teeming with insects and maggots. Didn’t take this one home!

Fresh boletes should have firm stems and caps, but it’s ok if the cap is slightly soft. If you find a really squishy bolete, let it be because the bugs have laid claim to it. Sometimes you’ll find a bolete that’s firm on the cap, but when you look underneath it looks like bugs have taken it over. Not always true! Sometimes the bugs just get into the sponge part of the mushroom, which can be easily removed. Break the cap in half. If the flesh is white and has no holes in it, then keep it. Baby boletes are the best. Their cap and stem are both firm and delicious. They also look totally phallic. I just had to put that out there.

I recommend field dressing your mushrooms as you go. This means bringing a pocket knife along and whittling away the dirty root. I’m lazy and usually don’t do this. It just means I’ll have more trash to throw out at home.

Boletes are sturdy so you can collect them in plastic grocery or garbage bags, five-gallon buckets, or if you’re feeling whimsical, in a lovely basket. It’s up to you. Most will say that mushrooms should never be stored in plastic bags (I can see Laurie Constantino shaking her head). I find it easier to tote large quantities of mushrooms around the forest in a plastic bag and it doesn’t seem to affect the quality of my mushrooms. Do not store your boletes in plastic bags for long periods of time. This will create too much moisture and cause them to rot.

When you find a good bolete, pick it by the base of the stem, not by the cap, as you will probably break off the cap and tear away the flesh by accident.

The great thing about picking mushrooms is they literally pop up overnight so many people could pick the same spot and still find a good share. You can usually tell if another bolete hunter has been in the area by the discarded caps and overturned trickster mushrooms. On a recent quest we covered the same ground as another hunter and still came out with nearly 40 pounds of mushrooms!

Once you’ve collected your mushrooms, you’ll have to process them. Here’s how it goes:

Start by whittling away the root of the mushroom to remove any soil. If you come across any bug-eaten mushrooms, either toss them or cut into the stem or cap to see if it’s salvageable. Sometimes the bugs will have only gotten to half the mushroom, so why waste the whole thing? Once you’ve removed the big pieces of dirt, you can run each mushroom under cold water and lightly scrub with a nail brush to remove excess dirt. Only rinse them if you plan to use them right away. Rinsing them and then storing them in the fridge may cause them to rot.

Now comes the part where you need to figure out what you’re doing with your mushrooms. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, but you’ll want to prepare them as soon as you can. If you must store them, be sure to keep them in paper bags so they can breathe.

Boletes should not be eaten raw. They will probably give you an upset stomach. If I’m not cooking with them right away I either sauté the mushrooms in butter, vacuum pack and freeze them or put them in a food dehydrator for a couple of days, bag them up or grind them into porcini powder.

Either way, you’ll need to slice them up. This is where you do most of the work. You might find that lots of your mushrooms are bug eaten. I tend to toss caps that are eaten even in the slightest, but really it’s not gonna kill you so this is a matter of personal preference. You’ll be able to tell if the mushroom is too rotten to eat cause it will look totally gross. But as I said before, you can always try and cut away the nasty bits and keep the good bits. I mentioned before that you can remove the sponge. I do this with most mature boletes because the sponge ends up becoming slimy when cooking. With really new boletes, the sponge is firm and doesn’t need to be removed. It’s a bit like getting to an artichoke heart — the sponge will peel off easily and you’ll be left with the yummy cap.

This king bolete stem has been eaten by bugs. Not salvagable
This aspen cap is nasty. Didn’t keep any of it.
This Alaskan stem was soft and dark as soon as I cut into it. It was not good.
This stem was deceiving because it felt great from the outside, but was eaten up on the inside.
This cap had maggots in the sponge, but the actual flesh was just fine.
See? Looks great! Peel off the sponge and you’ll be fine.
This is the inside of a good king bolete. Some parts have been eaten by a  bug, but I wasn’t horrified by it so I kept it.
This Alaskan bolete has oxidized. It’s fine to eat!
This is a fresh king cap. The sponge is thin and firm. It doesn’t need to be peeled off.

Once your boletes have been processed the world is your mushroom! Boletes are great in soups and sauces, but your best bet is to do a Google search for recipes for porcini. If you’ve decided to dry your mushrooms, they will need to be reconstituted when you’re ready to use them. Boil a couple of cups of water or chicken broth and pour over the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes and reserve the steeped water for your soup. It’ll deepen the flavor even more.

So, that’s my guide to Alaska boletes. Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or even corrections.

And remember, if you’re not extremely positive about a mushroom, don’t eat it. Better safe than sorry!

For more Alaska mushroom information, check out this short film produced by the Alaska Teen Media Institute for the U.S. Forest Service and this terrific article by Laurie Constantino for Alaska Dispatch.

Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps

Last year we picked hundreds of pounds of boletes — wild porcini mushrooms. We dried them and have since not consumed many of them; so before we hit mushroom season this summer we decided we better start using these earthy, flavorful morsels.

Wild mushrooms pair well with risotto. I had a half box of Barilla Orzo pasta, which look like grains of rice. I thought the orzo would taste super with portobello and porcini with a hint of lemon and garlic.

Costco sells a four pack of portobello caps for just a few dollars. I lightly marinated them in oil and vinegar then grilled them over high heat and topped them with roasted bell peppers and chèvre. The fresh arugula salad was the perfect accompaniment to the meal with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

This is a quick meal that’s hearty and vegetarian too.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad

Serves 3

Ingredients:

4 portobello caps

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

4 Tbs. butter

Olive oil

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 cup dry orzo pasta

2 cloves garlic

zest and juice of one lemon

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup crumbled chèvre

3 mini bell peppers

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

Bring a cup of water to boil. Pour over the dried mushrooms and cover. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the stems from portobello caps and set aside. Remove the gills with a spoon. Lightly score the tops of three of the caps with a paring knife. Reserve one cap for the orzo. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, the vinegars, one minced clove of garlic salt and pepper to a one-gallon ziploc bag. Carefully add the caps, seal and gently toss to coat the caps. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour.

Chop the stems and one portobello cap. Remove the porcini mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Chop the porcini. Set aside.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the orzo for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. Lightly toss with olive oil so they don’t stick together. Meanwhile, heat the butter and one tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated from them. Add the lemon zest and one minced clove of garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, till garlic is fragrant. Add the orzo, 1/4 cup of reserved mushroom liquid and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Toss thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.

Set all burners on your gas grill to high and heat for 15 minutes. Chop the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds. Skewer them on a metal skewer. Turn grill burners to med-high and set the peppers and the mushroom caps, top side down, on the grill. Cover and grill for about 4 minutes. Flip and grill another 4 minutes. Remove everything from grill and slice the peppers. Serve the caps with sliced peppers and crumbled chèvre alongside the orzo, sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

For the salad: Top baby arugula with sliced cherry tomatoes, blueberries and crumbed chèvre. Squeeze fresh lemon on top and drizzle on extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.