Wild About Wild Mushrooms – Lentil and Wild Porcini Pâté

Wild Alaskan porcini mushrooms star in this pâté recipe – the perfect snack or appetizer served on rice crackers, summer squash or zucchini. 

Many years ago, Jack and I took a mushroom foraging class from a park ranger in Oregon. With the help of our instructor, we learned about local mushrooms and actually found one King Bolete mushroom. At the end of that experience, I had more fear of “false mushrooms” that could make me sick or even kill me than anything else. Since then, I’ve been on countless hikes and found countless mushrooms I wouldn’t dare eat – even though they look perfectly safe. When we moved to Newhalen and began fishing and foraging for berries, we began noticing mushrooms the color of browned bread. Big ones. As usual, Jack and I wondered if they were edible. After one quick wondering, we resigned ourselves to knowing our mushrooms would come from a store and went back to the task at hand.

We were delighted to learn that one of the locals here in Newhalen is an expert on mushrooms. She volunteered to take a few of us out a couple of weeks ago and teach us about Newhalen fungi. Turns out, all those big mushrooms we had been seeing are types of boletes (otherwise known as porcini) and are not just edible, but are delicious!

Many people dry these mushrooms. We also heard that they can be frozen. After a bit of experimenting, we decided to vacuum-pack them and freeze them for the winter. Of course, we’ve kept out a few for now. Many have already starred in our recent evening meals – sautéed with garlic in olive oil to serve over pasta and atop Swiss mushroom burgers. Mmmm. Both of us are alive and kicking and now armed with confidence to continue foraging for these delicious beauties on our local hikes.

I came up with this mushroom pâté recipe a couple of years ago with store-bought ingredients. It was created with an intent to mimic one of my favorite Jewish foods – chopped chicken liver. This recipe not only tastes surprisingly like the delicious spread from my memory, but it brings it into the category of good for you, not just tasty. Traditional chopped chicken liver recipes are loaded with flavorful, but not so healthy fats. The chicken liver itself is low in fat but is high in cholesterol. You can use store-bought crimini, button, or shiitake mushrooms. But if you have access to wild porcini or other wild mushrooms, they will up the flavor of this pâté. Also, don’t save this recipe for a special occasion. This scrumptious mushroom and lentil spread is packed with flavor, is low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber and protein, which makes it a go-to for a pre-run snack or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Nutrition Info Lentil Wild Porcini Pâté

Wild Porcini Mushroom and Lentil Pâté

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked lentils, any color
  • 2 cups chopped wild porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • extra olive oil, needed

Directions

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat 4 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5.  In a large bowl, combine almond flour, lemon juice, soy sauce, rosemary, thyme, sage, honey, and cayenne.
  6. Stir in mushroom mixture.
  7. Using a stick blender (or food processor), purée the mixture.
  8. Add in cooked lentils.
  9. Purée the mixture until smooth.
  10. If the mixture feels too thick, thin it with additional olive oil.
  11. Salt to taste.

Cedar Planked Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Salmon, Blueberries and Goat Cheese

Cedar planks on the grill infuse salmon and mushroom caps with an irresistibly smokey flavor, and the indirect heat ensures for a deliciously moist, perfectly cooked bite.

With enough freshly caught, silver-bright Sockeye Salmon vacuum packed and in the freezer, we’ve lately turned our attention to gathering wild blueberries (while waiting for Coho Salmon – the stars of the fly-fishing season – to begin running). This recipe is a snap, and although grilling over charcoal on cedar requires a bit of extra effort, you’ll be glad you took the trouble.

Cedar Planked Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Salmon, Blueberries and Goat Cheese

Ingredients: You will need one or more untreated cedar planks soaked in water for at least a couple of hours

  • Crimini or Portobella mushroom caps (stems removed and set aside and a shallow depression cut into each cap’s center)
  • Mushroom stems, chopped coarse
  • Fillet of wild-caught Pacific Salmon seasoned with Italian herbs (or your own favorites) and broiled, grilled or pan fried till just cooked through. (Should flake easily). This step will remove some of the liquid from the fillets and result in a firmer dish.
  • Goat cheese, crumbled or cut into bean-sized pieces
  • Blueberries
  • Garlic chopped fine
  • Soy sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Additional herbs and spices to taste
  • Sherry or dry white wine

Directions

  1. Fire up the grill.
  2. Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and gently fold together. Fingers work best for this. Take care not to overwork the mixture.
  3. Stuff each mushroom cap and place on a cedar plank that has been well soaked in water.
  4. Place plank with stuffed mushrooms over hot charcoal. Cover grill with vented lid to ensure for high temperature.
  5. Depending on how hot the grill is, allow for 10 to 20 minutes cooking time. Mushrooms should be completely cooked through.
  6. Serve warm.

Thank You Molly! Cloudberry Sorbet Recipe

Thanks Molly! Here’s the recipe for cloudberry sorbet. It’s one of our favorites! We sure do miss picking cloudberries. (But, we think we found a “secret patch” for next year!)

Years ago, we were introduced to cloudberries in Point Hope. I was immediately smitten. Looking back over our blog recipes, I could see how my imagination was fired up with these fragile salmon-colored beauties. I turned out cloudberry jams, syrups, cakes, cookies, scones and our very favorite – cloudberry sorbet.

In the late summer, we would pick these jewels out on the Arctic tundra. They grew in soggy marsh atop small, rounded knolls. North of the Arctic Circle, berry picking was always wet and cold and sometimes mosquito-infested. Looking across the tundra, I would first see the dark plants hugging the ground on bumps of land. As soon as my eyes adjusted, bright orange berries seem to magically appear. In spite of the cold or the thrum of mosquitoes, I loved berry season and the stillness and quiet of the open tundra toward summer’s end. And I loved dreaming up ways to use these berries. My berry picking method? One, two and three for the bucket and one to sample for inspiration. Repeat until container is filled.

Our first cloudberry-picking session was the inspiration for this recipe. We had gone out on a frost-chilled morning. As we were sampling the cloudberries, Jack remarked that the berries tasted just like sorbet. I agreed and was determined to make that morning’s catch into just that, sorbet.

We had heard rumors that cloudberries grow somewhere around our new home by the shores of Lake Iliamna. As we’re getting to know our surroundings here, we’ve been on the lookout for these little treasures. The good news is that we’ve come across quite a few plants. The bad news is that we missed them this year. But maybe we found a place… It’s something to look forward to next year!

Cloudberry Sorbet

Ingredients

  • cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 cups fresh cleaned cloudberries

Directions

  1. Mix water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved to make a simple syrup.
  2. Remove pan from heat.
  3. Add cloudberries to the simple syrup.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
  5. Strain half of the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove the seeds.
  6. Discard seeds.
  7. Repeat with the second half of berry mixture.
  8. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
  9. Using an ice cream maker, pour chilled mixture into frozen freezer bowl. Turn machine on and let it do its magic. It will take about 20 minutes to thicken. Sorbet will be soft and creamy.
  10. To store, transfer sorbet to an airtight container and keep in the freezer.
  11. To serve, allow sorbet to thaw for about 15 minutes before scooping and enjoying.

Really Ugly – But Pretty Tasty: Baked Moose “Empanadas”

Moose meat hand pies on a borrowed plate and a bit wonky looking. Maybe the beautiful Chignik Woodblock Mountains in the background will distract you. They are gorgeous!

We’re about one week out from the big move. That means almost all of our household goods are either waiting for us in Newhalen or they are en route care of the good ‘ol postal service. It also means there is one cook in the house who is longing for all of her mailed kitchen equipment. (Jack is being a much better sport about this.)

With what amounts to a random selection of pantry items that need to be finished and mostly borrowed kitchen items to get us through the next few days, we need to be either very creative or not think about it and just eat. Like I said, Jack is being a good sport. He has been creatively transforming the case of macaroni and cheese boxes we have for our remaining lunches by adding ingredients like rehydrated mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, cans of diced tomatoes, and even the last bit of chorizo. This morning, he created a delicious hot breakfast out of the last bag of cous cous, bacon, cream cheese and toasted pecans.

With our very last pound of ground moose meat thawed in the fridge, I decided to take a turn at being cheery with this challenge and see what I could create. I thought it would be tasty to make turnovers inspired by Mongolian Khuushuur. Under a variety of local names, this type of meat-filled pastry seems to be found the world over. Our southern neighbors make a delicious version called empanadas.

Time to get to work. Yeast? Nope, mailed that. All-purpose flour? Yeah, that’s gone, too. What in the world do I have left? I gathered whole wheat flour, an egg, butter, salt, ground moose meat, Jack’s spicy seasoning mix, and a can of green chilis. Khuushuur and empanadas are both traditionally fried and are made with a bread type dough. No oil. These pastries would be baked. Based on my ingredient list, the dough was going to be of the savory pie variety. I whipped up some pie dough and stuck it in the fridge while I cooked up the filling.

When it was time to make the little meat hand pies, I realized I had no rolling pin, no parchment paper, and no pastry brush. Ugh. A greased cookie sheet did the trick sans parchment paper. And did you know that a skinny bottle of olive oil can double as a rolling pin? I didn’t either. The only disappointment was that wadded up paper towel does not really work as a pastry brush. It definitely wasted too much egg. Any ideas on that one?

At the end of the day, our hand pies were not pretty but we did wind up with a delicious dinner.  I’m still not yet as cheery and creative as Jack. Just wait till we get our kitchen set up again, that’ll cheer me up!

Baked Moose Meat Hand Pies
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten for brushing
Directions
  1. Whisk together flour and salt.
  2. Grate cold butter (with cheese grater) into flour mixture. Mix butter and flour together with hands or a fork. Stir in egg. Stir in water. Continue stirring until shaggy dough forms. You may need to add additional water if the dough won’t come together.
  3. Break dough into 8 pieces. Create small balls of dough and place balls in fridge while you are making the filling.*
  4. Roll the dough balls out into small thin circles.
  5. Place meat mixture in center of dough circles. Fold dough over meat filling and close up edges by using tines of a fork.
  6. Brush the tops with egg wash for a nice golden top. Cook at 375 for 18-24 minutes depending on the size of your empanadas.
  7. Serve with slices of avocado and your favorite salsa.

*I sautéed ground meat with one can of green chilis. I added a spice mix and salt to taste. Any type of filling would work inside these hand pies. See what’s in your pantry for inspiration.

Shioyaki Wild-Caught Alaska Salmon – It couldn’t be Easier, Even if You aren’t an Experienced Cook

Sea salt, olive oil and heat are the only ingredients you need to turn out great salmon every time. Particularly if you’re just getting into cooking and you try this recipe, we’d love to hear from you with any comments or questions and of course a report on how your salmon came out!

Over the years, one question has repeatedly come our way: “I really don’t do much cooking, but I’d like to be able to make salmon. Is there an easy recipe you know of?”

Not only is the answer to this question a resounding “Yes,” the recipe happens to be our favorite. I learned about shioyaki (salting and cooking) when I lived in Japan where shioyaki can refer either to charcoal grilled fish or, more commonly in home kitchens, broiling.

In addition to being the definition of simplicity, the genius of this recipe is that, unlike more elaborate recipes, the salt brings out rather than masks the flavor of the fish. This is exactly what you want when dealing with a fresh, wild-caught salmon. On the other hand, because the flavors are simple, the finished dish is easily enhanced with toppings. Try it with raspberry chipotle sauce (easily made at home) or with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce. Here’s how it’s done.

Ingredients & Preparation

  • You’ll need a broiling sheet. A standard cookie sheet works fine, but a heavier sheet is even better.
  • Salmon fillets – any species of wild-caught salmon
  • A favorite kosher salt or sea salt. We’ve found coarse Grey Sea Salt to work especially well.
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Place oven rack in center or one position below center. (This is the one “trick” you might need to experiment with. Ovens vary. So don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t work out as you expected. Adjust the rack position and go for it again! Once you have this dialed in, the rest is a snap.)
  2. Place the broiling sheet in the oven and preheat on Broil. (10 minutes is generally the right amount of time.)
  3. Meanwhile, rinse salmon fillet(s) in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and place skin side down on cutting board.
  4. Sprinkle salt on fillet.
  5. Put a little olive oil on the hot broiling sheet – enough to cover the area where you’ll place the fillet.
  6. Place salmon fillet skin side down on prepared sheet and place in oven. It should vigorously sizzle when it touches the sheet. If it doesn’t, simply place the sheet back in the oven and continue preheating.
  7. Cooking time will vary depending on fillet thickness. 8 to 10 minutes is usually about right. An oil-like liquid will begin to emerge from the top of the fillet when it is done. Again, if your first attempt produces an undercooked or overcooked fillet, make a note, stick it on your fridge, and adjust the cooking time. If the fillet comes out overly dry on top or burnt, you probably need to lower the rack. Keep simple notes till you get it dialed in.

Fillets prepared this way are superb served on rice, on pasta, served along with tartar sauce or avocado spread as a sandwich or broken into pieces to top a superb Alaska-style pizza. Going for an added touch with a glass of wine? It’s tough to beat a lightly chilled Chardonnay.

See also:

Alaska Silver Salmon Pizza

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce Recipe

Broiled Salmon Spine: Getting the Most out of Every Salmon

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime Alaska: Who Needs Asparagus? Poached Eggs on Sautéed Fireweed Shoots

Poached egg yolk mixes with garlic-infused yogurt to make a sumptuously tangy dressing for sautéed fireweed.

When we first moved to Alaska, a friend suggested we swing by the Fireweed Festival in Trapper Creek. I’d already fallen for fireweed the previous summer during our initial visit to this great state. The love was based on this beautiful flowering plant’s visual appeal as it blanketed summertime hillsides in stunning fuchsia. Any festival evoking those images had to be good, so there was no way we’d pass up a festival in fireweed’s honor! In addition to local crafts and great live music, there was a food stall dedicated to teaching the culinary uses of this ubiquitous plant. I walked away from the stall with a new book on harvesting Alaska’s wild plants and new ideas of how to use fireweed in our kitchen. One thing that stuck with me from talking with the people at the festival is that new fireweed shoots can be used just like asparagus in any recipe. True? Absolutely! 

My internet news feed is made up mostly of recipe posts from blogs I follow. I have to tell you it is a much more gentle and uplifting type of reading than the mainstream media feed offers. Jack and I had planned to grill bacon-wrapped fireweed exactly as one would asparagus to continue testing whether all asparagus recipes work with fireweed shoots. But before we could get to that experiment, a recipe for asparagus with yogurt dressing popped up on my news feed. I immediately envisioned a recipe makeover, and with everything I needed available in my ever-shrinking, pre-move pantry, I got to work.

This dish is quick to make. I recommend preparing the yogurt dressing ahead of time to ensure that the garlic becomes infused. We served this dish as the salad course of our dinner, but it would work wonderfully as part of a light lunch or as a side dish for brunch. Make sure you have crusty pieces of sourdough bread available to sop up the extra dressing. It tastes too good to waste!

Now is the time to get out and harvest these young fireweed shoots. I like them best when they are about six inches tall and still mostly purple. The ones with an agreeable snap (just like a nice skinny asparagus stalk) when harvested (near the ground) taste best. The fireweed near our lake is now fully green and too old to harvest. A hike to higher elevations should still provide fresh young shoots to pick.

Poached Eggs on Sautéed Fireweed Shoots for Two

(recipe can easily be doubled or tripled)

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slice and toast them, or buy them sliced and toast them
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (strained or Greek-style if you can find it)
  • 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fireweed shoots

Directions

  1. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, paprika, garlic and salt. Place in covered container in fridge. Can be made a day to a couple of hours ahead of time.
  2. Place olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
  3. In a separate saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a simmer. Add vinegar. Gently crack eggs into hot water being careful not to break the yolk. Cook until whites appear to be cooked through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Sauté fireweed in pan while eggs are poaching.
  5. Place fireweed on serving dish. Place poached eggs on fireweed. Drizzle with yogurt dressing. Top with toasted almonds.
  6. Serve immediately with crusty toasted sourdough bread.

Recipe inspired from The Smitten Kitchen.

Whew! Just made it! Lite Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Chewy, chocolatey, small and delicious. What’s not to love?

This lifestyle of picking up shallow roots and moving every few years is not for everyone. It normally suits us. We love digging deep into an interesting place, enjoying what it has to offer, and then heading off to experience a new place. This particular move is the strangest one Jack and I have experienced in our life together. Previous moves have been predicated on well thought-out decisions backed by lots of research. A move toward a new adventure – Alaska – Mongolia – is always exciting to us. A move to a place with a new culture or new food, new fishing and new photography opportunities has always been welcome. Newhalen, where we soon will be living, has a lot to offer, but the cloud of having to leave Chignik Lake has put a giant damper on our excitement. We keep reminding ourselves that Newhalen is a terrific place, complete with salmon runs, hiking in nearly pristine landscapes and the many things we love about living in the Alaska Bush. In our new home, we will get to have our lovely little fishing boat, Gillie, with us. We’ve never lived somewhere where we can launch her and have miles and miles of rivers and lakes to explore right outside our door. That in and of itself should be very appealing, right?

Gillie is one salmon-catching boat. She sleeps the two of us comfortably in her cuddy cabin. There’s even a little dining table in the cabin. Equipped with a Coleman stove, she’ll be the perfect vessel for exploring the lakes and rivers of our new home.

But this time, there’s this whole leaving business that is really a drag. We’ve both loved living in Chignik Lake. It’s been a wonderful place to settle in to. We’ve loved only having to share the scenery, the wildlife and the fishing with the few people who call The Lake home. And I’ve enjoyed working in a building that’s well kept and working with a group of students that are second to none. The students and their families here made this the most fun and the easiest teaching job I’ve ever had. We hadn’t intended on leaving yet. So, the excitement of the move and the new destination has a bit of a pall over it.

Well, nonetheless, onward and upward.

One aspect of moving I get a strange pleasure from is the challenge of using up of all of our pantry items by the move date. This batch of cookies was especially satisfying as the recipe, to the tablespoon, helped me finish off several ingredients that I had just a bit of. The purpose of this recipe was to create cookies that could be used to make ice cream sandwiches with the bag of frozen bananas I still have in the freezer. They are perfect! They are small and have just the right texture for this frozen confection. We’ve found that dolloping the banana ice cream atop the open-faced cookies seems to work best. I also think these cookies taste fantastic straight out of the freezer. The idea to keep them in the freezer so they are out of sight didn’t quite work to keep them out of mind. They turned out too good! A taste of a few of these, and the “moving cloud” dissipates a little. 🙂

To keep them “lite” on calories, the ingredients were thought out, but so were the size. I made the cookies small – about two teaspoonfuls of dough. This way two cookies, with the banana ice cream, is a satisfying dessert. (According to an online calorie calculator, these weighed in at just 45 calories per cookie.) Feel free to adjust the size to your liking. I also thought adding a splash of peppermint extract would be delicious – a la “Thin Mint” Girl Scout cookies. (I loved those straight out of the freezer!) Alas, my pantry no longer has this ingredient.

Lite Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • generous pinch salt
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil, I used canola
  • 2 tbsp milk, I used nonfat
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in oil, milk, yogurt and vanilla.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Divide dough into 32 pieces. I formed a long skinny log and chopped it into pieces.
  6. Roll pieces into balls.
  7. Evenly space out 24 balls (4 x 6) on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. If your dough balls are bigger, bake fewer at a time to allow for expansion.
  8. Bake for 9 minutes. They will look slightly underdone.
  9. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from baking sheet.
  10. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
  11. Store cookies in the freezer in zip-top bags to ensure freshness. Enjoy straight out of the freezer.