Well, the rain has worked its’ magic and the streams are flowing and the frogs are croaking and most of all, the Chanterelles will be up soon!
I have been lucky enough in the past to find these delectable, orange fungi in decent amounts growing in our local Santa Barbara hills. They grow under our native oak trees, Quercus agrifolia, our Coast Live Oaks, which grow on the north side of mountain slopes, although you can now and then find a renegade grove of trees that break this rule. Mushrooms like it shady and damp so if you are on the south slope of a mountain, look in the shady, wet ravines. The season is short, so timing is everything when it comes to mushroom hunting.
Chanterelles don’t make it easy for you to find them. They hide amidst the poison oak that frequently grows under the oaks, So you must wear gloves and long pants. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon a group of them under an oak free of poison oak, they will only show you a faint circular outline of their presence under the oak duff. This is because they are trumpet shaped, so the dead oak leaves fill up the center of the mushroom body. So spotting them is hard! You have to have your ‘mushroom eyes’ on, a term that speaks to a state of mind that is extremely focused on the environment you are searching in. It takes a while to establish this awareness, but once you have achieved it, the rewards can be wonderful. And this awareness includes knowing the difference between a Chanterelle and other unwholesome mushrooms that may be lurking about. Make sure you know the difference!
Needless to say, because of the difficulty in finding these illusive delectables, when you ask a seasoned mushroom hunter where he or she found their amazing cache of Chanterelles, they look at you like you are speaking a foreign language and quickly walk away. No one reveals their hunting grounds. This is not only because they are hard to find, but because these delicious creatures cost upwards to $25.00 per pound at the market. I know. YIKES!
But there is good news! Costco begins carrying them in their veggie cold room in February, as well as other specialty stores. They are from parts north but still wonderful. And the ones from Costco are reasonably priced. For those folks who don’t have the time or inclination to wander the hills rubbing up against poison oak and going blind trying to spot them, this is a godsend.
When the markets begin carrying them, we Gourmet Girls go to work thinking of ways in which to cook them; perhaps rolled with gruyere and green onions in a french omelet (one of my favorites), or in our ‘Harvest Grains with Hazelnuts’ or ‘Mascarpone Polenta with Wild Mushrooms’.
Both of these recipes can be found in our book ‘The Gourmet Girls Go Camping Cookbook’ in the ‘Savory Sides: Groovy Grains’ chapter. But we are going to include one of these recipes here in honor of Valentines Day and all of you lovers around the world; be it love between a man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, love for your pet, or love of family. Whats important is to keep on loving! And sharing food together is an act of love. So keep the faith and bon Appetit!
Gail, Denise and Lindsey
The Gourmet Girls on Fire!
SAVORY SIDES: GROOVY GRAINS
Harvest Grains with Hazelnuts
Trader Joe’s carries this wonderful product called Harvest Grains Blend. It is made up of Israeli
couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. Executive chef Denise tried it alone and found
it a bit lacking in flavor, so she came up with the following recipe to make it worthy of the Gourmet
Girls at Large!
1/2 package Harvest Grains (available at Trader Joe’s)
13/4 cups water or chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter, separated
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 leek, chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup shelled hazelnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook harvest grains according to the instructions on the package. Set aside and keep warm.
In a medium pan, sauté chopped leeks, garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil and
butter over medium-low heat until softened.
Add all sautéed ingredients along with parsley and hazelnuts to harvest grains. Stir well to