Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Published in the INDY Weekly "Foraging for Wild Edible Mushrooms in North Carolina"

Please read and circulate my first article in Durham's INDY Weekly. It includes additions to the Pittsboro piece earlier posted, plus its in Durham, NC's highly regarded newspaper.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Recipe for Laughter and Killer March Madness Food (NYTimes)

The New York Times is a requirement for Sundays in the Inserra house. Its like coffee every day of the week; if its not present anxiety ensues, voices are raised and the iPhone or Android app to locate the nearest Starbucks is employed. Phone calls are made with clear agitation and shaky withdrawal symptoms apparent; even over the phone.

This morning Dad arrived back home after taking a drive in the cold nasty rain.
"Do you have the New York Times?" Mom shouted across the house.
"No. Harris Teeters {a local grocery chain} said they didn't deliver it this morning."
"Did you check Starbucks?"
"No. If they didn't deliver it to Harr----"
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. You knowwwww you have to check the Starbucks. They always have it. And if they don't" she turned to me. "We go to the airport" Becuase airlifts of newspapers are clearly vital to the swarms of Northerners down here in North Carolina. Mom then proceeded to call up all the Starbucks within a 10-15 mile radius. The first two were sold out of the paper.

"No!? You don't have it? That is unacceptable. Can I have the number of the Starbucks on Old Chapel Hill Rd.?" Mom looked at me again, since Lish and I are new to the neighborhood she bequeathed her go-to NYTimes secret location. I am sure this was purely self-interest in the event Dad was away and I needed to pick up the paper in his place.

"You have one! Great! Will you save me a copy? My name is Marie. Put my name on it. My husband will be there to pick it up in 5 miniutes."

Crisis averted.

There are lots of informative articles to read. I go straight for the culinary themed pieces. Today there was culinary gold. Sam Sifton replaced Frank Bruni as the food writer/reviewer for the New York Times. He brought fun back to food writing. The Times has not had a food writer with this much style, wordsmithing ability and gusto since Ruth Reichl. The article is from the NYTimes Sunday Magazine and would be easy to miss online, since thats where most of us read it these days.

This article is hilarious. It also contains a recipe that will work for the March Madness fans. Its perfect sports food that requires a beer in hand and many paper towels to be used for cleaning the food madness off your face.

UNC today at 4:55pm EST. Go Tar Heels!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Recipe for Environmental Improvement & Regeneration using Fungi

This video is entitled 'Paul Stamets on 6 ways Mushrooms can Save the World.'

If you had not noticed already I have become a bit obsessed with mushrooms lately. The more I read about the funghi and whats underneath, the mycelium, the more fascinated I become. The world of mycology (the study of mushrooms/fungus) is widely misundersttod. What do you think of when you hear the word 'mushroom'? Maybe the magic kind? Maybe that they can poison and possibly kill you? Or maybe you just think about those bland button mushrooms that are in the grocery. This video and the speakers book "Mycelium Running" are revolutionary. They convey the importance of fungi and the mycelial mats underneath to the natural world. The video is 17 minutes long. One of the most impressive parts is the sequence on oil and petroleum cleanup. Make sure you at least see that part. Prepare to be amazed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mushroom & Sherry Soup

They are known to form primordial bodies overnight. They can heal or be fatal. Some conjure dark magic. Some just taste delicious. Mushrooms are one of the culinary world’s most intriguing foodstuffs. Mushrooms are amazing. At least I think so. My devotion to them began after reading ‘Japanese Foods that Heal’ which lead to a Maitake/Hen-of-the-Woods pasta that is on this blog. They have been used for centuries as remedies and there are still many new discoveries being made. The most beneficial and newest research on fungi is focusing on cancer and HIV/AIDS medicines.
Armed with this devotion, I began searching out local mycophiles (mushroom foragers/experts). I found a NAMA certified group in Asheville, N.C. which is a few hours away. Charlotte Caplan was a great resource but was not as local as I needed. She pointed me in the direction of Robert Sprenger. He has been hunting around the triangle area for a few years but originally hails from Rochester, NY. He is a font of information when it comes to mushrooms. He began the Chatham Mushroom Club which leads family friendly foraging expeditions in Chatham County. Alycia, my Dad and I headed out to Pittsboro to meet the man and hunt some wild edible mushrooms. Solidly built and a bearded man of nature he is one of the most generous people I have met down here since our move. Generousity to strangers is a phenomenon that always surprises New Yorkers. He told us about the rich variety of premium wild fungi in the area; Maitake, Oyster, Puffballs, Lions Mane and Chicken of the Woods. He showed us his most highly regarded mushroom field guides and reference books. “Mycelium Running is the most important book on fungi. Stamets is a maverick and all his supposedly outlandish claims on mushrooms have proven to be true.” The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms was his other most trusted field guide for identification. Its lightweight, has a sturdy cover and fits in a pocket. WARNING: if you do go out hunting mushrooms, pair yourself up with an expert and seasoned forager. Check out the NAMA website for clubs in your area.
Sprenger is also test developing inoculation techniques for farmers to use. He inoculates logs with mycelium and has a small growing operation in his backyard. The goal is for farmers to have one extra crop to sell at a very low cost. He keeps the operation extremely low energy, basically off the grid which gives farmers another advantage. So far he is testing out maitake, shitake, oysters and a few other species. He gave me 4 logs (2 Oysters & 2 Shitake) to take home and try out. There is definitely a demand for mushrooms in this area and everywhere else there are talented chefs and their devotees.

So the recipe…since Careme, Escoffier and maybe before, Sherry has been the ultimate pairing for mushrooms. It is just one of those perfect marriages like butter and popcorn. This soup is simple. While the mushrooms in the recipe were wild, the recipe does not require that. If you do head out to forage after a frost, the mushrooms can be a bit dried out, a rinse with water perks them right back up. Like with all soups, a good long simmer really draws out the flavors. I used organic chicken broth. I love this brand because of how rich the color, flavor and texture are. I first tried out this recipe with Marsala wine; not as good. Then I picked up Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry. It’s a sweeter sherry and adds another flavor component to the soup. We also picked fresh baby scallions as seen in the photo below and used them as a garnish. They were growing a few yards apart from the Oyster mushrooms. What grows together goes together.
My favorite wine pairing with mushrooms and mushroom dishes is a Falanghina or a Fiano de Avellino; they simply don’t let the mushroom fade away.


1 ½ quarts Chx Broth (preferably Imagine Organic)
¼ cup of Harvey’s Cream Sherry
½ medium sized Onion
5 Sage leaves
1 lbs./16oz. Mushrooms
Salt & Pepper
Baby Scallions, Chives or Parsley for garnish

1. Pour chx broth into the same pot you boil pasta in. Let come to a boil.
2. Add mushrooms (we used oyster since that’s what we found. Portobello’s will work. I would not make the whole soup out of Button Mushrooms. Their flavor is mild so mix and match a few different mushrooms; Portobello, button, shitake, maitake,) etc. Destem if necessary. Add the onion, half the sherry, sage leaves some salt and pepper and let simmer for 25 minutes.
3. Add a bit more salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes at least.
4. Let the mixture cool. Puree in a blender.BE CAREFUL. Its hot liquid (if you didn’t let it cool enough) so have a dish towel ready. Puree in batches. Do not fill up the blender more than half way. Once half the blender is full, place the top on and a dish towel over that. Blend and puree. If there is a vent on the cap of the glass/plastic blender, have it open and have the dish towel over that. A blender works so much better than a food processor for soups. The soup will have a much smoother consistency from a blender. If you are feeling fancy strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve.
5. There is no cream or butter in this recipe. I found you don’t need it. By all means add it if you like. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the chives, parsley or scallions.
**The pictured soup was not pureed w/ a blender (it was temporarily out of service)

Simply Sauteed Mushrooms

So this really does not count as a recipe but it does show off another excellent way to eat mushrooms; simply. The picture also shows the perfect color of sautéed mushrooms; lightly browned and crispy with a sprinkling of salt. Butter…anything with butter on it is usually delicious. At FCI if enough flavor was not coaxed out of a soup (usually do to time constraints), a stick of butter was dropped in. The French have always employed this sacred maneuver. I call this technique ‘The French Fix.’ The oil is added to ensure that the butter does not brown too quickly.

½ Tablespoon of Butter
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
4-5ozs Mushrooms

1. If you have oysters or shitakes don’t slice them. For King Oysters, Buttons, Portabella’s and cremini’s slice thinly.
2. In a sauté pan melt the butter and add the oil to a mid-high heat. Add the mushrooms and coat them evenly. Cook for 5 minutes
3. Add 2 pinches of salt and let them sweat out their water. Cook for another 5 minutes. They should start to brown nicely. Once they are browned on both sides, put on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain up excess oil. Sprinkle some salt, pepper and chives on top.
Use these mushrooms as a topping for a salad, with rotisserie chicken, game meats or just leave them out and watch the grazers devour them. You can also make a quick pan sauce with chopped herbs and white wine or sherry to drizzle on some chicken….