fall foraging & chanterelle toasts

i can't claim to be an experienced forager. in fact, i'm a true novice. for years i've wanted to forage for mushrooms, but didn't know anyone who could lead me out in the woods... until recently! without even knowing that my friend becca had a secrete chanterelle spot, she offered to take me with her this week. how could i pass that up!? it's not too often people let these secretes out so willingly. i hopped in her car one early morning, picked up her friend, emily, along the way and headed about an hour outside of seattle and into the woods. i toted my camera along to take some early morning foggy mushroom photos. unfortunately i was so giddy to go that morning, i had forgotten my camera's memory card at home. so you'll just have to imagine the beauty of this foggy forest and the variety of colorful mushrooms we stumbled over. 

after the gals show me a few examples of true chanterelles and poisonous false chanterelles, i'm let loose to forage on my own. emily tells me that i have to think like a chanterelle to find them. they like to hide, but their vibrant color gives them away. we tread lightly through the pine needle-covered forest floor, watching our every step, and pausing to turn around and look back because so often you can only see them from one particular direction. it was a hugely successful hunt. we gather 6 or 7 pounds, with the bulk coming from the two experienced foragers. but my take home haul was still impressive! 

that afternoon, i invited my chef friend liz from eat seattle over and we spent the afternoon cleaning and cooking them, spooning them over toasts, sipping on white wine and chatting about food photography. it was a splendid day! the toasts turned out so incredible, i remade them the next night for a dinner party. we sat down with our toasty appetizer but our guests weren't certain they knew what chanterelles looked like raw. i made a move to get up and snag the leftover shrooms from the fridge, but david halted me and said "use your arm"... our guests gave me a look of confusion, expecting some kind of charade game, but what david really meant was for me to show them my chanterelle tattoo. oh right! that! i've got a sleeve of botanical vegetables, with one lone fungi thrown into the mix. although, according to this personality quiz from the shroom cookbook, i identify more with the king trumpet mushroom. perhaps i need more fungi tattoos... 

chanterelle toasts ~ serves 4-6
2 cups thinly sliced chanterelles 
1-2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 glug - a big splash - white wine
olive oil
salt, pepper or chili flakes 
crusty bread

optional additions:
sorrel, arugula or micro greens
soft goat cheese 
lemon zest 
aleppo chili flakes

use a brush to gently clean dirt or pine needles from mushrooms, then thinly slice into roughly equally sized pieces. crush garlic and de-stem thyme. preheat cast iron or non stick skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms along with at least a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. cook until mushrooms are just nearly cooked through. then turn the heat up to medium-high and add garlic, thyme, black pepper or chili flakes and white wine. cook until white wine has evaporated off completely.

drizzle olive oil lightly over one side of sliced bread. broil until browned on just one side. remove from oven and rub toasted side with 1/2 clove garlic. salt and pepper then top with mushrooms and other optional toppings! serve with a little extra olive oil drizzled over each toast. 

moroccan chickpea & delicata squash salad

yesterday was officially the first day of fall and my leisurely summer schedule abruptly collided with a somewhat hectic start to the new season. maybe it's not even all too hectic, but my ability to prioritize and my tolerance to stress seems to have slacked off over the summer. david finally went back to teaching this past week (after an eventful seattle public school teachers strike!) and even though i'm not the one going back to school, the change in season feels like a push to get my butt back into gear... nudging me to settle back into a consistent weekly routine, kick up a bit more work for myself, and accomplish the to-do list of things i had been ignoring all summer. 

yesterday, after my yoga practice and a new apprenticeship program i started last week with my yoga mentor, i spent an hour sipping a soy latte at the new little oddfellows cafe inside the elliot bay bookstore, flipping through cookbooks and taking notes. sometimes i'll look for a specific recipe, but usually i'll just jot down notes filled with inspirational flavor combinations. i tend to get sucked into the corner of the store with the mediterranean cookbooks... surprise, surprise. i came home inspired to make something using the fall squash but with a moroccan flare. i conjured up something hearty, nourishing, and full of flavor! 

moroccan marinated chickpeas & squash ~ serves 3-4
1 medium delicata squash
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 15oz can)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely sliced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
cayenne pepper, allepo or harissa chili, to taste
salt to taste (i used about 1/2 teaspoon) 

preheat oven to 400-degrees. slice delicata squash lengthwise and remove seeds and stingy flesh. cut into half-inch thick crescents and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. spread squash out onto a baking sheet, seasoning with salt and harissa or aleppo chili flakes. roast for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through to brown both sides of the squash. let cool while preparing the marinated chickpeas. 

whisk together red wine vinegar, orange juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and a good amount of harissa (aleppo or cayenne pepper works great too!) strain and wash chickpeas and toss with vinaigrette. add finely diced red onion, herbs and golden raisins. once the squash has cooled, cut into smaller cubes and gently fold into the salad. let marinade for at least an hour or overnight! initially, there will be a lot of excess marinade - but this will get absorbed given enough time! if you don't want the mint to blacken, reserve to mix in before serving! serve over semolina cous cous or grain free cauliflower "cous cous" or mixed salad greens! 

sweet summer corn chowder

this season, david and i made several drives north across the border to climb in squamish, british columbia. although david has been visiting squamish for years, this has been my first season and already we've been up on four different occasions! with each visit the forest landscape and boulders become more and more familiar. we've established our favorite free camping spot along stawamus river and settled into little routines to make our camp life comfortable and efficient... this routine usually involves a whole lot of prep cooking on my part before we leave so that we have some nourishing foods to whip up on our camp stove instead of eating out in town for every meal. on our most recent trip, i packed a big batch of homemade corn chowder in our cooler that truly hit the spot after long days of climbing. nourishing, hearty and sufficiently warming on the cool late-august evenings. i loved this chowder creation so much that i remade it for my private clients the following week and a second batch to bring camping with us tomorrow in leavenworth! 

this vegan chowder gets it's creaminess from a touch of coconut cream... i promise it won't taste like coconut corn soup ... although that wouldn't be unpleasant at all. it's thickened by simmering the corn cobs in the broth to release the starches from the cobs. a portion of the soup is then briefly pureed to create a perfectly hearty and creamy texture. it might sound labor intensive, but it takes less than an hour to make a big batch of soup to last you for days! it also freezes exceptionally well! 

vegan corn chowder ~ serves 6+
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, diced or crushed
4 medium carrots
4 sticks celery 
3 small yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound) 
6 ears sweet corn, or 3 cups frozen sweet corn 
3-4 cups stock of choice, or water
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
5.4oz can coconut cream 
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bunch chives, to garnish 

dice or crush garlic and set to side. shuck corn, turn them on their sides and use a long wide knife to trim off the kernels. reserve 2 corn cobs for stock, kernels removed. thinly slice celery and dice onion, carrots and potatoes into small cubes the size of large peas. besides the carrots & celery, keep ingredients separate as they all have different cook times. 

once your veggies are prepped, heat olive oil in a large soup pot. saute onions over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. add celery, carrots, garlic, black pepper, thyme and salt to the pot. cover and let sweat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. then add potatoes, corn kernels and just enough stock or water to partially submerge veggies. nuzzle the corn cobs under the veggies so they are fully submerged. bring soup to a simmer, covered, and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender but all the vegetables still hold their shape. do not overcook. 

remove the cobs and ladle 2 heaping cups of soup into a blender, along with the coconut cream and lemon juice. blend until smooth. return the portion back to the pot, stirring to combine. adjust thickness if needed by adding a bit more water or stock. serve each portion with a teaspoon of chopped chives.

silent meals in the alaskan wilderness

photo by candace faber

i have so many stories, images and recipes i want to share with you all from this past month. every time i sat down to write a blog post though, it felt too overwhelming. i can't possibly retell every story from my time in alaska, or share every image here. so a few memorable moments and one particular recipe will have to suffice. 

to me, meals should be a social experience - opportunities for conversations to flow freely, for friends or family to laugh and share stories. even if the food is incredible, i always judge the success of a diner party based on the conversation. so i was a bit nervous heading off to cook for a kayaking and meditation retreat where the majority of the meals would be in silence. on the first night of the retreat, we couldn't stop chatting. ten strangers, all wanting to know about each other and the reasons we had decided to join this particular retreat for young "change makers." we grilled some incredible local sockeye salmon and shared a few bottles of wine and settled into familiar, social conversations while we enjoyed our first meal together. but after the conversation ended, we settled into a noble silence that carried through to the morning rituals all the way to the end of breakfast. 

that first morning together, i served homemade olive oil & maple granola. a few guests had foraged an incredible amount of wild elderberries and blueberries the night before that i turned into a simple berry compote to serve along with the granola and plain yogurt. it was a simple, yet special breakfast. i was anxious to see how our interactions would be during silent meals. i assumed it would be sort of boring and dull. but that morning, one of the guests caught my eye as she was filling up her breakfast bowl and gave me a heartfelt smile that needed no verbal translation. it was a smile so filled with gratitude, that it flooded me with joy. as time went on and the group grew closer, and comfortable and goofy around each other, there were many more silent smiles and many less-than-silent moans of delight "mmmmm." there were even some non-silent meals in which the food itself simply left the group speechless and fully absorbed by the flavors of the meal. those were my most proud moments. 

olive oil & maple granola ~ makes about 5 cups 
adapted from whole grain mornings

3 cups thick rolled oat or rye flakes (gluten free if sensitive)
1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
1/2 cup raw hulled sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped, dry roasted almonds - or other nut/seed
1-2 cups chopped dried fruit like raisins, dates or apricots *optional

preheat oven to 300 degrees. mix oats, kasha, sesame seeds, salt and spices together in a big bowl. add wet ingredients and stir to coat. spread mixture out in a thin layer on one large or two smaller baking sheets lined with parchment paper. bake for 30 minutes or so, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until oats are lightly golden in color. let cool completely and then add any toasted nuts or dried fruits you prefer. store in airtight container for up to 3-4 weeks.

serve with plain yogurt, or homemade almond milk, topped with fresh fruit or a homemade berry compote!

in addition to foraged berries, we also enjoyed some ginormous edible "chicken of the woods" mushrooms, tons of foraged seaweed (my paddle partner happened to be a seaweed foraging expert!), freshly caught sockeye salmon and tons of dungeness crab from the last catch of the season. i was thrilled to have so many foraged ingredients to work with, especially when i failed to put the giant dry bag of fresh produce into a kayak for a two-night camping trip. whoops. we had to discuss as a group whether or not we had enough food to stay the full two nights. i expressed my concern for letting all the produce go to waste sitting in that dry bag on the porch of the retreat house. but kurt, our leader, told us he was more concerned about wasting the opportunity to stay an extra night in such an incredible, wild place... after that brilliant comment, we were in full agreement to stay. our group persevered with our giant bucket of cooked crab, rice, oats, lentils, beans, candied smoked salmon and foraged wild edibles collected from the remote little island where we camped. it's true what they say... you'd have to be an idiot to starve on the pacific coast.

i want to tell you more about the time my chef knife unknowingly took a tumble into the ocean and spent 24 hours before my paddle partner pulled it from the silty sands of low tide like king arthur. about splashing our xtratuf boots in the phosphorescent waters under the milky way and shooting stars. and about the wonderful conversations i had with some of the most brilliant minds of my generation. but the depth of memories is endless. i'll let some of these lingering stories come to the surface in my future posts. i'll simply end this post with an image of sunset, taken from the beach of castle islands in duncan canal, where we spent two nights camped out in the alaskan coastal wilderness. 

photo by candace faber

chilled cucumber & watercress soup

there is rarely a moment in my day when i'm not listening to music. if i'm cooking, there is certainly music. sometimes it's just in the background, while i chat with my partner or dinner guests. if i'm alone cooking for myself or a client, the music is loud - cooking like it's a dance. moving through familiar motions, in a certain rhythm. i pour time into building the perfect playlists for my yoga classes. i play my drums for hours each week with my band. i wake up and wind down with music.

a year ago i began attending mysore practice - a self guided ashtanga yoga practice - where the only sound in the room is breath and the occasional conversation between the instructor and individual students. whether music was a distraction or a comfort in my yoga practice before, i'm not sure, but it felt like something was missing. i remember realizing for the first time that one of my sports bras had a little clasp that squeaked. a tiny sound that had been buried by yoga music before. practicing in silence, i couldn't stand to wear the sports bra ever again. despite the lack of music, i continued exploring the mysore practice and eventually silence just became the norm. i think i'm even appreciative of the silence, as it's still a rare part of my day.

i went to bed last night with my ears still ringing from my band's show at the tractor tavern. a reminder that i need to check "buy ear plugs" off my to-do list. i woke up groggy, but pulled myself out of bed to teach an early morning class at ritual house. another class with music. but tonight, for the first time, i have an opportunity to teach an ashtanga class, where traditionally there is no music. without music, the sound of my voice just feels so exposed. the room feels empty. but i'm excited for the challenge and eager to share my experience and love for the ashtanga series with new students.

scroll down to the end of this post for a playlist i created of songs that i could happily listen to on repeat right now. but first whiz up this simple cucumber & watercress soup, and in the time it takes you to listen through the playlist, your soup will be adequately chilled and ready to serve! it's the perfect light snack or first course to a summery meal!

chilled cucumber & watercress soup ~ serves 4+

2 lbs cucumber, peeled
4 big handfuls of watercress, washed
1-2 small cloves garlic
1 cup greek or icelandic plain unsweetened yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoons fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 large pinches sea salt
olive oil for garnish

notes: watercress is dense in nutrients, bitter and peppery - sort of like arugula, but even more similar to the less familiar flavor of radish sprouts. the cucumber subtly sweetens the soup, and the yogurt makes it smooth and creamy. but if you're looking for a dairy-free version, try substituting a full rice avocado for the yogurt. equally as satisfying! 

peel cucumbers and cut into 2-inch chunks, or smaller if you don't have a high speed blender with a tamper tool. combine all ingredients in blender, reserving several sprigs of watercress for garnish. puree until smooth. adjust lemon juice, salt and garlic to taste. chill for at least an 1 hour, or overnight. to serve, ladle bowls with a cup of chilled soup, top with reserved watercress tendrils and a thin drizzle of olive oil. i had some leftover edible flowers from nash's farm that provided another layer of peppery flavor and vibrant color!

 play here