Category Archives: urban foraging

This Must Be the Place

forest_lgI had the pleasure of sitting down recently with Eric Parkinson, of This Must Be the Place, a podcast that seeks to reveal “the unique physical, cultural, and emotional layers of places.”

We talked about foraging in the deep emerald forests of the Pacific Northwest, the tenets of slow food, and the myriad charms of nature in its many guises, among other topics.

Eric is a curious and penetrating interviewer determined to get at the heart of both our individual and collective sense of place. You can listen to our conversation here.

Next Stop, the Big Apple

newyork1The West is now home, but I never pass up a chance to revisit my childhood roots and plug into the electrical current that is New York City. On November 21, at 7 p.m., Slow Food NYC is hosting me for a slide presentation in Brooklyn, at Fitzcarraldo restaurant, and I guarantee a good time for all.

The picture above was snapped a few years ago from the inside of a wild mushroom delivery van as it hustled several hundred pounds of Oregon chanterelles from Newark International Airport to the finest restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can’t research North America’s fast-and-loose wild mushroom trade and not visit the most fabled eateries on the continent, where fungi have been elevated to a place among the top ingredients in a chef’s pantry. I write about my time in New York in a chapter titled “Ingredients as Art,” a phrase borrowed from Sam Sifton’s 4-star review of Del Posto in The New York Times. President Obama happened to be in town to light the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and Occupy Wall Street protesters had just been evicted from Zuccotti Park. As always, electricity was in the air.

If you’re in the New York area and you’re curious about the wild mushroom trail—and the colorful characters who make their living on this itinerant, informal circuit—then come on by, have a beer, and stay for the presentation. I’ll be showing slides and talking about the book.

Wild in the City

Becky Lerner’s foraging education kicked off with a failed, week-long challenge to eat only what she could find around her Portland home. A few days into it, hungry and exhausted, having burned more calories than she’d taken in, Lerner accepted defeat and ordered a Thai dinner. Lucky for us, this was just the beginning and not the end of her foraging career. Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness is her account a wild odyssey amidst the bustle and clamor of the city, in which she would eventually become known as “the neighborhood herbalist,” her office looking “more like an apothecary.” In a series of vignettes that follows the arc of her learning curve, she details the many plant species she would learn to find and cook, along with her growing interest in medicinals and even the divine. “Everywhere we look, we see useful plants,” she writes. “The Earth is full of medicine for the people, and it’s available free of charge.” Lerner and I recently talked about foraging, her new book, and the good qualities of Oregon grape.

FOTL: There’s an element of Portlandia that runs through the book: we meet all kinds of eccentric characters—slackers, artists, seekers, people off the beaten path. Is this the new face of foraging, or is there a place at the table for the 9-to-5 office worker from Poughkeepsie?

Becky Lerner: I think foraging is for everybody. The reason my book has such colorful characters is because that’s my world—I myself am kind of a colorful character, and like attracts like. I’ve always been drawn to unusual people, even when I was living in the very 9-to-5 world of suburban New Jersey. But it’s true there is a higher density of eccentricity here in Portland, probably because this is a city that embraces uniqueness. That’s a lot of why I moved here. I felt like I could fully be myself.

FOTL: Does it seem weird that foraging has an “alternative” vibe?

Lerner: It may be that people who are into alternative ways of relating to the world are more likely to try something adventurous and unusual, but certainly people of a broad range of ages and interests forage, from conservative country folks in the South to punks in Philly.

FOTL: Of course, foraging used to be mainstream. You write about the extensive foraging skills of native tribes in the Pacific Northwest, reminding readers that 25 percent of the pre-contact population was enslaved, and that the slaves did a lot of the heavy lifting. Do modern-day foragers tend to idealize the past?

Lerner: Foragers have a broad spectrum of beliefs, with maybe the only commonality being a respect for nature and an inclination toward adventure, so I wouldn’t want to generalize. That said, I can tell you certainly I started out romanticizing hunter-gatherers and idealizing the past, and I have encountered some of the Pacific Northwest’s radical ideologues, some of whom would identify themselves as anarcho-primitivists, who seem to do that, too. But then I started researching this book and learned that things are a lot more complicated than they might seem. Anthropologists have concluded that hunter-gatherers do tend to be healthier, happier, and less stressed than we agricultural people, and certainly it seems they have a more balanced and respectful and far less destructive relationship with nature, too. But food acquisition is only one aspect of a society. It doesn’t tell you how it treats women, distributes resources, or resolves conflicts. People are complex and wonderful and imperfect all at once, and our societies reflect that.

FOTL: You say “it’s easy to see why people evolved to be such social creatures.” I’ve had this same light bulb go on during bouts of labor-intensive foraging, yet I routinely field questions or comments from those who I would categorize in the “survivalist” camp. They’re more interested in going it alone and leaving society behind. What do you have to say to these folks?

Lerner: I notice that people tend to have different skills and talents, and that we tend to gravitate toward being in community and helping each other. I know a guy who loves making kayaks. I know someone else whose passion is sewing shoes. And I know another person who is an amazing chef. And I have met enthusiastic fisherwomen. And then there’s me, and I really like being a storyteller, teacher, and healer. And you know, together, we all make a pretty great team. Why not embrace our natural proclivities? It may be less glorifying for the ego, but it’s more fun, less stressful, and more efficient than trying to be a human Swiss army knife.

FOTL: We make preserves from Oregon grape, which my kids love on a classic PB&J, but after reading about your experiences using the root in a tincture, I’m ready to dig some up. Can you tell us a little more about the medicinal properties, the berberine in particular?

Lerner: Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, has many medicinal properties, from stimulating digestive secretions to supporting liver detoxification. It’s also a powerful herbal antibiotic that works against strep throat, staph infections, Giardia, E. Coli, pink eye, and many other common ailments, when taken internally or applied externally.

FOTL: What other medicinals do you recommend for the new initiate?

Lerner: Usnea lichen tincture works exceptionally well for respiratory ailments—I’ve seen it work wonders on people who had symptoms of pneumonia—and bearberry for urinary tract infections, which I have seen work miracles on people and dogs. Other medicinals to consider would be elder and yarrow flower for cold and flu and fever.

FOTL: What’s next for you, in terms of both foraging and writing?

Lerner: Thanks for this question. I really enjoy teaching and speaking, and I’d like to travel around the country to do that. And I definitely see myself writing more books, but I don’t yet have a subject in mind. As of the past year I’ve been on a Reiki journey and exploring more deeply the world of plant spirits, so it could go in that direction. Whatever it is will need to be an adventure! And an unusual one at that.

Lerner will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on May 8, 7 pm, to read from Dandelion Hunter and sign copies. To find out more about Lerner and book events near you, check out her blog, First Ways.

Angel Dust

You hear the same old quote repeated endlessly about fennel pollen, something about the sprinkling of spice from the wings of angels. Let’s just call it angel dust. You remember that stuff from late-night cop movies—a drug that made users goofy and totally out of their heads. Like truffles, saffron, and a handful of other exotic, pricey, and painstakingly harvested goodies, fennel pollen enjoys the same reputation in certain quarters.

I happened on a patch of wild fennel in late July when I was scouting locations for a class on urban foraging, part of a summer course offered by Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle called “The Art of Food.” I was looking for ripening blackberry bushes in the downtown core when I saw these towering thickets of yellow blooms adjacent to a parking lot in the International District. Sure enough, the blooms—some of them several feet high and buzzing with bees—turned out to be wild fennel plants.

Who knows how they got here. They might have been planted on purpose long ago by Italian immigrants who populated my own nearby neighborhood in Rainier Valley, when small agricultural plots still existed within the city limits, a place fondly remembered as Garlic Gulch. Fennel is technically a weed in this country but it’s native to the Mediterranean and has always been a favorite vegetable and spice of Greek, Italian, and other culinary traditions from that region.

I don’t have much experience with fennel pollen. I’ve eaten meats dusted with it in restaurants and that’s about it. In my car I found a pair of scissors and some paper grocery bags (always useful to have nearby) and set to work. Basically I just looked for the best blooms and snipped them at the stem right below the flower head. It didn’t take long to collect two full grocery bags of flowers. These I bunched together with the blooms facing down into the bag, stems tied. For the next several days I allowed the flowers to drop their tiny orange pellets of pollen and occasionally gave the bags a shake to speed the process along, a tip I gleaned from this article.  By the end of the week I had accumulated about three tablespoons of the stuff. That’s not a typo: 3 tbsp! Go crazy, huh.

The thing of it is, though, you don’t need much fennel pollen to jazz up a cut of meat or add an ineffable savoriness to vegetables. For my first try I used a couple teaspoons with pork chops (considered a classic combo in the Old Country) on a bed of sauteed broccoli from the garden. I rolled the fatty end of the chops in the pollen before grilling, then dusted the remnants on the broccoli as it cooked in the pan. One of the chops—the control—was left untreated as a comparison.

I can say that the pollen added an almost sweet dimension to the pork chops with its hint of anise, though in this forager’s opinion it was the broccoli that really shined; somehow that fennel fairy dusting gave the veggies a brightness, an aliveness, that they otherwise would have lacked. The rest of my pollen, all two-plus tablespoons, went into a spice jar, awaiting the next experiment. While I don’t expect to become an angel dust junkie anytime soon, you know what they say about pollen being a gateway drug…

Purslane Salad

The best things in life are free—and easy. Take this weed salad that uses purslane as the featured ingredient. It’s delicious in inverse proportion to the time and skill required to make it. Which is to say it’s really good and really simple.

First, a word about weeds. You’ve heard me extol their virtues before. If you’re still a non-believer that weeds can save the world, I insist you try this recipe. Most Americans are busy pulling purslane (Portulaca oleracea—same family as miner’s lettuce) right now if they’re thinking about it at all—and pulling their hair out, too, because like Himalayan blackberry purslane can never be vanquished. But it can be eaten. 

Here’s what you do. Pick a bunch of purslane, stem it (making sure to keep many of the leaf clusters intact), and toss it with a chopped sweet onion such as a Walla Walla and a large ripe heirloom tomato. That’s it. Season with salt and pepper and allow the tomato juice to form the dressing; squeeze a chunk of tomato into the salad if necessary to get the juices flowing.

You’ll be amazed by the results. Purslane has a crunchy texture and a complex flavor that marries perfectly with the acidic tomato juice and sweetness of the onion. Jon Rowley turned me onto this salad last summer at an oyster fest and we ate it again the other day when I dropped by his house to pilfer a few of the shoots for my own garden. 
That’s right, I’m planting weeds!

Oregon-grape Preserves

The state flower of Oregon looks like holly and grows throughout much of Cascadia. Anyone who spends time in the woods from Northern California up through British Columbia is familiar with its prickly green leaves, bright yellow blooms, and the tart berries that form in clusters in summer. It’s not exactly trail food. Pick a few berries on a hike and you’ll experience a lip-puckering flavor that gives new meaning to the term sour grapes. But tame it with sugar and you’ve got a whole realm of culinary possibilities.

Oregon-grape is not a true grape. Though its dark blue berries hang in grape-like clusters, that’s where the comparison ends. Members of the family Berberidaceae, the various species of Oregon-grape are also known for their medicinal qualities. The two species commonly encountered in the forests of the Pacific Northwest are the tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and low Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa). Some botanists consider them part of the Berberis genus, which includes a variety of species commonly called barberries and which are renowned for containing berberine, a compound with cancer-fighting and anti-depressant properties, among other medicinal benefits.

To make Oregon-grape preserves wear gloves and harvest a good quantity of the berries. I picked five pounds or so from a patch behind my daughter’s pre-K, right in the center of Seattle. Use containers and utensils that won’t stain. Wash the berries and remove any large stems or other leafy debris. Put the berries in a pot and add just enough water so that the berries are barely covered. Boil for 15 minutes until soft, then run through a food-mill in batches. The food-mill should separate the juice and pulp from the skins and seeds.

Now you have a choice: You can further strain the juice from the pulp by using cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, or you can leave the pulp in to make a preserve more aptly called a spread. Next measure your juice. I had a scant 5 cups. In general you’ll want to add an equivalent amount of sugar, give or take depending on your taste. Try mixing in other fruits or berries, too, or even ginger. Bring your juice to a boil and stir in the optional lemon juice and pectin. I used about half of a 1.75 oz package. Next add the sugar, not all at once but slowly, tasting as you go until reaching your preferred balance between tart and sweet. Bring to a boil again, stirring thoroughly, and cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat and immediately ladle into sterilized jars. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

My measurements:

5 cups Oregon-grape juice and pulp
4 1/2 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
1 oz pectin

Yield: 3 1/2 pints

While Oregon-grape preserves look and taste a lot like your standard grape jelly, the flavor is more complex and full-bodied, with a sweetness that will please children and a tart edge suitable to a grown-up palate. I think it makes a terrific PB&J yet a dollop is equally at home on a fancy cheese plate.

The Herding of the Pinks

Every other year at the end of August a bunch of friends get together to fish, laugh, and fish some more. We know each other through that most post-post modern of mediums, the Internet chat group, in this case a fly-fishing forum. Too bad Marshall McLuhan isn’t around to witness and comment on the forging of such connections. If I could pull an Alvy Singer I would.

Our rallying site adds to the post modern twist: the industrial port of Seattle where the Duwamish River empties into Elliott Bay. Yet this isn’t meant to be an ironic sort of fish slumming. As my friend Nope puts it, this is the most democratic of fisheries. Recent immigrants line the riprap, factory workers come out to throw a line during lunch break, and well-heeled anglers in yachts patrol the shipping channels. It’s not a scenic place to wet a fly in the traditional sense—it’s no Montana as portrayed in A River Runs Through It—but it has its own beauty. This is the grittiest of urban foraging, complete with container ships, trash compactors, big-bellied planes taking off and landing at nearby Boeing Field, cranes swiveling overhead, barges blowing their bullhorns, and a silhouette of stilettoed skyscrapers in the distance. Oh, and the place is a Superfund site.

With pontoons, kickboats, even sketchy rubber rafts, we take to the water armed with flyrods and round up our quarry, the pink salmon. Also known as humpies for the pronounced hunchbacks developed by males in the spawning phase, pink salmon have a two-year life cycle and return to local rivers every other year. Not nearly as esteemed as their bretheren the kings, silvers, and sockeyes, their flesh is less deep red and oil-saturated, so commerically they’re mostly used by the canneries. But pinks are good biters, especially on a fly, and their meat smokes up very nicely.

Besides, the pink is a scrappy fish that seems to have taken to the scraps left behind in our devastated world. They’re our fish, and we love them. Most pinks around Puget Sound average three to five pounds; those heading up the Duwamish to spawning grounds on the Green River run a little larger. We caught several in the six to seven pound range, including especially large dime-bright females.

Fishing the beaches during a large run is productive, but once the fish converge at the tidal mouths of their natal streams the action can get silly. This is the time to lean on the oars. Like fly-fishing for trout, you put the fly in the ring of the rise and WHAM! Fish on. At the peak you can have fish after fish slamming your fly—a notion that runs counter to most of what you hear about fly-fishing for salmon—and each one puts a solid bend in a 6-, 7-, or even 8-weight rod, towing a kickboat in circles before it succumbs to the net. We herders find a likely corner away from the barges and tugs to circle our wagons. Pinks run this gauntlet at their own peril, especially if my friend Bubba is tossing a line. Bubba has dialed in the Seattle pink fishery in the last decade like no one else and watching him fish is a lesson in humility. (A crack photographer as well, he contributed a few of the shots that accompany this post and video.)

BTW, if someone tells you the pink isn’t worth keeping for the table, you smile and nod while you stack that limit in your cooler. I catch enough pinks every other year to take care of all my smoked salmon needs, and the brightest ones hit the barbecue the same day.

Smoked Salmon

It’s easy to get worked up about all the possibilities for smoked salmon. You can use 101 different spices, juices, aromatics, etc. But if you catch fish in quantity, as we do during the pink run, you also gain a new understanding of what hunter-gatherer cultures were up against. For the two weeks I actively fished—about half the run—I lost more than a lot of sleep. Fish, work, fish some more, clean and fillet, put the kids to bed, brine the fish, go to bed, wake up and rinse off the brined fish, then fish the morning tide, work, fish until dark, clean and fillet, put the kids to bed, stay up late smoking the first batch and brining the next, haul stinky garbage to curb, try to clean kitchen before wife goes ballistic, sleep a few hours, get up and fish…and so on.

Notice how during that entire two-day cycle I only managed to smoke one batch. With limits of 4 to 6 fish daily (depending on area), we were drowning in salmon. Not that I’m objecting. So the point? Stick to basics. A simple brine of brown sugar, salt, and garlic is really all you need, with a dry brine being easier and less messy than a wet brine.

4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup pickling salt
1 head garlic, cloves peeled & chopped
black pepper to taste

Mix the dry brining ingredients. Generously cover each piece of salmon (I cut pink salmon fillets into thirds), then place skin-up in a non-reactive dish. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours. The brine will have become a soupy mess after water has been leached out of the fish. Gently rinse off each piece and allow to air-dry on paper towels for a couple hours until a pellicle forms—the tacky (not wet) outer layer of flesh that is so loaded with flavor.

For the actual smoking I use a Weber “Bullet,” but it’s possible to employ a regular gas grill in a pinch. A water pan is essential for keeping the fish from drying out. For wood chips I like to use fruit trees: apple, or cherry if I can get it. Alder is good too. If not green, the chips need to be immersed in a bucket of water for 30 minutes, then tossed on the coals in handfuls. Everyone has their own theories about temperature and smoking duration. Hot smoking will always be quicker than cold smoking. Because pink salmon fillets aren’t thick, I usually figure on smoking for about an hour, even with a small amount of coals, maybe an hour and a half at most.

The last step is vacuum-sealing. I’ve kept properly packaged smoked salmon in the deep freeze for two years without any appreciable loss of flavor or tenderness.

Blackberry Must & Citrus Cured Salmon

Another option is cured salmon. While making blackberry wine with my friend Becky [future post], her chef pal Ashlyn turned me on to a use for the leftover must, the mashed up fruit that settles on the bottom of the barrel during the initial fermentation phase. Once you rack the wine for the first time, the must is discarded. But Ashlyn suggested I use it to cure fresh salmon. So I did.

2 lb salmon fillet(s)
3/4 cup pickling salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 each zest of a lemon, lime & orange
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup blackberry must*

* If you happen to have some blackberry must laying around, by all means use it. If not, the rest of the ingredients make an excellent cure on their own.

Mix all ingredients minus the must in a food processor. Next add the must a little at a time, enough to color the cure but not so much as to make it soggy. Spread a thick layer of cure on bottom of non-reactive dish, up to 1/4 inch. Lay salmon, skin side up, on top of cure, then pack remaining cure on top of the salmon. Cover salmon with plastic wrap and weight down with a few pounds (e.g., cans from the cupboard). Flip salmon in 12 hours. Salmon is finished after 24 hours. Rinse and dry.

The cured salmon will be darker, with an attractive, slightly purple hue from the must, plus there will be a smattering of blackberry seeds that give it extra texture. Slice thinly off the top and eat within a week. I had mine on pumpernickel with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives.

And remember to kiss that first pink salmon of the season. They’re the only species of salmon left in the Lower 48 that gives us a hint of what salmon fishing was once like in the not-so-distant past.

Vitamin C-Bomb

Right about this time of year is when the gate-crashing usually starts. My 4-year-old and 8-year-old bring the uninvited guests home from school. First sniffles, then coughs, and finally all-night hacking. The cycle repeats itself through the winter on a seemingly endless loop of crusty noses, balled-up tissue paper, and general grumpiness.

Whoever discovers a cure for the common cold will be richer than Midas, if not richer than the guy who can make hangovers go away, but in the meantime we’ve got vitamin C. It just so happens that rosehips—the red, globular fruit of the rose—have vitamin C in spades. I picked some the other day with food reporter Leslie Kelly, who writes for the Amazon food blog Aldente among other publications. This was urban foraging at its best, with good views of float planes landing on Lake Union and the Space Needle looming overhead. Leslie even filmed a bit of the action.

They say hips are at their best after first frost but I don’t have time to wait until Halloween before visitors scarier than trick-or-treaters start knocking at the door. With about a quart’s worth I made syrup. It’s pretty simple. First grind the hips in a food processor, then cover with water and simmer for 30 or so minutes before running the mush through a food mill and then straining out the pulp. You can save the pulp for other purposes. The strained juice goes back in the pot with sugar—or better yet, honey—to taste, and any other odds and ends such as cloves, cinnamon, or ginger—and voila: a Vitamin C-Bomb that can be mixed into juice or water for the kids—or used for more gustatory purposes in desserts, sauces, jams, or even cocktails.

So next time you’re out and about and you spy some of those bright red vitamin C-bombs, do the hip shake, babe.

Good ‘n’ Plenty (‘n’ FREE)

We’re nearing the peak of blackberry season here in Seattle. The Northwest is justly famous for its blackberries. For whatever reasons having to do with climate and temperament, the non-native Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) thrives in these parts, to the point of being an OBnoxious weed. Really, the only way you can keep it down is by running your own herd of goats. They take over abandoned lots, park margins, unkempt backyards, and just about any other nook and cranny where they can gain a foothold and spread their thorny canes.

But let’s look at the good side. Blackberries are delicious. They effortlessly combine that sought-after one-two punch of pucker and sweet that is the holy grail for many a dessert chef. Discerning palates pay nearly as much for a carton of blackberries in season as the more delicate and finicky raspberry—yet unlike raspberries, blackberries are all over the city, free for the taking.

I’m continually amazed at how under-utilized this resource is. People, we’re famous for our blackberries! Go get some. I usually combine blackberry picking with a swim in Lake Washington. They’re at their sweetest and juiciest just as the region is at its hottest. Driving around the city, I see them pretty much everywhere. It’s not like you have to travel to some distant neighborhood park or outer suburb to find them.

Blackberry Crumble

This is an easy recipe originally written for peaches. Use whatever fruit you want. The baking time seems long, but you want to make sure you get that crispy edge. Oven temps vary, so keep an eye on the topping; when it’s nicely browned it’s done.

4-5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish. Layer bottom evenly with berries.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or knife. Sprinkle over berries.

3. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy on top, about 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

By the way, Himalayan blackberries are available through much of North America, but if you happen to live in the Pacific Northwest, treat yourself to our native species, the trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus). Unlike it’s argumentative cousin, the trailing blackberry doesn’t grow from thick canes or pack such vicious thorns. You’ll find it creeping along the ground in less disturbed areas where the non-native species hasn’t had a chance to out-compete it. The fruit, many berry connoisseurs would say, is even more flavorful than the Himalayan, though it takes more work to gather a meal as they’re not so plentiful.

In any case, blackberries of all species make a perfect summertime dessert on a hot evening. Don’t forget the ice cream.

Spring Lamb with Morel Wine & Herb Sauce

While porcini hunting recently, I had good luck finding some exceptionally large morels in one drainage, with several larger than my hand. I found most of them near the elevation limit of the fruiting porcini, and I suppose if I had kept going up I might have found a bunch more, but my heart was set on porcini, so I picked these as a satisfying bonus—and made sure to mark my maps with notes for further investigation another time.

I got three meals out of these collateral morels, including this lamb dinner for six that also boasted the last gasp of my in-city miner’s lettuce patch. The miner’s lettuce I added to a salad of tender spring greens from the garden, which got topped with three large squares of semolina and chive gnocchi. For the gnocchi recipe, click here. The grilled lamb graced the gnocchi with a ladle of morel sauce completing the picture. Really, it was an insanely good meal, and not nearly as difficult to prepare as all these instructions might suggest. Semolina gnocchi is a piece of cake, much easier than potato gnocchi, and the morel sauce is fairly intuitive if you’ve ever made a sauce before. Mascarpone is a nice trick for replacing heavy cream; a little goes a long way and it’s a useful thickening agent.

Lamb Marinade

6 Lamb chops, French-cut
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp sage, chopped
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Season lamb with salt and pepper. Whisk together remaining ingredients and brush on both sides of lamb. Marinate 2 hours, then grill.

Morel Wine & Herb Sauce

1 lb morels, halved (or quartered if large)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup red wine
1 oz porcini, pulverized
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 heaping tbsp mascarpone (or 1/4 cup heavy cream)
splash Madeira, to taste (optional)
salt and pepper

Reconstitute porcini ahead of time in warm water and set aside for 30 minutes. Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in skillet, then add diced shallot and morels. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat before pouring in red wine. Reduce by two-thirds, then add porcini stock, herbs, and a splash of Madeira. Lower heat to medium and cook several more minutes to reduce by half or so. Just before serving, stir in remaining butter and mascarpone. The sauce should thicken nicely and the butter will lend it an attractive sheen. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with that red wine you’ve been saving for a special meal. Serves 4-6.