Pleurotus ostreatus - oyster mushrooms
I have lived a cloistered life for a couple of months, going out only far enough to shop for groceries as my book deadline loomed, and so this last week has felt liberated.
I have been out foraging, twice. I have found good mushrooms. Twice. I have bought unscratchy cashmere sweaters. Twice! And I have been to the farmers market at Borough Hall. Twice. It roils with pumpkins and the last tomatoes and local grapes and crates of apples.
Even more unusually, this weekend has brought social engagements. Two! A lovely dinner in Long Island City on Friday night, with a tortuous return commute, on the G train, which spat us out in the middle of nowhere past midnight, and then a hop to Connecticut, invited by my friend Sarah, herself a guest with an apparently coveted seat at the Farm Table Dinner at Terrain, a beautiful indoor-outdoor store with attached cafe, based in both Pennsylvania and Westport. She invited me months ago, when the middle of October seemed an eon away. And here it is, in sweater weather.
Sarah said, about the dinner tonight, All the cool kids will be there!
I never was a cool kid at high school. The cool kids smoked and had sex and wore eyeliner to school and rolled their short white socks down around their ankles in tubes to show their disregard for the Rules. I hated cigarettes, knew nothing about sex and even then rebelled against the idea of The Pack and its mentality. Tonight's kids will be different, I hear.
My usual logs were bereft of all signs of mushrooms. One log had been cleaned out by a very thorough forager: lots of fresh white scars where oysters had been sliced off. Perhaps a foraging tour? And then I found the mother lode. A fallen tree, quietly rotting, and not too visible, which is good. I have eagle eyes for mushrooms, now. Pattern recognition. At first glance I thought these oysters might be another bracket fungus, so tan were their caps and so prolific their numbers; but no, just a browner version of their grey winter selves.
I left perhaps 75% of the population intact. I could not use them all and was also pretty sure they might have bugs. The weather was very chilly but a cold snap is what you need for the cleanest oysters. I am not a gung ho forager who happily eats worms and grubs. If I were starving, maybe. Soaking the mushrooms in very salty water drives any lurking inhabitants out into the open, and these mushrooms were remarkably clean.
Risotto, I think.
And then there was the haul from the farmers market. Mars and Concord grapes, the first cold weather broccoli, a firm, first (local) cauliflower and a round dark orange pumpkin inspired by Geraldine, the Frenchwoman who works at Heights Chateau, our local wine shop. It may be the one she says she has not been able to find in the States. It was roasted for supper. Photos were taken as evidence to present to her. Leaves from the roof farm, where it was too cold to linger for long last night.
And my order of Frank's garlic arrived, in a box stamped Hudson Clove - lots of beautiful, firm cloves in nice little heads. I posted this to the blog's Facebook page and suddenly Frank said, his garlic sold out. I am glad. Next year he will have much more.
Our garlic dinner plans are being laid. Roasted entire, to start, with rosemary and balsamic vinegar (I have not touched balsamic for a decade, so I think I'm allowed to start, again) and spread on small toasts, a creamy, mellow garlic soup (in the book!), and a deep, rich cassoulet...
I like being back in the world.