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Posts Tagged ‘mushrooms’

To market, to market

Summer is obviously long gone. I mournfully packed up my summer clothes and replaced them with sweaters weeks ago, the temperatures last week made me consider getting out my long winter coat, and yesterday we got a decent amount of snow (!).

Despite having bid farewell to summer, there’s something from the summer that made me very happy and is making me happy still– namely, the fact that I made it to the market quite a bit this summer. The previous summer I didn’t go at all, as we spent half the summer traveling and the other half too exhausted to go out of our way to get seasonal produce from the market. That made me really sad. But this year I was a market-goer, which was facilitated by the fact that they opened a small marketplace right around the corner from us at the beginning of the summer. I could stop by there on my way home from work and grab whatever looked good. My first time there I impulsively bought green peas and raspberries at ridiculously low prices, not sure of what I would do with them. The next day my sister and her friend finished the camp they were attending here and came to spend the night at our place. I put them out on the table and those fresh, Estonian-grown peas and raspberries quickly became the best afternoon snack imaginable. I later got more raspberries, some of which are still in the freezer.

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And remember these strawberries, from one of our first trips to the market this year? Beautiful!

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I also got chanterelles from the market at a very good price (although the price dropped even lower later in the season). Chanterelles are called kukeseened in Estonian, which I love– it literally means rooster mushrooms! 🙂 Sounds a lot less fancy than “chanterelles”, doesn’t it? Kukeseenekaste, or chanterelle sauce, is an Estonian favorite. I made some with the fresh mushrooms, then cleaned and froze the other half of my haul to use later in the winter. I love freezing things. I’m thinking of making some kind of quiche or pie with them.

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I’m so glad I rediscovered the wonder of the market this summer. Somehow it makes it a little easier to face the impending winter knowing that I filled up (and stocked my freezer) with as much fresh, beautiful local produce as the short season has to offer. As we head into the cold months of  carrots, cabbage and potatoes, hopefully those delicious berries and fresh mushrooms will keep me feeling strong, warm and healthy until next summer comes along.

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Mushroom chips

If you’ve traveled around the United States, Canada and/or Europe, you’ve probably noticed this: every place has their own flavors of potato chips, and some of them seem a little strange. My home state of Maryland is probably the only place anywhere you can buy “crab chips“, or potato chips flavored with the famous Old Bay seasoning. Canada has their delicious and inimitable ketchup chips. Here in Estonia there’s a Latvian brand (I think) that markets thick, crunchy horseradish-flavored chips (I don’t even like horseradish, but I found the slight tingly-burny sensation I got from the chips was strangely addicting). And here is one of the newer flavors to hit the market: Creamy Forest Mushroom.

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Of course the idea is weird at first, but I grabbed the bag out of curiousity. And honestly? I kinda liked them. Upon our first tastes, my sister, J and I all pretty much thought, “Hm. Wow.” They taste just like cream of mushroom soup. But crunchy. About a week after that first taste I invited a bunch of friends to my apartment for a girls’ night and somebody brought along the same chips, saying she’d tried them and liked them. Everyone who was trying them for the first time also seemed weirdly impressed. Perhaps it’s just the novelty of the flavor. If you eat too many at once, the salt kind of dulls your tastebuds and it’s not so special anymore. But next time I’m having a party or just craving a moderate portion of super-artifically-flavored chips, I’ll pick these up again. 🙂

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Blue cheese and mushrooms

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I’m just posting a photo today, of a combination of two of the yummiest things I know: mushrooms and blue cheese. J is the one who taught me the life lesson that blue cheese goes with everything, so we use it pretty often. These were just regular champignons, stems removed, stuffed with a chunk of blue cheese and put in the oven for a while. Delicious.

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In my last post, I mentioned enjoying the things that nature makes available to us in this part of the world. Sharing my activities from this weekend will be an appropriate follow-up to that. On Friday, my department at work and the department we share a floor with left the building at noon to take a field trip to a bog 60 km outside of Tallinn. Nature walks have nothing to do with my job itself, but some of us decided we wanted to get out of the building and socialize in a more natural setting :-).

At Kakerdaja raba (Kakerdaja bog– the name comes from a type of bird), we hiked through forests, traversed the bog on a trail made of planks, and listened to stories from our guide, Romeo (…which is not a common Estonian name). The bog offered more than just beautiful views– there were big, ripe cranberries growing along the plank trail, so it was easy to reach down and pop a firm, sour berry in your mouth without even breaking stride (the plank trail is narrow, so we had to walk single file). And just as our stomachs were starting to rumble and we were getting somewhat tired, we reached a forested spot thick with blueberries, even bigger and sweeter than the ones I found in Finland, so of course we made a pit stop there. It was just so satisfying spending a quiet, relaxing afternoon surrounded by a vast expanse of untouched land… complete with snacks.

Then on Saturday, I went seenele (mushroom-picking). It’s very common for Estonians to head to the woods early on autumn mornings to fill their baskets with fresh wild mushrooms. Pille over at Nami-nami has written more informatively about wild mushrooms in Estonia than I ever could, so I recommend heading over there if you want to know more about this custom.

I was heading into the woods for the first time in my life to pick mushrooms, along with the kind co-worker who had agreed to take me with her. The fact that I’d never done it before is one of those things that reminds me that I’m not a “real” Estonian, as I didn’t grow up here, doing the things that other Estonians have done. But now I’m here, and I want to learn how to find mushrooms.  I was shown two types of mushrooms that are good to eat, so that was basically all I was looking for… but I couldn’t find any. I found mushrooms, of course, but they didn’t possess the characteristics I was looking for (and many of them had skinny stems, which somebody told me is usually the sign of a shady mushroom. Edible mushrooms generally have fat stems). I enjoyed being outdoors, crouching low to the ground, poking and examining mushrooms that were interesting, if not edible, but after a while I did get somewhat discouraged (my more experienced companions found some mushrooms, but even they were having a difficult time, as there weren’t very many around).

But then, wonder of wonders, in the third area we visited, I found one! And a few more next to it! And later, 2 more! So my grand total for the day came to 5 lousy mushrooms, 2 of which were tiny, but I didn’t care. They were my first-ever mushrooms, mushrooms that I’d picked myself and would prepare in my kitchen. And I know that the next time I venture into the woods, I’ll learn even more, recognize even more, and hopefully find more. And maybe it will even make me more Estonian :-).

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