What makes chanterelles so special? + Ideas for all your squash, tomatoes, and peaches
by Kara Elder
July 24, 2020
Have you tried the chanterelles yet? You can order them for delivery from Tom of Villa Fungi and Iulian of Arcadia Venture. Chanterelle season goes from late June through late August, depending on the weather. (All this rain we've been getting the past few days? That's good for chanterelles.)
This mushroom needs water to make its spores run across the ground, says Tom. "The conditions have to be right — the right tree, the undergrowth. They’re special because when you find a site, it’s always a thrill." Their scent may remind you of apricots (and now with the power of suggestion, their golden color may reinforce that light stone-fruit fragrance), and when cooked, they have a really nice chew to them. You should take some care when cleaning and prepping them (more on that here) to retain their flavor.
"It’s a mushroom that’s thrilling to find and forage for," says Tom. "From a foraging perspective, the color makes it a little easier to spot. But I think from a culinary perspective, the yellow has strong appeal, it’s inviting. You want to cook this."
Chanterelles have a symbiotic relationship with trees, and it can take years (!) for these mycorrhizal relationships to develop. If you really want to dive deep on chanterelles — and mushroom foraging in general — Tom suggests joining mycological association, such as the Mycological Association of Washington, D.C. (And check out their primer on chanterelles!) "It’s kind of like a journey," he says. "There’s always more to learn about how they grow, where they grow. It’s something that allows you to be in the forest to experience nature."
You may also see black trumpets —a.k.a. black chanterelles and the horn of plenty — available for delivery. These are closely related to chanterelles, says Tom. Black trumpets are more rare and one of the most difficult mushrooms to find, as they grow mainly in the leaf duff of oak forests or in mossy outcroppings. "It’s collected on hands and knees so that sand and dirt can be avoided, pulled and then the base is cut with scissors in an attempt to provide you with a clean product," explains Tom. When it comes to cooking black trumpet mushrooms, Tom says it's important not to overpower their delicate flavor with strong ingredients. He suggests sautéing them lightly in butter with herbs and garlic; eat them as a side, or pair them with pasta and eggs. (And...sauerkraut??!)
Perhaps your refrigerators and countertops are also stocked with a bounty of summer squash, peaches, and tomatoes?
My hands-down favorite way to use up a mess of summer squash is to slice in 1/4-inch-thick slabs or rounds, season lightly with salt and pepper, then roast on a lined + lightly oiled baking sheet — at about 400 to 450 degrees — for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes, until things are as crispy and charred as I want. Yes, this means heating up the oven in the summer, but do several batches at once (rotate baking sheets as needed), store in your fridge all week, and you have a super flavorful ingredient to stick in sandwiches, stir-fries, tacos, noodles, eggs, toast, and so on. (This also works with eggplant!)
>>> If you'd rather cook on a stove-top, cook a chopped onion and a bunch of summer squash for 30 minutes to 1 hour (covered) in a large skillet (medium heat or so) until it's all soft and mashable. Season with salt and whatever spices you want, then smush into a dip or spread. Stir in sour cream or yogurt to make it creamy; use coconut milk, tahini, or a smidge of nut butter (with a little water if needed) to keep it dairy-free. Taste and adjust with something acidic if needed! Serve it with crackers, preferably crispy rye ones. :)
>>> If you're after something that doesn't require cooking, grab your vegetable peeler and shave thin slices of summer squash into a bowl, then mix with sauerkraut or kimchi for an instant punchy salad, side, or topping.
With peaches, eat them with yogurt every morning! Freeze them and add to smoothies or make them into afternoon shakes with a little rum! Slice and sprinkle with Tajín (or a mix of chile powder, lime zest, and salt) and eat as a sweet and salty snack! Add them to a galette, cobbler, or muffins! Chop them up small and mix them with a few toasted and rehydrated chiles (plus salt, citrus juice or vinegar, chopped tomatoes, and maybe cilantro) to make a spicy peachy salsa for tacos!
Or, mix peaches with tomatoes in a fattoush (an excellent use for pita!) or panzanella (with toasted cubes of bread or rolls!). Gazpacho seems particularly necessary for a steamy day. In any case, you will need good olive oil. Tomato sandwiches are always a good idea, but you knew that already.
Share how you've been cooking and eating with these summer treats below!