Langdon Cook, local author and blogger, in his new book Fat of the Land, Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, makes you see this land of plenty we call home in a whole new light. His book is delightfully funny and well-written to the point that once you start reading, it’s hard to stop. The characters who accompany Cook into the world of foraging are hilarious, making what could be seen as a perilous journey feel like a wild adventure worthy of recounting again and again. I couldn’t help but wonder where he finds these eccentric people. His writing style reminds me of Southern short stories except that this book is firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest. It’s filled with many ways we can reconnect with nature by foraging for what our land and ocean so generously provide.
I’ll never be able to look out at the water past the boat docks at Shilshole Bay Marina and not wonder if Lang and Dave are out there somewhere diving and spearfishing for lingcod like wild aquamen. That story alone is worth the price of the book. Then there’s squid jigging at night in the middle of winter on a public pier surrounded by an unlikely crowd of fellow jiggers all speaking different languages. It’s a far cry from the near-by Belltown club scene. These are places we drive by in our cars every day, oblivious to the abundance of food and experiences that are right there for the taking. Not that I’m brave enough to do even half the things Lang does but with a good buddy along, I just might be persuaded.
You would think with all this great writing the recipes found at the end of each chapter would be only so-so. Not true. The recipes are excellent and are arranged by season. The only thing missing for me is an index. Even though the farmers market is the extent of my foraging these days, this book also gave me a much greater appreciation for our vendors who bring us food from the wild — Loki Fish and Found & Foraged are two of my favorites.
I’m going to share two of Lang’s recipes with you but I encourage you to get the book and try them all. In the meantime, check out his blog, also named Fat of the Land. It’s packed with wonderful recipes, photos and loads of inspiration and knowledge about how to forage in an environmentally conscious way.
Creamy Chanterelle Pasta
4T (1/2 stick) butter
4 slices thick, quality bacon, diced
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
1 lb shaped pasta (Langdon likes bow ties)
1 lb fresh chanterelles
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1 pint heavy cream (or less)
4 ounces garden peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup grated parmesan, with more for the table
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat 2T of the butter over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Don’t drain the fat. As bacon begins to crisp, add shallots and cook until tender, a few minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta.
Add chanterelles to skillet and cook several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water. Season with salt & pepper.
In a large ovenproof mixing bowl, add remaining 2T butter and half the cream. Place the mixing bowl in warm oven.
Slowly add remaining cream to skillet and simmer, continuing to stir occasionally while pasta cooks. When pasta is nearly done, add peas to chanterelle sauce.
Remove pasta from heat, drain and pour into warmed mixing bowl. Mix in sauce along with grated parmesan and serve immediately.
I made this recipe almost exactly as it was written and got great rave reviews. It’s a wonderful dish for a dinner party and as Lang says, “If you’re worried about all that cream and butter, open an extra bottle of red wine. ” Well said.
I also tried the Marinade for Grilled Salmon —
Place 1lb fillet in a glass dish and brush on 1T hot chili oil or Mongolian fire oil (I used a hot chili garlic sauce that I seem to be addicted to these days) 2T sesame oil and enough soy sauce to bath the fish. Add minced garlic and ginger and turn fish skin side down for a couple of hours in the fridge.
I used some fresh Keta from Loki Fish and pan-fried it instead of grilling. While the fish was finishing off in the oven, I sauteed whole baby bok choy and beet greens in the frying pan with the rest of the marinade. Now I want to cook everything in this marinade. It’s that good.