In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet. ~Albert Schweitzer
It was with some effort that I managed to haul myself out from under the covers, somehow managed to put on the right clothes, even matching socks, and crept my way out onto the trail. It was another damp morning, having rained intermittently during the night. A morning so grey that no one would have noticed, nor thought any less of me, had I worn mismatched socks. Such was the understanding that trifles as these were to be understood, not judged.
I put on my headphones, set my audible trainer and NPR to start, and headed up the path of a nearby forest-park under boughs leadened with overnight rain. Mindlessly putting one foot in front of another at first in a slow run, the fresh smells of the waking forest and early bird calls slowly brought my senses to awareness. I lowered the volume from the radio and started to take in the different chirps and peeps. Occasional rustlings in the thick undergrowth came from squirrels coming out from burrows and woodrats returning to dens, birds digging for mealy worms, sometimes a curious deer who had wandered too close to the trail. Then I spotted them … elegant, rounded, delicate blooms of mushrooms craning past fallen leaves and twigs, reaching skywards in the aftermath of the rains. There were the common brown and grey ones, a couple of reddish-brown ones, but the most spectacular blooms were yellow and orange.
Further along the trail, where Toyon replaced Bay Oaks as we approached a plateau, ripe Toyon berries hung heavily from tips of branches, arching over the my head, forcing me to duck at several places. All around me a woodland canvas was being painted with the gradually rising sun. This was rejuvenation in its unadulterated state.
By the end of my run I felt heady, probably with the fresh oxygen coursing through my body, but all I remember was desire for earthiness, to be close to the fresh scent of mud and grass after a rain, the smell of woodiness when surrounded by redwoods, oaks and all manner of trees. Trotting home and feeling awake, I knew I had to have mushrooms for dinner; lots of it. I have always associated the smell of fresh mushrooms with the woodlands and forests, and seeing those amazing blooms, I knew it was the right thing to do.
I chose a mixture of white button mushrooms (commonly available year-round), portobellos (which are mature button mushrooms with a milder taste but meatier) and brown cremini mushrooms, the latter having a bolder and more complex taste. The recipe is intentionally simple to avoid crowding out the flavours of the mushrooms – they are the star here!
- For a vegan version, substitute 1 cup of dairy milk with 1 cup of almond or soy milk.
- For a richer soup, substitute 1 cup of milk with ½ cup of cream and ½ cup of milk.
- To clean the mushrooms, run them under cold water, place them in a sieve or salad spinner and give it a few shakes to get rid of as much water as possible. Using a paper towel, gently wipe each one dry, taking care not to bruise the caps.
- Watch this video on how to slice and dice mushrooms (I am not affiliated with the site)
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- 1 large white onion, diced
- 10 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
- 8 oz brown cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2-3 medium portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 3 Tbsp dried thyme (~8 Tbsp fresh thyme, taste accordingly)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 cup milk (2% milk if prefer a lighter soup)
- 2 dried bay leaf
- Salt and black pepper
- Heat 2 tsp oil in a pot, add a pinch of salt and onions and sweat the onions till they begin to soften.
- Add 1 Tbsp oil. When oil is heated, add mushrooms. Lower heat to medium and cook till mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the thyme and continue cooking on medium heat till mushrooms appear to have shrunk to half the original size.
- Add bay leaves and broth (reserving ½ cup) and bring to a boil.
- Dissolve corn starch in remaining broth and stir into the pot.
- Add milk and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
For vegan diets, substitute dairy milk for almond or cashew milk.
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