Pickled Chanterelles (Vegan)

Infographic: What are we pickling at 4 am? Mm-hm.

In my defense. Many of you are already well familiar with my chronic 4 am insomnia, which can nearly always be traced to a violent allergy attack, though sometimes I just wake up at 4 am for no particular reason, I guess out of sheer habit. According to my mother, this has been happening since before I could read. At this point in my life I am far beyond being angry or annoyed about it; I’d describe my attitude about it these days as existentially fatigued resignation. Mind you, this hasn’t always been the case. When I was young and restless and didn’t know any better, I used to get out of bed and write feverishly in my journal all night, or sneak out of the house to do god-knows-what (honestly, I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was nerdy and emo). Later in life, frustrated at the injustice of my plight, I would simply toss and turn, in vain hopes of returning to sleep (which wouldn’t ever happen until around 6:30 am, about a half hour before it was time for me to get up). In recent years, due to the advent of smart phones, I have become more zen and used those quiet solitary hours between 4 and 7 to read random things on the internet, which has helped me stay current on important topics like the feeding habits of deep-sea frilled sharks and the etymology of the ampersand.

In a strange new twist, however, the last several times I’ve woken up at 4 am, I have been overcome with the desire to cook something. Through the first few episodes I managed to resist the impulse, yielding to the voice in my head that said “Really? You know how nutty that sounds, right?” Ultimately, however, my urge to do something with the fresh chanterelles aging in my refrigerator won out. Hence, these pickled delights.

This recipe isn’t my invention; I gaffled it from Chez Pim, who adapted it from someone else. In any case, I stand by it as a great way to preserve your chanterelles or any mushrooms you might have on hand. Whip them up, chill overnight, and then serve them as a tapa, use them as a condiment with your favorite neutral entree, pile them on top of a sandwich, toss them into a salad, or just nom them alone.

Pickled Chanterelles (Vegan)

  • 1 lbs mushroom
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 tbsp whole coriandar seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins
  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp  sea salt

Clean the chanterelles by brushing them or wiping them with a damp cloth. If they are super dirty, go ahead and just rinse them in cold water.  Pat them dry and cut them into medium pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the mushrooms to the pot and let boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon, scoop them into a colander, being careful to leave any dirt that boiled off in the pan.  Run cold water over the mushrooms to stop them cooking, and leave them to drain.

Heat another pot on medium and add a bit of the olive oil. When the oil is hot,  add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring constantly, over medium to low heat until the shallots are translucent.  Add the pepper, coriandar, raisins, vinegar, olive oil, and salt.  Stir to blend and bring to a simmer.

Add the blanched mushrooms, stir to blend and remove from heat.  Transfer the mushroom into a glass or ceramic container.  Cover and let them rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

The Artist Formerly Known as Vegan Sonoma

Friends, family, beloved blog audience … You may have noticed it’s been quite a while since my last post. You may have wondered – was I just busy? Had I fallen off the blog wagon? Was I going through a period of writer’s block? Was I going through a period of chef’s block? As the silence continued, you may have felt a bit abandoned. You may have wondered how I could be so cold. I am so sorry to have put you through that. Sadly, however, I am afraid that some of you, when you learn the real reason for my distance, may feel even more betrayed. But I have to come clean. I can’t live a lie. It’s time you know the real reason I haven’t posted any new recipes, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise.

Deep breath …

After I’m not even sure how many years of being vegetarian (and more recently, mostly vegan), J and I have made a huge and shocking lifestyle change. We have decided to include meat and animal products in our diet. There was one very big, very important, very good reason that we made this choice, which I will explain forthwith.

Whew! Feels good to get that out.

There are so many things we both have to say about the whole thing, due to the risk of losing you through the course of what is shaping up to be a rather long post, I’ll state my agenda, and if there’s a topic of particular interest to you, please feel free to jump ahead:

The reason?

Short story: cardiovascular health.

Long story: Two years ago we learned that J – fit, vegetarian, active, moderate J – had insanely high blood pressure. At rest, it would regularly exceed 170/100, spiking as high as 180/110 with fair frequency. As a med-tech copywriter who spends a great quantity of time reading, researching and writing about the connections between various health disorders and cardiovascular disease, you don’t have to say “hypertension” twice to have me flipping out and sermonizing about the importance of keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level. In case you haven’t heard my spiel, I’m here to tell you not to mess around with high blood pressure – it’s a significant first step toward a host of serious issues that should not be taken lightly. I have a particular beef about the fact that its ubiquity has led our society to develop a collective apathy and blasé attitude towards it. “You have high blood pressure? So do I, it’s no big deal.” Not cool, dude. You only get one heart and it has a lot of beats to perform over the course of your many long, happy years. You want that lifelong ultra-marathon of heartbeats to be an easy one, not an uphill battle. So if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, do something. Lose 5 lbs. Walk for 20 minutes every day. Eat more fiber and spinach and bananas and reduce your sodium intake. If you snore, get tested for sleep apnea – it’s a common cause. And if none of that works, take the bloody medication.

Or, if you’re vegan, try eating meat and cutting out carbs.Yep. I’ll explain.*

See, we know about every little thing under the sun you can do to lower your blood pressure without medication, in fact I could recite to you the average drops in mm HG associated with each diet or lifestyle change (e.g., daily exercise = 10+ point drop). We tried every last thing under the sun, and we were very dedicated, and nothing made a difference at all. But the thing is, J really didn’t want to take medication for the rest of his life. So we went about our lives, at slight loggerheads on occasion over our differing opinions on whether he should take medication or not, and over the past two years his blood pressure has stayed firmly planted in the red part of the chart, to both our great chagrin. Since I’m already rambling quite a bit, I won’t go off about how much anxiety, fear and frustration the situation has caused us both. Oh, and did I mention that J’s father died of a heart attack at age 60? Let’s just say the whole situation has been a source of major disquietude.

And then one day this summer, we met a guy who shared a phenomenal tale of losing more than 100 lbs in a very short period of time by adopting a high protein, low carb diet. Before even losing all the weight however, the diet immediately lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol and improved all the vitals that correspond to heart health. We were stunned and impressed. Not so much that we thought we should try it ourselves. Just impressed.

But then we kept thinking about it. And we started thinking about what our diet consisted of. And we started evaluating more critically the ratio of protein to carbs we were getting. And it became increasingly apparent that our diet was imbalanced. And we learned a lot of other things that I won’t bore you with, but all added together amounted to a compelling argument for considering eating meat. So, we took a deep breath and decided to give it a chance.

Results? Next blood pressure reading – 125/85

Within just 3 days, J’s next blood pressure reading was 125/85. Not only RADICALLY lower, but within a completely normal, healthy range. Since then, we’ve measured it regularly and it’s fluctuated and gone up sometimes, but the systolic has averaged towards 140 and the diastolic has stayed under 100. For those not familiar with blood pressure woes, these are significant improvements. Like, kind of unbelievable.

I’m not even going to speculate about why it worked – actually, I am, I think that protein deficiency may have lowered his red blood cell count which can cause high blood pressure – but whatever the case, it did. So. That was that. And now we’re omnivores.

Omnivores? Weird

Needless to say, it is very strange to be living with this new diet. After being vegetarian for most of my adult life, it’s a total identity crisis. Buying meat at the grocery store is such a foreign experience, it’s so surreal. And as I go about my culinary tasks, picking recipes, making grocery lists, choosing to make something that calls for butter and chicken, I feel like I’m doing something totally decadent and illicit, like playing hookie or drinking mimosas at brunch – like I just decided to relax, blow off the rules and let everything go. But I guess that’s kind of exactly what is happening.

Except we’re not blowing off the rules. We just have new rules. So I guess it’s kind of like moving from one culture to another, and now what once was taboo is standard, and what once was standard (in our case, grains) is now taboo. Very bizarre experience. Not without its good points, but there have been some ….

Unexpected consequences

Hey, remember me, the author and chef behind Vegan Sonoma? I think I was a fairly decent chef, if I may say so myself, and my beloved partner J was certainly very talented in the kitchen. How’d we get there? Oh, years of practice. Guess how many years of practice we have cooking meat between the two of us? Zero. So my sabbatical from the blog has been about more than just trying to figure out how to rename and re-purpose it, it’s been about the fact that I haven’t felt like I had any cooking expertise to share with anyone in the realm of the recipes I’ve been making lately. If you want to know how to get more flavor out of your mushrooms, I’m your lady. If you need advice on how to do the most basic thing with the most pedestrian cut of meat, I am going to slip quietly out the back door and go cry beside the barbecue. I have no idea what I’m doing. So what does that mean for my blog? Great question, one that I will answer momentarily, right after I complain about the biggest problem I’ve had …

Cooking meat makes my kitchen stink!

Mind you, I was never one of the vegetarians who gag at the smell of animal flesh. I grew up in Kansas, a land of smokehouses and outdoor grills a’plenty. These things don’t bother me. The once-pleasant aroma of chicken I baked three days ago loitering in my kitchen, however … it gives me a mini-barf every time I smell it. We’ve tried everything – opening windows and doors, burning candles, taking out the trash immediately, scrubbing the kitchen and the sink and everything else immediately – all for naught. What do I need to do, hose the place down with chlorox? JEEZ. I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts on how to combat that problem.

Meanwhile, what’s next for VS?

From the people we’ve come out to already about the meat-eating, one of the first questions has been, “Uh-oh, what about your vegan recipe blog?” And my response has been basically, “Umm, yeeeeeeaaaaaah … first I have to get over my own shock about eating meat, then I need to come out as a meat eater to my readers, then I will probably eventually start posting recipes again when I have something worthy of sharing, but first I need a new name, because I can’t live a double life.” So, here we are. Except I still don’t have a new name. Working on that. Ideas welcome.

As for you, my beloved readers … I know that you are a diverse mix of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores. Some of you will be happy about our lifestyle change (several of our friends have hugged us when they heard the news), some of you will not have an opinion one way or another, and some of you may be disappointed. For the latter category, all I can say is that we made the choice based on what we believe is best for J’s health, because that is more important to us than being vegan or vegetarian. We still believe in being conscientious about one’s diet choices, not just for our own health but that of the environment and economy. We will still strive to use the most natural, humanely farmed, local, and seasonally appropriate ingredients as we can, and we will continue to share our experience as we go about our lives in pursuit of delicious food.

*Please remember that J’s results are not typical. This post is not intended as medical advice or dietary guidance. You should always consult your doctor before making significant diet changes.