Do you forage for mushrooms? We have been doing it for over 20 years, and more regularly since we moved to California 14 years ago. Foraging in California, until very recently, used to be intensely satisfying. Most people weren’t in the habit of going out into the woods to gather their meal for the evening, and so there was a bounty of fresh mushrooms to harvest, and hardly any competition for them. Year after year, we came home with large grocery bags full of chanterelles (one of the few mushrooms we will pick since we know it very well). Having gathered far more than we could ever eat ourselves, we would invite friends over to share in the bounty (bless their hearts for trusting us!), sauté those babies with garlic, olive oil, sea salt and parsley, and serve them on toast as crostini, or in risotto, or soup. It became our tradition to look for mushrooms several times during the winter, right after the rains.
Lately, finding mushrooms has been more challenging. People have caught on to the whole foraging thing, so it is often slim pickings as there is more competition for the crops. We have also been dealing with a severe drought in California, and, although it appears to be lifting, when there is no rain, not many mushrooms pop up. So, when it rained last week for 2 days, we rushed out as soon as we could to our usual spots, and got lucky! Not enormously lucky like some years past, but we did find quite a few chanterelles, which is always thrilling.
So, naturally, I made mushroom soup as an appetizer for Thanksgiving this year. There’s something about mushroom soup that is so earthy and comforting. Creamed with a few cashews thrown in, and nicely flavored with lots of bone broth (a powerfully healing food) and roasted garlic (2 whole heads!) to boost immunity, this soup satisfies cravings for really delicious food, at the same time that it supports the body’s health and immune system during flu season.
Mushrooms, and most especially shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms, have been extensively studied for their health promoting qualities. They really boost the immune system, which is vital during winter, when we are in contact with lots of germs and sick people. They also carry many anti-cancer properties. Rich in lentinan and interferon (which have been shown to strengthen the immune system and fight cancer growth), as well as beta-glucans (which stimulate the production of white blood cells and enhance the immune system’s ability to destroy cancer cells), they also help reduce the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea and fatigue. And as if all this wasn’t yet enough, they also improve cellular oxygenation and reduce inflammation. So, include them as often as you can into your diet, they truly are a great ally in the fight against many diseases.
Garlic is also great insurance against the flu and other winter ailments. A powerful antiviral, antifungal, and infection fighter, sometimes referred to as the “Russian penicillin”, garlic’s many antibacterial properties help fight common infections (colds, flu, stomach viruses, and Candida yeasts as well as botulism and tuberculosis). It is also believed to offer some protection against certain cancers, as it contains strong anti-cancer flavonoids such as quercetin. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it can help remove toxins from the body, including heavy metals. Garlic can also help eliminate unfavorable bacteria, and promote the growth of beneficial intestinal flora, which is very important for a healthy immune system.
All this to say that this little bowl of soup carries many benefits, and is delicious to boot. And guess what? This soup is also ridiculously easy to make, so I trust that you will be making it often this winter, as well you should.
Love and health!
- 2 heads garlic
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 pounds mushrooms (such as shiitake, maitake, chanterelles, etc.), roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
- 1/3 cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
- black pepper
- coconut oil
- olive oil, for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the tops off the garlic heads to expose the cloves. Drizzle on the melted coconut oil. Top the garlic with a small piece of unbleached parchment paper, then wrap the heads in aluminum foil. Add the garlic to a small baking dish and bake in the oven until soft and caramelized, about 45-55 minutes (exact time will depend on size).
- Remove the garlic from the oven, and allow to cool. Squeeze or scoop out the cloves into a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Melt about 1 tablespoon coconut oil and add the leek, with a pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and thyme and sauté, stirring often, until soft and cooked, about 10-15 minutes, depending on size. Reserve about 1 cup of the mushrooms for garnish (chop them finely if coarse).
- Add the rest of the mushrooms, garlic, broth, cashews, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper, to taste, in 2 batches, in a high speed blender. Blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Transfer back to the pot and bring to a low boil. Turn off the heat and mix in parsley.
- Serve immediately topped with the reserved mushrooms and a drizzle of olive oil.
- I usually roast more than 2 heads of garlic, since roasted garlic makes a great appetizer - spread it on toast with a little olive oil, sea salt, and chopped parsley!