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Tuesday dinner with Ava Chin (+ giveaway!)

By Ann | May 13, 2014

Ava Chin: Eating Wildly mushroom pasta

Try as I might to change my ways, I’m a city girl through and through: brisk walker, fast talker, insect hater. But last week I read my friend Ava Chin’s new memoir, Eating Wildly, and found myself reconsidering the concrete landscape. As an urban forager—and author of a New York Times blog of the same name—Ava visits New York’s green spaces (like Prospect and Central Parks) to collect wild plants (like day lilies, mulberries, stinging nettles, and mushrooms of all stripes—oyster, reishi, morel). And then she cooks and eats them. Her memoir tells the story of a young woman grappling with childhood scars, the loss of her grandmother, and heartbreak, who learns to view the world anew with “foraging eyes,” patiently seeking the unexpected treasure that might lie in plain sight. Today, Ava shares tips for foraging, fast meals, and a recipe for mushroom pasta. (AND, I’m giving away a copy of her book! Stay tuned to the bottom of this post for more info.)

Eating Wildly by Ava Chin

Ava Chin / Eating Wildly

On quick—but local—meals:
As a working mother of a rambunctious two-year-old, Tuesday nights can be hectic, especially if I’m doing an hour-long commute between the boroughs of New York City for my job as a professor. This time of year and especially as it gets warmer, I usually make some sort of salad with beets or whatever’s in season (ramps, spring onions) and grilled chicken.

Morel mushrooms, photo Ava Chin/Eating Wildly

On the forager’s freezer and pantry:
I keep wild oyster mushrooms and morels in my freezer to add to pasta as a quick-fix dinner. For example, morels are in season right now. Instead of dehydrating them, I might slice and saute them in butter and shallots and garlic. After they’ve cooled, I pop them into the freezer in bags. I also have plenty of dried mushrooms on hand. Last fall, I grew shiitake mushrooms from an inoculated patch, and we had shiitakes for months. What we couldn’t eat right away, I dried and now add to soups and stews.

On growing vegetables in her city apartment:
I keep scallions growing hydroponically from shoots in a jar by the kitchen window—it’s still a miracle to me that they sprout new shoots every time). I just snip them with kitchen scissors and toss them in everything from stir fries to frittatas.

On the busy cook’s best friend—the braise:
I try to cook certain slow-cooked foods, braises, etc. the night before, so on any given night I will most likely be cooking food for the following evening. For certain dishes the flavor is better and I’m not operating under the rush and panic of having to get dinner ready for that night.

On how to start foraging:
First, go on a walk with a foraging expert who can introduce you to what’s edible—these days, there are more and more of us across the country leading tours. Then, get a hold of a few good foraging guidebooks (Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagusthe Petersen’s field guides, and Leda Meredith’s Northeast Foraging just to name a few) and go on walks of your own. If you can recognize a dandelion, then you’ve already started foraging!

On what to gather now:
This time of year, and depending where you live, dandelions, violets (not to be confused with African violets, which aren’t edible), ramps, and garlic mustard are all coming up, and soon the mulberries will be fruiting. We’re nearing the end of morel mushroom and ramp season, so get them while you can!

dried mushrooms


crimini mushrooms

(Wild Morel) Mushroom Linguini
Adapted from Eating Wildly by Ava Chin

Serves four

*Note from Ann: Ava’s recipe calls for sumptuous morel mushrooms—which can only be gathered from the wild. I went to the Farmer’s Market three weeks in a row, but, alas, couldn’t find any. Instead, I substituted cultivated crimini mushrooms and a handful of dried fungi. For a local, seasonal touch, I took Ava’s suggestion and used ramps instead of shallots. “The ramp leaves will cook even faster than the shallots,” she says, “and they are lovely.”

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
2 small shallots, diced (I used 3-4 ramps)
8 oz sliced morels (or crimini mushrooms), sliced
2 oz dried mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water (optional, but if you use them, save the soaking water)
1/4 cup cream sherry
1/4 heavy cream
Small handful of chopped dill and parsley
1 lb linguine
Salt and pepper

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the shallots (or ramps) and cook until wilted. Add the sliced and dried mushrooms and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cream sherry, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta by bringing a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the linguini and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente (check the package for a suggested time).

Drizzle the cream into the mushroom mixture. Using kitchen tongs, fish the cooked linguini from the pot of boiling water and add to the skillet with the mushrooms. Sprinkle in the dill and parsley and toss to combine, adding dashes of mushroom soaking liquid or pasta cooking water so that the mixture is loose and supple. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.

Ava Chin's mushroom pasta

*Eating Wildly by Ava Chin Giveaway!*
Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader!
To enter:
1. Leave a comment below with your favorite spring vegetable.
2. For an extra entry, follow Ava on Twitter: @AvaChin, then leave a separate comment to let me know.
3. For an extra, extra entry, tweet the following and leave a comment to let me know: I’m entered to win Eating Wildly by @AvaChin from @AnnMahNet + @SimonBooks. More info: www.annmah.net

The contest ends May 19. A winner will be selected at random and announced here. Good luck!

UPDATE: The winner is Jamie! Thanks for playing tout le monde!

(All non-pasta photos from Ava Chin.)

Topics: A year in a French market: Spring, Tuesday dinner | 35 Comments »

35 Responses to “Tuesday dinner with Ava Chin (+ giveaway!)”

  1. Anna Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 11:53 am

    It has to be asparagus.

  2. Anna Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I have also followed Ava and tweeted @StilettoLady (and pinned on Pinterest).

  3. Gill Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Morel mushrooms are quite tasty.

    Thank you for offering this giveaway to your blog readers.

  4. Elizabeth Minchilli Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Artichokes. Are you surprised? Can’t wait to read Ava’s book, I’m a huge fan. (and already follow her where I can find her)

  5. Emily R. Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Asparagus has to be my favorite, I wait all year for it to finally be in season.

  6. Emily R. Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I am following @AvaChin on Twitter (@EmRohrer)

  7. Emily R. Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I tweeted about the giveaway! @EmRohrer

  8. dani Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    so many to choose from….but, asparagus!

  9. Lydia S. Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Asparagus for sure!

  10. Emma Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Asparagus is our absolute favorite! We visit the garden every day starting in mid-April to see if our asparagus is starting to come up – once it does, we harvest it daily for 3-4 weeks, and then leave it to grow throughout the rest of the growing season.

  11. Cheena Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Asparagus here, and when I was a student.in Taiwan, dou miao or tender pea shoots. So delicate!

  12. Heather in Arles Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this post Ava and Ann! How very, very cool. In the countryside in Provence, you can still see people foraging on their Saturday afternoon walks. And there is an elderly woman in town who forages dandelions – which freaks me out because there are many a dog that passes where she picks! (she says that she rinses everything five times) I could definitely use Ava’s help though I am terrible at it. I love wild asparagus but the last time I went foraging for it I found…one. :o

  13. Pat Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of foraging but haven’t pursued it. I’ve been trying to locate ramps for a recipe I’m working on but so far no luck. I may have to go forage for it!

  14. Ashley Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    I love planting and eating spring herbs in my pots- chives, sorrel, and tarragon! The growing season is very late in Colorado, where I live, so there’s not much except greens and herbs until June.

  15. jeanne Says:
    May 13th, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    I am always so happy to find the pots of fresh basil, sage and others herbs available at the nursery in early spring. Fresh herbs really add flavor to any recipe.

  16. Michelle Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 2:57 am

    I love garlic scapes and making pesto out of them!

  17. Michelle Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Following Ava under @fiare!

  18. Michelle Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 2:59 am

    Lastly, tweeted the contest, here: https://twitter.com/fiare/status/466397205927325696

  19. Michaela Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Fiddlehead ferns! Since I live in LA, we already have tomatoes in our garden too :)

  20. Michaela Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 3:38 am

    I follow Ava on Twitter! (@wholify)

  21. Yukie Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 4:02 am

    avocados, yum :)

  22. Emma Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Those pasta photos are making me want pasta for dinner so much! And the foraging is wonderful, I would love to try that.

    My favourite spring vegetable is fresh peas, they’re gorgeously sweet in salads.

  23. Emma Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Oh and I’m following Ava on Twitter.

  24. kcc Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    this is my vision of the ideal life– to be able to find the delicious secrets hiding right around us. i always envy the few people i see harvesting treasure in our nearby county park– mushrooms and ramps and nuts and berries and mysterious greens.

    l too love spring asparagus. but i see it year round in the grocery and i don’t know how special any of it is.

  25. kcc Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    i am following ava on twitter now!

  26. katy Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Am I allowed to be torn? Leeks, asparagus, green garlic, rhubarb, how can I possibly decide?

    If I really have to, it would have to be rhubarb–so versatile, so tart!

    The book sounds great, by the way.

  27. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 11:25 am


  28. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Following Ava!

  29. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I tweeted. I would love a copy of this book – looks amazing – my favourite kind of book – part recipes, part memoir!

  30. Indigo Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I tweeted! Love asparagus!! Wish you much luck with your book! It looks gorgeous!!! Thanks for the chance to win one :)

  31. Jamie Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I love asparagus!

  32. Jamie Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I followed Ava too!

  33. Jamie Says:
    May 15th, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    and I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/j_schecter/status/467014492103376896

  34. Ginger Says:
    May 17th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    asparagus seems to be the popular favorite–it’s mine too. I’m looking forward to reading Ava’s book!

  35. Joy Says:
    May 19th, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I too must say Asparagus–Just had the perfect Spring dinner with friends Saturday night, Wild caught Copper River Salmon, roasted with fresh garden herbs, tiny new potatoes with Spring onions, and beautiful perfectly steamed Asparagus–

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