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Sausalito chef shares the joy of foraging in new cookbook – Marin Independent Journal

More than 100 recipes can be found in ‘Forage. Gather. Feast” by Sausalito resident Maria Finn. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth)

Farmers’ markets provide a mutually beneficial link between California’s rich agricultural areas and our denser suburban communities, but there are also less mundane sources for gathering the ingredients for a meal.

Author, speaker, chef, sustainability expert and Sausalito houseboat resident Maria Finn has long championed the ethos of living in harmony with nature.

In her new cookbook ‘Forage. Gathering. Feast.: 100+ Recipes from West Coast Forests, Shores, and Urban Spaces,” she encourages readers to step beyond conventional boundaries and discover the edible wonders found in thriving ecosystems on the forest floor, waterfronts, and even on urban sidewalks, many of which are free.

“Consider this book part instruction and part inspiration,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “It is by no means a comprehensive guide to wild foods, nor does it advocate trying to ‘live off the land’.”

Rather, Finn deftly demystifies the process of foraging, with clear instructions, helpful tips, stunning photography and a refreshing perspective on gaining a deeper connection with the food we eat in an age where its origins are often overshadowed by mass production and industrial agriculture.

“In the forest there are nuts and fungi; on the coast we find seaweed underwater, small fish and bivalves,” she writes. “I try to imitate nature on the plate as much as possible.”

Sausalito chef Maria Finn is behind it
Sausalito chef Maria Finn is behind “Forage. Gathering. Party.” (Photo by Marla Aufmuth)

The cookbook is structured around three parts, or ecosystems: the coast (seaweed, bivalves, crabs, shrimp, sea urchins and small fish); the forest (mushroom species, trees and underlying vegetation); and urban spaces (wild greenery, wild berries and fruits, and flowers). They all offer a glimpse into the culinary delights waiting to be discovered and consumed, from seaweed gremolata to pine and porcini crackers.

“After spending time in the forest, it makes sense to use pine nuts and needles on a black trumpet flatbread, to have a grazing dish with mushroom pie and pickled fiddle ferns, (and) as a dessert after porcini risotto by a campfire, bay bay nut cocoa,” she writes, adding that while the recipes are simple, some of the ingredients may be a bit unusual. “You may be able to find some seasonally at the farmer’s market or grocery store, but the fun is finding your own patches of rose hips and blueberries.”

In a chapter on seaweed, which discusses the different types with images and best practices for harvesting and processing them, Finn says they are all edible in the United States, although some taste better than others.

“Seaweed is a superfood. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious foods you can eat,” she writes, emphasizing that it’s even more amazing when you eat it yourself. “As the sun rises, marvel at the tide pools and the sea creatures making the long, slow evolution to land. It is a sublime experience that translates into your dishes.”

Find Finn’s Cookbook at local and online stores where books are sold.

Finn’s events and adventures

In addition to her mastery of wild foods on the West Coast and her immersive, food-focused excursions from California to Alaska through Flora & Fungi Adventures, Finn is launching the Institute for Ecosystem Based Living, a series of pop-up events showcasing science, art and food in the service of a regenerative life.

Her first event, “Ecosystem Based Living: Wild & Regenerative Food & Textiles,” is Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. as part of the Sausalito Center for the Arts’ multi-week exhibit “Eco Evolution: Empower For Change.” June 9.

Learn how to align your daily food and fashion habits with the natural world as Finn and Lydia Wendt, founder of the California Cloth Foundry, discuss the importance of making daily changes that cultivate a sustainable and conscious approach to life. Small bites from her cookbook will be served and copies of the cookbook will be available for purchase. Find details and reserve free tickets atsausalitocenterforthearts.org/eco-evolution-empower-for-change.

On June 22 from 6-9 p.m., Finn will be at the Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito to present “Voyages: AI & The Ocean” and prepare a menu from her cookbook including sourdough bread from Portside Bakery with house-made seaweed butter and smoked anchovy butter ; Star Route Farms mixed vegetables with pickled bladderwrack, shaved radishes, radish blossoms, salt-fermented mulberries, roasted walnuts and nettle dressing; fisherman’s stew with local mussels, clams, squid and redfish; and dessert dishes. Purchase tickets ($55 to $250) at mariafinn.com, where you can also find more about Finn’s work and other upcoming events throughout the summer.

Leanne Battelle is a freelance food writer and restaurant columnist. Email her at [email protected] with news and recommendations and follow on Instagram @therealdealmarin for more local food information and updates on the launch of The Real Deal Marin’s restaurant search guide.

Recipe

Seaweed Gremolata

Makes 2 cups

This is a simple green herb sauce that is tangy from the lemon, a bit spicy and garlicky, but made with seaweed so it has a little more mineral flavor and depth. Any fresh herbs you have on hand, in any combination, work well; chives or thyme can also be used. Rosemary can be overpowering, but a little goes a long way, and the garnish with the blue rosemary blossom adds a nice and light touch.

Drizzle the gremolata over drier fish that needs some fat, such as cod or halibut, or make it into an aioli for a quick, easy accompaniment to artichokes. You can also sprinkle it over half an avocado with some ikura for a quick breakfast or lunch.

Ingredients

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh, mild herbs (such as a combination of parsley, basil, sage and oregano), stemmed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh seaweed (such as kombu, nori, and wakame, or a combination thereof), coarsely chopped, or 1/4 cup dried flakes

Zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1 medium lemon

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Soak the dried seaweed in warm water for 10 minutes, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Finely chop the rehydrated seaweed and place it in a bowl. Add the lemon zest, minced garlic, chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil to the bowl with the seaweed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir to combine.

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse a few times. Or you can mix by hand for a coarser gremolata. Serve the seaweed gremolata as a garnish with grilled fish, roasted vegetables or pasta dishes.

Making this a day in advance allows the flavors to blend and the garlic to soften a bit.

Can be stored in a closed container for up to two weeks.

— Recipe from Maria Finn for “Food. Gathering. Party.”

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