Monday, April 3, 2017

Easy 30 minute greenbriar ratatouille. Vegan, paleo, low carb, gluten-free, and low fat.

So clearly I've been on a Mediterranean kick lately, with a cleavers pesto last week (I've been enjoying the left-overs since), and a thistle Greek salad the other day. So when I was looking at an ENORMOUS haul of greenbriar shoots, it's really no surprise that my mind turned to ratatouille.

Ratatouille is a French dish, usually served in the summer because it's loaded with summer veggies: summer squash (zucchini/yellow squash), eggplant, and tomatoes. But it comes from the Provonce region, on the Mediterranean, where the cities of Marseille and Nice are located. It's a hearty, rustic stew, that just happens to be vegan, low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy free, gluten-free and paleo; though it's often served with bread, you could also eat it as a side dish for meat, or over polenta or pasta.

The spirit of ratatouille is to make a healthy meal out of what's seasonally available, and while tomatoes aren't exactly in season, I did have a ton of spring greenbriar, so I decided to go for it. This dish involves caramelizing the onions, and since I enjoyed the greenbriar caramelized as a pizza topping last year, I thought this would be a slam dunk! It was fantastic, even my husband liked it, and he doesn't like REGULAR ratatouille! Best of all, the greenbriar cooks a lot faster than the traditional eggplant, turning an hour-long prep into a meal on your table in 30 minutes!

Thick and juicy, but still tender and bendable,
these greenbriars are at the perfect stage for eating.

Greenbriars, aka Similax species, are only edible in the early to mid-spring, because it's the young, new growth you eat. The shoots and young leaves are quite tasty, and because of some sugars in them, they also caramelize beautifully. They are fairly easy to ID, I wouldn't quite say beginner level, but definitely for a slightly experienced novice. Please check out my post on how to ID greenbriars.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

You CAN eat thistles! Plus a vegan, paleo Greek salad recipe

Thistles. Covered in spikes, bane of young children playing outside, hated by homeowners who want a perfect yard, and loathed by ranchers who fear the weed will take over the grasslands needed by their cattle. Thistles are also edible, at least in parts.

The problem, of course, is the nasty spines. They completely cover the thick, juicy stalks, and the ruffled edges of each leaf. But if you can get beyond them, the inner core of the stem, and the "mid rib" of the leaf (the light green/whitish part), are both edible, and have a texture very similar to celery. There is one downside: thistles, especially the leaf mid rib, tend to be on the bitter side.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Vegetarian garlicky cleavers walnut pesto. Keto foraging recipe, paleo and vegan optional.

This pesto is not only the best pesto I've ever made, it's the best pesto I've ever tasted, period. If you have cleavers, please try this pesto now. If you trust no other recipe on this site, trust this one. This garlicky cleavers pesto is something you need in your life.

This pesto is fast, simple and can go on absolutely ANYTHING, but of course, I enjoy it best simply tossed with some pasta. This wild herb pesto is a great condiment, it's super healthy because of the nutritious cleavers, and low-carb keto, as well as being vegetarian. If you omit the cheese, it's also Paleo and Vegan!

This recipe has some weird steps, that I came upon entirely by accident, but they worked out so well!

Cleavers are a very common backyard "weed" that's super easy to identify. If it's early to mid-spring, I guarantee that you can find some near you, perhaps in a local park. They have a great herbal flavor, vaguely like oregano, but mostly uniquely their own. Cleavers should be boiled before eating, and I prefer them pureed as well, to avoid textural issues.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Spicy Sichuan black bean pork and tofu with dandelion greens and stem "lo mein". Keto-friendly, low-carb.

So last week I won an Instagram contest for a hand-carved dandelion stamp from EnchangingStamps on Etsy by sharing my favorite dandelion recipe.  I shared how, not being a huge fan of bitter flavors, I liked mixing dandelion greens (which are superfoods), into spicy dishes, where the heat mitigates some of the bitterness. My all-time favorite is a pork and tofu dish, inspired by Sichuan Mapo. It's rich with chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, black bean paste, and, of course, pork fat!

But I've never shared the recipe on my blog :( . . . In fact, I never shared ANY dandelion recipes on my blog! I think it's because there are so many great dandelion recipes out there, I haven't created any original ones myself.

But mixing spicy Asian flavors with bitter dandelions is something that I haven't seen anywhere else, so I'm making today the day I share it with you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Foraging dandelion stem, gluten-free, keto, paleo "noodles" -- for free!

Hello! Do you ever pin something on Pinterest, 100% intending to try it, when the time is right/you have the materials/the plant you need is in season, but by the time you actually can try it, you've completely forgotten about it? I'm ashamed to say that dandelion stem "noodles" are one of those for me. 

I first saw the idea over over at Wild Food Girl, and it seemed totally interesting, but my dandelions were always short-stemmed, and growing sparsely. It didn't seem worth bending over and picking for hours for piddly little 4" noodles. 

But on Sunday, I encountered a field full of densely growing dandelion patches, where I could find 6-10 stalks in every square foot, and those stalks were long! Some were over 12". Fortunately, my mind remembered the post and I decided to experiment.

It's hard to tell in this picture, but many of the stems were a foot or so long!

And oh. my. goodness. What an experiment it was! These might be my new favorite way to eat dandelions. They become perfectly soft, almost exactly the texture of top-quality ramen noodles from your favorite restaurant. The flavor is mild and fresh, very slightly bitter, and tastes incredibly wholesome.  

And why pay for trendy, low calorie noodles, when you can get these for free? They've got nearly 0 calories, low carb, no sugar, no fat, and are gluten-free, keto and paleo!

Best of all, they extend the dandelion harvest even farther! I picked these from dandelion heads that had already gone to seed, long after the greens are good, and even after the flowers. Harvesting these stems extends dandelion season by a week or two; totally awesome, when you consider how nutritious dandelions are for you!

Dandelion stem "noodle" recipe:

Bring dandelion stems to boil in a pot of lightly salted water. Boil for about 7 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and serve as you would any other kind of noodle. Enjoy!