Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Foraged Pizza with Chickweed and Caramelized Greenbriar

I was having foraged pizza envy, after seeing a post by @nibblingonnature on Instagram. I realized it had been a long, long time since I last made a foraged pizza. That one had had dryad's saddle on it. It had been amazing and I completely forgot to take pictures or make a post.

Homemade pizza is a Good Friday tradition with my in-laws. As the last Friday in Lent, you can't eat meat. Everyone gets together at my husband's aunt's house, makes a ton of pizzas, with 3-4 toppings, and then stuffs themselves silly. It's a good time, and a great meal. My favorite of those pies is the white pizza with cartelized onions.

They also make another dish which I would share, but it's a family secret. It's called grass pie and it uses a ton of dandelion greens! It's really heavenly.

Of course, having moved away from New Jersey, I didn't get to participate in this year's Good Friday, but I was still craving pizza. A weekend forage netted a bunch of Greenbriar shoots (Latin name: Smilax, also known as catbriar).

The tender new growth of greenbriar is edible

Sadly there won't be many pictures of the process on this dish, since I was on the phone with my mother while making it.

Small amounts of wild greens harvested for experiments:
greenbriar, bastard cabbage flower, and plantain seeds.
So the weekend before last, I did a forage primarily for bastard cabbage. I ended up making several dishes, including the Chana Masala I shared last week. While I was out, I found several other plants, including an abundance of Smilax, or Greenbriar.

I had tried greenbriar in New Jersey, and found the taste to be pleasant. It's a mild green, with a good crispness and a lot of juice.

I never found it abundantly up North, except in places where I didn't think it would be safe to eat: like highway embankments. So I never was able to find enough to do actual dishes with, or anything more than nibble on.

Anyway, that weekend I found a substantial handful, enough to try experimenting. There are numerous varieties of greenbriar, I found at least 4 growing in one area. Some have a little bitterness, but most do not. The flavor is hard to describe, it just tastes like a juicy green veggie, a bit non-descript.

Right about where my fingers are is where I pinched
off the new growth at the end of this Greenbriar.
The texture, however, reminded me a bit of cucumber, but also a lot like onions. I wondered if I could caramelize the greenbriar, and bring out some inherent sweetness. And then I was craving a wild pizza, and missing the white pie from my in-laws, so it all kind of came together.

Greenbriar is a thorny vine. The tender young growth is the edible portion, this can be at the end of the vines (where you will get the largest and juiciest stalks) or a new "branches" on the vine, which are generally quite a bit smaller.

If you know you have a Greenbriar, you can trim it back, and it will send up new shoots. These will be the very largest, tastiest and most juicy, however, without a lot of the parent vine they can be hard to identify.

Fortunately for me, people had heavily trimmed the greenbriar, probably to avoid being pricked along the trails. This made for an abundance of tender new growth.

I just find the point natural point where it is easy to pinch the new growth off the main vine, and that will be the tender (and non-thorny) portion.

When it comes to sustainability, you aren't really damaging the plant to take the new growth, but it will have to spend root energy to grow back, so try not to harvest more than once a season, and not all the new growth from a single plant.

Any leaves you harvest from these tender new shoots will also be edible, as would any soft new leaves harvested from anywhere else on the vine, but harvesting leaves individually is tedious, so I would just stick to the shoots.

This is the best example of how to show tender new growth I could find: it's a brighter green than the main vine,
more supple, and lacking in thorns. You can just pinch that entire new branch off and nibble away.

Ok so back to the kitchen. And as I said, I'm afraid I don't have many images of the process. The finished pie is very decadent with a LOT of cheese, so I added some chickweed, right at the end, and wilted it. The freshness helps cut though some of the richness, but it's still quite a treat.

White Pizza with Chickweed and Caramelized Greenbriar

This recipe makes one well-laden pie, and serves about 3 - 4. 

Pre-made pizza dough. (Honestly I just used Pillsbury's)
Large sweet yellow or white onion, sliced very thin
3 cups of tender greenbriar shoots, rinsed and chopped into bite-size or smaller pieces
6 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
5 large bulbs of garlic, minced
1 cup of fresh chickweed, roughly torn
Olive oil
Kosher salt
  1. Grease a baking sheet or pizza sheet with olive oil. Spread your dough out on it. If you are having difficulty spreading, let the dough come to room temperature first. Set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until all of the onion is translucent. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 425, or whatever temperature your dough needs. When the oven comes to temperature, add your dough and set the timer for 7 minutes. Check it and make sure it's mostly risen but not browned at that time, and remove from the oven.
  4. Add the minced garlic and greenbriar, and 1 tbs of kosher salt. Continue to sauté over medium for about 10 minutes. The greenbriar will sweat out quite a bit of water. Once it starts to reabsorb/evaporate, increase the temperature to high and start stirring constantly as all the ingredients brown. When everything is nicely caramelized, remove from heat.
  5. Top your mostly-risen dough with the mozzarella and clumps of ricotta. Spread your greenbriar, garlic and onion mix over the top of the cheeses. 
  6. Return to the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. Check it every minute after that, and remove  when the cheese is melted and starting to brown. 
  7. Sprinkle the torn chickweed over the entire pizza, and add to the oven for just one minute. Remove, slice and serve!
So how does it taste? Pretty darn amazing. Caramelizing the greenbriar brings out a ton of sweetness. It's not a sweetness like onion, and not like fruit, it's not even like the raw plant. It's an amazing combination with the mild and creamy cheeses, and the extra onion adds body. The freshness of the chickweed cuts through some of the richness, and the result is amazing. 

No comments:

Post a Comment