Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Florentine curly dock & ground beef pinwheels. Gluten free, keto, paleo optional

Curly dock is one of those plants which I historically categorized as being grossly overrated. Foragers go on and on about the succulent texture, the rich, slightly sour flavor, and the versatility. Meanwhile, I would turn my nose up at the bitterness, the stringiness, the coarseness, and the fact that it was a small, dirty plant, which frequented polluted areas. "No thanks!" I'd say, "None for me, I like my forage large, lush, full of flavor, no bitterness, and, above all, CLEAN!"

Well, then I moved to Texas and had to eat crow, because I discovered this:

Is that not a beautiful, healthy, lush-looking plant or what?

There's a saying that everything is bigger in Texas. I don't know if that's true, but I know for a fact that dock plants sure are. I didn't include anything for scale, but each of those big leaves is 12-16" long. Even the smallest new growth is 8-9" long.

Is that . . . could it be . . . curly dock? At that size? Growing in a pristine woodland glade?

To be honest, I'm not 100% sure. My brain still refuses to believe that curly dock, (also called yellow dock, Latin name: Rumex crispus) can grow this beautifully. And I can't seem to find any confirmation about this massive size online.

I did find the papery sheathes at the end of each stem, an essential tip to ID. And in every other aspect, this plant convinced me that it was a dock, a member of the Rumex genus. I tasted a leaf - delicious! No bitterness, no corse texture, just a lovely fresh green taste with a somewhat sour aftertaste. Definitely a dock. Not sure which, still, but I think it probably is a curly dock. Anyway, all North American docks are edible.

Ideal growing conditions: lots of shade, moisture, rich soil, had kept this dock tender and flavorful (rather than tough and astringent) long after the usual time to pick dock.

The oxalic acid in the plant causes the leaves to turn olive green after cooking.
Maybe not the prettiest, but they still taste great!
I couldn't let the gargantuan size of these leaves go to waste, I had to make something that showcased them. I considered sushi, but since my husband wasn't home, and he's the one who makes the perfect sushi rice, I came up with these Florentine style beef pinwheels instead. 

They come together so super quickly, using stuff that I had in my pantry and fridge already. Just 10-15 minutes of prep, and 15-20 minutes in the oven, and you've got dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Perfect for a long day of foraging.

The aged balsamic was added on a whim. We just picked up a bottle last weekend, and I've been itching to try it in conjunction with a wild food. I hoped that the underlying piney, citrusy flavors would enhance the sour flavors of the greens. It totally worked!

Ready to roll

Recipe: Florentine style beef and curly dock pinwheels

Serves 2-3 as a main course
Prep time: 15 mins, Oven time: 15 mins

1 lb ground beef, I used 90/10
4 curly dock leaves, about 12" x 3"
6 oz grated mozzarella, divided into 4 oz, and 2 oz
2 tbs. granulated garlic
1 tbs. aged balsamic
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup regular balsamic vinegar

All rolled up!

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350. 
  2. Add the ground beef, 4 oz of the mozzarella, the granulated garlic, aged balsamic, dried basil, dried oregano, and sea salt to a bowl. Mix completely, I used my hands.
  3. Break the petioles (the leaf stems) off the bottom of the leaves. Lay them flat, and spread an even amount of the beef mixture out across them. 
  4. Starting with the stem side, roll the leaves up. Then cut them, so you have an even base to lay them down on. 
  5. At this point, I wish I had had twine or toothpicks to hold everything together, but I just pressed them up against each other and they stayed together pretty well. 
  6. Lay the rolls in an oven-safe glass or ceramic dish, on a bed off additional leaves (to prevent burning and sticking). 
  7. Drizzle the regular balsamic vinegar over all the rolls. 
  8. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. 
  10. Serve with a drizzle of aged balsamic on each plate. A simple side salad would be the perfect accompaniment. 
If you really want to, you could go fancy by mincing and browning fresh garlic. You could also add diced tomatoes to the mix, and use fresh herbs. . . if you have the time, feel free to let your imagination go wild.

This dish is gluten-free, high in protein, low in carbs, sugars, and fat, and Keto friendly.  Paleo diet followers, and the lactose intollerant could omit the cheese and use extra veggies, slivered almonds, or even nut-based Paleo "cheeses".

If you don't have dock, or other large wild green leaves available, you could try this with kale or collard greens, though I would squeeze some lemon instead of the balsamic vinegar at the end, to keep some of the sour flavors. 


  1. This grows abundantly in our area. I've been wanting to try it for years. I think now's a good time, using this recipe. Sounds and looks delicious. Thanks

    1. Do try it! And check out some of my other recipes for dock by clicking the "curly dock" in the labels. It has quickly become one of my favorite wild greens, it's incredibly versatile.