Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Savory, Fat-Free (Almost!), Foraged Clover Bread Recipe

While on a tour with "Wildman" Steve Brill, we came upon a field of sweet clover, the red/purple kind; which the "Wildman" told us was very good for you. Upon tasting the flowers, I was reminded of this dandelion bread from Fat of the Land; and I knew I had to try to make a clover version--with my own small twists, of course!

I wanted to try to create a somewhat healthier version of the original. I substituted half of the white flour for whole wheat flour, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. I also decided to use an old trick for reducing the fat of a dish, by replacing unsweetened apple sauce for the oil. The result is an almost fat-free bread--the egg still has a little fat in it. My first loaf was missing something, so the second batch got a dash of vanilla extract, which really perked it up.

There is a slightly bitter note in this bread; I would assume it comes from the green parts of the flowers, which are impossible to remove entirely. Still, it is rich, hearty and dense, with a touch of sweetness and a very pleasing texture. It tastes great with a pat of creamy butter, or toasted with a drizzle of maple syrup; but my favorite way of serving it is to add a razor thin slice of sharply-flavored cheese (I used Asiago), to top each slice of bread.

It is difficult to categorize this bread. It could be an appetizer, certainly, but it is also very nice for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea. And its delicious when paired with beer, so. . . However you look at it, its a tasty little anytime bread.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ribollita with Foraged Garlic Mustard

Ribollita is a rich, hearty Tuscan stew made from a variety of vegetables, beans, tomatoes, and decadently served day-old bread, which becomes saturated, breaks down, and adds a thickening agent to the broth. Top all that with a generous helping of grated parmesan, and mmmmmm! Like much Tuscan cuisine, ribollita has its origins in peasant fare, though the exact history is lost.

Warm and filling, this stew lends itself to wintry days, though I found it quite satisfying over the rainy spring afternoons we had last week. There is no set recipe, and I have borrowed from numerous sources, as well as adding my own touches. Classically, ribollita uses kale, specifically dark, purply Tuscan kale; but in this dish, the role of leafy, slightly bitter greens will be played by garlic mustard leaves. Garlic mustard efficiently does double duty here, filling the flavor profile for garlic as well.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Foraged Garlic Mustard Frittata Recipe

Happy Mother's Day!
In honor of Mothers everywhere, I decided to share with you this wild version of a classic brunch food: the frittata.

Personally, I love a frittata for any occasion--or for any meal, for that matter. They are quick to whip up, pretty healthy, require minimal cleanup, and can be tossed together from whatever veggies and/or meat are left over in your fridge. They are also one of the cheapest meals you can make, since eggs are one of the most affordable protein sources in the market. And, the only way to make affordable food cheaper is to load it up with free stuff from the wild.

A frittata is really just a crustless quiche, and this recipe adapts well if you want to pour the mixture into a premade or homemade shell. I happened to have a bell pepper that wouldn't have made it much longer in the fridge, but broccoli, spinach, green beans, or any other of cultivated veggies would have done just as well--or leave them out entirely and just keep it wild.

Whatever other veggies you choose, I think keeping garlic mustard as the main ingredient is key. I really love the way the garlicy richness permeates through the egg mixture. I used leaves from the second year plant, when blanched, they are as tender as baby spinach, and far less bitter than kale.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spicy Black Bean Fish with Foraged Ramps Recipe

With the trees now fully leafed out, the ephemeral season of the ramp is drawing to a close. Heading out to our patch on Sunday, we found that several ramp leaves are already showing yellow discoloration at the edges. Within a week, maybe a little longer, every leaf in the patch will have wilted to brown and this delicacy can no longer be gathered. 

As with any negative in nature, it's balanced by a positive. Once the leaves reach this state, they do loose a little flavor, it's true; but they can be harvested in great abundance, with impunity. As always, I entreat you not to take the bulb, (how to ID and harvest ramps), but the leaves are soon to die anyway, so you can now freely take a leaf from all the plants. Ramps only use their leaves for photosynthesis for a few short weeks before they become choked out of light; during that time, the pant stores as much energy as it can in the bulb. Now is a great time to harvest an abundance of ramps and freeze them. 

With gathering set to high, it's the perfect time to make a dish which uses a lot of ramp leaves. This is actually my husband's recipe, and it is his wild interpretation of one of our favorite dishes at our favorite restaurant, Chengdu 23. This fish dish is drenched in spicy heat from the peppers, sweetness from the ramps, and the rich earthy-ness of fermented soy beans. The ramps dramatically change the character of the leek-based original, which lacks the sweet onion note of the wild version, but has a denser, more fibrous texture. To retain that element, feel free to use a mixture of both ramps and cultivated leeks.