Monday, May 5, 2014

Foraged Knotweed, Cucumber & Avocado Gazpacho Recipe

Ever since I discovered the similarities in flavor between Japanese knotweed and tomatillos, I have been experimenting with using the invasive in Latin-American style cuisine, notably a salsa verde and a  pico de gallo. These recipes were successful, unlike other experiments where I tried to use knotweed like rhubarb. I never posted about these, but they were not good; the worst being my attempt at a knotweed mostarda, based on a rhubarb recipe.

For me, I don't like knotweed cooked more than just the slightest blanching. I think it takes on an unpleasant character, not really noticeable at first, but after eating more than a few bites of it, it gets worse and worse.

So I have been looking for ideas that would let me use the knotweed raw, or lightly cooked. This tomatillo gazpacho recipe popped up in pinterest, unfortunately after knotweed season had passed, but it has been on my mind ever since. I had trepidations since the reviews were so mixed, but overall it sounded good to me, so I decided to give it a go. I am glad I did! This soup is great--somewhat hot, somewhat creamy, and very, very refreshing.

I did make a cucumber/shrimp salad for the topping, and I drank some sangria while eating. Happy Cinco de Mayo! (even if I don't actually get to post this till tomorrow)

The core of this recipe is vegan, if you omit shrimp from the garnish on top, you could replace it with diced grilled oyster mushrooms, I think would be amazing. Or spring peas in their crunchy pods would be fantastic. If you harvest the knotweed late enough in the season, I think black locust blossoms would be a tasty and gorgeous garnish. You could skip the blanching and this would work for a raw diet as well--I would probably increase the amount of cucumber if I did that though, so it wouldn't be too tart.

There are a lot of options!

Knotweed, Cucumber & Avocado Gazpacho

Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 for lunch. Can be doubled or tripled

3 cups roughly chopped Japanese knotweed, peeled if needed
2 cucumbers,
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 cup quality veggie stock or broth
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 roughly chopped, green bell pepper
handful of roughly chopped cooked shrimp, optional
black pepper
olive oil
  1. Saute the garlic in olive oil until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, do not brown.
  2. Boil 3 cups of water. Once boiling, add your sliced knotweed. Blanch for ONLY 30 seconds--the water may not even come back to boiling, and that's ok. As soon as the knotweed turns the slightest olive green, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Peel and seed your cucumbers. Roughly chop 1 1/2 cucumber, and dice 1/2 of one.
  4. Once the knotweed has returned to room temperature, add the knotweed, veggies (except the 1/2 cucumber that has been diced), cooked garlic and veggie stock to a food processor. Pulse until smooth, working in batches if needed. 
  5. Season to taste with black pepper
  6. Top each portion with shrimp (if using) and diced cucumber. Serve immediately.

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