Along the Grapevine


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Lily Buds

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Earlier in the year, I started experimenting with the prolific wild day lily (hemerocallis fulva), using at that time the tubers and the shoots which I described in this post. Now they are in full flower, but before I use the-full blown flowers, I decided to prepare something with the unopened blossoms. Coincidentally I received a post today on this very plant from Edible Wild Food - a site I often use to help me identify unfamiliar weeds and such – which gives a good description of what is called around here the ‘ditch lily’. If you’re not sure what this plant is or want to learn more about it, I recommend this post. If you have any gardening questions of the wild kind, this is a great source.

My recipe is not really a recipe – just an illustration that these pods can be eaten and are very tasty. The last few days I have been cooking, but not so much my own recipes as several of the super dishes presented at last week’s Fiesta Friday #24, so all I have to bring this week to Fiesta Friday #25 is this simple but delicious dish of vegetables with lily buds. I will be co-hosting again this week, this time with my fellow-Canadian Chef Julianna from Foodie on Board.

It should be noted that some people (some sources say 2%, others 5%) suffer digestive upsets from this plant, so go easy at first if you haven’t tried them before just to be on the safe side as with any new food.

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To prepare them as a side dish, I lightly fried some green beans in a mixture of olive oil and butter, added chopped garlic, herbs (in this case fresh tarragon) and seasoning. Then I added the lily buds and fried just a minute or two longer until they looked slightly toasted.

The flavour is sweet, a little fruity and not at all bitter or sour. If you haven’t tried cooking with wild flowers before, hemerocallis fulva is a great one to start with.

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And to all the guests at this week’s fiesta, a big welcome. I look forward to seeing what treats are in store for us this time. If you would like to join in the fun, check out how and where here.

 


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Homemade Plantain Toner (Plantago major)

Hilda:

This is the first time I have ever reblogged someone else’s post. I loved the way the plantain is used as a skin tonic and thought some of my readers might be interested. I also like the pictures here so decided I would just pass it on as is.

Originally posted on D is for Delicate:

Toner is one of those things I’ve never used consistently, mostly because I’m lazy, but also because the good stuff is pretty expensive and  none of the homemade versions I’ve tried has ever been quite right. After moving to central Illinois a month ago, however, the need for toner became abundantly clear. It is (unsurprisingly) much cooler here than Mississippi or Louisiana, which means I am walking a lot more than I usually do in the summer. And although it is substantially cooler, it’s still summer, and the face sweat situation was not really conducive to clear skin.

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Also, isn’t that measuring cup/spoon combo to die for? They were wedding gifts from our friends Selena, Ben, and Liam, and I smile every time I use them.

Plantago Major Plantain Weed

Image via calindarabus , Flickr

After reading recently about the benefitsof plantain—the weed, Plantago major, not the giant banana—I began noticing…

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Dolmas with Rice and Meat

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This week I have the privilege of co-hosting Angie’s Fiesta Friday along with Indu of Indu’s International Kitchen and Selma of Selma’s Table. This is the 24th such event, and if you haven’t attended or participated yet, you should check it out. I have come to rely on these gatherings for inspiration and great recipe ideas, and I am sure this week will be no exception.

With all the fresh, organic and free for the picking grape leaves just right for harvesting at this time, I decided to bring some along to the party. Last year at this time I made a vegetarian version of dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, with chick peas and rice cooked in a slow cooker. For the sake of variation, I made for the first time a meat version for my omnivore house guests, and instead of a slow cooker used my ‘old’ method which requires no special equipment.

First, I picked a bag of leaves – about 4 dozen – choosing good sized ones but still young and unblemished. I blanched them for a few seconds in boiling water, drained and stacked them. At this point, you can freeze them to be used later.

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To form the dolmas, place one leaf at a time vein-side up and remove any stem.

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Take a spoonful of filling and place it at the base and in the centre of the leaf.

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Lift the sides and bottom of the leaf around the filling and fold the edges over the centre.

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Roll upwards making a nice neat package. Repeat this with the rest of the leaves.

Line the bottom of a large saucepan with clean, sliced raw potatoes. This will prevent the dolmas from burning or sticking to the pan. It will also leave you with some delicious potatoes to serve with or as a side dish for another meal. Place the dolmas on top of the potatoes, close together and in layers. Pour cold water over them until it just barely covers the dolmas.

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Place a heat proof lid or plate smaller than the circumference of the pan but large enough to weigh down all the dolmas so they are submerged. I used a stone cutting board.

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Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a medium and allow to simmer until all the water has been absorbed. You can tell when the water is almost used up by the sound, but to be sure I just tilted the pan a little to see how much there was. The total cooking time was about 3 1/2 hours.

They can be served immediately, kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen.

Dolmas with Meat and Rice

  • Servings: 48 pieces
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Print

1 lb lean ground beef or lamb

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbsp sumac (optional)

2 tsp cumin

1 cup long grain rice

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

2 or three potatoes, sliced

48 blanched grape leaves

Mix all the ingredients except the potatoes. Stuff the leaves as illustrated above. Place them in a pan previously lined with potato slices. Add water to barely cover. Place a weight, such as a heat-proof plate or lid on top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Arrange in a serving dish and garnish with slices of lemon or pickled onions.

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Milkweed Bud Fetuccine

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I usually try to make original recipes, but occasionally I come across something I haven’t thought of and want to try. Once I tried this recipe for fetuccine made with the leaves and buds of milkweed I decided to bring it to  Angie’s Fiesta Friday #23 and  share it with any of my readers who have milkweed. And if you don’t have milkweed, broccoli leaves and flowers could be used in their stead.

The Forager Chef creates some of the best and most innovative recipes using foraged ingredients I have found. The recipe in its original is here - and you might like to look through his blog to see some of his creations, especially those using a great selection of wild mushrooms.

Two things made me want to try this recipe. First, I have such an abundance of milkweed now as we have tried to encourage its growth for the sake of the monarchs, none of which has shown up yet.

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The other incentive was that I really like home-made pasta, especially when it is a recipe which is unusual enough that it is only available if you make it yourself.

I made only minor changes in the recipe. I used lime instead of lemon, and cheddar cheese instead of parmesan. The milkweed has a delicate floral flavour, and the lime zest is a perfect pairing for it. The pasta was easy to work with, but having added just a tad too much water I dusted it liberally with semolina when rolling it and once it was cut.

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I blanched the leaves and flowers together along with a few plantain flowers I was using for something else, and used the stock from cooking these  in the pasta and for the pasta sauce.

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Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries

 

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I was able to pick just enough wild strawberries in our field to make one recipe – a recipe where these tiny fruits would stand on their own and not get lost with a lot of other ingredients. So marinating them in balsamic vinegar and serving it with olive oil ice cream seemed the only option. I hope the guests at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #22 approve.

I have never made olive oil ice cream before, but it sounded intriguing to me. There are lots of recipes on line, and I have read most of them. Finally, I made a fairly standard custard and added some olive oil. I expect any standard ice cream recipe would work, but best if you use a little less sugar than normal. If you don’t have wild strawberries, then use regular ones.

As for the olive oil, I noted that you should use a good quality fruity oil and not a peppery one. Some recipes called for oil infused with lemon, but I had not time for that. I just used my Costco brand organic extra virgin olive oil which worked fine. If you have a really special fruity olive oil, by all means use that.

Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Print

For the ice cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

2 egg yolks

6 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp olive oil

Heat the cream and milk until almost boiling. Pour a little at a time, continuing to mix while pouring, into the egg yolks beaten with sugar. Return it all to the pan and cook on medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook it. Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little, then add the olive oil and mix in thoroughly. Chill in the fridge, and then freeze in an ice cream machine according to instructions.

For the strawberry sauce

1 cup wild strawberries

3 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle sugar on the strawberries and allow to stand until the sugar dissolves and a syrup forms. This can take a few hours, but stirring it occasionally helps it along. Just before serving, add the balsamic vinegar.

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I served it before it really had a chance to freeze properly, but it was delicious nonetheless.


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Plantain (Plantago Major)

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Our lawn is covered mostly with four plants. Grass, clover and dandelions I am well familiar with – but the fourth seemed barely worthy of a name. It is neither beautiful, nor so ugly that you need to get rid of it – it just is. I recently read about this plant which indeed does have a name, plantain or plantago mayor and I became intrigued by its many uses, nutritional and medicinal. All its parts are edible, and while I haven’t found any ripe seed pods yet this year, I have been using the young, light green leaves raw and cooked.

Where to find them: Lawns, fields, roads, gravel, cracks in pathways. It was brought to North America by colonizers and was referred to as “white man’s footprint” as it was found growing in all the European settlements where the land had been disturbed.

Identification:  The plant is made of a rosette of oval leaves. The veins begin at the base – the central one being straight and extending through the full length of the leaf.  The remaining veins are curved along the line of the shape of the leaf. The flower is a stiff rod, at first green and then turning brown which sticks straight up from the centre of the plant.

Uses: Young leaves can be eaten raw, while the older ones should be cooked until tender. The leaves which have antibacterial and astringent properties can be used as a poultice to apply to stings and wounds to reduce pain and prevent infection. Seed pods can be cooked much like asparagus, and the seeds are used as a substitute for psyllium. It is also a valuable weed in your garden as it breaks up hard soil and holds loose soil together to prevent erosion.

Nutritional Value: Rich in iron and vitamins A and C.

Recipes using Plantago Major

The easiest comparison of this plant with something familiar would be spinach, although the leaves are tougher, more like kale. The flavour is not strong, so pairing them with seasoning, herbs, garlic, lemon, fish sauce, soya sauce and other flavourings all work well.

I first tried steaming them in oil and a splash of water with garlic which I then combined with omelettes and pasta or just served as a side dish.

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I also made a smoothie, using 1 cup of young raw plantain leaves, 2 sprigs of mint, a little honey, 2 cups of almond milk and a banana and an apple. Pureed in the blender and chilled it made a delicious healthful drink, even if the appearance was less than stellar.

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Now that scapes are in season, I decided to augment my scape pesto with some plantain. This recipe can be frozen for several months, so I tend to make a good batch of it – by a good batch I mean enough for one meal plus two jars.

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Scape and Plantain Pesto

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Print

1/2 lb scapes

one handful of young plantain leaves

1/2 cups olive oil

1/2 cups walnut pieces

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until almost smooth. Salt to taste or parmesan cheese can be added, but I usually add those when I serve them. This pesto is excellent with pasta, spread on bread or crackers, or served with fish.

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Milkweed Flowers on Punk Domestics

 

 

 


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Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers

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I have just begun to cook with farro, and my trials so far have given such good results that it will no doubt replace barley, rice and other grains for many of my recipes. It has a nutty, sweet flavour with a pleasantly chewy texture. The fact that it is higher in protein and fibre than wheat is another good reason to choose this grain.

Although it has been around longer than any other cultivated grain, it is relatively new in the North American market, and there is still some confusion about it. Related to spelt, it is sometimes lumped in with this grain. The botanical name for spelt is Triticum Spelta, while farro (emmer) is Triticum Dicoccum, so there is a difference.

My latest recipe mixes farro with one of my favourite greens, another ancient superfood, lambsquarters.

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If you don’t have as much as I do, you can use part or all of other greens like kale or spinach. For the herbs, I used green and red basil and mint, but use whichever mixture you prefer.

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And so I bring to Fiesta Friday 21 an original, vegan burger I hope you will enjoy.

Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 20 min
  • Print

1 cup raw farro

2 cups water

4 cups lambsquarters

1 Tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 2 Tbsp water

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch chopped herbs

1 shallot, chopped

2 Tbsp hemp hearts (optional)

3 Tbsp chickpea or other flour

1/2 tsp salt

To prepare the farro, soak it in water overnight or for a few hours. Then cook it as you would rice. This will take 10-15 minutes.

Steam the lambsquarters, or other greens, until they are nicely wilted with just a little water. If there is any excess water, drain it off (and use it for cooking the farro).

Chop the greens and mix all the other ingredients together.

Form into patties and fry in a little oil of your choice on a medium heat, approximately 10 minutes on each side.

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