Along the Grapevine


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Lambsquarter Samosas

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I have written about lambsquarters ( chenopodium album ) in previous posts, and as I practice what I preach, I do use these super greens throughout the season – and even freeze and dry them for use in the winter. They can be used in any recipe calling for spinach, so there is really no need to compile too many recipes for it on the blog. But at this time of year, it is worth remembering that this plant is widely available, easy to harvest, and well worth the bother. For cooked dishes, I actually prefer it to spinach as it has a nicer texture and more flavour. I use it in savoury pies, quiches, stir fries, soups – in short, I use it a lot.

If allowed to grow, they can grow very tall, and if the soil is good they will continue to produce a deep green leaf with no blemishes. I have some beautiful patches, all grown in rich organic soil. Just remember not to pick it in any contaminated soil as it can absorb nitrates. Also, if using raw, it is advisable to add lemon to neutralize the oxalic acid.

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I decided to try making a variation of samosas. Normally I make these with carrots, potatoes, peas and spices, but using what I have available in the garden at the moment meant something greener.

So a green curry paste with lots of greens mixed in, and a simple samosa dough which is super elastic and easy to work with.

Just fry some chopped onions and potatoes.

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Add the spices, herbs and greens.

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Roll out the dough, cut and place a spoonful of mixture on top.

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Roll up samosa style, and bake.

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Lambsquarter Samosas


For the pastry

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp oil

3/4 – 1 cup of water

Mix the flour, salt and oil thoroughly. Gradually add the water until the dough holds together. Cover and chill for about an hour. Roll very thin, and cut into circles to make the samosas.

For the Filling

oil for frying

1 onion, chopped

1 new potato, chopped and unpeeled

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbsp green curry paste

2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

1 cup peas or green beans, chopped into small bits

1 cup steamed lambsquarters

salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion and potato until the potato is cooked. Add the garlic, cury paste and herbs and fry 2 minutes longer. Add the peas, cooked lambsquarters, salt and pepper and cook another minute, stirring to combine everything well. Allow to cool.

To fill, place a spoonful of filling on a circle of dough about 3 inches in diameter.

Press together the opposite sides from the middle to the end, forming a cone shape. Then pull up the base of the open part to join the first seam, creating another seam perpendicular to the first one.

Place samosas on a parchment lined baking tray and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes.

Mine are a little dark because I used Red Fife flour, but if you want them a lighter, more golden colour, use all purpose flour.

Samosas are excellent with a tamarind chutney, but as I am using local ingredients, I made a dipping sauce with crabapple paste mixed with enough vinegar to make a thick sauce, a little cumin and some methi (dried fenugreek leaves) sprinkled on top.

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I served it with a cabbage salad, cucumbers garnished with lemon balm and raita made with fresh mint and purslane.

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They can be served hot or not, as an appetizer, part of a meal, or just a healthful snack when you have been out exerting yourself, which in my case means ripping out masses of weeds, including lambsquarters. By the way, the weeds are doing very well this summer.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #78.

Related posts: Barley with Lemon and Lambsquarters;  Lambsquarters Triangles;   Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers


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A Forager’s Red and Blue Salad

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You needn’t be a full-time, experienced or savvy forager to take advantage of the wonderful wild food all around us. With simple additions of two or three wild herbs, flowers, seeds or greens, an ordinary dish can be made into something which is visually and nutritionally superior to its standard self. Salads are perhaps the easiest place to get started. The ingredients will vary from week to week, depending on what is growing in your garden, near-by wild areas or even in your flower pots. Just be sure you know what you are picking, and that it is indeed an edible plant.

My salad today was inspired by what I found in the garden while out weeding. The base for it is what is growing in the garden at this time of year, namely lettuce and cucumbers (of which I have an alarming amount!) and beet greens, which in this case are actually deep red. Beyond that I noticed a lot of red and blue and decided to work with these as if they were my palette for a salady creation.

Even though the colour didn’t fit, I picked some purslane, probably the single most nutritious plant growing in any garden. I have way more this year than any previous year, and am determined to make good use of it while it lasts.

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For the red theme, I also used the young leaves of red amaranth which has successfully seeded itself each year.

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And purple basil.

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For the blue, I used a few chicory flowers for a little bitterness

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and borage flowers for a lot of sweetness, like honey.

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and Johnny-Jump-Ups for a mild wintergreen flavour.

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I considered using the goutweed next to it, but it didn’t fit in with the colour. This was not the only plant that had to be excluded because of its colour.

A few blackberries and a vinaigrette made by mixing some strained blackberry jam into the vinegar before combining it with oil and seasoning.

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The final result was a wonderful mixture of sweet, bitter and sour, light and fresh with some robust flavour not always found in summer salads.

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I will not likely be able to duplicate this exact recipe as one or more of the ingredients will soon no longer be available, but I will continue to experiment with wild ingredients, and hope you will give it a go too.

Related posts:

Gazpacho with purslane

Waldorf salad with purslane


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Bear with me!

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I forage mostly within the confines of our property, except for the odd sortie beyond, usually for plants growing in wetlands. Lately I have gone a few feet beyond our property to a vacant, unused field next door for which I have been given permission to trespass. However, another has recently moved in – one who is a much more serious forager than I and who does not understand that foraging should be done sustainably and with consideration for others. I hope this new tenant does not stay too long, but am reassured that at least by winter he will have lumbered off to hibernate.

I have not seen him, although his relatives have been spotted only a few hundred metres from our house. I had seen his tracks around my favourite raspberry bushes, but wrongly assumed it was from a deer or raccoon. I shan’t be competing with him for these berries – and if I do I will take my trusty bear horn.

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An intrepid houseguest did get uncomfortably close to him, and warned me not to venture much beyond our driveway. I’m not arguing.

Nonetheless, the berries this year are better than I have seen them since we moved here, so I take what I can and where I can. I have enough to make several delicious recipes, beginning with one for pectin-free black raspberry jam.

As this recipe is lower in sugar and acid than most jams, I am not recommending it for canning. In a well sealed container it will last a couple of weeks in the fridge or can be frozen.

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I started by mashing the berries in a pot with a potato masher to extract all the juice I could. For each cup of berries I added one cup of organic sugar plus 1 Tbsp of crabapple paste or dulce de manzana silvestre. This helps thicken it with its natural pectin. A quince paste would work just as well.

Bring to a boil for five minutes and simmer for a further fifteen minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. That’s it! Pour into clean jars and seal. The mixture will thicken when cool. It is excellent as a jam, tart filling or topping for ice cream.


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A Recipe dedicated to Selma

This week at Fiesta Friday we are remembering Selma, one of our dear fellow-bloggers who recently passed away. Although I did not know her personally, she became a source of inspiration for me not only with her wonderful recipes, but cooking tips and techniques. She was supportive and friendly in her comments, generously giving of her time to help any of us who asked. You can visit her blog at Selma’s Table and read for yourself her stories and recipes from a wonderful life

She and I shared some favourite cookbook writers, one of which was Yotam Ottolenghi whose recipes so often make use of my favourite garden produce with some tantalizing innovative touches. I decided to dedicate to Selma one such dish from his book Plenty, all the ingredients for which I already had either in my garden or pantry. Well, almost. Instead of verjus I used my own version made from unripe blueberries, and I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Rather than roasting the small beets in the oven with aluminum foil for 45 minutes, I wrapped them in corn husks and roasted them in an iron pan for 15 minutes. I saved on electricity and aluminum! And the beets take on a deliciously smoky corn flavour. Here is how I did it.

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Place baby beets on corn husks

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Wrap securely and twist the ends

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Cook on medium high heat for 15 min. turning often

The recipe is copied, almost verbatim, with my variations in brackets.

Asparagus, Fennel and Beets with Verjus

Ingredients

1/4 lb mini beets

1 1/3 cup verjus

4 Tbsp grapeseed oil

salt and black pepper

4 to 5 oz fresh pencil-thin asparagus, or normal asparagus

1/2 large fennel bulb (1/4 lb) halved vertically (or 1 very small whole one)

1/4 cup pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)

1 tbsp dill leaves to garnish

Method

Clean and trim the beets. Either bake in an oven-proof dish at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil, or use my method as described above.

Pour the verjus into a small saucepan, bring to a light simmer and leave it to reduce to about 3 tbsps. When cooled, whisk in the grapeseed oil and salt and pepper to taste. Put aside.

If using normal asparagus, cut the spears on a sharp angle into long and very thins slices, or use a potato peeler to make ‘shavings’.

Arrange the vegetables on small serving plates. Scatter with roasted nuts (or seeds). Drizzle on the dressing and garnish with dill.

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I think this salad would go very well with many of Selma’s dishes and I hope she would agree.


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Two New Flavours of Ginger Soda

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Recycled beer bottles with flip lids

I am not a fan of commercial soft drinks whatsoever, but once I started making my own from ”bugs’, which are fermented roots (often ginger root) with sugar, I have had great fun making and consuming all sorts of variations of fizzy drinks. Especially after working several hours (or at least what seems like several hours) in the garden, I am rewarded with a tall cool drink of whatever mixture I have fermenting in the kitchen.

The process is really very simple, but it does take a little time. I try to make a couple of bottles a day so that I always have some on hand.  To begin, I mix a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger with an equal amount of sugar in about a cup of water in a covered mason jar. Each day I add half that amount of ginger and sugar until the mixture begins to bubble which is around five days, at which point it is ready to make a drink of whatever flavour I want with a second fermentation.

The second part is where the interesting flavours come in, although because it is a ginger bug, there will be a good gingery flavour already. For these drinks I used ginger-friendly fruits, rhubarb for one and sumac for the other.

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You will need flip top bottles for this so that no gas escapes during fermentation. The bottles I used hold two cups so it made measuring easy – 1 3/4 cup sumac or rhubarb juice (descriptions below), 1 tsp sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter) and 1/4 cup ginger bug. Mix well, bottle and leave to ferment from 2-5 days depending on the temperature of your kitchen and how much sugar you have used. For a first attempt I recommend opening it after two days to see how it’s doing. If there is no ‘pop’ at all when you open it, leave it for another day or two next time, although it will still be very good, just not too bubbly. Because I use little sugar, I like to leave mine for five days to give it a really good fizz, but then I do have to be careful to open it slowly and expect a little to escape. Kind of like opening champagne! If you want it for later, refrigerate it which will slow down any further fermentation – but not stop it all together.

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Sumac drink after five days of fermentation

For the juices, I cooked some chopped rhubarb covered in water with sugar to taste and strained. For the sumac, I simply used water infused with sumac berries.

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Rhubarb drink after two days of fermentation

After you have used the ‘bug’, add water to replace the liquid you have strained out of it, and continue to feed it ginger and sugar daily. Or put it in the fridge and carry on another day. You will have to remove some of the ginger from time time, which I do whenever I am making a soup, dressing or stir-fry into which it goes very nicely.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday # 76


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Cattail Pollen Scones with Currants

DSC02290 The pollen from cattails or bulrushes (typha angustifolia) is only available for a short period. In previous years I have completely missed it or collected too little for it to be of any use. Even this season I have collected only a small amount, but enough to get an idea of how best to get and use it. Cattails grow in swampy areas, difficult to access because of the wet and irregular ground. They are ready when the male part of the flower, a tall spike growing above the sausage like female flower, is a golden yellow colour. If they are brown, you are too late. DSC02289 To collect the pollen, hold a plastic bag below the flower, keeping the opening as small as possible so the pollen doesn’t blow away. Bend the plant over into the bag and give the flower a good shake. You will get up to one tablespoon of pollen from each flower. Since this job requires two hands, I was unable to get a picture of the process, but it is pretty easy to figure out. Just make sure there are no holes in your bag. To use the pollen, pass it through a fine sieve to remove any of the bushy bits and bugs. I had to repeat this process a few times to get rid of all the extraneous matter. You will be left with a fine yellow powder which can be used to replace some of the flour in baking bread, biscuits or pancakes, or you can sprinkle it on hot cereal or yogurt. Like bee pollen which can be bought in health stores for a healthy price, it is full of nutrients but much cheaper. If you are lucky and collect enough, it can replace up to 1/3 the quantity of flour. DSC02307 Pancakes seem to be a favourite for this ingredient, so I decided to bake scones, and I’m so glad I did. The colour and delicate fruity flavour go so well with these tea-time treats I am now determined to have another go and collect more. But time is of the essence with cattails, so I hasten to pass on this recipe to any readers willing and able to try it for themselves. DSC02308

Cattail Pollen Scones with Currants

Ingredients

2-3 Tbsp pollen plus enough flour to measure 2 cups

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1 Tbsp sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter and blend well, then stir in the currants. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and add the flour mixture, leaving about 2 Tbsp to be brushed on top of the scones. When the liquid is all absorbed, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes. Roll out and cut into circles. Place on a lined baking sheet and brush with the reserved milk and egg mixture. Sprinkle the sugar on top. I used sugar coloured with dried forsythia flowers. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 F and bake the scones for 12 minutes until they are golden brown. Any which are not going to be eaten right away, cool and freeze. To serve, reheat in a warm oven (300 F) for about 15 minutes.

These are best served English style with clotted cream and fruit preserves, but definitely good enough on their own too.

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Cattail Pollen Scones with Currants on Punk Domestics


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Elderflowers Two Ways

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I have always associated elderberry (sambucus nigra) with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The delicate elderflower syrup was an import and a bit of a luxury to me. So when I discovered that it does grow here in Ontario, I determined to find some before the beautiful flowers disappeared.

This large shrub or tree can grow to about 6 meters high and wide. It has clusters of dainty white five-petalled flowers. The leaves are pointed and serrated, and about two inches in length. It grows in sunny, moist areas, usually near swamps, rivers or lakes. They have a pleasant but mild scent.

The leaves, stems and unripe berries are toxic. The flowers are rich in bioflavonoids, and have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. The one contraindication for them is that because they reduce blood sugar levels, they are not recommended for diabetics. If you are interested in reading more on the health effects, refer to this site.

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To pick them, it is recommended to pick just one cluster of flowers from each branch so that the rest can produce berries. Lightening the load a bit will not only not harm the plant, but will remove some of the excess growth. Wild plants need a little pruning sometimes too.

Once properly identified, the clusters are easy to remove. And just a few will go a long way.

They can be dried, fermented, infused, baked or fried. To start with my first batch I decided to make a simple syrup and some fritters.

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First I checked each flower for any insects and gave them a gentle shake. I did not wash them as they are delicate and didn’t want to wash away any of the flavour.

To make the syrup, I simply snipped off the umbrels (or individual clusters) and put them in a pot and covered them with water. I brought the water to a boil, strained the lot through a fine sieve lined with a paper towel.  Once the flowers are in boiling water, they turn yellow and develop a delicious aroma.

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I returned the hot liquid to the pot and added sugar, about 1/2 cup for 4 cups of liquid, at which point the yellow became even deeper. Heat just enough to dissolve and pour into a clean jar. This syrup will  not have a long shelf life, but refrigerated will last about a week. A small amount like this can be consumed in no time.

To serve, I mixed about 1 part syrup with 3-4 parts soda water, A little ice and you have yourself a refreshing and nutritious drink.

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For the fritters, I used a recipe which can be found here. The batter is a simple mixture of 4 Tbsp of plain flour, and enough sparkling water to make a thin batter. I used 10 Tbsp, slightly less than the recipe called for.

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Dip the umbrels in the batter and deep fry them for about 1-2 minutes. When the flowers become stiff, but before they brown, they are ready. Drain them well on absorbent paper.

For the sauce, I mixed together some crabapple paste, chipotle sauce and a little olive oil. The mixture of 1 tsp each of salt and sugar along with a spicy sauce really make these little fritters special.

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With the remaining flowers I have collected, I am thinking of fermenting some to make an elderflower ‘bubbly’, drying some for tea, and perhaps using some of my syrup to make a soda. More on that later

Elderflowers Two Ways on Punk Domestics
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