Along the Grapevine


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Grape Leaf Pesto

If you have wild grape leaves in your area, this is the best time to pick them while they are still tender and unblemished. I collect them in large quantities and those I don’t use immediately, I blanche and freeze for later use. They are particularly useful in pickles and ferments to help keep vegetables crisp while they also add some good flavour, but can be used in many other ways, some of which you will see in related posts below. For identification, uses and nutritional information, click here for my introduction to them.

Long before there was any green on the vines, I began to think what new recipe I could introduce this year, and came up with the idea of a pesto. The first try was a complete success, although I will definitely try it with some variations. For this recipe I mixed it with nettles to make it greener, as by blanching the grape leaves as I did, they tend to turn a kind of olive colour. Other greens could be used according to what you have available, so feel free to use your imagination. I used black walnuts from our area, but regular walnuts are also fine.

I picked very young ones, but when they are mature I recommend removing any of the central stem that looks a bit tough.DSC03525

Grape Leaf Pesto

Grape Leaf Pesto

4 cups grape leaves, loosely packed

1/2 cup stinging nettles

a small bunch, (about 8) mint leaves

1/3 cup walnuts

1 large clove garlic

150 ml olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Blanche the grape leaves and nettles for about 10 seconds. Drain and combine them in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients.

This makes a very flavourful pesto which I have enjoyed on pasta, in sandwiches and on crackers, but my favourite is to use it as a base for pizza, spread on an oven-fresh sourdough pizza crust.

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And then add whatever you like.

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Related posts: Wild Grape Leaves; Stuffed Fermented Grape Leaves ; Fermented Wild Grape Leaves; Grape Leaves with Roasted Vegetables; Pickerel in Grape Leaves with Mushroom Za’atar Sauce; Quiche in Wild Grape Leaf Shells; Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #228


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Kuku Sabzi

DSC03552.JPGThis is a dish I discovered recently in, of all places, a donut shop which I only visited because I was in need of a coffee fix. A little plastic container of something green caught my eye and I had to try it. I decided it was some kind of exotic omelette and that it contained chickpea flour. Other than that all I knew was that it was one of the best store-bought breakfasts I’d had.

When I returned a few weeks later to ask for another one, the owner explained her customers only wanted donuts, so she gave up making her ‘green patties’. She was pleased I was interested, and told me her husband is Iranian, and that this traditional sort of frittata is called kuku sabzi. So at least I had some way of finding out how it is made.

Once I read a sufficient number of recipes, I was able to come up with my own using, you guessed it, weeds from my garden.

What I learned in my research is that it is indeed a sort of omelette, heavy on the herbs and light on the eggs – just enough to hold the mixture together. It seems just about any kind of herb goes well in this dish, as do sometimes dried fruit and/or nuts. Spices also vary, but I came across one recipe that called for advieh, a Persian specialty blend which includes rose petals. The recipe I used can be found here, but do note that if you don’t have rose petals you can leave those out.

So once I mixed up some advieh, picked a lot of lambsquarters from the fields, I went about making my first sabzi.

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Kuku Sapzi

Ingredients

2 cups lambsquarters, packed

1 cup parsely, packed

3 eggs, beaten

1 Tbsp chickpea flour

2 tsp advieh

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Chop the greens. Mix them well with all the other ingredients. Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the mixture and pat it down. Cover with a lid and cook on a medium low heat for about 8 minutes. Remove the lid and broil for about two minutes, until beginning to brown on top. Serve warm or cooled. It will keep refrigerated for 3 days.

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The number of variations for this recipe could be endless, and I will definitely be making this again but with different herbs and greens, sometimes nuts or cheese and fruit. It is one of those dishes which can be adapted to any location, just about any season, and unless you have something against green, you will want to make it often.

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Linked to: Fiesta Friday #227, Lizet at Chipa by the Dozen; Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook.

Related posts: Lambsquarters,  Lambsquarters Triangles, Lambsquarters Samosas, Lambsquarters and Farro Burgers.


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Lilac Marshmallows

DSC03517Making marshmallows is quick, easy and even fun, with the added bonus of having a confection which is so superior to the store bought variety. I only recently began to experiment with different flavours, beginning with maple, honey, and spices. Then it occurred to me to flavour them with flowers from my garden and so I began with lilac. I look forward to other flavours as they come in season –  honeysuckle, peony, elderflower and Queen Anne’s lace to name a few.

The process is simple. The basic one for standard white marshmallows would be made with one cup sugar and one cup water. Heat the syrup allowing to simmer for a few minutes, then pour it gradually onto gelatine softened with a little water. I use the powdered Knox gelatine which comes in one-Tbsp packages. Originally I was using three packets per cup of syrup and this made a pretty stiff and stretchy marshmallow. For this recipe, I used only 2 Tbsp. which I prefer but the marshmallows are less robust and a little softer than the others.

As you pour the hot syrup over the gelatine, mix on high speed with a hand mixer. This will take about 10 minutes. If using three packets it is easy to over mix and the mixture will start to set before pouring it into a pan if you’re not careful.

Pour the mixture into any shape of pan you like – I used a 12 inch square dish. Chill in the fridge for about an hour until they are well set.

Lilac Marshmallows

1 cup lilac syrup

2 Tbsp powdered gelatine

5 Tbsp cold water (substitute a little colouring such as grape or blueberry preserve or juice)

Heat the syrup while the gelatine is dissolved in water. Gradually pour the syrup over the gelatine and beat on high speed. The colour will lighten as the mixture puffs up, so if you want a stronger colour, add more juice to the water. When thick and forming peaks, pour it into a pan and set in fridge to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

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Related Posts: Lilac Ice Cream; Lilac Fizz; Lilac Pavlova

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #226; Jhuls at The Not so Creative Cook.


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Honeysuckle Sorbet

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I recently came across a recipe for elderflower sorbet made by David Lebovitz, and not having any of that particular flower available at the moment I decided to use honeysuckle instead.  This recipe is worth trying with just about any edible wild flower I expect, especially if they have a strong enough flavoured flower to withstand the strong lemon flavour. The honeysuckle does have a good honey taste, and could be detected, but I would have liked it a little stronger. Maybe next time, double the amount of flowers or reduce the amount of lemon.

I picked mostly young buds, not fully opened and soaked them in the hot syrup overnight as recommended. I followed Lebovitz’s recipe exactly except I used 1 full cup of flowers instead of his 1/3 to 1/2 and I strained the lemon juice to get rid of any pulp.DSC03524

The sorbet tasted distinctly of lemon with a light honeysuckle after taste. It was not as sweet as I expected, although I could hardly be surprised given the generous amount of lemon.

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I’m not sure why I have never made sorbet before. If this summer continues to be as hot as it has been, I’m sure I will be making a lot more, and this recipe will form the base of them all.

Related posts:  Honeysuckle Ice Cream; Honeysuckle Syrup

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #226, Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook.


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More on Lilacs and a Pavlova

DSC03518.JPGI have been looking forward to lilac season and now that it is full upon us, it is time to remind readers of this wonderful flower  and its uses for culinary purposes. They will not last for long, but if picked while fresh they can be preserved in several ways to be used all year. It takes some patience to pick off the flowers, but a little goes a long way. The flavour is unmistakably lilac, but less strong than would you expect given their powerful aroma. Different varieties will give different flavours, but all can be used in these recipes.

Here are the ways I have already preserved them:

  • lilac syrup which can be used to flavour drinks, in baking and desserts
  • lilac sugar, made by blending lilac blossoms and sugar in equal parts by volume, used to flavour cakes, biscuits, and desserts
  • lilac extract, made as you would vanilla extract. To make a quick version, I used the Instant Pot, loosely filling a mason jar with blossoms and filling it with vodka, then processed it for one hour on high heat. Good for flavouring whipped cream, drinks and desserts.DSC03520.JPG

So far I have only managed to make one recipe with these, but wanted to get this post out before it is too late. I made my usual recipe for meringues for a pavlova of sorts. The lilac sugar had not had time to dry sufficiently, so the meringue was a little more browned and chewy than it should be, but good nonetheless.

For the Meringue

3 egg whites

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp. cornstarch

3/4 cups lilac sugar

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until almost stiff. Add the sugar mixed with the cornstarch and continue to beat until stiff. Spoon them onto a parchment lined baking tin and make a small depression in the middle. Put them in a preheated 275 F oven and reduce it to 250 F. Bake them for about 50 minutes until they are dry and firm. Turn off the oven and allow them to cool in the oven. Makes 8 medium meringues.

Once cool, fill with whipped cream and serve with seasonal fruit. I used about 1 tsp. of lilac extract in the cream, and for wont of fresh fruit I used some wild grape and lavender preserves.DSC03521Related posts: Lilac Fizz; Lilac Ice Cream

Linked to Fiesta Friday #225, Antonia at Zoale.com


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Lilac Fizz

dsc03502.jpgWhile we wait for spring to arrive and hope it does before we get full-on summer, I have been feeling more and more impatient to get outdoors and collect some wild spring edibles. With bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice keeping me mostly indoors, I have been grateful to have saved some of last year’s bounty either dried, frozen or canned. So in anticipation of what I hope to be a great spring for lilacs, I decided to use some of my remaining lilac syrup to make a truly floral cocktail.

Some of you may not have such a syrup in your pantry just now, but as I post this well before the lilacs are in bloom, when they do arrive those of you who live in lilac country  will have the wherewithal to prepare enough of this treat to last you all year long. For flavouring ice cream, chantilly, meringues, icings and drinks it is definitely a flavour you don’t want to run out of.

To make the syrup I followed the recipe from this post, one of my favourite wild food blogs, which also has some appetizing lilac recipes to choose from.

For one serving I mixed in an 8 oz. glass:  1 oz. gin, 1 oz. simple lilac syrup, 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice,  then filled the glass with soda water and ice.DSC03501

It was a lovely way to celebrate the first warm rays of the sun we have felt in a long time, and a great reminder to harvest the flowers when they finally do appear.dsc03506.jpg

I used a mixture of sugar and wild grape juice as a final touch. And of course, if you prefer it not to be hard, omit the gin. It’s still delicious.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #220; The Not So Creative Cook; Frugal Hausfrau


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Black Walnut Oil and Maple Walnut Scones

DSC03477Some time ago I wrote about using black walnuts, and at that time I promised some recipes, but nothing happened. I’m not sure what I did with that first batch, but as I received another gift of fresh local nuts (thank you David) I have been giving a lot of thought to how to use them. Because they are either expensive to buy or labour intensive to harvest, I was thinking of recipes where a little would go a long way. Infusions seemed a good idea because if you have trouble separating the nut from the shell and you accidentally a few bits of shell get past you, you won’t have to worry about cracking your teeth. You can read about characteristics, identification, harvesting and shelling in my first black walnut post.

This time I found shelling them much easier. I presume practice is the key, but a few gentle raps with a heavy mallet eventually weakens them to the point where they really just do fall open and the nut is relatively easy to extract. After my smashing success I have been able to use them in baking with impunity. The smaller bits I have set aside for infusions.IMG_0341

Oil infusions are a great way to extend and preserve so many flavours. I have done this with several wild ingredients, most recently balsam fir, and it proves to be a most economical way to stock your pantry with gourmet ingredients.

This oil can also be made with English walnuts, but I would use about twice as much since the milder flavour is less aromatic. It is best to use a light flavoured oil, nothing as strong as olive oil but rather sunflower, rapeseed or avocado. I used the latter.

Begin by lightly toasting 1/3 cup walnuts, then grind them. Heat 1 1/2 cups oil until it’s just hot and then turn it off. Do not bring it to a boil. Add the toasted walnuts and leave for one day. Strain off the oil through a fine filter and store in the fridge. It can be used full strength for dressings, roasting vegetables and any other way you would use a nut oil.DSC03480.JPG

Of course, after straining the oil I was left with a small amount of ground nuts in oil which I was loathe to just toss. I considered many ideas, e.g. pesto, creamed walnut soup, homemade pasta or just baking. I finally settled on scones flavoured also with maple since we are in full syrup season.

Black Walnut Maple Scones

Ingredients

3.5 cups flour

1/tsp salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp chopped black walnuts or twice the amount if using English walnuts

ground nuts in oil mixture (about 2-3 Tbsp) plus enough butter to measure 2/3 cup

1 cup buttermilk, kefir or yogurt

2 tsp. cream of tartar

2 Tbsp maple syrup

Method

Mix the first four ingredients together and work in the oil nut mixture until you get a crumbly texture. In a separate bowl, combine the milk or yogurt with the cream of tartar and maple syrup. Add to the flour mixture immediately and mix until well combined. Form it into a ball and roll it out to about a 9 inch (diameter) circle. Score the surface to mark serving sized pieces. Bake at 425 F for about 18 minutes.

When coolish, you can add a glaze of maple syrup mixed with enough icing sugar to make it the right consistency.

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This is perhaps my favourite scone to date. The flavour of the walnuts came through well but was not too strong, and mixing the products of two of my favourite trees a total success.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #216; Petra at Food Eat Love; Zeba at Food for the Soul