Along the Grapevine


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Hops and Cheese Biscuits

DSC03604A few years ago I planted some hops with the idea that I would get back into making beer. That hasn’t happened but I felt I should do something with this year’s harvest of flowers. Hops, or humulus lupulus, are mostly used for flavouring and as a stabilising agent in beer, and I wasn’t too sure if there was anything else they could be used apart from their shoots which in the spring make a delicious vegetable. It turns out that the bitter flavour  of the green cone-like flowers are often used as a herb. Each variety has a slightly different flavour, but to get an idea of how it will taste, just take a ripe flower and rub it between your hands and take a whiff.

The ripe flowers are dry and very light, and to store them I simply let them dry out on the counter. Alternatively, they can be frozen. Begin by using very sparingly as the flavour is strong and bitter, and will probably only appeal to those who appreciate the flavour of beer. I chopped a few to sprinkle on a vegetable quinoa salad, a tomato sauce on pasta, and allowed myself to be more generous in cooked dishes like stir fry and stew. In each case the hoppiness lent a distinctive flavour, not too different from adding beer to a recipe. I also used some of the flowers to make a tea which turned out surprisingly red. To that I added sugar and let it ferment with some kombucha – the closest I will get this year to making my own beer.

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The next test was to use it in baking, and hence these cheesy hop biscuits. I made two versions as I prefer anything with sourdough but made another version for those who don’t normally have excesses of starter on hand.

Hops and Cheese Biscuits

  Ingredients for Sourdough Biscuit
1 cup flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 hop flowers, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
3/4 cups sourdough starter

Ingredients without sourdough
The same as above, except add 5 Tbsp flour and instead of sourdough use 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 Tbsp lemon juice.

Method
Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter using a knife or pastry cutter. Add the other ingredients, combine thoroughly and knead it a few times. Roll out and cut into whatever shape you prefer. If you like you can brush them with some beaten egg and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top. Bake at 375 F. for 20 minutes, or until they are golden in colour.

DSC03612.JPGThis recipe makes 6 biscuits, but the it could be doubled. I started gingerly at first with only 2 hop flowers, but found it required 4 to give enough flavour to be noticed, but not overly bitter either. And there’s no reason not to add other beer friendly flavours such as olives or nuts.

At any rate, I am pleased to add another local dried herb to my pantry, and one at that which is not commonly found in conventional recipes. If you don’t have space to grow your own hops, some of the farmers’ markets might carry them at this time of year. Otherwise they can be bought in some specialty shops.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #240, Deb @ The Pantry Portfolio, and Laurena @ Life Diet Health


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Dolmas, or Venison Stuffed Grapeleaves

DSC_0121I have already posted recipes for dolmas using leaves from wild grape vines, and really thought I was done. My previous recipes have served me well and I saw no need for any more variations but with a little ground venison at my disposal and a special request to prepare dolmas, I felt compelled to add to my repertoire.  You don’t need to use venison in this recipe – any ground meat will work just as well. The spices are what makes these so good, and by using a generous amount of short-grained rice the texture is light.

I also feel the need to remind readers that grape leaf season is coming to an end, and this is the time to harvest all you will need for the winter months. The weather has been kind to the vines, and if I’m not mistaken the season has been longer this year than usual.

I am sure this recipe could be cooked in an Instant Pot in about half the time, but I opted for the old-fashioned way so I could keep an eye on their progress. However, when cooking these on a stove top, it is useful to line the bottom of a pot with something to protect them from getting scorched. I usually use sliced potatoes, but any root vegetable can be used, and then served alongside the dolmas. This time I lined the pot with corn husks, the same ones I used for making tamales. It also occurred to me that a good thick layer of grape leaves would work and add even more grape leafy flavour.

Venison Dolmas

Ingredients
1/2 cup short grained rice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground meat
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground sumac
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
4 dozen mature grape leaves

Method
Blanche the leaves in boiling water, drain and set aside. Pour boiling water over the rice and allow to sit for 20 minutes, then drain and let cool.
Mix all the ingredients except the leaves together in a bowl. To fill the leaves, place the leaf shiny side down, remove any remaining stem below the leaf. Place about 1 tsp of the mixture at the base of the leaf, fold over once, then wrap the sides inward and continue rolling.
To cook the dolmas, you need to stack them carefully in a pot, close enough together they support each other, but loosely enough they can expand slightly. Pour water or stock until almost covered and place a weight on top to press them down. Bring to a boil, then simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour.

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DSC03599Related Posts:Wild Grape Leaves;  Vegetarian Dolmas; Stuffed Fermented Grape Leaves


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More on Queen Anne’s Lace and Kombucha

DSC03429Last year I experimented with Queen Anne’s lace (daucus carota) for the first time and posted a recipe for a flower cordial, which I now usually make without adding any other flowers. The rosy pink colour never fails, and the flavour is exquisite on its own. I use it mixed with sodas, in cocktails, sometimes just with water, and occasionally in tea.

I have altered the recipe slightly. I measure by volume, covering the blossoms with equal parts of boiling water. In fact, I use a little less water sometimes, barely covering the flowers with water and then press them down with a plate. Then I mix the strained liquid with half as much organic sugar, heat and stir just to dissolve. That’s all there is to it.

Since then, I have been determined to find other ways to use this beautiful flower, and especially this year when they are in such profusion, I want to share as many ideas as possible.

I did make a very nice jelly with it last summer but failed to post my recipe.  However, I recently came across another blogger’s recipe which is much the same, so I will take the lazy way out and direct you to it here at Forged Mettle Farm.

Apart from the jelly and the syrup, I have had difficulty coming up with recipes. I used it to flavour rice pudding, but found that the flavour and colour were both overwhelmed with so much cooking and the other ingredients. I remedied that to some extent by making a thick pudding without sugar, once with coconut milk and once with milk and cream, then thinning and sweetening it with the syrup as it was cooling, thus avoiding long exposure to heat. The colour was not there, but there was enough flavour to make a delicious dessert, although not as strongly flavoured as I would have liked.  Experiment will continue.DSC03574.JPG

Having recently acquired some scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) I have been experimenting with making kombucha. If you are not familiar with this super healthful drink, you might be interested to read this article I found which will give you the necessary info, and then some. It is so easy to make, and can be mixed with just about anything – fruits, berries, herbs, and even vegetables, in short, all the wild things I write about. And so I have Queen Anne’s Lace kombucha, made by mixing the syrup with prepared kombucha in equal parts, and then allowing it to ferment a couple of days or so. If left longer than a couple of days, remember to open the bottle to let any built up gas escape. You may want to add or subtract the amount of syrup, augment, reduce or even eliminate the final fermentation to get the flavour and sweetness you like best.DSC03588

If you are frustrated by not having access to a scoby, and you live in this area, I would be happy to provide you with one plus the necessary amount of ready made kombucha to get you started.

And this is what I bring to this week’s Fiesta Friday which I will be co-hosting with Mara from Put on Your Cake Pants.  Do drop by and see what our guests have for you. If you would like to contribute a recipe of yours, you are most welcome. Just check out the guidelines and join the party.

 


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Beet and Currant Salad

DSC03583.JPGWhen I read today’s Fiesta Friday post, one recipe featured from last week particularly caught my eye and I decided to make it right away. Unwilling to go shopping I had to make do with either what I had in my own kitchen or garden, and by the time I finished I had used in my version, still recognizable as Monika’s,  a few ‘new’ ingredients I thought worth sharing.

The recipe I refer to is one for Pomegranate Beet Salsa by Monika at Everyday Healthy Recipes.  It is the perfect dish for these hot dry days- simple to prepare, keeps well, and as good on its own as it is a side dish. Thank you Monika!

The so-called new ingredients in my recipe are red currants (ribes rubrum) and Queen Anne’s lace (daucus carota) leaves. The currants I have used before to make salad dressing and mayonnaise, but I had never thought of putting them whole into a salad. They are found in much of North Eastern US and Eastern Canada. Once established they thrive in sunny spots, and apparently are drought resistant given that they are still thriving in our back yard desert. One source I read describes them as a brilliant red skin encasing a pulpy flesh that contains 3-12 tiny edible seeds with flavours of raspberry, cranberry, gooseberry, rhubarb and a hint of rose. That sounds about right to me. Many sources say they are delicious as long as you add lots of sugar, which explains why they are most often used to make jelly. However, used sparingly in a savoury dish such as this one, no sugar is needed.DSC03586.JPG

As for the Queen Anne’s lace, there is so much of it blooming right now, but I had not given any thought to anything other than the flowers. I know that all parts of the plant are edible and often see reference to the leaves as being good in salads, but have never seen a salad recipe that calls for them. For identification and further information on this plant, please check here.dsc03429.jpg

Again, the herbs I used are all from my garden, but this salad is versatile, and you can make your own mix of greens to add. As for the oil, I used my black walnut infused oil, and I think any nut oil would be good, or just a good quality oil as Monika suggests, such as grape seed oil.

Beet and Red Currant Salad

3 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups chopped beets, previously boiled, cooled and peeled
2 Tbsp chopped Queen Anne’s lace leaves
1 heaping Tbsp each of fresh mint and dill
2 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup red currants
Put the onion and vinegar in a bowl and allow to sit while preparing the other ingredients. Add everything except the currants and mix well. Gently fold in the currants. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving for best flavour.

DSC03580.JPGLinked to: Fiesta Friday #233


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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.