Along the Grapevine


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From Lawn to Table

Even in times of drought such as we are currently experiencing in this area, the wild greens are flourishing and there for the picking. Our vegetable gardens are still struggling, and as I am not a keen shopper I am happy that our lawn is such a great provider. This recipe is another example of what you can do with some of those nutritious, albeit pesky weeds. And if you don’t have such a lawn, you can find all these in any good foraging spots such as meadows, hedgerows and abandoned areas – even in the city.

The main ingredient for this is lambsquarters. This particular weed is most prolific, and as I tidy up my vegetable plots I still have to throw out the bulk of it. I have taken to drying it for use in the winter – in the dehydrator, the oven (at a very low temperature) and even on the dashboard of any vehicle parked in the sun, the most economical method of all. But be careful – vehicles can get really hot, so I had to stir them every hour or so to prevent from burning.

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I also used young goutweed leaves (top left) to give it a herbal flavour, and some plantain (on the right). The lambsquarters are below the goutweed. At the last minute, after taking this shot, I added dandelion leaves.

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All these mixed with some seasonings and topped with eggs made for an easy, inexpensive and super nutritious meal – and yes, even delicious! You can add more spices and herbs as you choose, and mix and match whichever wild greens you have growing. This is how I did it.

Foraged Greens and Eggs

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped green chili pepper

1 tsp cumin powder

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups lambsquarters

1/2 cup goutweed leaves (only the young ones from plants which have not yet flowered)

a handful of dandelion leaves

1/2 cup plantain leaves

4 eggs

Method

If using plantain, boil it in water for four minutes, drain and set aside. It is tougher than the other greens and will blend with them better if cooked longer.

Fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and chili and fry another couple of minutes. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. Add enough water to the pan just to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Stir in all the greens and cook at medium heat until they have all wilted completely and the water has evaporated. Break four eggs on top of the mixture, cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked sufficiently. Remove from the heat and serve. I sprinkled a little sumac powder on top for garnish.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #129; The Not So Creative Cook and Faith, Hope, Love and Luck.


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Tandoori Pickerel and Curried Spring Vegetables

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A dear blogger pal very kindly passed on to me some of her home-made Indian spices which I have been keen to feature with some of my own local ingredients. Although I haven’t posted many Indian recipes before on this blog,  South Asian cuisine is one of my favourites. I began to learn to cook during our two-year stint in Delhi, just before the craze for spicy Asian food hit North America in the 70s, and I have been at it ever since. It was in India where I really learned to appreciate local and fresh food, including home-ground spices which made everything from soup to nuts just so much tastier.

So when Sonal offered me some of her handiwork, I was thrilled. You can find her fabulous recipes on her blog, simplyvegetarian777 where you will discover some truly original recipes with a strong South Asian influence. Do drop by and check out her fabulous fare.

I met Sonal through The Novice Gardener’s weekly event, Fiesta Friday, so it is only fitting that I share these recipes with this week’s crowd. Our co-hosts this week are Effie @ Food and Daydreaming and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook who will be working hard to keep the party lively.

The spices Sonal sent me were a tandoori masala, a curry and Kasuri Methi, or dried fenugreek. This latter I intended to use as a garnish and then unfortunately forgot, but I did taste it and it would have made a wonderful accent for the two dishes I did make.

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For the tandoori spice mix I decided to make a fish dish using local wild pickerel, but you could use any firm fish.

Tandoori Pickerel

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

1 lb pickerel filet, skinned and cut into serving portions

1 Tbsp tandoori masala

1 Tbsp sumac

1 Tbsp flour, rice, chickpea or jerusalem artichoke

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 Tbsp plain yogurt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix all the ingredients except the fish in a bowl to make a paste. Coat the fish pieces with the paste and place them on a grilling pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the pieces over and continue to cook for another five minutes or so, depending on the thickness, until the fish is cooked through.

I managed to achieve a nice red-coloured paste thanks in part to the addition of sumac which also goes well with this mixture taste-wise.

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To accompany this fish I wanted to make a really green curry with ingredients all from  my garden. The scapes, garlic, mustard seed and green chili are left over from last year’s crop, but the young dandelion leaves, lily shoots, and some nettles were all picked just moments before cooking.

Curried Spring Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

oil for frying

1 tsp mustard seed

1 green chili, seeded and chopped finely

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp curry powder

3 packed cups of mixed greens, e.g. lily shoots, scapes, dandelion greens and nettles

salt to taste

juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, lower the heat to medium and add the chili and mustard. Cook for 1 minute and then add the curry powder. Cook for another two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the washed, but not dried greens starting with the sturdier ones like scapes and shoots. When they start to turn a brighter green add the dandelion and nettles, cover and cook until they are just wilted. Remove from the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.

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Lambsquarters Triangles

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My first crop of lambsquarters (chenopodium album) is ripe for picking. For the backyard forager, this is a real gift. There is no crop I could plant that would give me as much mass and nutrition as this one does, and I know I am guaranteed another few batches wherever the garden has been dug. Lambs quarters not only like the recently tilled soil of vegetable and flower gardens – they grow virtually everywhere, and if you think you are not familiar with them, it may be just because you overlooked them because they are so common. However, pick only from clean, uncontaminated areas.

I wrote about lambsquarters last year at this time, when I made a Barley and Lemon dish and outlined the health benefits and tried to give enough information to identify it safely. I will share again the photo from last year which is a good close-up.

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And here is this year’s first patch.

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It  is easy enough to pick – just pluck off the tender tops and snip off leaves lower down if they are unblemished. Many people don’t like to eat them raw because of the fuzzy texture on the base of the leaves, but remember that when cooked, they will shrink just like spinach, so you will need a good amount.

They work in any recipe calling for spinach, although their flavour is a bit milder and therefore they benefit from additions of herbs and other strong flavoured ingredients. For that reason my spinach-inspired recipe, something very much like spanakopitas, contains not only lambsquarters and cheese but also a few young dandelion leaves and a generous bunch of mint. You can mix them with any seasonal greens, or use them on their own if you gather enough.

Lambsquarters

  • Servings: 36 pieces
  • Print

3/4 lb. lamsquarters + mixed greens

1 shallot, chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

200 grams feta cheese, crumbled

ground pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg

1 lb phyllo pastry

olive oil for frying and brushing on pastry (about 1/2 cup all together)

Method

Fry the shallot in 3 Tbsp of olive oil. When cooked, but not browned, add the minced garlic, pepper and nutmeg.

Wash the greens. If using greens other than lambsquarters, chop the larger leaves so they may be evenly distributed among the mixture.

Add all the greens to the frying pan, lower the heat and cover. Stir once in a while so everything gets cooked evenly. This will take only about five minutes until all the greens look cooked.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and the cheese. Allow to cool slightly and add one beaten egg.

To make the triangles, cut the phyllo into strips about 3 inches wide. Be sure to cover the rest of the phyllo with a damp cloth, as it really does dry out quickly. Brush the strip lightly with oil.

Place a generous teaspoon of the mixture on one of the bottom corners and fold the pastry lengthwise in half, covering the filling. If the pastry has been folded left to right, take the bottom right corner of the pastry and draw it towards the left hand edge. Then take the left hand corner and draw it to the right. See photo following the recipe for clarification.

When rolled to the end, you should have a neat triangle. If the pastry rips a little in the process, not to worry. The folding will cover it up.

Brush the top lightly with oil and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

 

Dandelion Gin Fizz on Punk Domestics

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I am sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday. I know some of the guests have been doing some foraging, but for those who haven’t tried yet, these flaky pastries filled with wild garden greens are just the encouragement you might need to get out and enjoy the weeds!

 

 


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A Taste of Greens

 

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I have been busy these last few days. So many wild greens available, and many of them for only a few days more, so must harvest while I can. The result of all this is that we have been consuming more than our fair share of nature’s spring freebies. So today I prepared a mixture of wild greens served on pasta with nothing more for flavouring than the greens themselves to bring to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #15.. A generous bunch of mint and a handful of young garlic precluded the need for anything alien to the fields, like cheese or lemon. Only the salt, pasta and oil for frying came from afar.

This is not a recipe – just a way to make good use of these seasonal treats. You could use any spring greens, such as spinach and asparagus, but if you have anything edible and green available, this is a good way to use it.

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I used a mixture of previously steamed (10 minutes) fiddleheads, ramp and dandelion leaves, young garlic, chives and mint. I fried the garlic first in oil, added the greens next and the mint near the end. I added salt to taste and one ladle of the pasta water to avoid any burning, and covered it all and let it heat through for a few minutes – as long as it took to consume half a beer.

And speaking of drinks, with the money I saved with this meal, I was able to splurge on a bottle of white wine.

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Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

Fiddleheads on Punk Domestics


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Wild Greens and Chocolate Balsamic Dressing

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Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for bitter wild greens. Dr. Andrew Well does, and he has written a very persuasive argument why we should include things like dandelion leaves in our diet in this article.

This post offers a way to serve wild greens, mixed with other flavours to help your palate get used to the bitter flavours. It is a salad of mixed greens with strawberries, goat’s cheese and chocolate balsamic vinegar. The dressing itself is a mixture of sweet (honey) and bitter (chocolate). It is the perfect match for wild greens, or any greens for that matter.

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I was first introduced to the idea of mixing chocolate with balsamic vinegar by a recipe posted recently by Simi at acasadisimi for another kind of salad all together which called for chocolate balsamic vinegar. I had never heard of chocolate balsamic before, so was determined to try it. I chose to make a salad dressing with those two flavours in it – and it worked like a charm. This is as easy as salad dressing gets, but with such a rich combination of flavours, it makes the simplest salad seem like an epicurean treat.

Chocolate Balsamic Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tsp cocoa powder

4 Tbsp liquid honey (I used buckwheat)

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the first four ingredients together. Add the olive oil slowly continuing to whisk.

For the salad, I used a mixture of spring greens (including some dandelions, day lily sprouts and tubers), cucumber, crumbled goat’s cheese and strawberries.

And so this wild salad is my contribution to Angie’s Fiesta Friday

get-together where I always end up collecting new recipes and inspiration to take away with me. Can’t wait to see what treats are in store for me this week.

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Sweet and Sour Dandelion Soup with Soba Noodles

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Freshly Picked Dandelions

This recipe has two parts to it – the dandelion part and the noodles. The dandelion ‘soup’ can be served on its own, or with anything else you like, and of course the noodles are soba noodles, so you probably know how you like them.

I’ll start with the dandelion part. I weeded two patches of garden and found some dandy looking ‘lions. This is the best time of the year to eat the greens, before the flowers appear, as this is when they are at their sweetest. The roots also looked thick, crisp and white on the inside. I have made tea and ersatz coffee with them before, but wanted to do something else, so I thought of combining them in a soup. The roots are a little bitter when raw, but lose most of that bitterness when cooked. I decided to offset the slight bitterness of the greens with something sweet, which made me think of adding something sour, which in turn suggested hot and spicy. With the saltiness of the soya sauce, I think I covered every taste we have.

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Dandelion Greens

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Dandelion Roots

For more on identifying dandelions and their spectacular nutritional value, check out this site.

To make the soup, you will have to clean the leaves several times to make sure they are really clean. I don’t bother cleaning the roots too much, as I peel and then rinse them. Of course, you can use a mixture of other greens too. Because it is a soup, quantities can vary, as can the ingredients. I used mushrooms, green onions and flavourings, such as chili, garlic and ginger. Pretty simple really.

Sweet and Sour Dandelion Soup

4 cups water

a handful of chopped, cleaned dandelion roots

1 in. ginger root, sliced thinly

4 medium sized mushrooms, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 hot chili pepper, chopped (or dried flakes or hot sauce to taste)

4 Tbsp soya sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

Mix all these ingredients in a saucepan, heat and simmer until the dandelion roots and ginger are well cooked. Just before serving, add a big handful of dandelion greens and cook for another couple of minutes.

Such a soup suggested to me soba noodles – but I didn’t have any – so had to make some. I started making soba noodles long ago, in a far-away country where I couldn’t buy them. I decided just to mix buckwheat flour with water, roll and cut it like any other pasta, and that was it. The best soba noodles I had ever had. Now I have the luxury of being able to consult the internet, and  it seems it is harder to do right after all. But maybe that’s not the internet’s fault. I think my buckwheat is the wrong kind. Yes, not all buckwheat is made equal, and I believe mine is of a course nature. If you have the choice and want to make your own, I would buy a very fine flour in an Asian shop. The type you want is called sobakoh. But if you are like me, have no choice, but still want to make your own, just use whatever buckwheat you have. They will still be good, they will just break more easily. Another solution is to mix 3 parts buckwheat with 1 part wheat flour. I might do that next time just to compare.

I did do two things I never tried before. One was to use a food processor to mix the dough because now I have one. The other was to add boiling water to the flour – a process I can’t justify but it seemed to work quite well.

Soba Noodles

1 cup of buckwheat flour

1/2 cup boiling water (approx.)

Add the boiling water slowly to the flour while processing until the dough forms into a ball.

You can also do this by hand, in which case you should mix it in a bowl and kneed once you are able to form a ball.

 

Divide the ball in two and roll each piece on a floury board into a rectangle. No need to make it super thin, – it will probably start breaking if you get it too thin.

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Soba Noodle Dough

In my first attempt I cut the strands by hand, which is quite easy to do, but mine did not look very neat.

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Hand-cut Noodles

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Machine-cut Noodles

For my second batch I used  my pasta maker. I got more breakage, but it looked neater.

Put the pasta into a big pan of boiling water – give it lots of room so it doesn’t stick together – and boil for 1 minute. Strain through a sieve, and run it under cold water, shaking the sieve to prevent the strands from sticking.

To serve, spoon some noodles into a dish.

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Cooked Noodles

Ladle out the soup on top and garnish with something green. I used green onions.

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Sweet and Sour Dandelion Soup with Soba Noodles

So anyone at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #13 up for trying a sweet and sour soup made with entire dandelion plants and some slightly fractured soba noodles, I hope you enjoy this thoroughly original, tried and tested only by me recipe.

 

 

 


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Falafel Chips

DSC_0157I came across falafel chips in Trader Joe’s when I visited San Francisco last year. Not knowing where to buy these here in Canada, I decided I had to come up with a recipe for them, and even considered starting a falafel chip enterprise. Recently, while still trying to work on my own recipe, I came across another brand of falafel chips in a general store in Sydenham, Ont., so my idea of commercialising my own was dashed. Nonetheless, I am pleased that someone else is doing it, even if they are imported. They are made by a company called ‘flamous’ (sic) and are sold as Falafel Chips.

Even if you can buy these, or the ones from Trader Joe’s, you might be interested in making them yourself. They are cheaper, fresher, and you can alter the recipe to your own taste and according to what is available. They are excellent on their own, or served with hummus, guacamole, or whatever you fancy.

The recipes I have come up with are not so much recipes as ‘a method’. As long as you have chick pea flour (besan) cumin and water, you can make these. You only need to make sure the dough is not too sticky but sticky enough to stick together. The method of rolling them out is suprisingly simple, as long as you remember to oil the parchment paper. Sometimes I add oil, sometimes not, it seems to make little difference. The more herbs and spices you add, the more complex the flavour, so feel free to come up with your own variations. The first recipe contains dried dandelion leaves, which give them those green speckles, and the second one contains tomato paste and some cornmeal.

FALAFEL CHIPS I
2 cups chick pea flour
2 Tbsp dried vegetables (greens or root vegetables, such as onions, carrots, turnips)
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced (or dried garlic)
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp water

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add water until the mixture holds together, but is not sticky.
Lightly grease two sheets of parchment paper and put small dobs (about the size of a grape) of batter spaced about 2 inches apart.
Place the other piece of parchment over this, and roll out with a rolling pin, until the chips are thin enough that when touched with your finger, you can feel the hard surface below.There should be no squishy feeling of the dough.
Peel off the top layer of parchment, place the chips, still on their paper, on a cookie tin, and back in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 275 Fahrenheit.
The chips should be an even gold colour. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid to keep them crisp.

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FALAFEL CHIPS II
1 1/2 cups chick pea flour
2 Tbsp dried onion
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin 2 tsp coarse salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed, or equivalent dried garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp tomato paste or 2 Tbsp tomato puree
1/4 cup + water.
Follow the same procedure for the first recipe.


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Things to make with dandelions

Welcome to my blog. I have created this to explore some of the wild things I have growing on my property, ingredients seldom found in the grocery stores and markets, and often mowed or thrown on the compost heap. So many of these edible weeds are plentiful, nutritious, and offer an inexpensive alternative to imported and store-bought produce.

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My first thought was to focus on wild grapes and their leaves. However, they are still not ready to be picked in this area, so I shall begin with the humble dandelion. Rather than be irritated by their persistance and size, I began to experiment with the flowers, roots and leaves in my cooking. It is somewhat labour intensive, but at least I end up with very fresh, organic and free ingredients. If you have young children around, I recommend ‘allowing’ them to help you.

If you are skeptical about eating the flowers, unless you suffer from ragweed allergies (the same family) or if you have a history of gall bladder problems, you might wish to avoid these or consult your doctor. Otherwise, most people find the honey sweet taste of the flowers surprisingly pleasant.

If you are still not persuaded to try them, note that they are high in anti-oxidants, contain vitamins A and B12, and have long been considered a remedy for headaches, backaches and cramps.

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The first recipe I am sharing is for dandelion flower pakoras. This is an interesting variation of fritters, and this batter can be used with almost anything edible.  It is so simple and quick to make, it hardly deserves to be a called a recipe.

Dandelion Flower Pakoras

1 cup chickpea flower

1 tsp. chili pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup water

Pick about 1 cup of dandelion flowers. Wash gently, and remove the top of the stem right under the flower. If you remove too much, the flower will fall apart, but the loose petals can be used in the batter along with the whole flowers.

Mix the chickpea flower with the salt and chili. Stir in the water until you have a smooth batter. Dip the blossoms in the batter. Remove each batter-coated blossom with a spoon and fry in vegetable or coconut oil until brown and crispy.

Serve warm, as is or with a condiment such as chutney, tamarind sauce, or even ketchup.

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And now for the dandelion greens. These are often used when young in salads, but why stop there? They are a good source of calcium (even more than kale), iron, high in vitamins A and C and are a source of  vitamins E and K. They are often used in detox recipes, contain all essential amino acids and are 14% protein.

Dandelion Pesto

1/2 lb. greens

1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

4 cloves garlic

2 tsp. salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding the greens a bit at a time.

Serve with pasta and add some freshly grated parmesan. Or use it as a base for a pizza. Freeze any leftovers.

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