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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Mullein Tisane

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My interest in wild plants is really just for culinary purposes. The more I learn about the benefits of plants which are easy to identify and gather, the more I enjoy figuring out how to incorporate them into my cooking, and consequently come to rely on them as a food supply in my pantry or freezer. Of course, it is always nice to know that these ingredients sometimes have medicinal qualities, but that is just an added bonus. I am no botanist, or scientist of any sort – just someone who enjoys good cooking, so I avoid delving deeply into the home remedy domain which is better left to the experts.

However, as I research edible plants, I come across an overwhelming number of articles about the ‘weeds’ I encounter in my garden, and am amazed at the claims made about them – amazed but not moved. As a reasonably healthy person, I am not looking for remedies for what doesn’t ail me, but all the same, I can’t help but be curious about some of these marvels.

Last year I read about mullein (verbascum thapsus), which goes by a confusing number of other names. Around here it is often called elephant ears, and looks like a monster version of a similar smaller plant called lambs’ ears. It is a biennial which begins with a pretty rosette of large fuzzy leaves. In its second year it produces a tall stem (up to about 6 ft. tall) with a spike of small yellow flowers. They like to grow in sunny dry areas where the dirt has been loosened. Mine all appeared in a large flower bed and tried to take over. The roots are shallow, so it was not a problem to thin them out. However, be careful because the hummingbirds like to build nests in them. Growing these is a much safer way to attract these birds than those bird feeders you see everywhere.

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With its edible flowers, leaves and roots, and its myriad health benefits, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about it. I was especially intrigued by claims that the leaves could be smoked and used in a tea as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as chest colds or bronchitis. I haven’t smoked any yet, but I did make a tisane with some dried leaves.

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As I expected, the taste was pretty bland, so I added a stick of cinnamon to the next batch for flavour. If I had chamomile in my garden, I would mix it with that, but I expect mint would also go well, or any other flavouring I like in teas, like fennel seeds . If making the tea from fresh leaves, be sure to strain it first to remove the fibres. Because mine had been dried first, I didn’t find that problem.

I am now wanting to try the flowers in a tea, which are said to be more aromatic. I might also try a tincture with the root and/or flowers, but I don’t think I am going to be able to come up with any gourmet recipes from this plant.

Wild Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly on Punk Domestics

At this time last year I posted: wild grape ketchup


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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
  • 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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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
  • 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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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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Eat Shoots and Score

Since moving to this house, I have been plagued with an overabundance of day lilies – the bright orange ones you often see in mid-summer along the roadsides and in neglected areas. They are pretty in their way, but should never be allowed anywhere near a flower or vegetable bed, because they are wickedly invasive. I’m sure I have pulled out at least a million, and have hardly made a dent in them. And they keep finding new places to grow.

Their botanical name is hemerocallis fulva. They have several common names, but I just know them as ditch lilies. I don’t have a picture of them that I can find, but here is a picture from Wikipedia of what they look like.

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Day Lily in Bloom – photo from Wikipedia

I have always known they were edible, but only eaten the flowers before, and had little interest in any other part. However, my attitude to invasive weeds is changing, and my curiosity got the better of me as I tried to liberate our maple trees from the small shoots growing around them. Maybe I was hungry at the time, but these neat little shoots looked tasty.

I dug some up, along with a few of the tubers attached to them. As long as they are 6 inches tall or less, the shoots are tender and not fibrous. The flavour is sweeter than leeks or onions, and can be used in much the same way. I also collected a few of the tubers which I found taste like water chestnuts. Because I wanted to check out the taste, I added no other flavours – just sauted the shoots and tubers in a little olive oil and added salt and pepper. I used only a few (about 10 shoots and 6 tubers, peeled)  because since this was my first time eating them, I wanted to be sure no one in the household had any reaction. I’m happy to report that no one has!

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1. Find a patch of day lilies

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2. Make sure they are day lilies

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3. Dig them up with attached tubers

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Remove only plump firm tubers about 1 inch in length

 

 

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Clean shoots and remove any wilted or damaged leaves

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Prepare as you would onions or leeks

A word of caution:  Although these shoots are pretty easy to identify, especially if you know where they grow, be absolutely sure you know what you are picking. Taste a small amount at first to be sure you don’t have a reaction to them. I have read different statistics – anywhere between 2 and 10 per cent of the population will get a stomach upset from them. I also read some allusion to large quantities having hallucinogenic effects, but nowhere did it specify what constitutes large quantities. My advice would be to err on the side of moderation at first, and increase the amount slowly, and never eat too much of anything anyway – no matter how good it tastes.

Now that I have sampled them, I can say they are delicious, easy to prepare, and have no ill effects on my physical or mental state. They are a welcome, fresh local vegetable at a time when these are hard to come by. I look forward to coming up with some new day lily recipes, and to being less distressed by their presence in my gardens.

 

Fiddleheads on Punk Domestics


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Grape Leaves with Roasted Vegetables

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Given this seemingly endless winter, I am fortunate that I still have a few of last year’s foraged foodstuffs in my freezer while we wait for the new greens to appear. This week I am bringing to Angie’s Festive Friday a platter of a kind of pinwheel where I was able to use two of my favourite ingredients:  wild grape leaves and dandelion leaves in the form of pesto. These, some roasted vegetables, and a dough I invented on the spot which is so tasty and easy, I look forward to using it in other ways.

This recipe can be altered any way you like – you can use any bread dough, stuff them with any vegetables, or even add cheese, nuts, seeds,herbs, dried tomatoes, etc. I’m sure I will find more variations, but for my first attempt I decided on using only roasted vegetables with a little flavouring from the pesto. I made the dough gluten-free because I like the buckwheat base of this bread and wanted to share it with some who are unable to eat gluten.

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The Dough

1 tsp yeast

2 tsp honey

1 cup warm water

3 cups buckwheat flour

1 1/2 cup quinoa flakes

1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp onion flakes

Dissolve the yeast in the water mixed with honey. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and form into a ball. Wrap it in plastic or parchment paper and leave to sit a few hours or overnight.

Fillings and Casing

2 doz. grape leaves (more or less depending on the size of the leaves)

1/2 cup dandelion or other pesto

2 cups mixed roasted vegetables (e.g. eggplant, celeriac, leek, mushrooms)

1 roasted garlic bulb

salt and pepper to taste

To Make the Rolls

Divide the dough in two, and roll each one into a 9 in. square between two layers of parchment paper.  To assemble, I used a sushi mat. If you don’t have one, use a clean towel or parchment paper to hold the leaves together and make it easy to move to the baking sheet. Lay out the grape leaves vein side up on your mat overlapping each other a bit and slightly larger that the 9 in. square. Transfer one dough square onto the leaves. Spread the dough with half the pesto. Mash the garlic bulb and distribute half of it around the square in little dabs. Lay the vegetables randomly in one layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roll up the mat firmly. Tuck leaves over the ends, and add a bit of leaf to the end if they are not covered. Repeat for the other half

Transfer to parchment covered cookie sheet seem side down and brush or spray all the surfaces with oil. Bake at 325 for about 45 min. The grape leaves will be slightly browned. Cool a little before slicing.

I apologize for not having pictures of the rolling step of this process. I took some fine pictures, but didn’t realize until it was too late the chip wasn’t in the camera. I hope my explanation is clear enough.

These can be eaten warm, or cold like a sandwich. They can be frozen before slicing, and would make a great addition to a picnic.

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