wild foraged

Recipes

Eat Real And Purslane

As a chef, it’s hard to cooking something you don’t like eating.  It sucks in fact.  You want to be excited about what you’re serving, and when you just can’t quite wrap your lips around a certain ingredient, it’s hard to love your dish. You always have to taste your dish, and you don’t like the taste of a certain ingredient, it’s difficult to do. That said, people do it every day. There are legions of vegetarians working on meat-heavy menus, broccoli haters that need to add that dreaded vegetable to their dishes.  Despite our own culinary biases, we still need to make it work because we know (at least intellectually) that people have different tastes.

For me, that ingredient is purslane. Purslane, known to botanists as Portulaca oleracea, is a native of the old world that has become naturalized in the U.S. Many consider it a weed (like most wild foods), but it is very high in Vitamin C and Omega 3’s (probably what gives it it’s slimy taste).

Although I haven’t seen it in SF, this wild edible is abundant up in Northern California. It looks beautiful in salads – I’ve seen it prepared picked and thrown into salads, as well as sautéed, and people seem to really like it. However, I just can’t get myself to like it. I want to like it. To me, it tastes like okra, which is another plant I’ve never loved. It’s the slime that gets me.  Not to put off your stomach (because, believe it or not, this post will include a recipe), it feels like someone spit in my mouth.  People say it’s because I haven’t had it cooked correctly, which might be true, but as of now, I’m not a fan.  Sure, you can fry it, but that seems like a cop out (although I did do that in one of the dishes I prepared for the Eat Real Festival last weekend).

Held at Jack London Square at the end of August, the Eat Real Festival is a three-day food fest that features chefs, farmers, artisans and street food and really great presentations on everything from sourdough bread baking to animal butchering. If you haven’t gone, you should.  It’s a lot of fun, and they really seem to have gotten it down this year. This was my second time at Eat Real –a year ago I sold sea beans I had foraged up north (or more correctly, gave away samples, people didn’t really know what they were). It was really great for me, my first time really getting forageSF out into the public, which gave me an amazing amount of exposure.

This time around I was doing something a little different.  It was a program called The Urban Farmstand. The idea was to partner a chef with a farm, the chef would use the farms make a dish or two, and the farm would sell the produce. Cool idea, needs a bit of tweaking if they’re going to do it next year, but overall a good thing.  I like the way it shows people what can be done with the raw ingredients that are being sold right next-door.  I think the signage they had was confusing. Although we were all independent vendors, the signs made it seem like we were associated with eat real.  I had several people come up to me and ask if we were doing a cooking demo.   Overall good though, and as someone who organized events myself, I was impressed, especially by the workshops and demos, which were in large part organized by my very own girlfriend, one ms. Valerie Luu.  I partnered with Heirloom Organics, who can be found at the Ferry Building Market as well as other farmers markets.  “WAIT,” you say, “Aren’t you a forager, you shouldn’t be getting anything from a farm?!”

Well, that’s where purslane comes in.

There are several wild veggies that grow on farmland, without any help from the farmer (and often in spite of their ideas for the land), and purslane is one of them. It moved in a couple years ago at Heirloom, and now they have hundreds of pounds each year.  With this, I talked to Grant from Heirloom and decided that purlsane was going to be wild ingredient. I also used Heirloom Organics blue potatoes, salad greens, broccoli, red, gold, and chioggia beets, and baby corn (which is just corn picked when its small).

I made two dishes: one was a salad with spring greens, a duck gelee vinaigrette (gelee is what you have left over after making duck confit, a good way to think about it is as essence of duck), It’s a gelatin that has this great savory, salty flavor that’s amazing in dressings, or even on its own, pickled, as well as raw shaved, golden, red and chioggia beets, and the afore mentioned cheat, fried purslane.  This was a nice dish (if I do say so myself). The raw beets paired really nicely with the tart pickles, and the duck pulled it all together.  The sad fact is that people don’t really want to eat salads at street food events though, so we didn’t sell too much.

The second dish I did was duck confit and duck fat fried blue potatoes, with sautéed purslane, broccoli, and baby corn. People seemed to respond well to this. My idea was to cover up the sliminess of the purslane as much as possible with the savory duck, starchy potatoes, and finally, the crisp baby corn (which I blanched quickly to give it some tenderness).

So overall a good weekend. Too much prep for too little sales, but I learned a few things, which are:

  1. simple is best at street food events
  2. you can't really go wrong with duck confit
  3. duck gelee is a wonder ingredient on par with anchovies for adding flavor

Here’s the recipe for the duck dish I did, hope you like it. The hardest part is making the duck confit, but you’ll be well rewarded:

You’ll need:

-1 lb blue potatoes

-1 cup duck confit, picked from the bone (here’s a good easy recipe for duck confit. Takes some time, but its worth it. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Duck-Confit-102313)

-1 lb broccoli rabe

-1/2 lb purslane (you can find this at the farmers market)

-3 ears baby corn (heirloom is the only place I’ve ever seen this fresh, they’re at the ferry building farmers market)

-1 sprig thyme

-1/2 lb heirloom tomatoes

  1. Get two pots of boiling water going, well salted (like the sea), as well as two bowls filled with ice water (also salted)
  2. Scrub the potatoes, prepare the broccoli, and shuck the corn
  3. When the water boils, throw your potatoes in one until nearly cooked through (about 10 minutes for the small ones), and throw your corn into the other.
  4. Mince garlic and thyme, dice tomatoes
  5. After about 3 minutes, remove corn with a slotted spoon and place in ice bath. Repeat for broccoli, cooking until just under done, 4 minutes or so.
  6. When potatoes are done, put them in the second bowl of ice water
  7. Quarter potatoes, dry other ingredients
  8. Heat large sauté pan to medium high with reserved duck fat from confit
  9. Fry potatoes until they start to brown, add garlic and thyme, add purslane, cook 4 minutes, add broccoli, cook 3 minutes, adding oil as needed. (If it looks like your garlic is about to burn, you can throw in a small squirt of water to cool down the pan). Salt and pepper to taste. That’s about it. Plate then garnish with tomatoes and corn on the side, feeds four or so.

Recipes

Venison Stew

This is the recipe I made for the last Wild Kitchen. It takes a bit of time, homemade beef stock and all, but we're all about slow food right?  This is a really amazing soup. Long cooking makes the venison very tender, and the addition of fresh stock gives it a deep complex flavor.  I saved what we had left from the dinner (mostly broth), in canning jars in the freezer. I defrost some over rice and heat it up, it's pretty great just like that.

For the soup:

4 tbsp olive oil

2 lbs Venison stew meat

1 Cup Red wine

1 lb Yukon gold potatoes - quartered

4 Cups flour

Salt Pepper

12 Cups beef stock (see recipe below, although store bought works)

1 Cup chopped onion

1 Cup chopped celery

1/2 Cup chopped carrot

1 Cup chopped tomato (canned works too)

1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme

1 Tbsp  minced fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp minced fresh sage

Wash and thoroughly dry the venison, then roll it in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.

Heat a large pot over high heat, then add the oil.  When it is hot but not smoking, sear venison in batches until browned, 2-3 minutes. Don’t crowd the pot, or the meat will stew instead of searing. Remove the meat then add the onions and saute until they begin to color.

Add the celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and bay leaves to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add  the beef stock, and bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer, and cover. You'll want to Simmer the stew for 1-2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. You can add more stock if it evaporates too much.  Add potatoes about 1/2 hr before soup is done, so they don't overcook.

I find this stew is really better the next day. Reheating deepens the flavors, and gives the meat more of a chance to tenderize, but it can be served immediately as well. Enjoy!

For the Stock:

4 lbs soup bones

Sprig fresh thyme

1 Bay leaf

2 Carrots

1 Large onion

2 Stalks Celery

2 Cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 475. (If the beef bones are frozen, let them thaw before you start, this can take a couple hours)

Rough chop carrots, celery, and onion.  Put the bones, onion, and carrots, into a shallow roasting pan, then cook about 30 minutes, or until the  bones are browned, and the onions start to carmalize.

Pour off the excess fat and place bones and veggies in stock pot. Pour 1/2 cup red wine into roasting pan and deglaze over medium heat, scrape bottom of pan, and pour this into stock pot.

Then add the bayleaf, celery, thyme, and garlic to pot. Add 12 C water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and skim fat  regularly.

Cook for as long as you can, I like to cook it for 8 hours, but 5 works. Strain stock, discard veggies and bones, allow stock to cool 20 minutes. If you are going to use stock immediatly, put in fridge to allow fat to settle, then skim off.  Otherwise, put stock into pint ball jars with the fat on top, this helps the stock to keep. The stock will keep for about  a week in fridge, months in the freezer.

Use it in any soup with beef or venison, or cook it down to make an amazingly concentrated sauce.

Recipes

Forage Radish Seed Pods and Make a Salad

Wild radishes grow more or less everywhere in the Bay Area

Wild radishes grow more or less everywhere in the Bay Area

 

My most recent discovery: Wild Radish seed pods

As if the delicious leaves and flowers the wild radish provides weren't enough, here they come with seedpods. I like to forage radish seed pods and saute them up to garnish a salad, but they can also be steamed.

Wild Radish is English for Raphanus raphanistrum. It is a winter annual with leaves covered in short stiff hairs.  It grows more or less everywhere in the Bay Area. When you look out into a field covered with small white or yellow flowers, its probably wild radish. We often find them on our Wild Food Walks

Wild Mustard (Brassica kaber) grows in the same area, and can be distinguished by its yellow flowers.  The problem is that wild radish and mustard like to interbreed (hybridize if you will), to such an extent, that you rarely see either pure white or pure yellow flowers. Generally they're white with yellow or purple interior tint.  I personally don't think it really matters.  I've noticed that plants that seem more mustard than radish have leaves that are more tender, and a bit spicier.  The seedpods seem more or less the same.

onon

Once you find a good patch of pods, its easy to collect a couple pounds in 20 minutes.  The technique I've settled on is to grab the stem close to the base, and slide my hand up, pulling off pods into my hands as I go. 

It's incredibly satisfying to hear the pop pop pop as they slide off the stem. 

I like to saute them and use them on a salad slightly warm or chilled. They are always good. Unfortunately, it's August and the season for these has pretty much passed (although I was up at Mt. Tam leading a plant walk on Sunday, and saw a couple), so store this knowledge away for next year.

Recipe

Here is a recipe, with bacon, for these delicious little treasures.

Serves 4

1/2 lb (4-5 hand fulls) of seed pods

1/2 lb bacon (Get it from bi-rite or some other reputable source. We're lucky to have a great local meat economy in the bay, its a shame not to use it. Know your meat!)

4-6 heads little gem greens (Marin Roots has the best, but not cheap)

8 Nasturtium flowers

2.5 oz Stilton Blue Cheese (about 3 Tbsp)

6 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sugar

Dressing

Add vinegar and cream, then whisk together with some salt and pepper. Whisk in the sugar until it dissolves, and then whisk in half of the cheese. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add seasoning to taste

Seed Pods

Cut the bacon into 1 inch chunks, and cook over medium heat until it releases some of its fat.  Throw in Seed pods, and saute until tender (about 4 minutes), add salt and pepper to taste.

Wash and dry the Little Gems

Cut off the end, and, using your hands, toss in mixing bowl with 2 Tbsp dressing and 1/4 C seed pods.  Arrange on plate, with 2 nasturtium flowers. Crumble remaining cheese on top.

That’s it!

  • Unfortunately I don’t have any good pictures of this salad, but if you make it, be sure to send me a photo, I'll put it on my site.
  • Here are more photos to help you spot Wild Radishes.