Tag Archives: Wild Life Experiment

Recipe: Curly Dock Soup

In honor of the passing of the early Spring season, I’ve decided to post this recipe for curly dock soup. A delicious and simple recipe, it makes use of the most prolific, perhaps, of all the Spring greens and the result is a soup which is both light and filling.

The ingredients you will need for this are:

2 tbsp. butter

1 cup wild onions (bulbs or buds)

1/2 cup young wild lettuce stalk (or celery)

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

2 1/2 cups chopped curly dock leaves

thyme, black pepper, salt to taste

 

Mix the butter, onions, lettuce (or celery), salt and pepper in a large pot or dutch oven on a stove at medium heat until the vegetables start to sweat. Once they are glistening, add the stock and bring to a boil. Next, reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Finally, add the cream, chopped dock leaves, and thyme. Allow the soup to continue to heat until the dock leaves are wilted, then remove from heat, allow to cool, and serve.

Aside from its simplicity and tastefulness, this recipe is a wonderful way to make use of curly dock leaves even after they have grown large and over-matured. As such, this soup is able to embody the full flavor of Spring long after most of the tender greens have given way to the early seeds and fruit of Summer.

A good pairing for this dish are cattail fritters, or more poignantly, flatbread made from the ripe curly dock seed, and sweetened pine needle tea early in the Spring or lemon beebalm infused tea later towards Summer.

I personally love dishes like this, because they can embody the fleeting nature of a given time or season; and after they’re gone, the memory of which gives us something to look forward to and allows and feeling of continuity and certainty….

Because Spring will always come again

Happy harvesting!

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Recipe: Beautyberry Yule Log

There is a forest of pines I love to visit.  It reminds me of home.  It practically picks me up and takes me there.  It’s an old growth forest; one you can walk through – through deer trails and human trails.  And throughout that forest is a bush with flavors as lovely as her berries.  – American Beautyberry

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Beautyberries are almost never ending.  We picked gallon bag after gallon bag, and I never felt like we were depleting the stash for the deer.  They are prolific and I am so glad we found a place with hundreds of bushes so we know where to return.  Luna had a blast picking them, they are so fun to look at and be surrounded by.  They are a happy berry.  And they have made us happy people.

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We made beauty berry jam.  Lots of it.  But, we knew there had to be more to these berries besides practically the best jam ever and a mosquito repellent made out of her leaves.  So, after much thinking we had the “aha” moment of dehydrating them and grinding into flour.

beautyberry-flour

So, hmmm, that’s why they taste so good in jam: the sugars mature, they lose their astringent flavor, and evolve into the most delicate, spiced, apple, chocolate tasting…. that’s about the best description I can come up with.

We made a really great spice cake/muffin recipe that was perfect for Fall.  Literally tasted like Autumn, and now for the holidays we decided we should try it as a Yule log.  It turned out great, and the flavor was perfect with the mocha/espresso filling we used.

Beauty berry yule log

Very similar to blackberry cake.

Cake:

2/3 c beauty berry flour – ground as fine as you can get it.  Will add texture to cake  no matter how fine.

1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa

6 large eggs  – separated, at room temp.

¾ c. sugar – or sweetener of your choice.

¼ tsp. cream of tartar

1 C. heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. all spice (or some cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg – just go easy on the last two ingredients)

Vanilla

Pinch of salt

 

Filling –

1 ½ c heavy cream

¼ c sugar (sweeten to taste with sweetener of your choice)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. coffee/espresso extract

 

Icing – we didn’t ice ours, just filled with flavored whipped cream, but you can dust with powdered sugar, or make a simple ganache and cover, or ganache and cover with sugar, or leave it plain the way we did, or ice with mocha chocolate buttercream, or just about whatever you want!

 

Parchment paper – a must.  Your cake with tear/fall apart without it, it’s an egg-based cake folks.

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In large bowl whisk your egg whites at high speed with ¼ tsp. cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Begin adding in ¼ c (4 tbsp ) sugar while whisking until stiff peaks form.  They shouldn’t move if you take the bowl and turn it sideways.

Transfer to separate bowl if you need the same one for your mixer, but don’t worry about cleaning the bowl or your whisk attachment.

Now, take your egg yolks and whisk at medium speed until combined and smooth.  Add in 1 -2 tsp vanilla depending on preference, remaining ½ c sugar and a pinch of salt, allspice or alternate , turn up speed to high and let whisk for 3-4 minutes until you products resembles a rich, thick cake batter.

Turn your mixer down to low speed and add your beautyberry flour.  Fold the beautyberry mixture into the egg whites.  Be careful not to break down the egg whites, and just gently fold until combined into a mixture.

Spread evenly onto parchment lined pan and place into the over for 20 – 25 minutes until cooked through.  It’s a darker, chocolate cake, so it may be difficult to tell.  The top should spring back when touched, and if you insert a fork it should be clean.

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Meanwhile:

 

Whisk 1 C. heavy whipping cream with 2 tsp. vanilla, and add the coffee extract – add sugar to taste if desired.  Whisk at high speed in mixer until you have a thick whipped cream topping.

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Take pan out of oven and flip onto a long tea towel topped with parchment paper.  Very carefully peel off your layer of parchment that you baked on.  VERY carefully.

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Your cake is tough, but still be careful! Roll it up and let it cool in a rolled position.  After it cools layer whipped topping evenly and then roll back up and immediately set on display platter.  Cut two angled ends off, and reattach with icing to create the log.  Decorate how you wish.  You can ice and then run a fork down the sides to create a barked look. This is a spiced yule log,  it will taste like chocolate and spice, and is a great addition to the holidays!

Recipe: Beautyberry Flour

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Once you meet the wonderful beautyberry, not only will you never forget it, but you’ll begin seeing it everywhere! It’s quickly becoming popular in landscaping due to its natural hardiness and lack of maintenance. It also is important for local wildlife as it provides Winter forage when many other foods are gone.

Many people have tried making beautyberry jelly before, and it is amazing. We feel that if Autumn were to have an official flavor, it would be beautyberry jelly. However, we decided to take our love of beautyberries to next level.

A source of wild carbohydrates, they can taste mildly astringent when raw. But, we wondered if “maturing” them, the sugars that is, in a dehydrator would have the same effect as with other fruits like wine grapes and persimmons. Well, we were right!

Not only that, beautyberry breads are rather light and fluffy with a decidedly rich, chocolate taste.

To make this amazing stuff, simply gather as much beautyberries as you want (and after tasting it, you may want a lot!). Puree your berries in a blender with a little water to get things going. Transfer this slurry to your dehydrator and leave on medium low until the berry puree is brittle and dry.

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Afterwards, remove the crisp, cracker-like stuff and place in a food processor. Start the processor and grind it until it’s a fine powder.

You can store it in any tupperware or other container, but I would recommend storing it in the fridge, due to the sugars present.

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Beautyberry flour is great for making brownies, cakes, muffins, even a seasonal Yule log or cookies!

Recipe: Tabbouleh

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Tabbouleh, for anyone who’s tried it, is an amazing side dish or even a meal unto itself! It’s very cool and crisp, perfect for relaxing during warm, sunny evenings. Tabbouleh is a great recipe to try out different wild greens and other veggies, while still enjoying the fresh garden vegetables many of us are accustomed to.

The main ingredient in tabbouleh, traditionally, is bulgur, a product of different wheat cereals. We decided instead to use a wild semi-grain called amaranth. Amaranth leaves are powerfully nutritious green, but their seed heads are also wonderful and very similar to quinoa. Collecting the seed is very simple: bend the ripe (turning brown, from green) seed head inside a paper bag and shake! A single plant can produce thousands of tiny seeds. We’ve made this dish with both quinoa and amaranth, but you can easily omit one for the other.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

1/2 cup rinsed quinoa

1 cup amaranth seed

1/2 tsp salt, to taste

2 tbsp lime juice

2 cloves minced garlic

Couple dashes of black pepper

1 large cucumber, diced into 1/4 inch pieces

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2/3 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup mint

2 thinly diced scallions (or wild onion stems)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Boil the quinoa and/or amaranth with the salt in 1 cup water on high heat. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork, then set on a large sheet to cool.

Whisk the lime juice and garlic in a small bowl, then slowly whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the amaranth and quinoa to a large bowl and mix in 1/4 cup of the olive oil dressing. Next add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions and herbs. Toss together and season with salt and pepper. Finally, drizzle the remaining dressing on top.

-Enjoy!

Recipe: Prickly Pear Cheesecake

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This is one of the more involved recipes we’ve created. The upside, though, is that it yields several products which can be used for all kinds of other experiments. So bear with us, dear reader, the result is well worth it!

In Texas, there is no shortage of cacti. We use it in landscaping, but it also turns up wherever it pleases, as it rightly should. A wonderful plant, the maligned cactus has a myriad of uses, not the least of which involve its succulent pads. An important water source in the dry times, this seemingly hostile plant can actually be a lifesaver.

Still, in more docile times, the fruits of this plant especially are a wonderful Summer treat. Over the past year, we’ve experimented with prickly pears quite a bit, but the idea of a prickly pear cheesecake seemed perhaps our greatest idea yet.

To start, you’ll need to make a basic prickly pear syrup. This means foraging for a decent bag of prickly pears! Easy to find in sunny areas along roadsides or other dry, open areas, prickly pear cacti love to grow in bunches so gathering a large amount quickly is no problem. The purple fruit are in season between August all the way into October sometimes. Avoid ones that have a gray, waxy residue on them, but if they’re still a little green it’s perfectly fine.

Once you’ve brought them home, either scrub the fine prickles off using a knife under running water or burn them off over a flame. Peel them and then add about 2 cups to a large pot and cover about 1/2 an inch with water. Bring them to a boil then mash and let them simmer about an hour.  Strain the liquid through a mesh sieve, then through a cheesecloth. It should taste slightly sweet, like muted watermelon.

Measure the liquid, then replace into the pot with the following ratio: 4 pt. prickly pear juice, 2 pt. sugar, 1 pt. lime juice. Alternatively: 2 cups juice, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lime juice. Bring it to a boil for 1 minute and continue stirring then reducing it into a syrup. Cool and taste it, adding lime or sugar and reheating as necessary.

For the topping, you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups diced, seeded and peeled prickly pears

3/4 cup diced lime

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until it reduces down, about half an hour to 45 minutes.

To make the cheesecake itself, you’ll first have to make the crust. You’ll need 2 cups of mesquite flour and 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Next combine the butter and flour to make a crumbly mix, similar to a graham cracker crust. Press the mix into a spring form pan and bake for 5 minutes.

For the cheesecake, you’ll need:

3 8oz cream cheese packages

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

Beat the cream cheese, prickly pear syrup and sugar until well blended. Next add the sour cream and eggs, one at a time. Mix well between each addition, but be careful to not over-mix your eggs!

Gently pour the mixture over your crust and bake for 1 hour, until is almost set. Next let it cool and remove it from the pan. Chill for 3 – 4 hours, top with the compote and serve!

The recipe for teh topping can be used for any fruit compote, and is a delicious dessert in its own right. The syrup is an amazing condiment and can be used in a wide range of recipes, from barbecue sauces to homemade sodas.

-Enjoy!

Recipe: Wild Pizza

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Pizza, similar to pancakes, is a very versatile dish. Thick crust, pan crust, deep dish, margherita, etc. This can allow a wide variety of experimentation with different types of flours and different cooking methods. Not to mention different ingredients! Our favorite uses a Prickly pear barbecue sauce of our own invention. But we also enjoy using all the wild veggies which grow around our home: from purslane and amaranth to wild onion and curled dock.

To make a basic Wild Pizza, start with:

2 cups of acorn flour, other nut flour or any alternative flour….

2 tbsp of coconut oil or butter

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp of salt

Garlic, basil, oregano or other seasonings as desired

-Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In either manually or in a food processor, mix all the listed ingredients together until a dough forms. Compact this dough into a ball and then place between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it out until it is about a quarter of an inch thick.

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Remove the top piece of parchment paper and transfer the the rolled dough from the parchment paper to the pizza pan. A good idea is to poke it a few times with  a toothpick to prevent bubbling from occurring. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, until golden.

Once your crust is finished baking, begin topping your pizza with the sauce you’ve chosen, followed by good mozzarella. Next add whatever meats or veggies you desire. We like pickled onion flowers and diced onion stalks as well as amaranth leaves and purslane stems. A final layer of mozzarella finishes it off.

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Place back into the oven for another 10 – 12 minutes, until it begins to bubble.

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-Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Beautyberry Spice Cake

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Ladies and gentlemen, may I humbly introduce, Beautyberry flour.
That’s right, you heard me. For those of y’all familiar, that wonderful, native shrub you’ve got growing beautifully in your yard or garden that all the songbirds love, those berries aren’t just good for eclectic jams. For those of y’all unfamiliar, this plant grows EVERYWHERE! Its amazing, its tasty, its  got carbs, its leaves are an actual mosquito repellent, did I mention carbs?
If you’ve experimented or tried the jelly, beautyberries have an amazing, sweet flavor that is best described as the very incarnation of Fall; sweet with an underlying spice and a hint of nuttiness and something you just can’t quite describe. More and more, we’re finding that’s the case with wild foods. Flavors and tastes that just don’t compare, that you just can’t describe.
This recipe can be used to make either a whole spice cake, or muffins/cupcakes if you’re desiring something frosted! We don’t recommend using it for pancakes however, the suger content of beautyberry flour is so high that it burns and sticks to the pan, much to our sadness….
What you’ll need is:
2 cups beauty berry flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. clove
pinch salt
3 tbsp. brown sugar (white works, but flavor depth is better with brown) – also we like a cake that isn’t as sweet, so up your sugar if you want more of a dessert like confection.
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp. cooking oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degree. Whisk eggs until combined, being careful not to over mix (this may toughen your final product if you over mix your protein). Mix in the remaining wet ingredients.
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In large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients, ensuring even distribution. Pour your egg mixture into the flour and combine well; you will have a batter, consistent with a thick muffin batter.  Add milk as needed to get to this point. Alternately you can whisk your egg white separately until soft peaks form and then fold them in as the last ingredient.  This will help give a fluffy product, but the end result is delicious either way.
Pour into greased muffin tins or a small loaf pan. For muffins bake 12-15 minutes and for a loaf bake 30 – 35 minutes.  A cake should appear dry on top and should give with a light touch, but should not have movement; spongy is the texture you are looking for.
Don’t expect a high rise, these aren’t going to make huge grocery store muffins, but they will pack rich flavor into each bite.  They’re perfect paired with coffee in the morning, smothered in prickly pear barbecue sauce with carnitas for dinner, or with vanilla bean ice cream as dessert.
 It’s a little black dress. Lol!
-Enjoy!