Friday's Foraging Walk 3/31/12
Just had another foraging walk this Friday in Lake View Terrace.
We collected a bunch of wild radish pods, fennel and spicy black mustard leaves (which Mia will be using to makes some wasabi-like sauce - see below).
I got my first taste of Milk Thistle Stem. The stem is really delicious - very green tasting and slightly sweet. I also use the leaves to make various food wraps. I can't wait to forage more!
I also collected a bunch of California Sagebrush which I'm currently using as a spice for my upcoming project related to meat preservation. I'm basically making a Lonzino (cured and dryed pork loin).
Wild Food Fermentation Workshop
I was so busy that I forgot to take photos of the workshop but I can show you what I made for it.
Despite a bit of a cold and damp weather, we had a good time. Basically the workshop was about making a wild food kimchi. We foraged wild edible plants to use for our kimchi then we went step by step through the process of making it and each attendant was able to take his own wild food kimchi home.
I woke up very early that day and decided to make a little dish featuring an already made wild food kimchi. Mia made a Wasabi-like sauce with black mustard and I made some "sushi" rolls using sticky rice and fermented wild food. The wrap was made with blanched curly dock leaves. Quite delicious!
Friday's Foraging Walks
Aside from my regular classes, each Friday I take people on a foraging walk and so far it's been quite popular and growing bit by bit.
This week I had around 7 people and tomorrow probably more. We go on foraging expeditions to different locations and I collect wild food for our weekend projects and classes.
Last week we collected a bunch of elderberry flowers, green wild currants, giant nettles, watercress, lambsquarters and so much more!
So if you reading this and live in the Los Angeles area, check out the schedule and come join us!
Elderberry Wine and Nettle Jelly
Another Wild Food Project done this weekend. This is really delicious and will be used for future dishes that Mia Wasilevich (www.transitionalgastronomy.com) will be doing.
It's a Stinging Nettles and White Elderberry Wine Jelly. It's one way to preserve the spring greens and make something delicious that we can use for sauces, glazes, etc...
The color is pretty much the same as the Elderberry wine although I used 2 cups of nettle leaves, but it's good to know they're there. Honestly it's the best jelly I'm made so far.
Wild Food Vegetarian Sausages
Watercress/Nettles Sausage - My project from yesterday being eaten for dinner.
Our acorn sausage is truly the best but we don't always have acorns so I'm trying different recipes for making Wild Food Sausages with various local edible plants.
This one is a watercress/nettles (locally foraged) sausage. It's REALLY good.
I'm going to tweak the recipe a bit, add more wild spices and post about it soon.
Oh and yes, the sausage casing is pork but I'm ordering some vegetarian casing to try.
Wild Currant Verjus
Being from Europe (Belgium) I could say so a lot about Verjus or Verjuice.
Verjus is one of the oldest ingredient that was used in sauce or condiments in the early days. It's basically made with the unripe juice of grapes, apples, berries and some plants. The importation of lemons after the cruisade pretty much replaced verjus which was used in maybe 40% of the recipes during the middle ages but cooking with it is slowly making a come back.
Think of it as a wild vinegar with lots of tart/green flavors. It's very acidic which of course offers tons of possibilities, including food preservation. Each verjus is different and you have to collect the ingredients at the right time. I was a bit too early on my wild currant verjus but I'm watching those berries like a hawk now. Probably in 3 to 4 weeks, I'll make another attempt.
Curly Dock Foraging
Next week, we're going to make wild food samplings for at least 50 people so we're going into high gear and foraging the wild edibles we need.
This weekend we foraged tons of Curly Dock which Mia will be using to make a sauce. We ended up with around 6 bags of dock leaves.
As you can see below, I also collected a bunch of wild fennel which will be used to make fennel candies and I think I'll do a bunch of wine with it as well.
On my side, I'm making a lot of mugwort beer to keep up with what Mia needs for her dishes and also my upcoming beer making classes.
Time to forage wild fennel!
YES!!!!!!!!!! Wild fennel is here and I have tons of projects I want to do with that plant ranging from making wine to making delicious sauces and using this aromatic ingredients in some vegetarian sausages.
This very aromatic non-native plant (I think it actually comes from Italy) is actually considered highly invasive in Southern California and it is growing all over the hills and even on the side of freeways. So we're really helping the environment by foraging it.
It's really easy to spot, very fern like and you really can't make a mistake if you smell it.
Collecting Wild Seeds - A Simple Method
It's not always easy to collect seeds from wild plants. Miner's lettuce is one of those plants. You have to be there at the right time and often you can't collect much.
My unusual way to collect Miner's lettuce seeds is extremely simple.
I just place them in jars and let them mature. I place some white papers at the bottom and collect my seeds each day or once a week.
I get a decent amount that way (much more than doing it in the wilderness) and it's pretty easy.
Just a little tip.
Seeds are for a friend in another state (poor girl does not have miner's lettuce where she lives - so sad)
Gourmet Salt with Wild Aromatic Plants.
Last month I went to the local farmers market and someone was selling some expensive "gourmet" salts. I tasted a few such as wine salt, smoked salt and various aromatic salts. As usual, sparks started in my head and I just had to do this with wild aromatic plants.
It's not as easy as it seems, it took me a couple of weeks of experiment to come up with some great "wild" salts. Each plant is different so you can not just rely on one method. If you remember your old school projects, you get the most pretty crystals by placing a small rag into a solution (like wine) saturated with salt and let evaporation do the work.
Here are some of my "wild gourmet" salts. White Sage Salt, Mugwort Salt, Elderberry Wine Salt, California Bay Salt and Mugwort Beer Salt. A bit more tweaking and you'll find them in the store :)
Collecting Cochineal Bugs
We have a bunch of cactus with white fuzzy stuff on it and if you look closely, you'll find some small round bugs inside.
Cochineal bugs have been used a dye and food colorant for a long time, in fact they are still farmed in South America. You've probably had some in your food, it's been used in Campari for a long time, in strawberry ice creams and other food that are red. So if you look at the label and it says "natural colorant" it's probably it.
It's a dangerous job to collect the little guys, I'm still removing a lot of the hair-like spines lodged in my fingers despite being extremely careful.
The next step after collecting is boiling the bugs for 3 minutes, dehydrating the bugs, cleaning the white fuzz (now red) around them and make a powder.
Friday's Foraging Hike
Last Friday I had a decent sized group of people joining me for my foraging hike.
We walked a lot and found some giant nettles, wild radish, black mustard, mugwort, white sage and so many other plants.
After the walk, we had some wild food snacks and I made some very spicy mustard Dijon style with the black mustard that I foraged.
It's as strong as wasabi and was the perfect complement to the cheese I brought. We also sampled some mugwort beer.
It was a beautiful day and an awesome group of wild food hunters.
Mia's Latest Wild Food Culinary Creation:
Xiao Long Bao with Nettles
Speaking of gourmet food (see below), the wild food chef Mia Wasilevich latest dish incorporating wild food was just out of this world.
The wild food components included nettles and wild aromatic plants such as California Bay Leaves.
She spent probably 6 hrs making the dish and it was a true labor of love. The result was just unctuous and delicious with a bit of a wild bite from the nettles.
If you're interested by making such as dish, you can view the full recipe with step by step photos on the Transitional Gastronomy web site.
Chef Josiah Citrin Does Wild Food
Last month, Josiah Citrin joined us during a wild food walk in Malibu.
A veteran of Los Angeles’ gourmet dining industry and a TV celebrity, Josiah Citrin is Chef/Owner of highly-acclaimed Mélisse Restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and co-owner of Lemon Moon Café in nearby West Los Angeles. He also earned a Two Stars by Michelin Guide.
I had a fun time showing him some of the local edibles in the Malibu area.
He just wrote about his experience on his blog and made a beautiful dish incorporating some local wild food. Check it out!
Food Preservation Workshop
Salt preservation and how to make a dehydrated Wild Food Chicken Bouillon Cubes.
This was a fun workshop.
After a nice little foraging walk we settled down and learned various traditional food preservation methods using salt such as how to make a preserving brine, how to make salted fish/meat, how to use salt to preserve vegetables and wild food you have foraged.
I also demonstrated how to make some bouillon cubes using home-made chicken stock, wild edibles and spices. We also made some soup with previously made bouillon cubes and freshly foraged edible plants. It was just delicious.
If you want to know how to make home-made bouillon cubes, check the wild food lab.
Least Favorite Wild Food Made Gourmet.
Always been a challenge for me to make something good with those furry/prickly leaves of wild radish (Raphanus sativus), wild mustard (Brassica kaber), older sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) and other such edible plants. I think I've finally found the solution.
I foraged foraged a bunch, blanched then cooked for quite a while with onions and garlic.
Then I made a basic roux (gravy) with vegetable butter, smoked salt, half and half, Italian spices and smoked salt.
Mia (www.transitionalgastronomy.com) made a classic pie crust, placed all the cooked ingredients inside and voila!!!!!! Little hand pies.
Delicious and made from the usually least favorite parts of foraged edibles.