I love sea food and I'm always looking to do interesting dishes featuring wild edibles and unusual flavors.
Black mustard (wasabi flavor)-limes sauce
Pickled fermented green elderberries
Wild chervil and wild radish flower/pod,
Dehydrated dandelion kimchi powder.
I wish I had the time to research more dishes but a lot of my time is taken in actually creating ingredients such as wines, beers, pickled stuff and of course the foraging. It was fun to take a break and actually make something though.
Drought in Southern California
It's not just for farmers, the drought also affect foragers.
I'm managing to get enough wild edible and aromatic plants because I know very specific spots but also because most of my foraging is also alongside water streams where I can still find tons of watercress, curly dock, speedwell, sweet clover, etc...
But the drought makes my life much more difficult and requires more driving too.
In the same time, I also like the challenge. I keep learning new plants, do a lot of research on edible barks and leaves. So I'm learning a lot.
If you take a look at the photo, last year this was a green field of mustard!
Roasted Oyster Mushroom
in Mountain Vinegar.
I love researching and trying to capture the smell and flavors of a whole environment.
Last week I went to the local mountains and collected some white fir and pine needles as well as some juniper berries.
I infused these ingredients for 4 weeks in homemade white vinegar, also added some manzanita berries I had at home.
The result was a mild vinegar with tons of mountain flavors. I even added a bit of raw honey (also from the mountains). Last week, I found some oyster mushrooms so decided to preserve them in that vinegar after roasting them. I left the jar in the fridge for 3 weeks, the result was fantastic.
With this drought, I'm getting more creative.
We still have tons of fascinating ingredients to play with such as bark, leaves, pine and fir needles, dehydrated berries (Toyon, Manzanita, etc...).
So I'm doing a lot of experimentation with unusual flavors.
On the left side, I made some wild sodas with rose hips, white fir and a tad of limes.
The white fir needles don't taste like pine but more like tangerine/lemon although you do get that conifer accent too.
Tons of funs!
I've been working with Ludo Lefebvre and Trois Mec restaurant for over a year now.
It's been a fun experience so far, Chef Ludo is very passionated about what he does and taste.
I think what he likes the most is the wide array of new interesting flavors I provide which are usually not served in restaurants and not available in local farmers markets.
We have some interesting and funky wild mints, tons of pungent herbs like rabbit tobacco or sweet clover.
Some of the stuff I create are truly unique and reeks of nature. The last "mountain" vinegar was made from a beer made from oak bark, fir needles and mugwort. It was changed into vinegar over a month then infused for another 4 weeks with mountain ingredients such as California Juniper berries, Manzanita berries, tad of toyon, pine and fir needles. I also used a bit of raw mountain honey (the hives are in the local mountains) to mellow the acidity and a bit of home made sea salt from actual sea water. You can't buy something like that anywhere!
Wild American Kimchi
Wild food Americanized kimchi (Dandelion, Curly Dock), cabbage, garlic, onion, chili. 60% wild.
What's "Americanized"? From experience, fermented food flavors is not always something Americans appreciate (some do) but vinegar is more common.
I basically replaced the " fermented juice" (after 10 days of fermentation) with apple cider vinegar and add raw honey.
So you end up with a sweet pickled kimchi. It's hot - salty - sour - sugary and tangy - a nice balance of all the components. It's much more liked by my friends and even chefs.
It reminds me of Thai flavors a bit.
I'm getting much more experimental with my fermentation. When I go visiting a new location, I'm always fascinated by the scents and the potential ingredients of a place.
Last week I went to the local mountains and after a short hike I felt in love with my surroundings. The smell of pine, fir, flowers, etc... was just amazing.
I always get excited and think of how I can recreate the experience with ingredients. How can I make something that will taste like a whole environment.
It's a work in progress and I'm learning a lot as I go along. This week, after my trip I made an interesting sauerkaut flavored with white fir, mugwort, pine and juniper berries, I'm sure it will be awesome!
I see so many animals while doing my numerous trips. Deers, coyotes, ducks, frogs, snakes, mountain lions, etc...
I call them my foraging friends. As a forager you get tuned to nature and the environment, much more aware of crackling noise, tracks and scents.
You can feel when you're observed too. Yesterday I was minding my own business when I suddenly felt like "a prey". It's an unusual feeling and I always pay attention to it when it comes out of nowhere. Often it means a predator is checking me out. Could be anything from a coyote to a mountain lion. It took me a couple of minutes and I finally spotted this beautiful little fellow :)
Last month I posted about this experiment of making a beer with local forest ingredients such as autumn leaves, grass and forest aromatics such as various sages, mints, mugwort, etc... all carefully selected for flavors (and edibility of course). Today I got to taste it and I'm really happy with the result. Sure there is some room for improvement but it is a fantastic start, it tasted very much like a sour Belgium beer with some gueuze accent. I'm excited to continue working on this kind of wild beers.
Salt from Sea Water
Last year, during a trip to San Luis Obispo, I collected some sea water and made sea salt.
Unfortunately I ran out so I made another trip to the local sea to collect some sea water.
It's always a bit of a trip, one of the main concern is pollution of course and living in Los Angeles, it usually means some driving to get out of the city.
But I love what I do and care about the ingredients so I drove for around 3 hrs just to go collect 3 gallons of sea water.
Its a simple process of dehydration. On the photo you can see the sea salt sludge after boiling a bit less than 3 gallons of sea water.
Steps were: Foraging sea water, filtering the water and boiling it. This is what you are left with at the bottom of the pot.
The next step is to take the sludge and dehydrate it (sun, oven or dehydrator) - so easy to make.
I ended up with 1 1/2 cup of salt from 3 gallons of sea water. It's an unusual salt too, very sharp but the saltiness goes away very fast. I love it and use it for cooking, fermenting, etc...
7 Classes You've Always Wanted to Take!
ABC7 - EyeOnLA
I was selected as one of the classes/workshops featured on Eye on L.A. this month.
They were doing a show about the most unusual and fun classes you can do in Los Angeles and I was selected.
It was a lot of fun, we went in the forest with the crew and I gave Tina Malave a tour of the edible and medicinal plants available on location.
After the tour, we made and some interesting wild dishes: Lamb shank cooked in forest herbs and leaves, cheese with wild spices, mustard made with wild mustard seeds and of course a bit of my wild beer made with mugwort.
It was a fun morning and aired a couple of weeks later. Was well received too, got lots of enquiries about my classes.
Elderberry Wine Vinegar aged in Oak Barrel
Last month I bottled some of my black elderberry wine. I left it for around 6 months in the main fermenter then bottled it to age further. I actually like to age my elderberry wine for a year.
I made an exception this year and decided to turn some into vinegar. I had a barrel with some old regular red wine vinegar and a nice mother of vinegar (composed of bacterias which you can use to make more vinegar).
I bottled most of the red wine vinegar but left 1/4 of the barrel with the mother of vinegar. I then added 2 bottles of elderberry wine vinegar and a bit of water to dilute the strength of the elderberry wine. (if the percentage of alcohol is too high, it may not turn into vinegar and my elderberry wine is very strong).
Took around 3 weeks to get the vinegar and I aged it a little more for another 3 weeks. So basically 6 weeks in oak barrels. I usually like to age my vinegar for 3 months but after tasting it, it was just delicious at that stage.
Bottled it and kept it raw. I pasteurized a couple of bottles as well to give as a gift to a friend.
This fine vinegar is also served in some of the top restaurants in Los Angeles such as Melisse, Trois Mec or Girasol.
White Sage Cider
Made 3 gallons of white sage cider this morning, It's great for tasting during my educational walks but also for cooking.
My favorite use to make a granita (shaved ice) with it, it's really delicious.
I'll keep one gallon to make some white sage cider vinegar as well.
Method is simple : 4-5 leaves on sages for one gallon, 1 1/.2 pounds of sugar. Bring to a boil for 20 -30 minutes, let it cool down, add some champagne yeast.
Place in a carboy (Large glass bottle with airlock) for 10 days then bottle it in swingtop bottles.
Wait 3-4 weeks before enjoying.
Stone Ground Wild Mustard
This week I decided to make the most natural mustard I can think of using foraged ingredients. The result was similar to a very hot Dijon mustard.
How natural could it be?
Stone ground foraged black mustard, homemade wine vinegar and elderberry vinegar, chardonnay, salt from sea water, raw honey from local mountains hives.
You can't buy flavors like that at the store!
I gave a couple of jars to some of the chefs I work with such as Josiah Citrin (Melisse), Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec) and Chris Jacobson (Girasol).
Exploring new territories
I'm always on the lookout for expanding my foraging territories. Most of my foraging is done on private land although I have no problems removing from public environment non-native and invasive plants such as mustards, fennel, curly dock, chervil, etc....
Actually non-native plants make the bulk of what I forage.
This week we were in the mountains on a large property located in the Angeles forest. Tons of interesting plants such as sages, manzanita, ephedra, pines, white fir and much more.
They even have a natural source of water too. Fantastic trip and I loaded up on California Juniper berries.
Oak Bark and White Fir Beer
Upon doing some research on historical culinary books and medieval cuisine which used a lot of wild food, I came across the use of oak bark to make beer.
It actually kind of make sense but I never thought of using oak bark to make beer. Usually you get some bitter aromatic plants like mugwort, hops, etc... to make a nice bitter beer but in the old days, oak bark was actually used because of it's tannin content and of course some of the flavor (which is why a lot of wines are also aged in oak barrel to add some flavor and a tad of tannin bitterness)
The result was actually amazing, it's not a beer you would drink in large quantity but for cooking, YUM!
Cooking with Forest Floor on Stones
I had an interesting workshop this month. We went into the local forest and collect a bunch of wild aromatic and forest components.
It's actually a carefully chosen mix, the goal being to impart some forest flavors to the meat.
Some of the interesting ingredients included mugwort, rotting willow and cottonwood leaves, grass, chervil, tad of sagebrush and black sage, even found a couple of oyster mushrooms, rabbit tobacco and probably a couple of other things that I forgot.
We made a wild spice rub on location for the meat using local sages, garlic, CA bay leaves, salt and pepper. The meat was then cooked in the forest floor. We did other stuff too but you can read it on this blog that someone attending wrote:
This was probably the best soda I've made using mostly ingredients from the local mountains: White fir, California juniper berries, Manzanita and toyon berries, oak bark, mugwort, a bit of white sage and some limes. Instead of sugar I used mountain honey.
Some of the plants I saw this month
Of course, there are many more plants I've seen but, despite the local drought, here are some of them.
Indian lettuce (cliff aster), Curly Dock, Elderflowers, Black Mustard
Filaree, Oxalis, Unripe Currant (for pickling), Mugwort
Wild Mint, Chervil, Wild Celery