Cooking Wild Hyacinth
This week I collected a few wild hyacinth bulbs to play with. We don't have a lot in my location so I don't want to forage the plant where I live - it's a native plant and I take great care to replant the smaller bulbs attached to the larger one to ensure many more will grow back,
The bulbs were eaten raw or cooked by natives. There isn't too much taste but it is extremely starchy. Cooked, it is somewhat sugary but a bit though to eat. Again, not too much flavors.
I cooked the bulbs in local grass with local aromatics such as California sagebrush, mugwort, etc...
I'll revisit this plant next year unless I find a large quantity somewhere soon
Foraging Classes in Hollywood
This month I gave a couple of classes about wild edibles and aromatic plants available in the Hollywood area.
The location was Griffith Park - I was actually amazed at the amount of plants were were able to forage there. Miner's lettuce, black mustard, cliff aster, various sages, chickweeds, etc.,..
The whole area is truly loaded with edible plants and during the class, I could not even do more than a couple of hundred yards. I also saw a lot of native edible plants such as soap plant.
Fantastic area to forage, just wish it wasn't smack in the middle of the city.
Wild flavors - Ants!
I'm really looking at my environment in new ways. I've been foraging for more than 10 years in Southern California and presently doing a lot of research on all the flavors available in the local wilderness.
A few years back, I was told that ants could be used a pepper substitute and tried the small black ants, definitely was not impressed by the strong chemical taste.
Interested to add more flavorful ingredients to my wild cooking arsenal, I decided to revisit the subject and my gosh, what a surprise. So far I have found several types of ants that actually taste delicious, ranging from lemony to floral. Fascinating and a new sets of experiments to make!
Melisse Does Mallow
I'm really impressed by what chef Josiah Citrin and Ken Takayama are doing with the wild food we forage for them.
This dish is using mallow as the main ingredient and mallow is not an easy plant to play with. It was truly delicious!
The title on their menu for this dish:
Santa Barbara Spot Prawn - Wild Mallow, Shellfish Jus, 2010 Jurancon Sec, Bru-Bach, Languedoc - Cooked Mallow and Mallow Leaf Tempura - served with Mallow "Nori" and Sprinkled dehydrated Sprawn Roe.
Wild Food Tailgate Cooking
We had another foraging class and tailgate cooking at Griffith Park last weekend.
Around 15 people showed up, during the first hour we went on an exploratory hike to see what wild edibles and aromatics were available in that area.
We found tons of miner's lettuce, chickweeds, cliff aster, black mustard, etc... I'm always amazed at how much wild edibles one can find at random locations.
After the walk, Mia made some wonderful dishes using wild plants. We had a wild food salad, nettles soup and a goat cheese cheesecake, acorn ginger crust, whipped cream and wild passion fruit.
Fun day with great people :)
Turning Wild Beer into a Dessert. White Sage Beer Granita.
Mia has used my wild beer for make ice cream before and Ken Katayama from Melisse used it to make a sorbet.
So I thought, what about a granita?
Granita is just a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. So instead of using water, I just used the beer and ended up with this:
Wild Dessert - Flavors of Southern California - White Sage/Limes Beer Granita, Oxalis and Wild Hyacinth Flowers, crunchy Lerp Sugar (from local insects - taste like honeydew), Elderberry Powder and a touch of California Sagebrush.
Deeeelicious and refreshing!
Mallow - Plant of the Month
March is usually the time where Mallow is super abundant. I usually start foraging it in February though each year is different.
Mallow is a bit of a tough plant to play with. I've seen a lot of Middle-Eastern women foraging Mallow and they tell me it is used in one of their traditional soup (Iran).
The plant is a bit like an okra, it is quite mucilaginous which is great to make sauces, thicken soup, etc...
On my side, a couple of years ago I discovered that once dehydrated you could make some sort of Nori with it. We've also used in broth and fried the leaves. See what Melisse did on the post above.
Spring in Los Angeles
After the rain, foraging for edible flowers. Snow in the mountains too - beautiful morning. Foraging for Melisse.
That day I collected a bunch of nettles, tons of wild radish flower and mustard. The elderflowers are coming out soon and I hope to make champagne with it too.
At another location, I foraged a bunch of watercress, curly dock, sweet white clover and black mustard. Beautiful day and the plants are really happy after the much needed rain.
Cooking Wild Magazine
Featuring Mia Wasilovich
Wild food chef Mia Wasilovich (www.transitionalgastronomy.com) had a 4 pages feature in Cooking Wild magazine. related to winter foraging in Southern California.
Southern California is such an amazing place for wild edibles, I usually can find edible plants at any time of the year, it's all about finding the right locations. The hardest times are usually during the summer and right after when Los Angeles turns into a desert. That's when you forage around water streams and rivers but you can still forage for tons of interesting goodies such as seeds, prickly pears, etc... The bounty never stops.
Wild Food Dessert
Featuring Black Sage
We never stop finding new uses for our wild aromatics. They're so strong that it is sometimes difficult to play with them, it's all about using the right amount and the right uses.
For example the California Sagebrush is a tough plant to use from a culinary perspective, it's quite bitter but really aromatic. Yet, once dehydrated it is truly wonderful to cure meat and even makes a great bitter beer. Ari Taymor, the chef from Alma Restaurant used it to make some ice cream.
The photo shows Mia's dessert using chocolate and black sage, an awesome combination.
Melisse Restaurant and Wild Edibles.
Chef Josiah Citrin (Melisse Restaurant), checking out the some of the wild edibles flowers I foraged that morning for him. He really likes the spicy black mustard flowers. I had much more (not on the photo) such as elderflowers, oxalis, wild hyacinth, etc... and of course tons of other wild edibles (nettles, curly dock, mallow, miner's lettuce, etc...).
I love working with Melisse, both Josiah and Chef de Cuisine Ken Takayama are geniuses with wild ingredients and manage to create dishes that are extremely sophisticated with simple ingredients. I always learn so much by tasting the wild food dishes they create.
Green Unripe Currant
Last year I made some Verjus with unripe currant. It was all about timing and got some great results (see the wild food lab). This year, I want to play with the really green berries and see if I can do something with them.
The small green unripe berries are not really edible because they are so sour and tannic but I think it's a missed opportunity to leave it at that.
My plan is to bring a whole arsenal or experimentations (see below) to see if I can alter the taste and change it into something really palatable and even quite good as an ingredient.
Wild Food Lab in Action
Green Unripe Currant
Research on how to make unripe currant berries into something edible and gourmet. Unripe green currant berries are: Fermented (Sugar/Yeast), in salt, in sugar, Kimchi style fermentation, traditional caper recipe fermentation, dehydration, crushed in salt and aged, dehydrated and reduced in powder, pickled and canned in white vinegar, infused in gin/mugwort vodka and raw honey.
Somehow, somewhere, in the next few weeks I will know. My first impulse is that fermentation then pickling will create "capers". Curious about the result of the boozy fermentation too.
Love this stuff, always challenging.
GARUM - Fermented Fish
It's been over 3 months now and my garum is looking good or should I say it looks like it should be looking.
The sardines are nearly dissolved, I probably have to wait another month or two and I'll just end up with a thick soup and some bones, all the flesh will have dissolved.
It actually smells good, believe it or not. Same smell you get when from anchovies.
My ratio for the fermentation was one part salt and 5 parts fish. In the old recipes the romans used even less salt, one part fish to 7 parts salt and the fermentation was more activ e. Asian fish sauce sometimes use a ratio of 1 part fish and 1 part salt, the fermentation can last for 2 years.
From a food safety perspective, I was more comfortable with the ratio of one to five.
When ready, we will filter it and obtain the gold liquid which we all know as fish sauce - Umami!
Mixologist Going Wild
Hanging out with my buddy mixologist Matthew Biancaniello this afternoon. He is using some of my wild beers for one of this cocktails event and I also introduced him to local wild aromatic plants that he is now using for this creations. Hell of a nice guy with tons of passion for his craft.
Next week, we'll spend some time together and go through the process on making beers with wild plants. The guy is on fire right now, probably one of the best mixologist in the Los Angeles area, with his genius he is probably going to come up with some interesting brews.
Artisanal Vinegars and
Vinegars made with Wild Beers
We have a liftoff - wild vinegars and homemade vinegars!
My white wine vinegar had a superb mother of vinegar, it's now used for my mugwort beer vinegar.
The red wine is also starting to do well. I started a couple of new vinegars: White Sage Beer vinegar and Mugwort Lemons Beer vinegar.
Also making vinegar from my 2010 Elderberry wine. This is a game of patience and probably some failures but I know I will have some success. it will take me many months to get a decent amount that's aged properly. I have 3 oaks barrels waiting...