Category Archives: 250-mile diet

Pineappleweed Cordial Recipe – Wild Plant Mixology

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Pineappleweed cordial is one of my hands-down favorite beverages. To quote my dad, “This is one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long time.”

pineappleweed medMade with the fresh flowers and leaves of Matricaria matricarioides (a.k.a. M. discoidea), the flavor of pineappleweed cordial is both herby and fruity. It’s like a cross between chamomile and – you guessed it – pineapple.

It’s no coincidence that pineappleweed has things in common with the various plant species known as chamomile. They are all close cousins botanically.

All are low-growing plants that prefer full sun. They have feathery foliage and flowerheads that include a domed, yellow-green center made up of many tiny individual flowers. Unlike the chamomiles, pineappleweed does not have white petal-like ray flowers surrounding the central domes.

Look for pineappleweed in lawns and other open fields, driveways, and roadsides. It is flowering and ready to harvest from mid-spring through early fall. Snipping or pinching off the flowering tops of the plants does not kill the plants, but actually encourages more prolific growth.

Now about that cordial…

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Pineapple Weed Cordial Recipe

Makes 1 1/2 cups (about 6 servings); recipe can be multiplied

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups vodka

3/4 cup fresh pineappleweed flowers and leaves, divided

3 tablespoons light honey such as clover blossom (or anything not too strongly flavored; you could also use agave nectar)

1. Put 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the fresh pineappleweed into a clean glass jar. Pour the vodka over the pineappleweed and cover the jar.

2. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of the pineappleweed into a small glass jar. Pour the honey over the pineapleweed and cover the jar.

3. Place both jars in a warm, sunny spot for 6-8 hours. A sunny window will do if you don’t have outdoor space.

4. Strain the honey through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar or (preferably) something with a pour spout. The warmth of the sun will have liquified the honey, making it easier to strain. But don’t worry if some honey is still gumming up the sieve: the next step will take care of that.

5. Strain the infused vodka through the same sieve you strained the honey in. The vodka will dissolve any remaining honey on its way through.

6. Transfer to a bottle and cork or seal tightly. Serve chilled.

pineappleweed cordial med

Upcoming Workshops and Foraging Tours

Natural Born Heroes (Foraging video with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall)

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

 

Sorrel Soup Recipe

Whether you use wild or cultivated sorrel, the plant’s pleasantly sour taste transforms simple soup and sauce recipes like this one from simple to extraordinary. You can use wild  sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), garden sorrel, or wood sorrel (Oxalis species). In this recipe and photo I used a wood sorrel (Oxalis pes-caprae).

sorrel soup medThis recipe could not be more basic. The simple equation of green leafy veg + stock/water + Allium (in this case garlic) + oil + starch (in this case potatoes, but could be rice/barley/parsnips, etc)  makes fantastic soups out of many leafy vegetabes, wild and tame.

Sorrel Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped wild or cultivated garlic

1 1/2 cups lightly packed wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, or garden sorrel leaves

1 pint water

1 pint chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pot over low heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

2. Add the sorrel and cook, stirring, until it wilts and turns from bright green to a dull khaki color  (this unfortunate color transformation is normal for Rumex and Oxalis species).

3. Add the potatoes, water, stock, salt, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender enough to fall apart when you pierce them with a fork, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

5. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or in two batches in a stand blender. Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it. Serve hot or chilled. Croutons for crunch is a good idea.

Variation: use fish stock instead of the stock and water. After blending the soup, return it to the stove over low heat and add some flaky white fish pieces or some shellfish and simmer for 5 minutes.
Upcoming Workshops and Foraging Tours

Natural Born Heroes (Foraging video with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall)

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

 

Seskoulopita (Chard Pie in Flaky Phyllo Crust Recipe)

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Seskoulopita is spanakoptia (Greek spinach and cheese pastry), except that it’s made with chard instead of spinach.

Seskoulopita entered my culinary repetoire when my greek grandmother Nea was forbidden to eat spinach, but still allowed chard.

Highlighting the slightly sour and salty overtones of chard, I’ve added preserved lemons to this recipe. You can substitute lemon zest if you don’t have preserved lemons.

I think yia-yia Nea would approve, even though preserved lemons weren’t among her usual ingredients.

Young wild dock leaves and stems (Rumex crispus or R. pulcher are my favorites)   are a wonderful replacement for the chard in this dish.

Seskolopita (Greek Chard Pie in Flaky Phyllo Crust)

Makes 8 servings as a side dish, 4 as a main course

1 big bunch chard

1 large onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon peel (from about 1/4 preserved lemon)  OR 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

2/3 cup sour cream OR cottage cheese OR ricotta OR greek yogurt (do not use regular yogurt unless you strain it first or you’ll end up with a runny pastry filling)

1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Salt to taste

1/4 cup melted butter

Phyllo (sometimes spelled filo) pastry dough

1. Put 1-inch of water into a medium sized pot and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the chard. Cut out the midribs and set aside the green parts of the leaves. Finely chop the midribs. Add the chopped midribs to the water and boil for 6-7 minutes.

Drain through a colander into a large pot (so that the cooking water is saved in the larger pot). Let the cooked midribs cool then squeeze out any excess liquid.

2. Very coarsely chop the green parts of the chard leaves and add them to the saved cooking water in the large pot. Boil, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Squeeze out any excess liquid (squeeze hard). Let cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, sautee the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat (you can use one of the pots you cooked the chard in). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

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4. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients except for the phyllo pastry and the butter. Add salt to taste.

5. Brush a 9×9 baking pan with some of the melted butter. Lay in a sheet of phyllo, brush that with more butter, and repeat the layers 2 or 3 more times.

6. Spread the chard mixture over the buttered phyllo layers.

7. Top with several more layers of phyllo, coating each layer with melted butter. Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the sesskoulopita in a tic-tac-toe pattern. This both allows steam to vent while it cooks and makes it easier to cut into individual portions later.IMG_0401

8. Bake in a 350F oven until starting to turn golden, 30-35 minutes.

You can serve seskoulopita hot, but in Greece it’s more likely to be served at room temperature. Translation: you can make it several hours before serving, even the night before.IMG_0402

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

 

Winter Foraging: Henbit

I guess it’s human nature to seek out the exotic and the rare over the prolific and easily found. But it’s the nutritious and common plants such as henbit that are there to nourish us year-round. Although I, too, look forward to the eye-catching fruits of summer, I am on a mission to celebrate the everyday wild foods and medicines growing at our feet right now.

henbit

Even in places where snow is on the ground, hardy dead nettles including henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) are growing. In warmer climates these plants are so lush right now that they qualify as invasive weeds. These are edible greens that can be quite tasty if prepared well.

Here’s how to identify and use edible Lamiums.

 

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

 

Pantry Challenge, 2014

Either I have to eat a lot of my preserved foods this month, or I have to give them away. Let me explain:

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I have to move in less than a month. It’s not a move I saw coming, and I sure did stock up the pantry last year like I was planning to stay (and I have stayed here in Park Slope for almost 11 years, but that’s another story…).

When I say pantry, remember that I don’t actually have a separate room for all my canned, dried, fermented and otherwise preserved foods. I even keep some of my jars of home-canned goods under my bed (this pic is just of a bunch of jars that I pulled out for show).

I don’t really want to take it all with me because I don’t have a fixed address yet. I’ll be putting stuff in storage, staying at the home of a friend, and then heading overseas and, well, you can’t really travel easily with a winter’s worth of preserved food.

So…I’ve decided to make this a pantry challenge month. All meal planning will start by looking in the freezer or under the bed…um, I mean in my “pantry”…and choosing a few preserved foods to base the meal around. I’m not being crazy strict about this as I was with The 250. If I need an ingredient to make my food excellent, I’ll buy it or forage for it. Foraging is admittedly limited in Brooklyn at this time of year, but there is still some cold weather foraging.

omelet

I started today with an American-style omelet (lightly browned and neatly folded over the filling, unlike a creamy, softer French omelette). It included kale that I had blanched and frozen last year, homemade bacon, and a sharp New York cheddar cheese. The salt was local, thanks to Sarah Sproule. And instead of pepper I used some home-dried and ground cayenne chiles (I like spicy) mixed with dried ground (and foraged) spicebush berries (Lindera benzoin).

Already I can see where what I’ve got on hand is going to fall short: animal products such as eggs, cheese, and milk are going to run out and I’ll have to buy more at the farmers’ market.

But that’s okay: this pantry challenge is not about trying to avoid purchasing food. It’s about using up my dehydrated, frozen, fermented, smoked, salt-cured, and canned foods in delicious, interesting, healthful ways. I hope to learn a few things and perhaps invent some keeper recipes along the way.

I doubt that you want the blow-by-blow of what I eat every day. When I come up with something especially good that relies mostly on home-preserved ingredients, including those made with wild edibles, I’ll let you know.

Happy Imbolc!

Leda

Available for pre-order:

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

and

Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

How to Make Carob Powder from Carob Pods (plus a carob ginger snap recipe)

One of the fun things about traveling far from my NYC foraging grounds is that I get to learn new-to-me wild edible plants and play with them in the kitchen. That’s how these carob ginger snap cookies came to be.

carob-cookies

Here in Jerusalem, at the outskirts of the Ramot forest, every day I walked past a pile of pods that lay beneath the tree (Ceratonia siliqua) that they had fallen from. One day the forager’s identification lightbulb illuminated, and I realized that I’d been passing by carob pods.

By the way, you don’t have to be in the Middle East to find carob trees growing. My friends in the western states of the U.S. should be able to find them as well.

The smell brought back memories from my childhood: the hippie adults I was surrounded by thought carob was healthier than chocolate and therefore substituted it in many recipes. Actually, if you use carob as a chocolate substitute, it is disappointing. But if you appreciate that carob has its own unique and excellent scent and taste, then it is a first rate ingredient.

But before I could make the carob ginger snaps, I had to make carob powder. With carob, it’s not the seeds you use but the pod that surrounds the seeds.

carob-seeds

These pods can be quite tough, especially if you collect them long after they’ve fallen from the tree, as I did.

carob-pods

It helps if you soften them. I did this by first rinsing the pods clean and then covering them with water in a large pot. I brought the water to a boil and then turned off the heat and let the pods soak for a few hours.

carob-boil

Well, it was supposed to be just a few hours, but I fell asleep so it ended up being overnight.

The next day I split the now softened pods open with a paring knife and discarded the seeds.

carob-seeded

After that, I pulverized the pods in batches in a blender (really missing my food processor back in Brooklyn, which would have made this job much easier). I wasn’t after a perfectly smooth grind, just a coarse pulp that I could spread out on a baking sheet and dry in a low (200F) oven.

carob-pulp

Once dried, I ground the carob in an electric coffee grinder, et voila! Carob powder, ready to be made into these delicious cookies. I made a vegan version because we are going to visit my bf’s vegan son and fiancee, but you could substitute butter for the coconut oil if that’s not an issue.

Carob Ginger Snap Cookies

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  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Whisk together these dry ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup carob powder

1/2 cup sugar, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients:

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup date syrup (molasses or a dark honey would work, too)

1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter if you prefer)

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. On a plate, mix together:

1/4 cup carob powder

2 tablespoons sugar

  • Form 1 or 1 1/2-inch balls out of the dough and roll them in the carob-sugar mixture. Flatten each ball slightly between the heels of your hands. Place them on a cookie sheet with a little space in between each one and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. They will get crunchy as they cool.

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries is available for pre-order!

Happy New Year from Leda’s Urban Homestead

I’m greeting 2014 with my bf in Jerusalem. This was the view yesterday morning as J-town re-emerged from the morning mists:

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Although I’ve cooked in this kitchen many, many times, I’d never baked bread here until this past week. I couldn’t find a rack to cool the bread on, so I improvised with chopsticks on a cutting board.

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Back in Brooklyn, the wood sorrel won’t reappear until mid-spring. Here, it is in peak season (although I’m picking Oxalis pes-carpae here rather than the O. stricta I find back in the Northeast). I used some of it last night in a fish soup.

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On the kitchen counter, I’ve got foraged olives in a salt cure, and chile peppers lacto-fermenting into hot sauce.

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In the fridge, the salt fish (haddock rather than cod because the kind of cod they sell here is endangered) will be ready in a few days. I’ve also got bacon and pancetta (yes, you can get pork belly in Israel) curing. And I’ve got several kinds of refrigerator pickles going.

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Next up, I’m making kumquat marmalade. And then maybe some passionfruit butter. Some of these passionfruits are from Ricky’s terrace garden, some foraged. It feels almost decadent to be foraging fruit in winter!

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May the year ahead bless you with delicious feasts, foraged and otherwise, and may there be loved ones near to share the joy. Happy New Year!

Solstice Morning Foraging

snow-cyclamenHappy Winter Solstice!

This morning Ricky and I took a walk in the Ramot forest of Jerusalem. There are huge numbers of trees and tree limbs downed by last week’s snowstorm. But there are also signs of the bloom season starting, like these Cyclamen persicum…

…and these white crocuses.

crocus

It’s weird for me, used to northeastern North America, to consider the Winter Solstice the start of spring as far as plants go, but that’s the reality on the ground here in the Middle East. I also saw some wild daffodils that I didn’t get a good photo of (next time).

trackWe weren’t the only ones out enjoying the warm morning. Any trackers out there know who this print belongs to?

And of course, we did some foraging. It turned out to be too early in the season for the Suillus mushrooms I’ve found here in January. But the recent storm knocked the last of the season’s olives and plenty of Arbutus (strawberry tree) fruit to the ground. The olives will get a simple salt cure. Not sure what I’m doing with the Arbutus yet, besides snacking on it.olives-and-arbutus

Other stuff I did this solstice day: made sauerkraut, made fish chowder, took a nap, was grateful for a day off. Okay, almost a day off: I also finished up an article on sunchokes. It’s ironic that I was working on an article about a plant also known as Jerusalem artichokes even though it is a native North American plant that has nothing to do with Jerusalem…while I’m actually in Jerusalem.

Next up, a salsa dancing lesson with my bf. Life is good.

Wishing you a wonderful solstice and holiday season!

Food Preservation Report: Watermelon Radish Ferment

pickled-radishes-smDecember is the last hurrah for certain ingredients that I treasure. The Clementine oranges will be gone soon. Even the locally grown pears will gradually disappear from the markets. The apples will start to lose their crunch. But those aren’t the seasonal ingredients I want to preserve.

If you haven’t had a watermelon radish yet, you want to. On the outside, they look like beige turnips. The hint of pink on the tapering root end barely suggests the riot of festive color within.

What do they taste like? Well, radishes. But pickle them with either this lacto-fermented recipe or this overnight vinegar brine, and you’ve got a very special offering for your holiday feasts (and well after, when January’s blah colors could use a little pick-me-up).

Cheers,

Leda

Thanksgiving Recipes and Thoughts

jellied-cran-smThanksgiving is an odd holiday. I applaud the notion of families getting together to cook and feast on native American ingredients like cranberry, turkey, pumpkin. I especially love the idea of pausing in our busy lives to give thanks.

But the old tale of pilgrims and “indians” helping each other out doesn’t hold up to historical truth 100%.

Nonetheless, here comes Thanksgiving. I will be spending it with a transcontinental couple. She’s from El Salvador, he’s from Bolivia. They were married not long ago, and if I’m not mistaken, this is the first Thanksgiving they’ve ever hosted as a couple.

I’m bringing two kinds of cranberry sauce, including this one that’s in the picture, and that is so good I expect it’s already a tradition in my kitchen. Here’s the video version of the recipe.

I’m also bringing green bean casserole (no, I’m not using canned mushroom soup, but you knew that, right?). Mine is going to include some chicken of the woods mushroom I foraged.

So despite the fact that Thanksgiving is politically and historically awkward, I am participating. I am in favor of occasions to give thanks, and to share meals.