June 21, 2013

Feasting by Foraging

Yellow-cracked bolete, Porcini, Gem-Studded Puffballs, Lion's Mane Mushroom

I'm happy that foraging is coming back around to being acceptable. For a long time in this country, foraged foods were equated with poverty and want. People who ate "weeds" were thought to be a bit nuts, put in a category of crazy naturalists. I never understood this stigma. Having grown up in a household with a European background, and a healthy dose of science thrown in, foraging was a natural and smart thing to do. If there is food growing outside your door, why not use it? 

In many cultures, foraging is considered a fun, healthy and sometimes competitive pursuit. In some places, foraging is a necessary part of survival. Nature provides, we partake. None of this is crazy, it's just common sense. 


Razor Clams, after blanching

Rosehips in Syrup

When I travel to Europe to visit various friends, I always make note of the season and what might be ripe for foraging. My friends and I plan hikes and trips around what we can find. In Germany in spring, we look for bärlauch, a wild leek akin to our ramps; mushrooms like morcheln (morels) and puffballs; cattail tubers; and dandelions - dente di leone in Italian, Löwenzahn in German and dent-de-lion in French. Many cafe menu boards advertise dandelion salad in the spring. And it isn't cheap! All these things can be found here, too. Summertime brings marshmallow plant (malva); wild fennel and wood sorrel; nettles; sea beans (salicornia); and salmon berries, blackberries and wild tayberries. Autumn's haul is full of mushrooms of many varieties; rose hips; seaweeds and shellfish. Every season, in every climate, there are wild foods to be found and eaten.

Fresh Seaweed for soup

Free food you've found yourself always tastes better, somehow.

Garlic Scapes ~ In Season Now

It's time for fun, curly garlic scapes ~ the long, leafless flowering stem rising directly from the garlic's bulb. Garlic scapes must be removed soon after they appear, to allow the garlic bulb to fully form. Once the flower heads become enlarged or open, the scapes become tough, the garlic bulb will be depleted and not size up the way we expect. Snip them early and you'll have an additional crop from your garlic plants. 

Garlic scapes can be used in a stir fry - they pair with asparagus very well - or made into a pesto, pureed and added to potato soup or as I used them today ... in a compound butter, Maître d'Hôtel style. A variation on the classic flavored butters, this is wonderful served on steamed vegetables, fish, chicken or steak.I like it spread on a baguette or used for garlic bread. For another recipe, please see: http://passionate-psyche.blogspot.com/2011/07/whirly-curly-garlic-scapes_03.html


1 cube (1/2 c.) salted butter, cut into pieces
3 T. fresh parsley leaves
Juice of 1/4 of a small lemon
2/3 c. garlic scapes, chopped

Place butter pieces, parsley leaves and lemon juice into a food processor. Snap garlic scapes below the blossom end, discarding the ends. Chop stems into 1/2 inch pieces and add to bowl of processor. Pulse until butter and herbs are fine and well mixed. Scoop butter into a serving dish or form into a log with plastic wrap, to be sliced into pats. Excellent on grilled meats, vegetables and on crusty bread. 
Store for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
♦  ♦  ♦

June 20, 2013

POMPANO ~ A fish plump & rich

Have you tried pompano fish? I've seen these plump, substantial fish in the markets - mostly Asian ones - thinking that they looked like they'd be tasty. It took me long enough, but when I finally bought a fresh one, I found that tasty was exactly right! Cute little guy, isn't he?

The fresh pompano fish that we get here in the U.S. are usually from the Gulf, hence known as Florida pompano. Part of the jack family (like mackerel), they're between 2 and 3 pounds, prefer warm waters (70-90º F), have a lifespan of 3-4 years and reach full size quickly, which makes them a good choice for sustainable seafood. They are fast swimmers, found in large schools and are strong fighters on the fishing line. Their skin looks like shimmering silver lamé, with yellow highlights and has such fine scales that it need not be scaled before cooking. 

The taste ~ it is its own flavor, rather like salmon has its own flavor and would never be confused with another fish, pompano is like that, too. It's oily (lots of Omega oils), rich, fishy (that's what I like about it), firm-fleshed and easy to eat off the bone. It's nice to cook it in a way that shows off its beautiful skin - barbecuing, broiling or baking it. One of the most famous ways to cook it is New Orleans style - en papillote (in parchment). I chose to grill it, slashing the skin and giving it a simple dressing with lemon, butter and chives stuffed in the cavity. I didn't want to overwhelm the true flavor of the fish. 

Give it a try ~ you may find you have a new favorite.


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