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(the Old English word for LIFE)

Category: Wild foods

Cactus & Corn Tortillas

Last weekend I hosted the incredibly knowledgeable Enrique Villasenor, local healer in training, who taught all about how to use Opuntia species of cactus (aka prickly pear) for healing a vast array of health conditions. It all goes back to “balance” he says, and this plant helps us do that. Even if we aren’t suffering from a chronic disease (such as Type II diabetes which it helps to reverse), it helps the body stay balanced and maintain health. For the event I offered a tasting of what you can do with the leaf pads also known as nopales.

One of my favorite things to eat is tacos and I have been experimenting lately with making them out of different flours and unusual ingredients. For this event I opted to try adding them to a basic corn tortilla recipe. Because I like things to be colorful, I added a generous handful of spinach for added green color. Way better than any sort of artificial food coloring.

Tortillas de Nopales

  • 4¼ cups masa harina
  • 4-5 cactus pads (nopales)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chia
  • salt to taste

Combine together the cactus, cilantro and spinach together in a high speed blender which will create a thick liquid.

In a bowl, add the masa harina and slowly add the cactus mix and the warm water, until the dough is soft and is not sticky.

Once the dough is at its desired consistency, add the chia seeds, and lastly, the salt.

Separate the dough in even, small balls. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to an hour.

Flatten each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap with a tortilla press, or with a wine bottle or roller. Cook each side for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they puff, on medium-high heat, with a lightly greased skillet or comal. Keep in mind, nopal burns a little easier so keep your eyes on the tortillas so they don’t burn!

These go great with grilled or sauteed nopales, salsa, avocado and cashew cream with a bit of lime. Enjoy!

Read more  by this author  here 

Wild Greens and Pinyon Pine Cream Sauce

I think the first “wild food” recipe that I ever made was a nettle pesto. I would speculate, though, that is probably most folks initiation into wild foods. It is abundant, found nearly everywhere, and quite simple to make without messing it up too bad. Success is fairly inevitable. Now, after many years of diving deeper and deeper into the complexities of flavors in wild plants and mushrooms, I try not to roll my eyes as my social media feeds are flooded with pesto recipes. However, nettle remains one of my favorite greens to use in the kitchen and not to mention medicinal herb.

I won’t go on about its incredible attributes—those can be easily found elsewhere and probably somewhere on an old recipe here for soup. So let’s get on with something slightly different you can do with it (or any other wild or cultivated greens you have on hand).

The first time I created this, I used a wild spinach (also called New Zealand spinach) that grows near coastal regions here in California. I created this sauce to pair with some chia/acorn pasta ravioli with morels for a wild food dinner. I heard from few folks that they were literally licking the plate so as not to miss a single taste of that vibrant green flavor.

Of course, the flavor will have a different profile depending on what greens you use, but this is just a starting point. To be honest, I’m horrible at writing down recipes, much less following them. If I feel inspired, or think of some crazy idea, I’ll find a recipe that sounds similar and then I start substituting and switching things up, tasting along the way. I really have to get better at notes for my book.

Recipe: Wild Greens and Pinyon Pine Cream Sauce

1 lb wild greens, nettle or wild spinach recommended
1/2 c pinyon pine nuts, shelled (or sub commercial pine nuts)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4-1/2 c mushroom broth (or other broth), plus more to thin
2 tbsp avocado oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste

  1. Blanch your greens: Put a pot of water on to boil while you wash and de-stem your greens. Set aside a large bowl of ice water. If you’re working with nettle, you can use gloves at this point. (As soon as they are cooked, their stinging hairs are no longer active.) Submerge the greens in the boiling water for 1 minute, until they turn bright green. Remove quickly and place in the ice bath to cool.
  2. Heat the avocado oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and shallot and saute until just translucent, about 3-5 min. Add the diced garlic and saute for about 1-2 min more, do not allow the garlic to burn. No one likes burnt garlic.
  3. Strain the water from the greens and place them in between a few paper towels and press, removing as much water as possible.
  4. Combine the greens, pine nuts, onions, shallot and garlic into a high speed blender with the broth and lemon juice and blend, adding more broth (or water from cooking the greens), to thin to desired consistency. Add salt to taste, about 1/2-1 tsp.

This could even make a great soup as well, just add more broth or water. I used it recently as a sauce to complement fermented mushrooms in a dish for a wild food tasting:

“Sea of the Land” Fermented lobster mushroom with pickled black mustard seeds and nettle and pinyon cream sauce.

Read more  by this author  here 

Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

I have found that this normally “dry” wild mushroom is an excellent candidate for sous vide, rather than the usual saute. Add in your favorite herbs and seasonings and its lends an incredibly tender and juicy texture. I was a little disappointed in the small size of my only find of this mushroom so far this season, but the younger the mushroom, the better.

When cooking these mushrooms, as with all wild mushrooms, be sure to cook them thoroughly. I know from experience. There’s a bit of controversy about whether or not the ones that grow from eucalyptus are edible or not. I think it all has to do with proper preparation. These I harvested were growing from a eucalyptus stump and my kids and I all enjoyed them without a problem… except everyone wanted more.

Here’s my recipe for Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods (of course, you’ll need access to a sous vide machine):

Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods

Ingredients:

A good sized portion of chicken of the woods mushroom, sliced
One sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and chopped coarsely
Two-three sprigs of thyme
2 T Soy sauce (or alternative)
1/2 tsp Smoked paprika
3-4 (or more) cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/4 c vegetable (or mushroom) stock
2 tbsp Avocado oil

Optional finishing: pinyon pine vinegar or more lemon juice

Combine everything except the mushroom in a mixing bowl. Taste the flavoring and adjust to preference. Add the mushroom and toss in the marinade. Carefully pour everything into a vacuum seal bag and seal tightly, making sure to remove all excess air. Cook sous vide at 160° F for 2-3 hours.

Remove mushroom from the bag and either heat to desired temperature (a few minutes in the oven is nice), and serve, with a finish of either pinyon pine vinegar (gives it a wonderful, delicate mountain aroma) or more lemon juice.

Read more  by this author  here 

Tom Kha soup with Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

One of my most favorite soups but with chicken mushrooms in place of real chicken.

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 onion sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
a few Thai chiles, halved
3 quarter-inch slices slices galangal or ginger
1 lemongrass stalk pounded with the side of a knife and cut into 2-inch long pieces
2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
4 cups turkey tail mushroom broth (see note)
4 cups canned coconut cream or coconut milk
6 oz. chicken of the woods mushrooms
8 oz. maitake mushrooms
1-2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 green onions sliced thin
fresh cilantro chopped, for garnish

Note: Make your own wild mushroom broth by simmering turkey tail mushrooms (or any other edible wild mushrooms) for an immune system boost, or store bought mushroom broths are available.

  1. In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, chile, galangal or ginger, lemongrass, and red curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until onions are softened.
  3. Add mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Reduce head and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. In the meantime, boil or steam your wild mushrooms for at least 40 min.
  4. Add in coconut cream or milk and mushrooms. Simmer until mushrooms have absorbed flavors, about 10 min, then add soy sauce, coconut sugar, and lime juice, plus more of each to taste.
  5. Cook 2 more minutes, then ladle into serving bowls and top with sliced green onions and fresh cilantro.

Read more   here 

Stuffed Yucca Blossoms: Recipe

Yucca flowers are perfect little bite-sized packages, so why not fill them with something delicious? Start with a cream cheese base, then add your choice of flavorings.
In Latin America, yucca flowers are a traditional food, often cooked with eggs or tomato sauce. I haven’t tasted every species, but they’re all considered edible. Some people get an itchy throat when eating the flowers raw, and some people eat only the petals, not the pistils and stamens inside. I eat the whole flower, both raw and cooked with no trouble at all.
You’ll use the whole yucca flower in this recipe, but remove the pistils and stamens first.  Grasp them at the base where they join the flower and give a quick twist. These flower parts cook more slowly than the flower petals, so we’ll give them a head start.

What You’ll Need to Make Stuffed Yucca Blossoms
rinsed yucca flowers, pistils and stamens removed and reserved
½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground sumac
¼ cup chopped onions
2 Tbs. chopped green chiles (if you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can substitute chopped, roasted red peppers)
flour
1 egg (beaten)

What You’ll Do to Make Stuffed Yucca Blossoms
Roughly chop the yucca pistils and stamens and the onion, and sauté in olive oil until the onions are translucent. The pistils and stamens may (or may not) turn green.  Add the salt, sumac powder, and whichever kind of pepper you prefer, and stir to combine, then remove from the heat. You don’t need to cook the spices and peppers, just warm them up a little.
In a bowl, fold the warmed ingredients into the cream cheese.
Place a teaspoon of the cheese mixture inside each yucca flower and gently press the flowers closed. Dip each flower in the beaten egg, then lightly dredge in flour and set aside.
In a clean sauté pan, add some more olive oil and fry the stuffed blossoms until the cream cheese becomes soft and melty, and the outside of each flower is a crispy golden brown. Serve warm.

perfect bite-sized morsels

 

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Wintergreen Ice Cream: Recipe

Winter isn’t the most productive time to forage where I live. On a February visit to NH, I was able to score some fresh wintergreen, which I brought home and turned into an extract. I love the flavor of wintergreen (think teaberry gum) but it isn’t always easy to use in food and drink. I thought ice cream would be the perfect vehicle for the wintergreen flavor, and I was right, but boy it took a long time to nail this one down. The extract had a strong flavor and fragrance on its own, but my first ice cream attempt was a miserable failure. The eggs in the custard base completely overwhelmed the wintergreen flavor. My second attempt was only slightly more successful. I used a corn starch base, which let the wintergreen flavor come through, but it was far too faint for my taste. Third time was the charm. With triple the original amount of wintergreen extract, I had a delicious, perfectly textured wintergreen ice cream. This recipe is a keeper.
The first step in making your ice cream is to make the extract. It takes six weeks. (Have I lost you?)
fresh wintergreen in vodka (and snow)Fill a jar with wintergreen leaves. It’s ok to add a few berries, but, honestly, the leaves have more flavor. I use both, and the fruit adds a little more color, which, by the way, will be brown, not red. Add vodka to fill the jar to the top of the wintergreen, put the lid on the jar, and give it a good shake. Store the jar someplace out of direct sun and give it a shake once a day or whenever you walk by and remember. After six weeks, open the jar and give it a sniff. It will smell wonderful. Strain off your solids and return the liquid to a clean jar. This is your wintergreen extract.
Not only is wintergreen a great flavor for ice cream, but a few drops in a mug of hot chocolate makes a wonderful flavor combination. And it would make a great addition to frosting for brownies or chocolate cake. But I digress.

What You’ll Need to Make Wintergreen Ice Cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbs. corn starch
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbs. wintergreen extract

What You’ll Do to Make Wintergreen Ice Cream
The corn starch and light corn syrup in this recipe give the ice cream a rich, scoopable texture that doesn’t turn icy in the freezer.
Combine the cream and milk, and warm them over medium heat. You don’t want the milk to boil. When you start to see steam rise, or tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan, take the pan off the heat, and whisk in the light corn syrup.
Combine the sugar, corn starch, and kosher salt in a large bowl, then slowly pour in the warm liquid mixture, whisking to combine. Return the batter to the saucepan and continue to cook over medium low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. When you notice the liquid beginning to thicken, dip a soup spoon into the batter and run your finger across the back of the spoon. If your finger leaves a trail behind it that doesn’t immediately run together, you’re done. If the batter is runny enough to immediately come back together, you’ll need to cook it a little longer.
When the batter is done, add the wintergreen extract and whisk to incorporate it evenly. This is more extract than I’ve seen in ANY wintergreen ice cream recipe. By a lot. So maybe my home made wintergreen extract isn’t as strong as a commercial extract made from processed wintergreen oil, but dammit, it’s delicious.
Refrigerate the batter to cool it down, then churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. And if you feel the need to add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips, well, who could blame you?

 

Read more by This Author here 

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Urban foraging can feed the hungry, prevent wildfires, reduce the use of herbicides, restore ancestral memory and inspire action to preserve the natural world.

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