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Archive for the ‘wildcrafting’


Dandelion Fritters 0

Posted on May 10, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s May in Vermont so I’m looking at leaves.  With the rain, all the rain, and the sun the world just seemed to bounce into technicolor overnight.  Now the trees are all blossoming in that golden green of spring, vibrant everywhere.  Chartreuse fuzzy leaves, new red maple buds, dogwood and flowers suddenly there.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how amazing I find plants.  Really – a tomato plant in fruit can leave me speechless.  How do these simple life forms know to do what they do – a petal here, a bud there, a leaf that curls just so.   How does a bud know when to open?  How does it turn that tightly curled bead into an unfurled leaf overnight?

But this year I’ve been teaching in our school’s environmental education program and I’ve learned that I had that point wrong.  The bud forms slowly in the year before it blossoms.  It spends the good growing days using the plant’s resources to build the leaves that will appear next year.  It’s not a miracle, or maybe not a sudden miracle:  it’s slow growth under the surface.  The plant doesn’t have to spring into action when the weather is most in doubt and turn itself beautiful.  It just had to do a little bit at a time when light and food and water were plentiful, and then sit tight and wait through the hard times.

And when the sun is good and strong get out there and stretch and reach and grow.  And, if you’re in my family, get out there and forage for what you can freely find – like the dandelions just after they burst bright and yellow into the spring.

Dandelion Fritters
Serves 2

  • 2 cups of dandelion flowers, rinsed gently but thoroughly (make sure to pick them where the dogs haven’t been and nothing has been sprayed on them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used chick pea flour, but just about anything would be fine)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper

Whisk together eggs, flour, salt and pepper until smooth and free of lumps, then beat in the dandelions.

Heat up 2 T. butter in a medium skillet until bubbling and fragrant, then pour in dandelion-egg mixture.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until firmly set on bottom, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Serve immediately.  It’s nice with a salad, and a little hot sauce won’t hurt a thing.

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Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves 2

Posted on January 29, 2011 by crankycheryl

I was invited to a dumpling party, and though I knew there was little chance that I’d remain purely carb-free, I also wanted to bring something to share that matches the way I’m eating.

Vietnamese-style stuffed grape leaves are a bit of flavored ground meat wrapped inside the leaves.  At Five Spice we used to serve these with peanut sauce, though some folks prefer the sweeter-type dips.  (Between you and me: they’re wrong and you should do it my way.)  I had posted about these back in 2009, but love these enough to want to revisit.

Food in the freezer and pantry feels like money in the bank, and this little treat was a lovely way to spend some of it.   I  didn’t have the fresh cilantro leaves I wanted.  A quick visit to the basement yielded a cube of basil-garlic puree, a pound of ground grass-fed beef, and a packet of grape leaves.  Those plus some fish sauce and a handful of fresh spinach leaves turned quickly into the filling, and before I knew it I had them made.

Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 40

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Place in a food processor:

  • 1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves or a combination
  • 1 T. Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 c. very clean and coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves

Process for about 30 seconds, until very well combined.

3.  Get your grape leaves.  It’s okay to use them from a jar if you weren’t out madly picking and freezing weeds last summer.  If you do use the ones in brine, rinse them a bit, then blot off the water.  To form the wraps:

Place a leaf in front of you, stem-end down, and put a spoonful of filling in the center.

These get formed differently than the Greek ones usually are.  What you want to end up with is a squat little square, rather than a cylinder.  To get this, fold over each of the four sides over the filling and then place it on the baking sheet.

 

Keep at least an inch in between them: you need enough air circulation so that they’ll get a little crispy instead of steaming.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, until black-green and sizzling a bit,  then serve with peanut sauce, or even just on their own.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves: Further Encounters with Weed-Eating 2

Posted on June 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

So at last I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the truth is that I’m liking it so much that I’m a little bit embarrassed.

I was sure that I was going to find it a total snoozer, and roll my eyes at all the stuff I already know.  Like I need to be taught how to eat locally and why it’s a good idea?  But reading it is like talking to another localvore friend, one who’s clever and funny and self-deprecating and good-hearted, and not as “preachy” as I’ve heard the book described.

Maybe that’s why I took it a little personally when I read the passage about how my new BFF’s year of eating locally was going to mean growing food and buying from local farmers.  And ABSOLUTELY NOT going to include gleaning weeds by the roadside because she didn’t want to fit some low-class stereotype.

Ahem.

I like collecting weeds, and I’m okay with knowing that my sons will grow up to be mortified by the habit.  It’s okay because one day they’ll appreciate my boundless creativity and thriftiness.  Of course by then I’ll be dead and my ghost will be hovering over the heads of their wives or husbands saying things like, “Really?  You’re too good for that?  You’re just going to throw out the peel and those greens and not even make soup out of it?  And what the hell is that thing you’re wearing?  You call that a shirt?”

But here and now my target is grape leaves (well, grape leaves plus eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and maybe paying my bills on time for once).  The vines are absolutely everywhere, and I’m gearing up for a big harvest and preservation.

And in the meantime, I’m preparing lots of dolmades with the fresh ones.  They’re a quick snack or meal, taste great, are gluten- and dairy-free, and easily made vegan.  Come on by and join me among the weeds.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
About 40 rolls

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over:

  • About 40 large grape leaves (or 2 small jars if you haven’t gotten the fresh wild ones around).

Let sit for 1 hour.

In the meantime mix well together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (locally, humanely raised)
  • (if you want a vegetarian version substitute 2 cups dried lentils plus 1/3 cup of water for the meat)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (your choice – I used oregano and thyme)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 T. salt (don’t skimp)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Line a large saucepan with several leaves.  Then roll the remaining leaves by placing a leaf on a small plate or cutting board, vein-side up and with the stem facing you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of filling about an inch above the leaf’s bottom.  Fold over the left and right sides, then roll from bottom to top and place in the pan with the flap-side down.  Roll the rest of them and place in concentric circles in the pan, building to a second level as necessary.  Save a few smaller grape leaves aside.

Drizzle over the top:

  • 3-4 T. olive oil

Pour in:

  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 cups stock/broth or water,

Place remaining grape leaves on top, and cover with a small plate (this will ensure that all the stuffed leaves are sufficiently submerged).  Cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the rice and meat/lentils are cooked.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature – which is how much Mediterranean food tends to be eaten.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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