Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Henbit and dead nettle shakshuka: eggs, greens and feta in a spicy tomato sauce

Shakshuka is spicy, rich, decadent, yet healthy at the same time. The heat level is why it's commonly known as "eggs in hell". It's a vegetarian North African/Middle Eastern/Israeli meal that's eaten overseas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it's become a hip brunch meal in some of the hottest West Coast cities. It's vegetarian, gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, low in fat and high in protein. You can omit the feta and it becomes Paleo and dairy-free.

There are a lot of Shakshuka recipes out there, but I've been told that they all leave something out, that when you eat it in the Middle East they add a lot of fresh local herbs and spices, many of which would be foraged. With that in mind, I thought adding henbit to the dish was appropriate, as henbit originates in North Africa.  Dead nettle and curly dock aren't from North Africa, but they have become local here in the US, so I felt they would fit the spirit of adding local greens.

Make sure you only use the top of the henbit plants, as the bottom stems are woody and don't really soften in the dish. I inadvertently left a couple in, and they were the only thing I didn't like.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Identifying spring curly dock: an edible, weedy wild plant

This is one of the most healthy, beautiful curly dock plants I've ever seen

Identification difficulty level: novice

Curly dock, Latin name: Rumex crispus, is an excellent wild plant to know. It provides food for at least 6-9 months, and year-round in some climates. It's fairly easy to identify, and grows abundantly throughout all of non-Arctic North America. Curly dock has a mild flavor, a subtly sour note, and a pleasant texture, making it a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Curly dock comes from Eurasia, so it's an invasive species here in the Americas. Invasivore eating is one of the most locally-sourced, extremely sustainable ways to look at food. 

Easy to ID, delicious, abundant, nutritious, and sustainable? I wonder why everyone isn't jumping on the curly dock bandwagon!

Small warning: curly dock has oxalic acid, and should be avoided by people with rheumatoid arthritis and kidney or liver problems, more on that below. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Low carb, keto, gluten-free lasagna made from edible curly dock weeds

Before I started formally foraging, I hit a mental wall. I was afraid to pick wild plants, not because I wasn't sure of my identification, my grandmothers had been teaching me since I was able to walk, but because I was afraid they would go to waste. I thought I didn't know how to cook wild greens. I saw some of the pros make amazing, gourmet meals entirely out of foraged ingredients, and I knew I could never do that.

But eventually I realized I didn't have to. Using foraged wild edible plants is easy. It doesn't need require a million crazy ingredients, expert techniques, or a lot of time. All you need to start foraging and eating is to make simple replacements in your day-to-day meals.

Pasta free lasagna is a favorite dish if you are trying to eat keto, low carb or gluten-free. It usually substitutes strips of zucchini or eggplant for the pasta, but on a whim I made an easy foraged substitution: curly dock leaves!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Vegetarian henbit, macadamia, and asiago pesto recipe. Keto, gluten-free, foraging recipe made with edible "weeds" of early spring

Pesto is one of the easiest and most common ways to prepare wild greens. But just because it's been done with some plants, doesn't mean it's the right way to prepare them.

I've seen, and tried, pesto for greens like chickweed, and I've been a bit disappointed. To me, chickweed tastes like a refreshing Boston or bibb lettuce. It's delicious, but would you make a lettuce pesto? Probably not. The taste of chickweed gets totally lost with spices and cheese and nuts.

Henbit, however, is perfect for pesto. It's like it wants to be pesto. It's rich, intense, herbal. . . the strong flavors really hold their own when blended with others. I feel like this pesto really hits the balance right. I opted for macadamia nuts, with their buttery creaminess to balance the punch of the henbit, and a small amount of sweet white onion -- instead of garlic -- to offset the slight bitterness of the greens.

I hope you try it and agree!