Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Reviews of Foraging Books

At a certain point many foragers grow hungry for bounty beyond mushrooms and cattails. They seek meat – raw and wild – yet making the leap from acorn gatherer to elk killer is a daunting one that seems beyond grasp. Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast narrows that gap with an entertaining, informative and approachable perspective on all forms of wild dining.

Read more at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf

Curious Kumquat

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 1

Winter Foraging Workshop Report - Part 1
Winter Foraging Workshop Report - Part 2
Foraging Ethic

This past weekend Doug Simon conducted his late summer/early fall workshop. He started with the trendiest of the wild foods - Chia (Salvia Hispanica). This is one of the main foods noted by indigenous Mexican endurance athletes as a strength giver, and is incredibly high in Omegas.

Chia falls into the Labacia family of plants which includes mint. A distinctive feature is a 4-sided/square stem and paired or opposite leaves. The seed is what you're looking for which will be more abundant by the end of October through the end of the year. The seed has a mucous texture and taste similar to fish oil. The leaves are also edible but have a lower level of fatty acids and are not quite as tasty but still valuable for a nutritional perspective. The flowers are small and blue.

Next we moved on to mallow. Mallow is commonly found near farmlands but is also prolific in the wild even in drier areas.

I found the leaves a bit too similar to other plants but the seed pod and flower are very distinctive.

The leaves actually moisten your mouth and have a squishy texture, and are best eaten raw. The seed pod itself is good to eat, but if you wait til it dries then the seeds are quite good as well. The flower is a pink and white. The seed pods are shaped like a 5-point star, and the seeds are shaped like little marshmallows.

We covered the amaranth plant in our winter workshop, but now we got to see it green and preparing to go to seed.

Amaranth leaves are best enjoyed in July and August and are noted by their red stalk. The seeds are the most enjoyable part of the plant (collected in October through February). Simply cook the seeds like pasta with plenty of water and no lid and they will expand up to ten times their size.

Johnson grass has been one of my harder sells. It lies in the Sorghum family but its not a lot of bang for the buck. Seeds should be gathered in September and allowed to full dry.

Doug recommends placing the top of the stalks in a heavy canvas bag and the dropping a fiery hot stone in the bag. The stone will burn off the chaff and toast the seeds. You can then blow the chaff debris away and enjoy the seeds. The tubar roots are also enjoyable in the spring.

Next we looked at yellow dock (aka lemon dock). Leaves can be steamed or boiled and are extremely high in iron. Bring your water to a full boil, then add the greens and leave the lid off to allow the unpleasant flavors to escape.

Typically dock is found near water sources. The seed is edible but is a bit too astringent for most palates.

There will be at least one if not two more installments on this report in the upcoming days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enjoying right now: 2008 La Sauvageonne Les Ruffes Coteaux du Languedoc

91 pts Wine Spectator
Tastes like a quality Châteauneuf du Pape, which is not surprising when you consider it's made from the same grapes, on similar soils and under the same southern French sun.
This rich, refined red is very pure-tasting, showing mineral, smoke, dried cherry and sandalwood flavors, with powerful undercurrents of currant and French roast. The long finish echoes spice and roasted meat.
Something of an undiscovered gem here. Containing all the elements that make a superb French red, this wine has the makings to become a true star. Definitely one of those wines that should be a stable in everyone's wine rack. You would be mad not to buy it now before everyone else finds out and the price goes through the ceiling. Expect tons of dense berry fruit and enjoy.
*from various websites
Curious Kumquat

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Odd Bits - top book of 2011?

While I am sure many will pick up Odd Bits as an “Iron Chef meets teenage boy dare meets Fear Factor episode”, the reader will be swiftly and joyfully swooped up into one of the top books of 2011. Jennifer McLagan’s final stage of her trilogy, including the much lauded Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), is a comprehensive exploration of those animal parts that are ignored or tossed in the bin, and the word fascinating would be the ultimate understatement in describing this book.

Read the rest of the review at The Gastronomers Bookshelf.

Curious Kumquat

Friday, September 23, 2011

My latest Bauscher submissions

This is a tough dish to work with but has plenty of potential.

Bread Course: Brown butter hazelnut financier, black sesame tuiles, smoked butter, piñon panna cotta, foraged wood sorrel.

BBQ in the Park: Mustard kulfi, deviled quail eggs, baked bean shards, acorn dust.

Curious Kumquat

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Foraged Possibilities

For all of my foraging friends if I suggested eating young, green acorns, what would you assume would be the taste experience? Probably astringent or tannin, right? These were green acorns off of scrub oak, pulled straight from the tree. I nibbled on one on the trail and was surprise how mild it was. I went back and pulled a bag full, braised them in a Chardonnay and then finally finished them with soy as they were cooling - the result was a tender, yet al dente nut with mild umami flavor. I added them to my current oxtail dish for texture and a bit of sharpness to counteract the richness and it worked very well. The nice thing is that there's plenty more available right now. My theory is that the tannins become more pronounced as the acorns mature, so I'll continue to test this theory as the season progresses.

Curious Kumquat

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poiré Cidre

I recently enjoyed a bottle of this French pear cider for dinner. I hadn't previously seen this but my new beer distributor has a few and they're quite nice.
Curious Kumquat

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Electrolux MagicMill - Repair Lesson

I've bragged about the Electrolux MagicMill Assistant many times before. Its a work horse. It makes my KitchenAid Pro look like a scrawny Freshman trying to do a pull up. But it does have some minor flaws. One is that there is no on/off switch, rather there is a timer that turns it on and off. The problem is that if you want to stop the machine before the time runs out you need to manually turn the timer off. Not a problem except that it loosens and ultimately detaches the knob.

Well, I finally had to disassemble mine to fix it, so here is a pictorial on fixing this problem.


Notice the knob on the left turned past the off label. In fact, I could turn the knob back and forth a full inch or more before anything happened, and in the end the knob was clearly not attached to anything. I had assumed that I had broken the spring, so it was time to crack it open.

Start by pulling both knobs straight out - be careful to not torque them to the side - straight out. Then, if your nuts and washers are still in place remove them and remember how they attach.

Take a butter knife and pry from the side seam. Note that the bottom will pop out first. There are three flexible arms with catch triggers on the end on the bottom edge, while the top has three anchor points that will disengage once the bottom is off.

We can now see that it is a very simple mechanism inside. Be careful to not loosen any wires. The knob holder peg will stick out and just off to a side is a small pin. When the pin is in place the mechanism will sit at roughly 20º so don't expect it to sit horizontal to the machine.

See the little peg 2mm to the left of the knob holder?

Return the mechanism to its place, lock in the knob holder with a washer and nut. Be sure its tight and that the mechanism is no longer moving. Return the face plate by settling the three top anchors into their slots. Then snap the three flexible arms on the bottom into their slot. Double check your knob holder, and if its stable, return the knobs to their holders and give it a try.

Curious Kumquat

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Winning Dish

Here is our winning entry in the Farm2Chef Challenge - Foraged Crawfish Cake, Greens (Frisco Farms), Cucumber (Gone Fishin' Farm), Garlic flower, nasturtium, borage (our own garden), tomato (Blythe), house cured bacon, raspberry vinaigrette, horseradish aioli, foraged watercress and wood sorrel. I think there was more but these were the highlights.
Curious Kumquat