At-home cooking

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zelph
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby zelph » Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:14 pm

churro wrote:Irrigation season started today, with a bang. One of my neighbors neglected to clean his ditches, so water was pouring into my field. I managed to plug the problem, then decided to take my water out of the ditch to lessen the load on my patch. While I was out, I realized that the volume of water going into my pond was greater than the volume of water going out, so I investigated and found a healthy colony of watercress plugging the outlet... Score! Dinner!

I gathered about 2 lbs of watercress (spicy and delicious, not like store-bought) while clearing the problem and found it to be spicy and delicious (did I mention it was spicy and delicious?), so I set to work:

2 lbs watercress (spicy and delicious), chopped roughly
2 yams, baked (while I was re-routing water)
1/4 large onion, diced
2 pats of butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 lb lamb's quarter, (gathered while I played with the dog)
2 cans chicken broth (Swanson's low sodium)
a pinch of salt and some fresh-ground pepper
2 slices home-made white bread, torn up small

Rinse and pick the watercress and lamb's quarter, removing stems, ugly leaves and tough bits. Set aside. Bake the sweet potatoes, wrapped in foil, at 375* F for 1 hour, set aside. Heat a pot over medium heat, add butter and onion and stir frequently until soft. Add baked, peeled sweet potatoes and garlic, maybe a little more butter. Add salt, pepper, lamb's quarter, watercress and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until greens are soft, maybe 5 minutes. Add bread and blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Serve with the best sprigs of watercress as a garnish.

It was delicious! It tasted like a "cream of whatever" soup, only better. I had meant to garnish it with cattail shoots, sliced and marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which would have been great, but I forgot to gather any cattail shoots. Homemade white bread, toasted, then rubbed with a clove of garlic closed the deal nicely. I love this time of year!

EDIT- I couldn't just let one triumph stand alone, so I gathered some rose petals and wrapped them around a stick of butter. They were so fragrant, I couldn't resist. It's in the fridge now, and in a couple of days I'll make some solar-cooked cornbread and see how it tastes- I'll let you know.


Just got back into town, been gone 2 days.

I know a place where watercress grows and I would feel safe eating it. Here in the Midwest, fertilizer runoff from farms is a concern. :roll:

The place where it grows is said to be an area where Native Americans over wintered. It has a spring that flows year round. Nice sheltered area with high bluffs protecting the place from winter winds.

You sure are a gourmet cook :D Rose petals garnishing a stick of butter :o :ugeek:

Got home to find my field had been cut........hay season is happening :D
http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/

churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:32 am

Good to have you back, Zelph!

Last year was pretty wet, and we had some geological events that changed up how the springs flow around here:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=83883
We still miss the three men who disappeared that day, very much.

The result was that our meadows all had a section near the thalweg (http://www.fgmorph.com/fg_3_14.php) that was too soft to cut, for fear of bogging down the swather. My neighbor, who cuts the hay, cut a few rows in this area, then left the hay to lie for fear of bogging down the baler. Now those rows are growing HUGE crops of curly dock, so I gathered some and made dinner.

Home-made pasta with curly dock, mallow, lambs quarter, watercress and pennycress:

Put a pile (1 cup) of flour on the counter (or use a bowl if you are less adventurous). Make a well in the center large enough to accomodate 2 fresh eggs and 1 tbsp olive oil. mine was messy, spilled over the top, and I was glad I chose a spot far from the edges of the counter. Mix it all together using a fork or you fingers. It starts off messy, but gets cleaner as you go. Keep mixing until it starts to form a ragged dough, then gather it together and knead until smooth. cover with a bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

divide the dough into 4 balls, dust with flour and roll out flat, adding flour as necessary. Roll the flat rounds into cyliners and slice 1/4" or less, then shake out each spiral to make noodles.

Or just buy some fresh pasta...

Bring lots of salty water to a boil...

Meanwhile, pick, devein and chop about 2 lbs curly dock. Rinse the watercress and remove any parts you don't want to eat. Do the same with the lambs quarter, mallow and pennycress. The amounts don't matter as much with watercress, lambs quarter and pennycress, because they cook down so much. The curly dock won't lose much volume, so it makes the bulk of the sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat a pat of butter over medium heat (the size of the pat depends on the size of the beer-belly you are willing to live with) and add a palm full of diced onion (wild? sure, why not?). Add the curly dock, some minced garlic, the rest of the greens, another pat of butter and a glug of white wine. Cover and simmer about 3-5 minutes. As soon as it's covered, drop the pasta into your salted, boiling water, cook 3-5 minutes and drain, then add to the greens, etc. Add some pasta water to moisten it a bit, and simmer briefly, then serve topped with crushed cashews and grated parmesan.

Got 2 thumbs up from the wife.

EDIT- I just remembered that I added some black pepper, a pinch of sugar and a little balsamic vinegar before serving. When curly dock is young it's pretty sour, so taste before adding any vinegar. Dock cooks to an army-green color almost immediately, so don't be alarmed, it just means you picked the right plant, not that you overcooked it.

I know it seems like a lot of work to make pasta, but it's really not bad. Also, by substituting 1/3 cup cooked greens (spinach or wild greens, cooked and squeezed of excess moisture) for one of the eggs, you can make green noodles that kids and babies LOVE to eat. Great way to sneak some greens down their throats.

churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:33 pm

I took my 8 month old son out irrigating with me this morning in his off-road stroller. He had fun, I got muddy and all was well. We brought home some beautiful curly dock leaves and he helped me strategize on how to use them. In the end we stumbled on one of those holy-grail cooking combinations that chefs have dreams about. It's amazing how the enthusiasm of a baby makes it easier to be creative. I like to pretend I have my own cooking show and he's the audience. He seems to like it, too.

I deveined and chopped the curly dock, then fried them briefly in bacon grease, just until wilted, maybe 3-5 minutes and turned off the heat. I added salt, pepper, ground cumin and some of the to-die-for NM ground red chile we get from an old friend in Santa Fe, then dropped in some butter and caramelized onions left over from some other dish. I didn't taste it right away because the phone kept ringing off the hook. I kept wondering why the house smelled like citrus, until I tasted our creation- SO GOOD! It was a little spicy, lemony, sweet and rich-tasting.

I served some to myself over toast rubbed with a clove of garlic (lunch), then set the rest aside to fluff up with some other ingredients for dinner.

I mixed it with some chicken from a pouch and some ribbons of fresh basil, then wrapped it all up in tortillas smothered with cheddar and green chile to make enchiladas. I can't wait for dinner!

EDIT- Dinner was great. My wife said that this was one thing I could make again. This is kind of an inside joke. I almost never make the same thing twice, and couldn't if I tried , because most meals are completely improvised, with little or no documentation. She knows that, but tolerates me anyway.
Last edited by churro on Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:31 am, edited 3 times in total.

churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:12 am

I sure hope nobody is annoyed by these many posts lately. It's a good season for cooking wild plants, and I am kind of using these post as an excuse to document some recipes I like.

Here's one that never fails to impress, provided the cattails are young and tender. I missed the season for the cattails near my house, but fortunately our land is a long, skinny piece of land that varies more than 1000 feet in elevation from one end to the other, so I can still pull it off, if I'm industrious.

Marinated cattail shoots:
a good sized arm-load of cattail shoots (get extra so you can taste as you go)

Peel back the tough leaves until you have only the tender parts. Take a bite if you have any doubt. Compost the discard pile, or make baskets for collecting next year. Chop the good stuff to 1/2" pieces, then add olive oil, salt pepper and balsamic vinegar until it tastes wonderful.

Be sure the water quality is good where you collect the cattails- good excuse for a camping trip, I'm thinking.

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zelph
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby zelph » Fri Jun 19, 2015 7:23 am

I drooled when reading the curly dock creation :D Once it came out of the bacon grease I liked it already :D Once it was all said and done it was no longer curly dock :o
I keep telling my wife...It's all in the spices ;)

It's good you're documenting these recipes here. I will get the time to do some of my own cooking once things slow down around my place. 2 days this week was traveling to attend a family member funeral. Life has it's events. One day to cut grass and do chores around house etc. I'm eager to get out to the place of watercress spring to get me some greens and be in a place where native Americans once camped :D If I can't get there I may know another place where a spring brings in fresh water and produces some watercress.
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churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Fri Jun 19, 2015 11:24 pm

I'm jealous of your secret watercress spot, Zelph. I keep imagining a little hidden spot I know, though I bet they look pretty different.

Nothing fancy today, I just heated some pulled pork, toasted some buns and made a salad from some nice greens a neighbor gave me (thinning her lettuce beds). It occurred to me while I was doing it that I may not have shared my little secret on pulled pork and other stuff: Portion it out into vacuum-sealed bags (Food Saver, or other brand, air removed, then sealed, google it if this doesn't ring a bell), then freeze it. I go with about 14-16 oz portions, then heat 2-3 if need be.

To heat them I just bring a big ole pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat, then drop in the bag(s), straight from the freezer, for maybe 15-20 minutes while I make the salad or whatever. Then cut the bag open and serve. Works great for other things, too, like BBQ ribs, meatballs with curry sauce, pulled chicken, whatever. You can even buy big portios from your favorite restaurant and portion it out.

Some of my neighbors are dealing with a serious tragedy right now. Everybody is bringing them big pans of lasagna and such, so they can nourish themselves despite the fact that they probably have no interest in doing so right now. That's good, because they are good folks, and we'd hate to lose them to grief, but there will come a day when folks have sort of given up helping, but they are still struggling. The kind of tragedy they are dealing with will never really end, unfortunately. I thought it might be nice to give them some of these frozen convenience meals for that eventuality. I'm thinking meatballs in homemade curry sauce, pulled pork and ribs. Good comfort food in a few minutes, whenever they need it. Just thought I'd share this idea, in case anyone out there has a Food Saver and someone they love who needs some comfort.

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zelph
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby zelph » Sat Jun 20, 2015 2:33 pm

I have a foodsaver but have neglected it for years. Time to get it back into service. I have oodles of bags, now out to get some of that watercress :D Thanks for sharing the convenience foods with deserving neighbors. ;)

Are cattail shoots available only in the spring?

I like the idea of a pinch of sugar to dishes...seems to work for most of them. Kinda takes the edge off of anything and everything :o
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churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Sat Jun 20, 2015 9:18 pm

zelph wrote:I have a foodsaver but have neglected it for years. Time to get it back into service. I have oodles of bags, now out to get some of that watercress :D Thanks for sharing the convenience foods with deserving neighbors. ;)

Are cattail shoots available only in the spring?

I like the idea of a pinch of sugar to dishes...seems to work for most of them. Kinda takes the edge off of anything and everything :o


Cattails seem to get tough once they are more than about a foot tall, though you can usually just peel back the leaves to find some tender stuff. It just gets to where you are working harder and wasting more for just a tiny morsel of goodness. Fortunately, they provide something worth gathering throughout the growing season. In early spring, before they are sending up shoots you can pull up the roots and they will have little white cones poking out all over. These become the shoots, but are sweet and tender and delicious. Once the shoots break the surface they can be collected until they get too tough to bother with, and you can go up in altitude to extend the season a little.

About then and on into fall, the roots can be gathered, washed well, then pounded and soaked in clean water, agitating every once in a while. There's a starch that comes out, then settles to the bottom. Pour off the water carefully, then dry the starch and use it like flour or cornstarch. I read somewhere that an acre of cattails can produce several tons of useable starch per year.

The sap that oozes out when you strip the leaves off is antibacterial and numbing, making it great for burns, scrapes, toothaches and such. When the flowering heads are young they are pretty good steamed and eaten like corn on the cob, and later, when the top part of the flower starts to let go of it's pollen you can bag them and shake them to gather the pollen to add to flour to make it yellow and hearty. Lots of protein in this, and it's surprising how much you can gather rather quickly, as long as you don't mind getting muddy. I have the advantage of having irrigation ditches, meaning I can stand on the bank of the ditch instead of wading through muck.

I have acres of cattails invading my haymeadows, so I have been considering gathering the mature stalks and binding them into bundles to make a reed boat. I'm not sure fish and game will give me an inspection sticker for it, though :?:
image018.jpg

churro
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby churro » Sun Jun 21, 2015 12:28 am

I've been gather and using the fruits of common mallow or "cheeseplant" for several years now. Here's a link that gives a decent description:
http://www.foragingtexas.com/2008/08/mallow.html
The fruits, around here and in Santa Fe, at least, are small but plentiful, and enjoy a fairly long season. I've read that it's called cheeseplant because the immature fruits taste like cheese, or, alternatively, look like traditional cheese that's wrapped in cloth and hung to drain off the whey. I don't taste the cheese thing, they just taste green and kind of boring to me, so I tend to believe the second version. I like to add a few handfuls to jars of mixed pickled vegetables or to soups, even salads. I live pretty far away from any decent grocery stores, so it's nice to have fresh stuff like this nearby to bulk up things like stuffing for pork chops, salads, whatever. And nobody seems to balk at eating them.

The other day I tried some of the young leaves raw and liked them. Again, green and boring, but, hey, they're healthy and not at all bitter like some wild greens are. Also, they are plentiful, healthy and free, popping up everywhere. Also, recent studies indicate that they are a powerful anti-cancer food.

I was reading up on them and learned that throughout the ancient world they were (and still are, in some places) used seasonally and heavily relied on as a staple when crops failed. The whole plant is edible, provided you used common sense and gather the parts when tender and young.

Like most wild greens, soil quality matters, in that the plants can concentrate nitrates and other stuff in poor soil, especially where chemical fertilizers are concentrated, and especially later in the season. In the middle-east it has been used as a thickening agent and base for green sauces. I plan to try that soon. I'll work up some sort of recipe and post it here.

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zelph
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Re: At-home cooking

Postby zelph » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:52 pm

Use the cattails to build a daub and wattle hut like this guy made with saplings:

http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/


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