foraged comfort foods

Side Dishes

Dandelion Croquettes: A Hot and Crispy Side Dish

 Dandelion Croquettes are a crispy substitute to starchy side dishes

 Dandelion Croquettes are a crispy substitute to starchy side dishes

When I was growing up, the sight of sunny yellow dandelion blossoms decorating a lawn or pasture was a sure sign that winter and mud season were over. Spring, with all its promise of longer, warmer days and new growth, had officially arrived. Dandelion blossoms, when separated from the milky stems, can be enjoyed fresh, sprinkled over a green salad. Blossoms can be also be added to a number of recipes. I like to sprinkle petals in pancake batter. If you are skilled at making tempura, dip entire blossom in tempura batter. Here's my recipe for dandelion croquettes:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

1 cup dandelion flowers - pinch the flower at the bottom, roll it & shake off the petals
1/2 cup flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch fresh ground pepper
1 oz milk
oil for pan frying
Mix all ingredients
Add enough milk to make a stiff batter
Heat coconut oil or olive oil in a cast iron pan
Spoon golf-ball size amount of batter into the oil
Press into a flat shape for more even cooking                                                                                    Let  croquettes cook 3 or 4 minutes until golden brown
Flip croquettes and brown on the other side                                                                                                Remove from pan and drain
Serve on a bed of ramp leaves or other greens.                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                   Shopping List:
Foraged items

1 cup dandelion blossoms separated from stem
12-15 ramp leaves
Pantry Items:
1/2 cup flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch fresh ground pepper
1 oz milk
large lettuce leaves if you don't have access to ramps

1-2 Hours Before:
Gather dandelion blossoms
Only gather ramp leaves in season
30 Minutes Before:
Remove petals and separate dandelion petals
Mix ingredients to form batter
10 Minutes Before:
Heat cooking oil
Spoon batter into oil and press to flatten
Turn and cook the other side
Drain on paper towel
Arrange on bed of greens

Beverages, Recipe Revamps

Pine Needle Tea: A Fragrant Winter Warm Up

Pine trees are truly magical. You find them growing in urban, suburban and rural environments, yet their familiar presence is quite often overlooked.

                                           Pine Needle Tea is the perfect winter treat

                                           Pine Needle Tea is the perfect winter treat

I grew up playing outdoors in all seasons. Building snow shelters, finding foraged foods, following animal tracks, and sledding all kept me busy and engaged.

Winters with light fluffy snow are magical. Winters with wet dense snow or sleet that encases every surface in ice are the ones where I really feel the cold. As I got older and more focused on honing my skills, I began to appreciate just how many foraged foods are there to take the chill out of winter.

The mature leaves of the pine tree are called needles. They are easy to harvest. You only need a few. Pluck a handful of pine needles nearest the trunk, where they are highest in Vitamin C. You'll need about 10 pine needles per cup.

Once you get home and you drop the fragrant needles in water that has come to a boil, it's a full sensory experience. The warmth and the aroma feel like a hug. The light, sweet flavor feels comforting on the tongue and all the way to the tummy.

1-2 Hours Before
Gather 10 pine needles per cup of tea, put in a container to carry home
10 Minutes Before
Bring a pot or kettle of water to a boil.
5 Minutes Before
Chop pine needles.
Use a strainer and large pot or tea ball/tea bags for individual cups
Put pine needles in the large pot or tea balls, tea bags, cheesecloth
When water is boiling, turn off heat and remove from stove top.
Pour the water over the pine needles.
2 Minutes Before
Taste the mixture. Let it steep longer for a stronger taste.
Strain or remove the pine needles from the water.
Drink as is or add sweetener of your choice.

Shopping List
Foraged Items:
Pine needles growing nearest the trunk

Tea bags, tea balls, cheesecloth, gauze
Tea kettle or large saucepan
Tea pot, mugs or cups
Honey, sugar or any sweetener

Entrees, Recipe Revamps

Baked Pasta with Morels: A Great Variation On Mac + Cheese

                                                 Morels and angel hair pasta make a great variation on the mac and cheese theme

                                                 Morels and angel hair pasta make a great variation on the mac and cheese theme

Winter 2011 was the  last time winter had such a fierce grip. That following spring I found more wild morel mushrooms than I ever have before or since. I never understood why people get so passionate about morels. When harvested and eaten fresh, morels are pleasant enough. But morels that have been dehydrated and then rehydrated have a rich, intense flavor that awakens every sensory experience. Now I understand why some mushroom lovers find eating morels more satisfying than sex.

Dried  morels can be stored for years in air tight containers out of direct light.

Dried  morels can be stored for years in air tight containers out of direct light.

Dried morels can be stored for years if you keep them in an air tight container and  in a dark place, like the back of your pantry shelf.

This recipe has few ingredients because I like to let the morel be the star of the dish. You can certainly add any vegetables, spices or other ingredients that you want.    

1 cup dehydrated morel mushrooms
liquid to cover morels, cream, broth, or water
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped garlic
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup hard cheese, like cheddar, shredded
8 oz angel hair pasta
Cooking oil, butter, or a combination 
2 Hours Before:
Soak morels in the liquid of your choice
30 Minutes Before:
Chop onions and garlic
Shred cheese 
20 Minutes Before
Sauté onions, then sauté garlic
Remove morels from liquid, drain, but save liquid 
Put pasta water on to boil
10 Minutes Before
Chop morels
Beat eggs with saved liquid 
Add morels, eggs and liquid to onions and garlic, stir thoroughly over low heat
5 Minutes Before
Drain pasta and add to the other ingredients, stir thoroughly over low heat
Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top, cover, turn off heat, let cheese melt

Shopping List
Dried morels if you do not have them
Angel hair pasta 
Hard cheese, like cheddar 
Cream or broth  

Cooling oil and/or butter 
Skillet, preferably cast iron 
Large pot for boiling pasta 
Cheese grater 

Fat-Free Treats: Tasty Foraged Comfort Foods

Two days after my pipes froze, the air temperature rose just enough to ensure that the next storm delivered sleet, freezing rain and rain, instead of snow. The skeletal trees were covered in shimmering beauty until their branches released the icy coating that encased them. While snow provides opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, ice drives people, animals and birds indoors.

Once the danger of being pelted with ice shards passed, a few brave squirrels and a small flock of juncos ventured out in search of birdseed buried under the icy snow.

Woodchucks are the only true hibernating mammals in New York's Hudson Valley. Bears, raccoons, chipmunks and others go into a state of torpor in frigid weather and will emerge if the air temperatures warm up enough. Right now, every living creature is bracing for the next round of storms.

When I’m stuck indoors, I eat the dehydrated and frozen foods I prepared as rewards for my foraging efforts the rest of the year. Fresh morels are tasty, but the flavor of dried morels soaked in milk or cream is more satisfying than chocolate, or sex, for that matter.

I feast on the most exotic foods on the worst weather days. I savor fiddleheads, wild leeks, wine-cap mushrooms, wild hazelnuts and shagbark hickory nuts in anticipation of the warmer temperatures that will hopefully replace ice with rain as the days continue to lengthen.

Visit my recipe page for an easy to make foraged comfort food recipe.