A few wild spring recipes
by Danielle Charles
As I sit here, huge thunderheads are rolling through the mountains. This is a truly dramatic spring storm – a nice blob of red and yellow on the radar, flood warnings, tornado warnings – the works. The power’s been flickering on and off, winds suddenly gusting as a wall of rain comes at the house like a black curtain, the thunder booming and reverberating all around us. Serious business. Both cats are upstairs under the comforter (evidenced by a small tunnel leading to a large quivering lump at the foot of the bed) and I’m starting to consider joining them myself after that last crash of thunder. But I thought I should write one last blog entry first in the case that I get whisked off to Oz.
What I have for you today is a sampling of my favorite wild foods recipes made over the spring thus far. I’m going to spare you anymore of my usual chitter chatter and get right to the recipes, because the thunder and lightning are growing in intensity again and I’m afraid I’ll lose power if I’m not quick. Hope you enjoy!
Chickpea Crepes with wild greens sauté and aged swiss
Adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfield. Serves 6.
This is a simple recipe made for celebrating the clean, fresh flavors of spring. It’s light and satisfying – perfect for those warm spring evenings. The chickpea and buckwheat flours give the crepes added protein, nutrients and flavor – imparting a wholesome nuttiness that pairs really well with the lemony spring greens. A Swiss or Gruyère cheese complements the greens really nicely and add a bit more decadence to the meal, but could easily be left out.
For the crepes:
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (chives, thyme, oregano, parsley, etc)
- Whisk together the flours and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the oil and water, and whisk to combine, then transfer to a blender to thoroughly blend ingredients together. Pour back into a bowl and add the herbs. Let rest for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
- Heat a large crêpe or sauté pan over medium heat. Very lightly oil the pan with olive oil, and pour 1/4 cup of batter in, tilting the pan around so that the batter covers the entire surface of the pan. Cook until the surface is riddled with bubbles and the edges are golden and drawing away from the pan. Loosen with a spatula and flip. Cook the second side for 30 minutes. (Note: Do not be discouraged if your first crêpe (or 2) is a soggy, sticky disaster, I promise it will get better. By the end you’ll feel like a natural.)
- Transfer the cooked crepes to a plate and continue until the batter is finished, being sure to lightly oil the pan in between crepes.
For the greens:
- 1 pound nettle tops
- 1/2 pounds Japanese knotweed shoots, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces or 2 ounces fiddlehead fern tops
- 1/4 pound ramps with their leaves, chopped roughly
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the leeks. Cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, and then add the remaining vegetables to the pan.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened but still have a little bite to them.
- Squeeze the lemon over the vegetables, and season well with salt and pepper.
To assemble the crepes:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Spread half of a crêpe with the vegetable mix, and top with thin slices of an aged swiss or Gruyère cheese, preferably made from organic dairy. Fold the crêpe in half so that you have a half-moon, then fold the crêpe in half again so you have a multi-layered triangle. Repeat with the other crepes and place on a baking pan.
- Brush the tops of the crepes with olive oil or melted butter, and place in the oven until the cheese is melted and the tops are browned and crisp.
Serve with a simple side salad (a pile of spring beauty (Claytonia virgnica) in my case) and top with a sauce made from pesto thinned out with olive oil.
If there is anything better than that indulgent Greek dish of spinach layered with filo and feta, it is NETTLE layered with filo and feta. The deep green and woodsy flavor of the nettle is a perfect pair for the salty feta and buttery, crispy filo layers. I’ve used wood nettle (Laportia canadensis) in this recipe, which is a close relative of nettle with a slightly less potent sting that happens to be more abundant where I live than the good old stinging variety (Urtica dioica).
- 1 1/4 pounds fresh nettle tops
- 2 1/3 cups feta cheese, organic
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- grated nutmeg
- 1 package filo dough
- 1/4 pound butter, melted or 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Blanch the nettles in boiling salted water for a minute or two, then drain well. Once cooled slightly, place in a towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then chop the greens finely and add to a bowl with the feta, eggs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lat out one sheet of filo dough in an oiled rectangular baking pan, keeping the remaining sheets of filo covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying. Butter the filo and place another sheet to exactly cover the first, buttering again. If the filo hangs over the side of the pan, don’t worry. Continue until you’ve layered 5 sheets, and then add half of the nettle mixture.
- Layer another 3 or 4 sheets of filo over the nettles, buttering between each one.
- Add the other half the nettle mixture, and then top with 5 sheets of filo – again, buttering each one. If your filo sheets are overhanging the side of the pan, fold them over the top and give everything a final brush with butter. Add a little salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to the top. Cut the pie into 12 triangular pieces.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp
- Cool slightly, and then serve.
This salad should be assembled based on the edibles you find growing in your backyard. For me, I’ve added dandelion greens and flowers, plantain leaves, wild strawberry leaves and flowers, violet leaves and flowers and the succulent tips of orpine. Toss with a lemony vinaigrette just before serving.