Girl Gone Wild

Welcome to the Brazen Kitchen, where greens are the new black.

Garlic Mustard and Stinging Nettle Pesto with Roasted Walnuts

Overheard at the Whole Foods parking lot: “What? You joined a CSA? That’s so great! And so 1999. I just joined a CSF.”

CSF? You know, Community Supported Foraging. And don’t say ramps. That’s so 2011. I’m talking about really wild stuff. Like that knotweed that’s threatening to take over your yard or the dandelion and purslane that you mercilessly pull out. But wait, don’t throw those out — there’s a reason nature makes them grow, especially this time of the year. These hardy plants are nutrient-dense food and have amazing cleansing effects (which is why they pop up in the spring — prime time for detoxification!)

For example, knotweed is a prime source of resveratrol (you know, your “health” excuse for drinking red wine) and according to Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot (from whom I get my CSF from), most resveratrol supplements are actually from knotweed extracts! Purslane is a mainstay of many world cuisines and is the plant source with the highest concentration of EPA Omega-3s. More simply, it’s the same Omega-3 found in fish. And those dandelions? It’s a bitter green that not only adds character to your salads and meals, it’s also a liver detoxifier. If you like arugula and watercress, you’ll love dandelions.

But not all wild edibles are weeds that most people want to get rid of. Some of them, like morels, are foragers’ prizes in the woods.

Local company Food Under Foot has amazing guides and descriptions of the taste of each wild edible on their website. They also hold wild edible walks throughout the city.

But the best thing about learning more about wild edibles? Just think of it. It’s 2012. If the Mayans are right, you’ll still be able to create gourmet meals post-apocalypse by harvesting in the woods. Or if you think we’re heading for dystopian Panem, you can throw a party without having to spear squirrels. I bet you can make some killer crepes with some chickweed and that tessera grain (see recipe below).

Seriously, learning about wild edibles is a great culinary frontier to explore. Get out there, forage, and throw a wild party you can invite your parents to.

I had so much fun with my first CSF share that I want to share a couple of my favorite recipes from my maiden journey into the wild.

Garlic Mustard and Stinging Nettle Pesto with Roasted Walnuts

Yield: About 1 1/2-2 cups
My motto with greens is “when in doubt, pesto.” I think its one of the best ways to prepare a newly encountered green to appreciate its full flavor. And this combination did not disappoint. I used roasted walnuts to round out and deepen the flavor even more and lemons provided a beautiful counterbalancing brightness.

2-3 cups garlic mustard leaves
1 cup packed blanched stinging nettle leaves*
3/4 cup roasted walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T lemon juice
zest of 1/2 a lemon (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add more oil to desired consistency (mine was more like a paste). Season with salt and pepper.

*Stinging nettles…..sting. Blanching removes the sting. Boil some water, add a little bit of salt and blanch the nettles for about 5 minutes. Wear gloves when harvesting and when dropping them into the boiling water.

Chickweed Crepes

Yield: 8 8-inch crepes
This crepe recipe is based on a great find from The Canary Files, one of my favorite blogs. It’s a very forgiving crepe batter that will work with a variety of flours. Its a great way to expand your grain quotient.

1/4 c non-dairy milk beverage
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Flour mix**
1/4 c quinoa flour
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon chickpea flour
2 T millet flour

**Use the above or any combination of flours – try brown rice flour, spelt, or an all-purpose GF flour mix. I like keeping a high-protein flour such as chickpea flour or quinoa flour in the mix as it provides some heft (and of course, protein)

3/4 c arrowroot starch
1/2 t ground flax seeds
1/4 t salt
1 t coconut palm sugar or turbinado sugar
3/4 to 1 c chopped chickweed

8 oz or 1 c cool vegetable stock/water
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Your choice of filling (optional) – sauteed mushrooms, cheese, more chopped chickweed, other fresh seasonal vegetables

1.  Start by making your non-dairy "buttermilk."  Combine non-dairy milk and vinegar and allow to sit and curdle for a few minutes.

2.  Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and give them a good whisk to both aerate and evenly distribute.  Gradually add the water. He noted that "It may become difficult to stir at moments, but keep stirring and eventually you will reach a very slack, runny consistency." I didn't run into this.

3.  Add curdled milk, and once combined, drizzle in olive oil as you stir briskly.  It will be very liquid, which is precisely where it should be. Add the chopped chickweed.

4.  Cover and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.  If you need to leave it for longer, it's perfectly fine to transfer it to the refrigerator.  Allow batter to come to room temperature before cooking.

5.  After resting and allowing the flours and starches to bloom, the batter, while still slack, should be a little thicker. Don't fret if you feel like its just too runny. Have faith. If the batter has some settling, just mix again with a whisk.

7.  Heat a small, non-stick pan over medium heat and grease it lightly with oil. I used my well-seasoned cast iron skillet.

8.  Once the pan is hot, pour 1/4 cup of batter in the center of the pan. Swirl the pan to distribute the batter as thinly as possible. Its not very important to make perfect circles, in my opinion. You will roll them or fold them up anyway. And you can call it “rustic” right?

9.  About 10-15 seconds in, you'll notice large dome-like bubbles inflating underneath the crepe. (Great photos here) After about 1 minute, the edges will be sturdy and you can gently lift up one side with a spatula and either flip the crepe with your hand or with the spatula.  The cooked side should be a pale golden brown.  Allow it cook for about 20 seconds more on the other side and then transfer from pan to plate.

If you are filling the crepe, fill it right after you flip it. Then fold it in half. The crepes pictured are filled with a light sprinkling of non-dairy cheese.

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Categories: Brazen Kitchen