Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Foraged Foods: Nightshade Tarts

I realized the other day that it's been a very long time since my last post. My life has changed in a lot of ways, one of which is that I've returned to foraging. Since my interests currently lie primarily in foraged foods and ales, my focus will be on that for the foreseeable future.

One favorite foraged food for us is black nightshade. Although commonly perceived as poisonous, this is a food plant if you're treating it properly. The leaves can be cooked and eaten (young ones raw as well), but the primary value to my 5 year old, Piggy, is the berries. Filled with seeds and sugary sweet, they're a lovely treat. I recently dug up some S. americanum plants and transplanted to our container garden, but most of the berries I cooked today came from a plant nearly as tall as me that I noticed while foraging for dock seeds. That bush was huge. And also weighed down with ripe fruits, so I took a lot of fruit. I left about 1/4 of the fruit for the birds, focusing only on fruit heads that were completely ripened. No reason to take berries I can't eat, and the mixed ripeness heads ensured more to munch on for the birds.


Once I got these home, I found myself unable to find time to do anything with them while I finished teaching two summer classes, so I put them in a container and tucked them in the fridge. A week or so later, I came to get them. After the de-stemming process (Pig helped, because she was insanely excited to discover I was making tarts for her), I let them macerate a bit before going into the shells.

Because I only had a bit over a cup (didn't measure) of berries once they were de-stemmed (and I'd taken a few for seeds), I opted to do two small tarts rather than a single pie. I topped my tarts with a sprinkle of almond flour to add some texture, and also because I couldn't remember where I last put my cornstarch. These, of course, don't translate into the same effect in the pie, but almond flour works fine even if you prefer the texture of cornstarch.

What follows is not a recipe, but rather a method. In most instances, I didn't take precise measurements, which means most measurements you'll see below are visual estimates (I am really good at this, but no one can be exact 100% of the time). You could use this method for other fruits as well, and you'd simply want to scale the estimates around the amount of fruit you have and crust you're willing to make.

I am really not a pie person, but it was a challenge for me to share the tart that was for R and I. These came out perfectly, and will be made as often as possible. There was leftover crust, which I've frozen for another day.



1/4 stick (4 ounces) cold butter
pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or other sugar you have and want to use)
1 cup flour (I used all-purpose)
2-3 tablespoons cold milk kefir (you could use milk, yogurt, sour cream, cream, half-and-half, buttermilk, water, vodka, bourbon, or whatever you please)


1 cup ripe black nightshade berries
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or other sugar)
1 teaspoon almond flour (or corn starch) - optional

Cut butter into bits. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Dump the butter into the flour mixture and mash it up with your hands until you see what looks like sand and gravel. Add in the kefir/whatever, 1 tablespoon at a time, until handfuls of the mixture stick together when squeezed lightly. Put in saran wrap, a container, or similar, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

As your dough refrigerates, mix together the filling. Leave out almond flour, if using, but go ahead and put corn starch in if you're using that, and let the bowl sit on the counter. If you want to mash it a bit, feel free. It's not necessary, though.

Remove crust from oven and break off a piece. Roll to the size of your tart pan (mine are 3", I think) and put in pan. Cut or press off the excess above the rim of the pan. Do this for as many tarts as you're making (in this case, it will be two 3" tarts; it will be more or fewer, depending on how many berries you're starting off with), then evenly divide the filling into the tarts. Place tarts on tray of some kind and put in the fridge while the oven heats. Turn the oven onto 400F, and when the oven is hot, bake the tarts for 20-22 minutes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fried Cabbage

I made this the other day for breakfast, because there was a quarter cabbage sitting in the fridge looking like it needed to be eaten, a bit of jarred garlic in the fridge when I wanted the jar to go away, and because I still have half a jar of those olives that I sincerely do need to eat up. Plus, I sometimes eat like a toddler. Anyway, this was delicious, I enjoyed it, and I will be making it again this weekend. Scale the quantities directly to feed more than 1 person with this recipe. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cabbage, core removed, then cut up (I like slivers, but you could do cubes or whatever)
1 minced garlic clove (jarred is fine)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nigella or caraway seeds
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice (can use zest instead; can use bottled juice)
3 jalapeno-stuffed olives, chopped (optional; you might want hot sauce if not, though; I rinsed mine because they're old)

Melt butter in pan. Add cabbage, salt, and pepper. Fry until tips of cabbage start to shrivel and/or brown. Add garlic and nigella seeds, and fry another minute. Add in broth, lemon, and olives, and simmer until the bottom of the pan is dry, stirring occasionally (should take about 10-15 minutes or so). Nom.

ETA: You can keep cooking it after everything is absorbed to crisp it up a bit, if you prefer your cabbage that way. I prefer mine that way. Also, you can swap out the olives for a handful of slivered almonds and/or dried cranberries. Things like that to customize it.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Almond, Blueberry, and Maple Granola

Granola is always awesome, but it's very expensive to buy at the store. Making it at home is inexpensive and just takes a few minutes of active prep time, plus 80 minutes in the oven. For the blueberries, I buy fresh blueberries in massive quantities when they're in season and deeply discounted, then dry them. Typically I do this until I've got about a gallon dried total. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can either oven or sun dry them (If you've opted for sun drying, freeze them for 72 hours after they're finished to kill any possible insect eggs that may have been laid anyway and then store in the pantry). If you want some clumps, squeeze the mixture well once you've put it in the half sheet pan. Otherwise, it will be more like loose cereal.

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup each: wheat germ, wheat bran, flax seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup each: vegetable oil, maple syrup
 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 250. Put together all of the dry ingredients except the berries in a large bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients until well-combined (this takes a couple of minutes), then stir them into the dry until everything is well coated. Spread out on a half-sheet pan and put in the oven. Bake for 1h20m, stirring every 15 minutes (I use a timer b/c I often forget I'm cooking things). Mix in berries when it comes out of the oven. Let cool on a rack in the pan, then transfer to an airtight container. Makes a lot.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Puttanesca Meatloaf

This is a two-in-one meal, as you can make the sauce and eat the remainder of it with pasta (or as sauce for pizza; you can also freeze the leftover sauce for a future meal). In general, I am not a huge fan of meatloaf. Mostly because people tend to put the onions in raw, and the flavor of ground meat and onions that cooked together icks me out. Ross, however, has been asking me for the last few weeks to make him a meatloaf. Specifically, a meatloaf topped with puttanesca sauce in lieu of the more typical ketchup or tomato sauce topping. I stalled on this, because I had some trouble figuring out how I would make this so it wouldn't seem gross to me. I needn't have worried, though: Ross ate almost the entire thing in two sittings.

As it's summer here, I try to make all oven items early in the morning or later at night so it doesn't overheat out house. I made this last night for him, and we were intended to have it tonight for dinner. As soon as it came out of the oven, he ate 3/4 of it. I gave a smaller slice to the Piggy for breakfast (because I'm lazy and it was 7:30am), and then he ate the rest for lunch in sandwiches. I have no idea what it tastes like, but apparently it's good. Hope you enjoy!

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, diced
salt to taste

1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon each: dried mint, dried parsley, dried basil, paprika, sumac (you can replace the sumac with lemon peel)
1/2 teaspoon each: thyme, marjoram
1 large handful (probably 1/3-1/2 cup) panko
1/2 cup corn kernels (mine were roasted, but yours don't have to be)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 - 1 1/2 cups puttanesca sauce

 Heat oven to 350. Melt butter in small skillet over medium, then add onions and salt. Fry onions until well-browned. Combine onions, beef, spices, panko, and corn. Knead well until everything is completely incorporated, then knead in egg. Oil loaf pan with the vegetable oil, then put the meat mixture in the pan, smoothing out the top. Spread sauce over the top, then bake for 1 hour. Let sit 5-10 minutes before eating. Serves 1-4, depending on appetite.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rice Pudding with Fresh Dates

I had purchased a pound of fresh dates recently, and we ate on them a bit before realizing we all like them just a bit riper. In interest of not having them go to waste,  I decided to go on ahead and make a rice pudding. Dates are naturally high in sugar, and although these were less sweet than I prefer, I only added just a touch of sugar to compensate for that. Additionally, I made for dinner something I was fairly certain the Piggy wasn't going to enjoy, so this functioned as her dinner and our dessert, as rice is amongst her favorite foods no matter how it's prepared. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 stick butter
12 ounces fresh dates, pitted and chopped (I just cut these in quarters lengthwise, then cut them in half width-wise)
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
juice of 1 small lemon (probably 2 tablespoons)

1 cup rice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, then add dates, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover and let cook 20-30 minutes, or until dates are very soft. Add rice, milk, and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquids are absorbed. If you like, this can be garnished with candied lemon peel. Serves 4.