Sunday, May 20, 2018

Dandelion, Poppy Seed and Lemon Fritters

Rick and I have been stepping up our foraging game this year, and dandelions is one of those well-known wild edibles that we keep putting on the back burner. They usually come up at about the same time morels do and because we're usually so keyed in to mushroom hunting this time of year, everything is forgotten. Morel hunting requires lots of concentration!

However, this year was different. With our late spring, the morels have been taking their sweet time. It's early May and we are just finding our first morels of the season. In previous years, the morel season usually ends around Mother's Day. In just a couple short weeks, we've experimented with nettles, garlic mustard, dandelions and ramps. It's been so fun! It's amazing how much there is to eat in the wild if you take the time to learn about them. 

Dandelions can be found just about anywhere and they are as recognizable as cats, so I won't say too much about ID. The flowers, stems and leaves are edible. When picking any wild edible, make sure you're doing so in an area that is not sprayed. And stay away from busy roadsides where exhaust and fumes from vehicles can contaminate them. 

Dandelion flowers smell pleasantly sweet, with a light chamomile-like aroma. They're quite lovely, considering that most people hate them. Dandelions are also good for bees and other pollinators because they come up before most other spring flowers. If you can stomach it, try to allow them to grow in your yard. 

The leaves keep really well in a zip-top bag that's slightly open with a damp paper towel inside. The flowers, on the other hand, will begin to deteriorate soon after you pick them. The flowers close up and the petals quickly lose their body and vibrancy. After a whole day of foraging, they looked ragged by the time that we got home. Plus, we couldn't eat them right away. But as sorry as they looked, the flavor was still good. We decided to make these fritters, so looks didn't matter much. If you plan on using them in a salad or in a recipe where presentation is important, I would try to keep them as cool as possible and get them home to use soon after.

Servings: About 6-8 fritters
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups of dandelion flowers, stems removed
- 1 cup of flour
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/3 cup of whole milk
- 1 egg 
- 1/2 teaspoon of poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon of milk
- 2 teaspoons of lemon juice 
- Vegetable oil for frying


1. Wash dandelion flowers well, and allow to dry. Cut off stems, and if you have time, cut off the sepals because they can taste bitter. 

2. Heat enough vegetable oil to shallow or deep fry fritters in a medium saucepan to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, combine flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and dandelion flowers in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, lightly whisk 1/3 cup of milk and egg together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and fold together until just mixed through. Try not to overwork the dough. 

3. When oil is hot, use a lightly greased spoon to drop fritter dough into the oil. Cook until golden, flipping to cook the other side if you are shallow frying. Use a toothpick to check for done-ness. Drain fritters on a cooling rack. To make the glaze, mix together confectioner's sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. If the glaze is too thin, add more sugar and if it's too thick, add more lemon juice. (I didn't really measure... ) Add a little vanilla if you like. Drizzle glaze on top of the fritters and allow to harden before serving. Fritters are best warm.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ramp Deviled Eggs

After years of keeping my eyes to the ground, Rick and I finally found some ramps yesterday in Nebraska. They're not very common here, but there are some pockets in the state that do hold them. According to a biologist friend, ramps like eastern deciduous forest-type habitats, which aren't abundant in this state. I'm keeping this little patch a secret, but if you are lucky enough to find a patch, please don't over harvest them. 

I've learned a lot about foraging on Hank Shaw's Facebook group "Hunt Gather Cook," and users seem to be in agreement that the best way to harvest ramps is by pulling small bundles here and there, scattering your digging throughout the patch. This gives the patch more breathing room, which will promote more growth. Don't just pick one side and dig the crap out of it. Some people choose to cut the tops only, but the bulbs are where most of the flavor and crunchy texture is located.

I've read lots of reports by foragers who say that commercial harvesting is destroying ramp populations in other states. This is sad. For the most part, I don't think wild edibles, including plants, game and fish, should be allowed to be gathered and sold commercially. We have that law for game, why not plants? 

Here's a recipe for ramp deviled eggs with flying fish roe on top. You can go more classic and skip the roe for a sprinkle of paprika on top, but why would you? Live a little. These tasted so good with champagne. I also found that they keep well inside a container in the refrigerator overnight. 

Also, if you're not following us on Instagram, you NEED to be. We're not posting as much as we used to here due to all the commissioned work we've been doing-- hey, got bills to pay-- but we're really active on Instagram if you want to keep up with what we're doing. Our handle is naturally @foodforhunters and hashtag #foodforhunters:

Servings: 4 appetizers
Prep and Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 10 large eggs
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise
- Splash of seasoned rice vinegar
- Generous pinch of sumac
- 3-4 ramps, white and purple parts minced
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- About 1/8 cup of flying fish roe (tobiko)


1. Lay eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring to an easy boil-- be careful not to let eggs crack. If your stove is electric, turn off the heat, cover and allow eggs to sit for 10 minutes. If your stove is gas, allow eggs to simmer for 1 minute, then turn off heat, cover and allow eggs to sit for 10 minutes. 

2. Run cold water over eggs until they're cool enough to handle. Peel them and cut each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolk into a medium bowl and whip until smooth with mayo, rice vinegar, sumac, minced ramps bottoms, and cracked pepper. I never actually measured any of the ingredients. It's deviled eggs-- season it the way you like it. You shouldn't need to add any salt with all the salt in the mayo, seasoned vinegar and the roe. 

3. Scoop yolk mixture into a sandwich-size zip-top bag. Snip off a corner of the bag, a big enough hole for ingredients to smoothly pipe out. Then pipe yolk mixture into the egg whites. Garnish with a little bit of flying fish roe on top and some finely chopped ramp green tops for color. Keep cold until you're ready to serve.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Morel Mushroom, Bacon and Duck Egg Salad

I wanted to make a pretty dish so I made this. Rick, and I had a pretty good morel mushroom season-- considering we only hunted public land-- and to offer a low carb, “paleo” dish, a hearty, protein-rich salad fits the bill. 

Any bacon will do for this recipe but to complement the morels, we used high quality, thick-cut Duroc bacon that our local butcher makes. I expect that this was the last of the fresh morels for the year-- things are winding down near Omaha. So this recipe is one last hurrah for the season. 

Common during morel season are also woodland violets, which come in a variety of colors. I was able to find three different colors in one area: violet, white and yellow. They were so pretty that I had to do something with them. One problem with woodland violets is that they wilt quickly, especially during a hot day of foraging. To perk up the flowers, dampen a paper towel and place it in a zip top bag. Place the flowers into the bag and refrigerate with the bag open. They will come back good as new and will keep a few days this way. However, woodland violets don’t taste like anything and are completely optional.

To view this recipe for Morel Mushroom, Bacon and Duck Egg Salad, visit Outdoor Channel online:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Venison and Wild Mushroom Stew

Spring means mushroom hunting. Aside from morels, I’ve branched out and found another edible: the pheasant back mushroom, also known as Dryad’s saddle, which also grows during the same time morels do. It grows on the trunks of dead trees, and like its namesake suggests, this mushroom boasts a beautiful brown pattern that is similar to the feathers on a pheasant’s back. It has an unmistakable melon or cucumber-like aroma, and is quite delicious when young. Here's a nice article on cooking them:

Young dryad's saddle on the left.
The first time we found some, I got lucky and was able to harvest a young specimen. Young pheasant backs are brown at the top, but as they get older, they become lighter in color. To determine if it’s tender enough for eating, look at the mushroom’s underside, which is porous. If you can easily scrape off the pores with your fingernails or knife that means the mushroom is tender. But if the pores are large and leathery, and the mushroom is difficult to cut, then the pheasant back is beyond its prime. You should be able to slice young pheasant backs as easily as mushrooms bought from the grocery store. Slice them thinly and use them however you like. They taste great pan seared to a crisp-- the smell is a lot like an omelet left to brown.

Old dryad's saddle mushrooms.
But what if you did find a mushroom past its prime? Now that I know what I know, I would normally suggest you to leave it be so that it can continue to propagate next year. But we wanted to experiment, so Rick brought home an older pheasant back to see what we could do with it. Judging by a photo Rick had sent to me earlier in the day, I had expected it to be too tough to eat, and we found that I was correct when we tried to slice it that night. On an online forum, several people suggested that we make a stock. That’s when I thought of “steeping” the old mushroom in a venison stew, which will allow it to give up its woodsy flavor. It was also a good opportunity to use up less desirable cuts of venison still left in the freezer this time of year. 

While inedible, even with a lot of cooking, the old pheasant back did give the stew another layer of flavor, which was surprisingly pungent. A little goes a long way. I suggest cooking the mushroom in the stew for about an hour, and then fishing it out to discard. Remember to NEVER eat mushrooms that you cannot positively identify.

To view the recipe for this Venison and Wild Mushroom Stew, visit Sportsman Channel online:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shaggy Mane Omelette Soufflé

Shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) are a summer and fall mushroom in Nebraska. We found them growing in the grass by some campsites at Ponca State Park near the river, and they were everywhere. I wasn't sure what they were at first, but having read about them before, I was almost convinced they were shaggy manes. After some quick research and confirmation by mushroom experts on Facebook, I took a sackful home.

Further reading told me that shaggy manes do not keep well. Also known as an inky cap mushroom, shaggy manes turn black and basically melt into an inky pool when they turn. And once harvested, this process speeds up and you have to cook them as soon as possible. They also do not take being rudely jostled inside a bag too lightly. 

Shaggy manes should be harvested while they are still plump, fresh and the cap is tight around the stem. If most of the mushroom looks good and the edge of the cap looks like it is beginning to brown (see photo), just cut the dark parts off before cooking. I've read that although they're edible when black, they will turn into a goopy black mess in your pan and that is not appetizing. 

As late as it was when we finally returned home that day, I washed them and lightly sautéed them right away in olive oil to halt degradation. I then packed them into plastic containers and refrigerated them until I was ready to use them. 
When cooked, the smell was amazing. The whole house smelled like I was cooking a delicious omelette, and the texture was delicate and pillow-y. We're fans! I'm glad we now have another wild mushroom to search for after the excitement of morel season is over. Once you have identified them, shaggy manes are easy to spot, and they don't have a look alike, at least not in Nebraska.

This recipe is an adaptation of Bon Appetit's omelette souffle recipe. Beautiful and impressive, this omelette was surprisingly easy to make. I have yet to make a true soufflé, but this recipe gives me courage for the future. I thought the shaggy mane mushrooms would make this omelette extra special. For Bon Appetit's instructional video, visit:

Servings: 1
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 8 shaggy mane mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 teaspoons of chives, chopped
- Your favorite shredded melty cheese, such as cheddar, gruyere, swiss, etc.

1. Cut mushrooms in half lengthwise and wash under cold water. Drip dry in a colander. 
2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown mushrooms on both sides in batches, giving them plenty of room to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Separate egg yolks (small bowl) from whites (medium to large bowl). Beat the yolks and set aside. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and whisk until they form stiff peaks. This could take 10-15 minutes. You can also use a mixer to save yourself some work. 

4. Gently fold the yolks and most of the chopped chives into the whipped whites. Try not to work it too much to keep the whites from breaking. 
 5. In a 10-inch non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Evenly spread some of the mushrooms into the bottom of the pan and then pour the souffle mixture over the mushrooms. Make the middle of the omelette a little thinner so it will be easier to fold later. Add mushrooms and cheese on the top.

6. Cover the pan with a lid or another skillet. Cook for 3 minutes. 
7. Once the bottom is a nice golden brown, fold the omelette over. Carefully transfer the omelette souffle to a plate and garnish with remaining chives.
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