Thursday, May 30, 2013

Potato with Wild Asparagus and Onion Soup

I have been loving spring in Nebraska because of the foraging opportunities. With warmer weather and spring rains come morel mushroom, wild asparagus and wild onion hunting. In a few more weeks, the wild flowers will be out, and in summer will come sweet berries. I have been learning loads, and I can't wait to show Rick when he gets here!

This soup I made is a variation of potato leek. Usually, I like to bake or grill asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper. That's how I almost always have it. But for the blog, I wanted to try something different. 
I also had a bunch of wild onions in the fridge that needed to be used. With its mild, delicate flavor, wild onions make a great garnish for all kinds of dishes, including soup.
To the right is a photo of my friend Bekah. We were out on someone's property to examine some cedar trees. Bekah stopped the truck, we hopped out and she showed me what wild onions look like. So we dug a bunch up with what we had on hand... a small rusty saw and a deer antler-- it worked. 
It had just recently rained then and when I think on it, the most distinct things I can remember about that day was the faint, sweet odor of freshly picked wild onions, the feeling of moist dirt under my fingernails and the smell of spring rain all around me. Everything felt so alive. If I could sing, I would've broken into a Julie Andrews song. 

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-35 minutes
- 2 tbs. of butter
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 leek stalk, white and light green parts chopped and washed thoroughly
- about 6-7 red potatoes (or an equal amount of russets), peeled and diced
- about 15 wild asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces 
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 1 tbs. of chopped wild onions
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, snipped (just a pinch for dry)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- grated parmesan cheese, to taste
- hot sauce (optional)

1. In a medium pot, cook garlic and leeks in butter. Cover and cook over low for 10 minutes. Stir often and do not brown the leeks. During the last 5 minutes, add the asparagus. 

Next, add potatoes and chicken stock. Then add enough water to submerge all veggies and then some. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
Here's an Instagram photo of the asparagus I found a couple weeks ago along the roadside. If you know where to look, they're everywhere up here in Northeast Nebraska. They like moist, damp places like roadside ditches and along crop fences. 

They can be hard to spot, but look for the yellow, dead mature asparagus plant that stands out. At the base of these dead mature plants might be some green asparagus ready for eating, like in the photo. 
2. When cooked, take off heat. With a stick blender, blend veggies until smooth. If using a standard blender, blend in batches. Then mix in snipped thyme, wild onion, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with extra parmesan cheese, wild onion and hot sauce (optional). 

Wild onions like to grow in damp places. They have small, purple/pink flowers at the top and a tiny white bulb at the bottom, similar to scallions. However, they are a lot smaller compared to scallions, more like the size of chives really. Just peel off the brown, burlap-like skin off the bulbs before you use them. 

There is a toxic plant that looks similar to wild onions. An easy way to tell them apart is by simply tearing off a piece and smelling it. If it smells like onion, then you have the right kind for eating. 
All of the plant is edible, even the flowers. The flowers make pretty garnishes. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Garam Masala Venison

Hello all! Garam Masala spice (known as "The Magic Spice") is from northern India and surrounding areas. It's not just a spice, but actually a blend of spices. In Hindi, Garam means "hot" and Masala means "spices." In this context, though, Garam refers to the intensity of spices rather than the heat content. Common spices found in this blend are cinnamon, cloves, black and white cumin seeds, black, brown and green cardamom pods, and both black and white peppercorns. If you want to try something different with wild game, try cooking with Garam Masala. The flavor combination lends itself well with venison. Find it at your local Indian specialty store or online.

This recipe makes a lot of food, so it's perfect for a family meal. With Jen a few time zones away, this fed me all week, which was nice because I didn't have to cook something up every night after coming home late from the gym. 

Prep and Cooking Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
- 1 lb of venison roast
- 2 cups of uncooked white rice
- 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- 1 tsp. of Garam Masala
- 1 1/2 cups of pearl onions
- 2 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 2 tsp. of Hungarian or sweet paprika
- 1 tbs. of finely chopped rosemary
- 5 cloves of chopped
- 1/2 cup of sliced green onions
- 1 cup of chopped broccoli
- 1 cup of chopped carrots
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim fat and silver skin off roast. Season roast with salt and pepper.  Place roast on a medium-hot heated grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side. You’re not looking to completely cook the roast but brown it well on both sides.  I added soaked hickory chips to the coals to give it a smoky flavor. After browning the roast, let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Then cut it into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine chicken stock, wine and garam masala and bring to a low simmer, making sure the stock does not evaporate too much. 

3. While the above stock is coming to a simmer, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep 12-inch cast iron frying pan until it is almost smoking.  Add pearl onions and scallions and cook until soft, stirring frequently.  Next, add chopped garlic and continue to stir making sure you do not burn the garlic.  Reduce the heat to medium and add tomatoes, paprika and rosemary.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Add rice and stir well, mixing all ingredients together, making sure the rice is coated with the olive oil and cook for an additional two minutes.
Then pour the now simmering stock into the frying pan along with carrots and mix well.  Cover the pan and simmer on low for approximately 15-20 minutes.   
5. Add the cubed meat and chopped broccoli to the frying pan. Cover again for about 15 minutes to allow meat to heat up and broccoli to steam without over cooking it.  At this point make sure the burner is off.  Salt and pepper to taste.  
Serve with chopped green onions as a garnish.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Morel Mushroom, Leek and Shallot Pizza

It was not until a week ago when I tasted morel mushrooms for the first time. Chef Aaron at Pheasant Bonanza prepared it, and it was delicious, sautéed in butter, rosemary, onions and served with thickly sliced prosciutto. While morel mushroom hunting has been hot in the Omaha area, my friends and I haven't had much success up here in Northeast Nebraska.  Fortunately for me, I was in the Lincoln area the following weekend to visit Rick's family and his cousin Tyler gave me a few mushrooms he found on his parents' property. 
It was enough for a single serving, a small side with dinner. Having already enjoyed it sautéed in butter, I wanted to try something different, to stretch the four mushrooms I had even further. That's when I thought of pizza, and I'm glad I did because it was amazingly good. You can follow the ingredients and directions here exactly, or make your own variation of this pizza. Whatever you do, try to stick with lighter tasting ingredients. Morel mushrooms are mild; the last thing you want to do is drown out its delicate flavor with something over powering. 

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 4-5 large morel mushrooms
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 3 tbs. of butter
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, snipped
- a splash of white wine
- 1 leek stalk, sliced and washed thoroughly
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- mozzarella cheese (however much you want)
- parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated (however much you want)
- 2 tbs. of artichoke antipasto spread
- 1 tsp. of chives, chopped
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- thin pizza crust, store bought or homemade

1. Preheat oven according to packaged pizza crust directions. I used Boboli. 

Slice the white and light green parts of leeks and wash thoroughly. Leeks tend to accumulate sand between its layers. 
Heat 1 tbs. of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until leeks are tender. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to burn. 
2. Brush off any visible dirt on morel mushrooms. DO NOT WASH IN WATER. Cut into bite sized pieces. Mushrooms are like sponges. If you wash them in water, it will ruin the taste and texture. 

In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbs. of butter over medium-high heat. Add mushroom to hot butter and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to soften. Stir frequently. 
Add shallots, thyme and a splash of white wine, stirring frequently. Cook until wine evaporates. Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Take off heat and set aside.
3. Slice mozzarella cheese, assuming you bought a block. 
Spread artichoke antipasto onto pizza crust. I bought mine from Trader Joe's, but you can use whatever brand or variation you like. 
Lay mozzarella slices over the spread, then leeks and morel mushroom-shallot mixture.
Grate parmigiano-reggiano over pizza and cracked pepper, to taste.

Bake according to packaged pizza crust directions or until cheese is fully melted. I like to bake pizza directly on the oven rack to get the crust more crispy.
When pizza is done, grate more parmigiano-reggiano on top. Sprinkle chopped chives over pizza. Enjoy!

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