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
Ingredients:
- 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

Directions:

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: https://www.instagram.com/foodforhunters/

Servings: 4 appetizers
Prep and Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients:
- 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)

Directions:

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.


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