Asparagus, arugula, avocado soup recipe

Last weekend, I went foraging, for the first time in my
life. And I think I fell in love. There I was, with a new group of people, in the woods, learning about a completely new topic. I felt so alive.

This was the
perfect symbiosis of nature and cooking. And you probably have gathered by now
how much I love cooking. Perhaps I can share a little bit here about my love of nature.

Not to be overly dramatic, but the love of nature might have
saved my life, many years ago. 

When I was 16, I had what you might call a crisis of faith.
Faith in life. In its value. I was a cerebral kid, who spent a big amount of
time in my own head. My head was my space, for better or for worse. And so not
so surprisingly, at 16, I reached the very cerebral conclusion that one should
live only as a deliberate act, provided one could find something worth living
for. Something that could justify going on living when everything around seemed
hopeless and dark.

And I had come up with nothing. Everything that might make
life worth living seemed either inaccessible or inauthentic. And so I was
coming close to the inevitable conclusion: I had no business going on living.

Then, there was a trip to the United States. A backpacking trip
with a group of other teens, traveling across the country.

And there was the Grand Canyon.
The day I flew over the Grand Canyon,
the overwhelming beauty and immensity of it, I thought for the first time: this is worth living for. Seeing this.

So this land, this
beautiful land, now my land, gave me
a reason to live when I needed one.

As I spent more and more time in the United States (I ended up actually working at
the Grand Canyon for a few summers before
moving here), my love of nature became less cerebral and more real. It got me
out of my head and grounded me. Ever since, it has made me feel like I belong
on earth. I love to seek it out as much as I can, whether it’s hiking through Yellowstone, or going camping, or simply eating outside.

And now, there’s foraging.
I mean, what’s not to love: you go hike in the woods, learn about wild
edible plants, learn how to cook them or how to use them in your cooking.  (And it will be so great to take Pablo
foraging when he’s a bit more of a functional hiker :-))

I am so thankful to my good friend Linda for introducing me
to Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich this weekend, the lovely and talented couple who guided our
foraging experience. (If you are in the LA area, definitely check these guys out.)
Pascal Baudar, a Belgian man who has lived in the US for many years and a forager for
the past 13 years (he forages for chefs too!), had black fingers, from
harvesting thousands of black walnuts, he explained. How I love hands who tell a
story.

He guided us down a trail and talked (among many things) about green, red and
black currants, elderflowers and berries, wild peaches, wild fig leaves, mugwort,
thistle and chickweed. I munched on wild mustard flowers that taste like broccoli,
smelled white sage and sage brush.

What better way to commune with nature than to actually eat it? Its flavors open up every one of your tastebuds at once. Nature as a tastebud opener. I like that. Next time, I can’t wait to forage wild spinach,
wild radishes and watercress.

After our walk, Mia, a very talented wild food chef (more
about her right here) had prepared some treats for us: roasted potatoes with her foothill spice blend made with local wild aromatic
plants. Wild spinach empanadas. Nectarines roasted inside a wild fig leaf. And a wild watercress gazpacho with wild watercress flowers (picture below), that tasted like a cool running creek at dawn. And there was Pascal’s fermented white sage lemonade and wild mugwort beer too…      

I plan on experimenting first with fermented sage lemonade
and elderflower syrup, recipes I will be sharing with you here soon (should they be
successful, that is ;-))  

I have so much
to learn it makes me feel young.

So if culinary hiking sounds like something you would enjoy,
I highly recommend you give foraging a try! And if you have gone foraging,
please tell me all about it! What have you made? What have you found?

It’s such an appropriate metaphor for life too. Let us spend
less time in our heads and more time in the real world. Let’s forage the good
stuff out of life, for it is so flavorful…

In the meantime, I leave you with this lovely & seasonal asparagus wild arugula soup, nicely
complemented by some wild mustard flowers foraged by yours truly. 

Asparagus, wild arugula & avocado soup with wild mustard flowers

Barely adapted from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Serves about 4 generous bowls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Age for babies: Without the crabmeat (just the soup), 6-8 months.

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of green asparagus

3/4 tsp salt

3 cups vegetable stock

2 cups (about 2 oz) wild arugula

1 avocado

4 oz crabmeat (optional)

2 tbsp sheep’s milk yogurt

Foraged wild mustard flowers (optional)

Mince the shallot and garlic. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus, and dice them. Peel, pit and dice the avocado.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot of medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and asparagus with 1/4 tsp salt, stir, and cook for about 3 minutes (do not brown).

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the asparagus are tender.

Add the arugula and cook for another minute. Remove pot from heat. 

Pour mixture in the blender, add the avocado and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Blend thoroughly, until very smooth. 

You can serve hot or chilled, topped with some crab meat, a swirl of yogurt, and a few wild mustard flowers on top. 

Greens gone wild

So between an application and another, today I received 2 calls to schedule intervies with some great potential employers. Added to another 2 of last week, today I feel happy and confident and I decided to take a couple of hours off my worrying about work to post one two of the recipes I have prepared in the last week or so.

For the first time this year I have purchased a CSA share. And that means greens! lots of good greens! So what can you do to use a lot of greens? Well a number of things and here I suggest a couple of ideas.

One recipe is inspired by piadina, a typical sandwich like dish served in Emilia Romagna and a summer favorite in Italy. The other one is inspired to tarte tatin but uses turnips instead of apples.

I used the greens in my CSA, but I am sure you can substitute with almost any kind of green. Hope you enjoy this recipes too!

Crescioni – Swiss chard stuffed half moons

Crescioni - Swiss chard stuffed half moons

Ingredients

Dough

    • 7 oz. whole wheat flour
    • 3-4 tbsp greek yogurt
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 pinch salt
    • water as needed (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)

Filling:

  • 1 lb. swiss chard (or other favorite greens)
  • 3 oz. fresh mozzarella (I used Piacci)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

Dough

    1. Knead all the ingredients together until you get an elastic and smooth dough. The consistency should be quite similar to pasta dough, much tougher than pizza or bread dough.
    2. Let rest so that the gluten can relax.
    3. You can use this dough also as a bread of sort. Just roll it out 1/2 inch thick and grill for 2 minutes on each side.

Filling

  1. Wash the swiss chards and roughly chop into large pieces. Place the chard in a pot without drying it and add a punch (not a pinch) of salt.
  2. A pinch of salt is what you can hold with 2 fingers, a punch is what you hold with the whole hand and is a highly scientific method used by Italians to measure salt (and often rice).
  3. Cover the pot and place on medium heat. Let the greens steam, mixing them every now and then until completely wilted.
  4. When the greens are cooked, drain them and squeeze out all the water you can. Then finely chop them and put in a pan to sautee in hot olive oil with the garlic cloves. Keep the cloves whole so you can take them out before using the greens as filling.
  5. Let the greens sautee until they are dry, discard the garlic cloves and then set the greens aside to cool.
  6. Roll out the dough into two flat circles about 1/3 inch thick. Pour half the greens on 1 half of 1 dough round arrange some sliced mozarella on top and fold over the other half of the dough. Seal the dough using a fork. Repeat with the other dough/greens.
  7. Grill the crescioni on high heat about 2 minutes per side.
  8. Serve hot so that the mozzarella is still melty.

3.1

Turnip tatin

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch turnips with their greens
  • olive oil
  • 1 apple sized ball of quiche dough

Directions

  1. Wash the turnips and slice them separating the bulb from the grens.
  2. Drizzle an oven dish with olive oil. Arrange the turnips in one layer.
  3. Cover with the greens.
  4. Roll out the dough and place it over the greens.
  5. Place the tatin in a 400F oven for about half hour or until the dough is golden.
  6. Enjoy cold.