Foraged Dandelion Green Salad

As I continue  on with my foraging recipe spree we find ourselves with dandelion greens. Yes, you can go out to your front lawn and pick them but more likely than not they will be tough and bitter. Take the time to go to a forest or coulee in early summer for some nice tender greens. The bitterness is offset with the vinegars. And bacon can make anything fit for the dining room table.

Dandelion Green Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
4 c. dandelion greens 1 L
4 slices bacon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar 30 mL
1 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar 22 mL
1 tsp. grainy mustard 5 mL
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Discard all but about two tablespoons of bacon fat.
Add vinegars and mustard to the hot skillet and scrape up all the tasty brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. This dressing is now ready to use.
Toss the dandelion greens with the warm bacon vinaigrette and arrange in a bowl or on a platter. Top with quartered boiled eggs and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.


How to Make a Linen Bread Bag

Bread remains fresh longer if protected from sunlight, kept cool and allowed to breathe.  Plastic bags trap moisture and make the crust rubbery and soft. Keeping bread in the refrigerator will suck out the moisture and it will stale faster.
Herbs, lettuces and most produce also keeps longer when stored in a bag that breathes. Wash the produce first and then put it into the bag without drying it. This little bit of moisture helps to maintain its freshness. Stow the bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.
Linen is an ideal fabric. It is heavier and stronger than most cottons and because the fibres are coarser the fabric tends to have a more open weave. Linen is very difficult to find.  In fact most clothing store sales clerks don’t even know what it is. I have searched throughout western Canada and only found it in two sources. Gala Fabrics in Victoria, BC and Mitchell Fabrics in Winnipeg, Man. Both will email pictures and send out fabric swatches for distance shopping.
This simple drawstring bag works equally well for storing produce and bread. We are creating a simple bag with French seams all around and a drawstring top. French seams have no raw edges exposed.
What you will need
2 pieces of fabric 14”x16” 35 cm x 40 cm
coordinating thread
1 yard of 1” twill tape 1 m/2.5 cm

Contact information for fabric shops:
Gala Fabrics                                                
104, 1483 Douglas St.
Victoria, BC   V8W 3K4
Mitchell Fabrics
637 Main St.
Winnipeg, Man.   R3B 1E3

Step 1: Prewash the fabric, dry and press it before cutting. Cut fabric to size. If you want to personalize the bag with embroidery work, do it now.
Step 2: Place one piece of fabric with short side at the top on your ironing board. Along this short end, mark 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) from each side edge. Fold the fabric at this mark and press down the long side about 3 inches (7.6 cm) on both sides. This finishes the edges of the openings for the drawstring tubing. Then fold the top edge of the fabric down 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) and press. Open this fold and turn under the raw edge by 1/4 inch (6 mm) and press. Repeat with the second piece of fabric. You now have the channel formed for the drawstring.

Step 3: Stitch along the bottom of the tube. With scissors snip the folded fabric just under the tubing so that it will lay flat and press.
Step 4: Pin the two pieces together, with the right side facing you. That means that it will be pinned with the wrong sides together. This is not how you normally make a seam. This is the first step in making a French seam, where no raw edges will be exposed. Stitch the three raw edge sides of the bag 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the raw edge. Trim off half of the seam allowance. Flip the bag inside out and press.
Step 5: The bag is now inside out. Stitch again the three sides at 1/4 inch (6 mm) seam allowance. Flip the bag right side out again and press. You now have all the seams with no exposed raw edges. The outside edge of the bag should be flush with the outside edge of the tubing channel.
Step 6: Reinforce the side seams just below the tubing channel with a wide machine zigzag or with hand stitching. To finish the drawstring, attach a safety pin to one end of the twill tape and guide it through the tubing. Stitch the ends of the twill tape together to form a loop that is used as a drawstring to close the bag.


Labrador Tea, Morels and Bacon

Foraging is hot at the moment. I live in a semi-arid region and the pickings are slim. To compensate I have ordered a Community Supported Foraging box from northern Saskatchewan. It arrives monthly and is better than Christmas. I feel so spoiled.

This month the box contained an inordinate amount of burn morels. I splurged with this recipe for morel and bacon jam.

I am compelled to give a plug to my professional forager. I haven't met Elisabeth in person but I feel we are kindred souls. One day I will make the trek north and visit. You can find all her products on her website Prairie Infusions. She ships these delicacies all over North America. Give her a call.

However, if you are interested in foraging take the time to learn how to do it properly.

Learn the Latin name of plants rather than using common names. Common names vary from region to region. Learn habitat and companion plants. Where do you expect to find berries? What plants tend to grow in proximity to each other?
Plants can be picked throughout the year. Learn what is available in each season. Learn which parts of the plant are safe to eat and when to harvest. For example, stinging nettle should not be eaten after it has gone to seed.
Responsible foraging should be top of mind. Do not pick more than 10% even in a large patch. And definitely do not pick what you won’t use. Harvest only the part of the plant you intend to use. A guide is to only harvest 25% of the plant unless of course you are intending to use the root, such as cattails or wild onions.
Be aware of endangered plants, such as ramps. Ramps are illegal to pick in the wild due to diminishing numbers caused by over-harvesting.
Safety is another important concern. When harvesting water plants be aware of the source of the water. Any toxins in the water will be in the plant. Cattails in a slough may be contaminated with farm chemicals. Or plants in ditches may be contaminated with road maintenance products and automobile exhaust. 

Morel and Bacon Marmalade
Wild picked morels will have some grit if not washed before use. But be careful not to soak them. Wash quickly in two changes of water and use immediately.
8 oz. fresh morel mushrooms 250 g
4 slices bacon or pancetta
5 tbsp. butter, divided 75 mL
fresh thyme
1/2 c. beef, veal or mushroom stock 125 mL
1 c. carrots, diced 250 mL
1 c. shallots, diced 250 mL
1/2 c. Marsala or red port wine 125 mL
1/4 c. red wine vinegar 60 mL
1 tbsp. brown sugar 15 mL
1 tsp. black pepper 5 mL
kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook bacon until lightly crisp. Remove and add morels, two tablespoons (30 mL) butter and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook mushrooms until soft, have released all their water and are nicely browned. Add stock and two sprigs of thyme. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated but the mushrooms are still moist. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Discard thyme.
Add three tablespoons (45 mL) of butter. Saute shallots and carrots with a pinch of salt until softened, about eight minutes. Add sugar, vinegar, pepper and wine. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced to a very small amount. Scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan
Chop mushrooms and bacon and add to sauce. Reduce further if necessary. You want it to be moist but not runny. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. It should taste peppery.
Serve warm with toasted thinly sliced baguette. Garnish with Labrador Tea.


Food Photography Motivates Me

Every now and again procrastination creeps in. I have an article due but just can't begin. This time my excuse was somewhat legit. I was waiting on my foraged food box from northern Saskatchewan. Then life gets in the way and it was down to the wire. I had one day to phtograph four or five recipes. Only daylight will suffice.
Cooking is the first step. Then comes plating and shot after shot until I am happy with an image.
Extra plates and bowls are helpful in carefully plating for the photo. A few extra slices of bread, just to be sure. Lots of dishes to do.

Playing with the right plate, the right background, the right light, the right props. All these dishes for a simple picture of bacon morel crostini.
All this just to get the right photo.


Lake Diefenbaker Steelhead Trout baked on a Plank

Last week I prepared a meal for 35 people. To say I was feeling a bit of pressure is to state the obvious. Guest of honour was dee Hobsbawn-Smith. I have followed dee since we both lived in Calgary. I clipped her columns from the Calgary Herald. And I enjoyed food at her restaurant Foodsmith back in the early 1990's.

Today she lives west of Saskatoon on the family farm and I live in Swift Current, SK. Pure coincidence that we both moved back around the same time. The only difference is that dee didn't know me from a hole in the ground. Meanwhile, I am stalking her and knowing she moved to the province I didn't exactly know where.

She is an artist, an artist with words and food, and it fitted that she may have chosen Eastend. I also checked out that ranching area.

Fast forward and serendipity has brought us together. Dee is the Saskatoon convivium leader for Slow Food. After inviting her to speak in my town about Slow Food I drove to Saskatoon and volunteered at their annual Slow Food fundraiser dining experience.

I would have thought I might have been nervous and shy but dee has a gentle and kind manner about her. She makes one feel comfortable and is genuinely interested in you.

So back to the dinner for 35. On the Wednesday before her Sunday reading here in town we had only four people signed up. I considered cancelling or at least moving it to my dining room table. Within two days 35 people signed up for a locavore Slow Food style meal.

This steelhead is one of the dishes I made for that dinner. Lucky me, my Community Supported Foraging box had just arrived from northern Saskatchewan and I had some splendid wild foraged ingredients.

Planked Steelhead Trout

spruce tips
camelina oil
baby rhubarb
sea salt
spruce tip syrup
cedar or alder plank
side of steelhead trout, skin on

Make a simple syrup by boiling one cup of water with one cup of sugar. Add 1/4 cup of spruce tips and continue to simmer until the syrup thickens. Cool and strain.

Finely chop a tablespoon of young spruce tips. Finely chop red baby rhubarb. Add both to the syrup.

Preheat plank in a 475 F oven until you can smell the wood. Rub with oil. Lay a side of trout on the hot board, skin side down. Rub the fish with oil and the syrup mixture. Place in the hot oven and bake for about ten minutes, or done.


A Drive in the Country - Grasslands National Park

On top of 70 Mile Butte. This is more than an historical landmark to anyone who makes the journey.

The evening primrose has a heavenly scent.

This is an authentic dinosaur bone that lays exposed and untouched. Why? That's what I love about Canada. Respect.


Quicksand is just as we have learned. No way I would step beyond that sign. No way.

The East Block is so very different from the West Block. No buffalo. No prairie dogs.