Populations in urban areas have lost touch with their roots. Not necessarily ethnic or cultural, but the understanding of where food comes from and how it arrives at the market. The locavore movement encourages individuals to use locally raised and produced ingredients and this movement has been gaining momentum while aligning itself with the modern day “green” practices while supporting local farms, businesses, and industries. If you know what you are looking for, foraging can produce tasty snacks, salads, side dishes, and main courses for any cook.
Before going out on your foraging adventure, it is important to study what items are edible and which are not. Many cities offer community education courses regarding foraging and there are several books and websites available on the topic; I recommend ecosalon.com/foraging-for-food and foraging.com. Beginners should stick to easily identified items and avoid mushrooms altogether and all foraged items should be washed before eating raw or cooking.
If you are still unsure what is safe to eat, but wish to try a semi-foraged meal, visit a local cooperative, farmer’s market, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization. Each offer great resources and ingredients and may help you put together a wild dish, without actually foraging for it.
The recipe below originally uses quail, but game hens may make a nice substitute and can be found easily in many markets.
Roast Quail with Dandelion Pesto
Two quail or game hens, halved
½ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp of parmesan cheese
½ tsp of lemon zest
3 tbsp of pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 or 5 large bunches of dandelion greens, washed
Make sure the quails/game hens are thoroughly cleaned and patted dry with a clean towel. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Any hotter, the birds will dry out.
In a mortar and pestle or a modern food processor, combine the garlic, lemon zest, and pine nuts to a chunky consistency. Add the cheese, fresh dandelion greens, and sea salt and blend to even consistency. Slowly add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time until paste consistency is reached.
With a teaspoon, place small individual dollops of pesto in a shallow baking pan. Place each half bird on top of the individual pesto dollops and brush the remaining pesto on top of each piece. Cover the birds and place in the oven to bake for forty-five minutes. Uncover the birds and finish cooking it for 20 minutes to an hour. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the birds. When it reaches 180 degrees, it is done. Garnish the birds with remaining pesto. Unlike traditional basil-based pesto, the dandelion pesto will have a milder taste with a hint of lemon. The lemon zest will bring that trait out even further.
Field Mushrooms with Hazelnuts
2 garlic cloves
grated rind of one lemon
6 tbsp olive oil
6 large field (button) mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and ground black pepper
Crush the garlic cloves with a little salt using a mortar and pestle or on a chopping board. Place the crushed garlic in a small bowl and stir in the grated lemon rind and the olive oil. Allow the items to steep for one hour. In a large fry pan, place the mushrooms in the pan and drizzle 4 tbsp of the garlic and oil mixture on top of the mushrooms and sauté for 5-10 minutes.
Add the hazelnuts and the additional oil mixture to the pan and sauté for another 5-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Add salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with the quails or game hens. Serves 4