Going to the farmers market now is very interesting. You can see, feel and smell the change in season. Crisp pears and apples are piled alongside late summer fragrant melons, ripe tomatoes and white turnips. The farmers are beginning to anticipate the first frost that will shut down their farm operations for the season.
The weekend ritual of going to the farmers market will end in just a few short weeks. The upside, and there is always an upside, is that fall produce is just around the corner and fall foods are so much fun to cook. Soups, stews,baked pastas, gratins, stuffed vegetables, apple pies, baked cakes, poached pears, all are exciting to cook and serve in the fall. Think of the root veggies, squashes, nuts, pears, apples, pomegranates, my head is spinning with ideas and photo opportunities. Maybe it’s okay to let the summer go and have a change of season.
I am starting to think about my own herb garden here at the rooftop abode. What shall I do? should I just let them go or maybe cut them down before the frost and dry them for use during the winter? I have rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, parsley and chives. I don’t usually use dried herbs but maybe it will be fun to use them if they are from my own garden. More on that if this happens.
This brings me to foraging. A couple of weeks ago we had dinner at the beautiful Mission Hill Winery at their stunning Terrace restaurant. It’s a one of a kind setting with gorgeous architecture, beautiful aesthetics and a cuisine to match. I ordered a green salad and it arrived piled beautifully on the white plate, fresh, lightly dressed and composed of various leaves and herbs, many of which were not familiar. The server informed me that this is a one of a kind salad I could only get here and today. The kitchen has a “forager” scouring the hills and fields for wild salad greens for the restaurant and the wild “harvest” is different every day. The salad was lovely, with surprising flavours and textures in every bite. I made a mental note to look into it further. Foraging for salad greens? it sounds interesting. I’d like to know more about it.
On a subsequent trip to the Kelowna’s Farmers Market I was walking around the stalls looking to see who is there and what they are selling. I noticed one stall with a young guy behind the table and only a few bags with green leaves and and a few mushrooms on display, as opposed to the mounds of produce piled everywhere else. I approached his stall to talk to him. His name is Scott Moran and wouldn’t you know it, Scott is a professional forager and the the one who forages and sells to Mission Hill Estate Winery. Scott was excited about his craft and told me he goes out to forage for greens and mushroom and has to be there early to beat the deer who are also foraging for the same kind of leaves. Scott had a few mushrooms and two kinds of greens that day. One of the greens was Purslane, the other , I forgot its name (let me know if you recognize it).
I have never used purslane before and was very excited to try it in a salad. It needed a thorough rinsing and looked interesting, little leaves attached to a central tender stem. I popped one in my mouth, concentrating of the flavour sensation. The purslane was crisp, full of moisture and had a lingering lemony undertone. Really delicious.
The salad ended up featuring both wild greens plus a few cultivated ones (endive, radicchio) as well as pine nuts, parmesan and sherry vinaigrette. It was lovely and special. I did a quick search online to see what other people do with purslane and came across this post by the Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine, cookbook author, food writer, TV producer and host (of food shows) and the recipient of 4 James Beard awards. When she speaks, the culinary world listens. She didn’t mention pasta or risotto, but I used some in a pasta dish with great success and I think the rest (I bought a bunch) is destined to go into a risotto, I can just taste it and it will be good.
If you find purslane or other wild greens in your area try it, why not? I wouldn’t mind going foraging myself.
1 large handful purslane, wahsed well
A couple of handfuls mixed greens (endive, radicchio, arugula, baby greens)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan, shaved
2 tablespoon sherry vinaigrette
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 scant teaspoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
6-7 tablespoons olive oil
Place vinegar, mustard, honey shallot, garlic, salt and pepper in a small jar.
Add oil, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine the dressing ingredients.
Assembling the salad:
Heat the oil in a small a skillet. Add the pine nuts and cook until they are just golden.
Place all the well washed salad greens in a bowl.
Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over, only enough to coat them lightly.
Using tongs pile the salad on individual plates, scatter a few pine nuts and some shaved cheese over.
Serve with additional dressing on the side.