Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson

Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a guided foraging hike through Elysian Park, led by Joel Robinson from Naturalist For You and hosted by the good folks at the Hive House.

While I already considered myself fairly savvy at neighborhood foraging, having harvested figs, lemons, loquats, kumquats, dandelions, nasturtiums, and several different herbs from neighbor’s yards and public land, this hike really brought foraging to another level.  Joel identified several species that are often considered weeds, plants that grow plentifully in the Los Angeles area, most of which have nutritional or medicinal qualities.

If you plan on foraging please be 100% sure of what you are harvesting before you consume anything, don’t go on my photos alone.  Please also keep in mind everyone reacts to different plant species in their own way.  There is also always a chance that certain plants may be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, or other toxic chemicals.  This is less of a risk in a place like Elysian Park where these plants grow wild, but it is always still a risk.  If you are unfamiliar with the area you can check with the parks department and ask for permission to forage.  Anything you consume is completely at your own risk.

 

Cheeseweed (Malva parviflora)

Foraging Hike in Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, cheeseweed, foraging, forage, los angeles, hike

I see this all the time hiking and had no idea it’s edible!  The smallest, freshest, greenest leaves have the best texture and flavor, they are a very subtle taste with a substantial leaf.  This would make a delicious salad green.

 

Black Mustard (Brassica nigra)

Black Mustard, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, mustard, wild, weeds, forage, hikeBlack Mustard, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, mustard, wild, weeds, forage, hike

I love mustard greens so this was one of my favorite varieties we tried on the hike.  You can eat pretty much the whole plant, leaves, stems, and even the cute little yellow flowers.  Not only are they super easy to spot because of their distinctive flowers, they have a wonderful spicy flavor, and they were growing in abundance!

Having cooked with mustard greens from the farmers’ market many times before, I love to saute them up with some tomato and lemon juice.  I will definitely be foraging more of these soon, and the yellow flowers will make for an adorable garnish.

 

London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio)

London Rocket, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hike

This is another plant in the mustard family, which if you didn’t know is the same family as kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and arugula.  Sorry this picture makes it a bit hard to see because there is so much cheeseweed growing around it, but if you can spot the little yellow flowers, the dried fronds on top, and the curvy arugula-like leaves, that’s the London Rocket.

The fact that it’s called rocket, which is a common name for arugula, speaks to it’s flavor, which is very similar to arugula but still with a slight mustard kick.  You could use this as a salad green, or you could use it in the place of arugula, my favorite use for which is to top pizza!

 

Pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri)

Pigweed, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hike

I’ve seen this pop up in my garden before and I noted how similar it looks to a quinoa or amaranth plant, so I wasn’t at all surprised when Joel informed us it’s in the same family.  While the seeds on these plants weren’t yet mature, they are edible once they are fully grown.  But you can eat the leaves as well!  They are a little thicker than some of the other leaves we tried, they would be good mixed into a salad or made into pesto.

 

Spanish Pepper Tree (Schinus molle)

Spanish Pepper Tree, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hikeSpanish Pepper Tree, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hike

I see these all over Los Angeles.  They are all over Griffith Park and there are several in my neighborhood.  This was my first time hiking in Elysian Park but I saw them all along the trail.  It is a large growing tree that produces bunches of tiny pink peppercorns which aren’t even technically in the pepper family.  They are much lighter, flakey, and less spicy than usual peppercorns.  You can easily harvest the low hanging fruit and use it as a spice.  I used some to top my Chicken Liver Pate recipe.  I had no idea but wikipedia touts all of the medicinal benefits of this plant.

 

Tumbleweed (Lechenaultia divaricata)

Tumbleweed, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hike

This is a super interesting plant that develops into a large bushy structure that eventually dies, dries up, then detaches from its roots to roll around in the wind to disperse its seeds over a large area.

What I didn’t know is that in it’s young form, tumbleweed is edible!  We didn’t see very much of it, and the only little patch we did spot was right off the trail.  It was a prime spot for dog pee so I must say I didn’t get to try what it tastes like, but it left me quite curious!

 

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

Miner's Lettuce, Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson, wild, weeds, forage, hike

So this really is the worst picture I took that whole day, it was one of the last plants we identified as rain drops started to fall on us, just minutes before I had to seal my camera in a plastic bag and hike back in torrential downpour, and eventually hail.  But I still included this one because it was one of my favorite tasting plants we tried, the leaves were especially crunchy and light.  I found it similar to fresh baby spinach but even lighter and crispier.

The more mature leaves are round will little tiny flower pods in the center and a long slender stem (seen in here in his right hand,) the immature leaves much smaller and with a tear drop shape (seen here in his left hand.)  The entire thing is edible and quite delicious.

Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel RobinsonFor more information about events like this, stay tuned!  I’ll be telling you more about the Hive House in Echo Park in a future post, as soon as they launch their new website.

To learn more about Joel or to attend a guided hike definitely check out his website at Naturalist-For-You.org.  I also highly recommend this article that Stacy (co-founder of the Hive House) wrote about him for Atlas Obscura.

Chicken Liver Pâté

Chicken Liver Pate

My farmers’ market source for pasture-raised chicken products is La Bahn Ranch.  Typically I get a few dozen eggs and a whole chicken, but being such a fan of liver pâté I’ve been dying to try it out.  Thanksgiving proved to be the perfect excuse so I finally took the plunge and bought a pound of chicken livers for a whopping $2!

I had heard recipes for liver pâté are fairly simple and the one I found was just that.  All I had to do was sauté the livers with some onion and herbs, then food process them with a good about of butter, actually a lot of butter, more than you’d think.

The result was just spectacular and made a lot more than I thought it would, about 4 cups worth.  In the future I will definitely half the recipe, unless I was hosting a ton of people.  As it was there was plenty for two different dinners with friends and I still had leftovers

This recipe is perfect for holiday parties because it feels very fancy without being expensive or difficult to make.  Especially when topped with some parsley and pink peppercorns like I did here it takes on the festive Christmas color scheme.

I’ve found pâté pairs well with fruit jams or gelees as well as fresh herbs and spices.  Classically it’s served on a crostini but my gluten free friends still thoroughly enjoyed it spread on a GF cracker or a slice of apple.

How will you serve yours up?

Chicken Liver Pâté
1 lb pasture-raised chicken livers
1 small brown onion
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
3 sticks (1 and 1/2 cups) grassfed butter
1 tbsp whiskey or cognac
salt and pepper to taste

[NOTE: this recipe is best made the night before, but needs a minimum of 4-6 hours to set in the fridge.  So plan ahead!]

First prep the chicken livers by cutting out all membranes (the whitish-yellow stringy bits) and chopping into smaller pieces – 1/2 inch to 1 inch in length.

Trim and chop up the onion, trim and mince the garlic clove. Remove the thyme from the stem and roughly chop it up.

In a large sauce pan add the livers, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt and water. Simmer this mixture for about 3 minutes on medium-low heat while covered, the livers should brown on the outside but will still be slightly pink the center.  Then let stand for 5 minutes to cool.

Remove and discard the bay leaves.  With a slotted spoon transfer the liver/onion/herb mixture to a food processor, leaving the liquid behind.

Turn on the food processor and when the mixture looks somewhat smooth start to slowly add in the butter, 2 tbsp at a time until it’s all incorporated. Then mix in the whiskey or cognac and add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the mixture to small bowls or ramekins, it will be quite loose but will firm up in the fridge.  Ideally let it set overnight or make in the morning for later that evening.

Once set, add any herbs on top just before serving.  I used fresh parsley from my garden, some pink peppercorns I harvested from a tree down the street, and just a touch of smoked Maldon finishing salt for a little extra flavor and crunch.  But try out your own combination of herbs and spices to see what you like or just enjoy as is, you can’t go wrong!

Chicken Liver Pate

Yields about 4 cups

Cauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup

Cauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, real food, blended

The long Thanksgiving weekend brought a bit of much needed rain here in LA, so we finally got a taste of autumn weather and a respite from the unrelenting heat.

I make soups all year round because I find it’s a great way to get bone broth and a good helping of veggies into my diet.  When it’s raining especially I can’t help but brew up a big batch of something comforting to sip on.

One of my favorites is potato leek soup because of it’s creamy texture and delicate savory leek flavor. However, potato-based soups can be a bit starchy to enjoy on a daily basis.  I’ve found that cauliflower can replicate the texture of potatoes quite nicely as they do in this mashed cauliflower, but without all that starch!  They work perfectly in this soup, filling it out with a very smooth texture that doesn’t get too heavy or cloying.

In the theme of autumnal vegetables I added in a little fennel because it compliments the leek and cauliflower flavors nicely by lending a mellow sweetness when sautéed.

The homemade broth rounds the flavors of this soup out wonderfully so that it doesn’t need much more than salt for seasoning.  I like to use homemade beef or chicken bone broth in this recipe, but it can easily be made vegan or vegetarian with some veggie stock.  Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

 

Cauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup
2-3 tbsp beef fat or coconut oil
1 medium onion
2 stalks of celery
2-3 tsp sea salt
1 small fennel
2 small leeks or 1 large leek
1/2 cup of sherry wine (or another dry white wine)
1 large head of cauliflower
6 cups of your choice of broth (I prefer homemade bone broth)

Cauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, real food, blendedCauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, real food, blendedCauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, real food, blended

Trim and chop up the onion and celery, set aside. Trim and chop up the fennel and leek, and set aside as well. Only use the base of the fennel, not the stringy stems or dill-like fronds. Use only the mostly white part of the leeks, cut them lengthwise and rise the layers with water well before chopping, sand and dirt tend to get stuck in there.  Also chop up the cauliflower head into smaller florets.

In a large soup pot heat up the beef fat or coconut oil.  If you make your own beef broth at home then you probably have a good amount of beef fat on hand, but coconut oil works well too. Both are stable at higher temperatures and are ideal for sautéing on high heat.

Once the oil is hot, add in the chopped onion and celery and 1/2 tsp of sea salt (salting each layer helps the flavor come together better.)  Cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the chopped fennel and leeks as well as another 1/2 tsp of sea salt. Continue to cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the sherry wine and let the alcohol cook off and liquid thicken, about 2 minutes.

Then add in the broth and cauliflower florets and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once the soup base is done simmering, blend it well with another 1/2 tsp of sea salt. I choose a regular blender for this over an emersion blender because I like to get the cauliflower blended very well so it gets really creamy.  Blend in batches (be careful to hold the lid on with a dish towel, hot soup can pop the lid right off and splatter soup everywhere.  Then mix the batches all back together in a large pot.  Salt to taste.

My finally product is a little darker because I used some very dark colored beef broth, but a lighter chicken or veggie broth will make the soup more of a cream or slightly green color.

If you’re enjoying the soup right away then keep it warm on the stove.  You can also pack it up for leftovers, it keeps well for several days in the fridge and the flavors actually marry and intensify overnight.

Cauliflower Leek and Fennel Soup, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, real food, blended

Yields 6-8 servings

Making Clabber and Whey from Raw Milk

Making Clabber and Whey

What on earth is clabber?  And why would I want to make it out of raw milk?

Well if you read my post from last month about why I choose raw dairy you already know the nutritional and digestive benefits that raw milk has over its pasteurized and homogenized counterpart.  But did you know that in addition to these benefits, raw milk also behaves very different as it ages?  While pasteurized milk goes rancid with time, raw milk actually sours and ferments into a completely different product, separating into clabber and whey.  [Keep in mind clabber is a noun meaning the final product, but it’s also a verb meaning the process of curdling the milk.]

The probiotics present in raw milk proliferate as it ferments, these are the good bacteria in our gut that play a huge role in our immune system.  They are able to partially digest the proteins and sugars in the milk, rendering them even easier for us to digest.  As the milk is broken down it separates into clabber, or curds, which resemble a cream cheese-like substance and the liquid is whey, which is rich in lactic acid.

What is whey really?

Having worked at a smoothie bar for several years, I originally thought of highly processed protein powders when I heard the word whey.  But traditionally whey is a byproduct of clabbering milk or making cheese.  The whey made from raw milk can be used in the lacto-fermentation process of vegetables like sour pickles or sauerkraut (more on that in posts to follow!)  It can also be used it to help soak and ferment whole grains or legumes before cooking, or taken on its own for its health benefits.

According to Hanna Kroeger in Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen:

“Whey is such a good helper in your kitchen.  It has a lot of minerals.  One tablespoon of whey in a little water will help digestion.  It is a remedy that will keep your muscles young.  It will keep your joints moveable and ligaments elastic.  When age wants to bend your back, take whey…With stomach ailments, take one tablespoon whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again.”

Many cultures have their own version of souring milk, in France cream is soured to make crème fraîche.  You’ll notice when you leave raw milk out that the cream first separates to a thick layer on the top.  If you let it sour with this cream layer undisturbed it will thicken on it’s own and resemble a crème fraîche-like substance.  You can carefully scoop it off the top to use it separately but I usually just mix it in with all the rest of the clabber as it makes it wonderfully rich and creamy.

Real Sour Cream

Instructions for clabbering raw milk:

1. Find a good local source of grassfed raw milk.  I love Organic Pastures based out of Fresno, CA.  Use the freshest whole raw milk available, pasteurized or homogenized milk will not clabber like raw milk does.

2. Pour the raw milk into a large, clean, glass container with a lid.  I used a wide-mouthed 1 quart mason jar, the wide mouth helps scoop out all the curds later.

3. Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days with the lid loosely screwed on, I leave mine on my kitchen counter.  If it is not warm enough out you may need to use a very mild heating element to get it to the right temperature.  I’ve used an electric blanket with a very low setting, just set the jar on top while it sours.  Keep an eye on it but don’t shake or stir, it should start to separate within 1-2 days, if it does not then it most likely was not warm enough.

4. Once fully separated gently strain through a fine sieve covered in several layers of cheesecloth.  Do NOT press on the curds or squeeze the cheesecloth, let it sit until it stops dripping.  Then tie up the cheesecloth so the bag is hanging and once again let sit until stops dripping.  Save the clabber and whey separately in glass containers in the fridge, the clabber keeps about 1 month and the whey about 6 months.

Fresh Clabber

I already covered how whey can be used, but what about those curds?  They are delicious on their own, I like to add just a touch of maple syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Spices like cinnamon and cloves are a nice addition and fresh fruit pairs well too.  You can also use the clabber like you would ricotta, even in a savory recipe.  I’ve been meaning to add sea salt and fresh herbs for stuffed zucchini blossoms…one day I’ll actually get around to doing that.

How will you use you it?

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

I made this a few weeks back but have been too busy to post it.  I realized I better get it up before summer is officially over and we won’t be able to find delicious ripe peaches any more!

Originally I made this recipe many years ago with my friend and web designer, Jacob.  We made it because I bought him the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Dessert Book for his birthday a few years earlier, plus I had just started working at the farmers’ market so I had access to oodles of the most amazing peaches I had ever tasted.  The result was absolutely amazing, and everyone who tried it agreed.  Each summer we swear up and down that we will make that peach ice cream again, and somehow it never gets made, until now.

I finally made it, but this time with delicious local raw milk and cream (if you’re wondering why read my post about raw dairy,) pasture-raised eggs, and a tiny bit less sugar.  There is still sugar in there because it helps to draw some of the moisture out of the diced peaches, but I look forward to experimenting with raw honey or even less of the cane sugar.

 

Fresh Peach Ice Cream
2 cups diced peaches
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
sprinkle of sea salt
2 large eggs
2 cups raw cream
1 cup raw milk

 

Make sure you’re ice cream maker is all ready to go before you start, some require time in the freezer before they are ready to use, others use ice and epsom salts.

Peeled peaches

The peaches should be peeled first so they have a smoother texture in the ice cream.  I find the best way to do this is score the skin, drop in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then submerge in ice water.  This softens the very outer layer of the peach so the peel comes right off.

Diced peaches

Dice up the peeled peaches and put in a medium bowl with the lemon juice, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Keep this mixture covered in the fridge for 2 hours, stirring a few times.  After the peaches have been sitting for that long some of the liquid will have come out, creating a syrup.  Strain to separate the peaches from the syrup, set both aside.

eggsraw milk and cream

Whisk the eggs until until they are fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.  Then slowly whisk in the rest of the sugar (1/2 cup) until well incorporated, then the cream, the milk, and finally the peach syrup.

Making ice cream

Process this mixture in your ice cream maker according to its instructions.  Once it has thickened and is done mixing, stir in the diced peaches, then freeze in a separate container until firm.

Fresh Peach Ice CreamFresh Peach Ice Cream

Enjoy!

Yields a quart plus 1-2 cups