Monday, June 15, 2009

Food of the Wild Soup

I’ve wanted to make something like this for a long time: collect several wild edibles and put them together into a great-tasting dish.  Here, I’ve combined fiddleheads, stinging nettles, shitakes (yeah, well, they’re wild somewhere; I don’t know my wild mushrooms well enough to be safe) and arame (Japanese sea vegetable) for a soup in honor of the wild foods of both land and sea.

Food of the Wild Soup

First, soak about ½ cup of arame in cool water for 10-15 minutes. If you do this first, by the time you finish the other steps, the arame should have plumped up to twice its original size, which means it’s ready.

While that’s happening, please heed the warnings and follow the directions for preparing nettles seen here.

After you’re done blanching the nettles, you’ll need to do the same for the fiddleheads (but a minute or two, once, is long enough).

Next, you need a dashi, which is a Japanese broth flavored with sea vegetable (usually kombu) and bonito flakes. If you don’t have these weird ingredients – I never do – use a vegetable stock and improvise with some dried nori (the seaweed they wrap sushi in) and some fish sauce (or fish stock). Put 4 cups of dashi/stock on the back burner, add some grated ginger if you like (I like) and a teaspoon of soy sauce, and just let it start simmering.

Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil (not olive oil, here. Safflower, grapeseed, peanut would work) in a skillet. Add 5 or 6 chopped shitake caps and 1 small leek, sliced (white part only). Add a pinch of salt and a dash of sake (optional).

Add the fiddleheads and nettles, season with salt and black pepper and stir to incorporate.

When the shitakes are slightly browned, add mixture to the dashi. Keep heat low. Add the arame.

Before serving, take about ¼ cup of the broth and add to 2-3 tablespoons of red miso to dissolve. Add the dissolved miso back to the pot, stir and serve.

I serve this with udon noodles, which I prepare separately to prevent them from sucking up all the liquid in the soup.

Here are some other articles and comments about nettles:

"The Common Stinging Nettle" by Euell Gibbons, writing for Vermont Weathervane

"Stinging nettles -- I cooked them and lived!" at Chowhound

"Stinging Nettles Need a New Name!" at OrganicMania

"Mini Specialist| Food Found: Stinging Nettles" by William Snyder, writing for WSJ

Check out these recipes:

Nettles pasta with fava beans, from No Recipes

Spring Tonic Nettles Soup, from Wild Food Ways


Seth said...

Sounds amazing. It would be really fun to do a similar thing but forage all the ingredients yourself. Sort of like what we did on that workshop.


Yeah, I'd love to do that as well. There are some other weeds/wild edibles in abundance in the garden: purslane and pigweed. I didn't collect any this time, but next time I go, I'll seek them out. Purslane would be good in a salad and it is one of the most nutritious plants on earth. Pigweed can be prepared like spinach. I probably could have put either of these in the soup.
I also really like getting the most out of my leftovers by recycling them as stock. I think the next time I get fish or shellfish, I'm going to reserve skins/shells and make some stinky seafood stock. Having my own basics such as these really appeals to me.

J. Dywer said...

That looks tasty. I loved the fiddlehead soup you made on Saturday. Back in the day, I would scavenge in the woods for the tender center shoot of a palmetto. Pull it out and get up to 3/4" of heart-of-palm.

Tricia said...

And, y'know, most of the wild edibles are super nutritious.

Anonymous said...

Comes from being stressed; that seems to build up more of the 'groovy stuff' in plants. If they're too happy, they don't have to protect themselves with extra minerals and fancy compounds. :)


This soup tastes better on day two!

Anonymous said...

Here's another blogger on mushroom hunting:

Anonymous said...

And another:

(this is me, Tricia, btw)