Wild Food Lab is a collaboration between Transitional Gastronomy and Urban Outdoor Skills.
We forage what's available seasonally and then both research and test how each ingredient was used in the past, as well as experiment and create new methods and means of utilizing these wild ingredients.
The result is wild cuisine that's interpreted for today's palate with a modern culinary perspective.
7 - 10
Fennel seed encrusted pork tenderloin, lambsquarter seed cakes, nettle panna cotta, green fennel seed and vanilla bean buerre blanc.
Lambsquarter seeds & cakes...tender, moist, flavorful.
Creamy nettle panna cotta with a hint of wine and garlic.
The tenderloin getting ready for the pan...fragrant, vanilla-like wild fennel seeds.
Fennel see encrusted pork tenderloin, lambsquarter seed cakes, nettle panna cotta, green fennel seed and vanilla bean buerre blanc.
Lambsquarters and seeds.
Foraged fennel fronds, green and dried seeds and flowers...
Fennel seeds ready for harvest.
Fenneling with the Belgian.
A little foraging fun.
Wild Seeds: Fennel & Lambsquarters
Fennel seed encrusted pork tenderloin with a green fennel seed and Madagascar vanilla bean beurre blanc, lambsquarter seed cakes, nettle panna cotta.
I can't help it, Thanksgiving is my favorite eating season. It's a chance to pull out some family favorites, or in our case, create some new ones using winter forages. We couldn't believe our luck as we happened upon some wild fennel with seeds AND flowers and a little crop of lambsquarters in seed. These two plants equal huge flavor to foragers and chefs alike.
This dish was my original Thanksgiving idea, but I think we will be doing some rabbit and foraged pumpkins this year. So hard to choose from. Still, this is one of the best things that I have ever eaten, and I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is. You can make one or all of these a new entertaining staple with your forages.
What is it? It's a fennel seed encrusted pork tenderloin with a crushed green fennel seed and Madagascar vanilla bean beurre blanc (reduced vinegar and cream mounted with butter), served with tender, moist little lambsquarter seed cakes and a creamy but light nettle panna cotta. Each on their own is amazing, but together, they make each other sing. The wild fennel we foraged had such a vanilla-like aroma with a little anise and I love using vanilla with savory. Pork is a natural pairing for sweet, smoky and anise flavors.
The panna cotta (blanched and pureed nettles, mascarpone, cream, white wine, shallots, peppercorn, bay, garlic) I made with agar agar instead of gelatin because it sets much more quickly and I like to try vegetarian versions, as well. I served it just above room temperature and it was a perfectly creamy, but light foil for the lambsquarter seed cakes.
But really, it's all about these cakes! Pascal thinks that they would be a great substitute for my acorn burger when we don't have a great acorn harvesting year (like this year). It's meaty, holds together well, incredibly earthy with just a hint of spinach flavor. It's pretty hearty and related to quinoa (looks like it, too), so my guess is it has some decent protein content. They have the tri-fecta of winning qualities:
1. Easy to source and store
2. Easy to cook
3. Amazingly delicious
Here's what I did, but please feel free to experiment and make it vegan or however you would like and enjoy!
Makes about 12 small cakes.
1/2 cup washed and dried lambsquarter seeds (doesn't matter if some are still green or if they are not dried all the way)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or fresh if you have)
1/8 cup freshly grated parmesan, pecorino or whatever hard cheese you prefer
1-2 eggs, depending on size
Carrots, onion, celery (about a tablespoon of each, finely diced)
Garlic or shallot (about a teaspoon or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
You are going to cook the lambsquarter seeds as you would quinoa. I used 1 cup water to 1/2 cup seeds and found that I had to add a little more, so 1 and 1/4 cups water. Cook until all the water is absorbed (15-20 minutes). The lambsquarter seeds absorb the water quickly. My seeds weren't bitter, but I suggest you soak them for an hour or blanch them for a few minutes to remove any bitterness. Once cooked, set aside.
Finely mince your mirapoix and saute in olive oil until transluscent, add garlic at the last moment and remove from heat once you can smell it. Once cooled, combine all ingredients together (make sure your eggs are beaten first). Add whatever herbs you like or have in your garden. I used thyme and Spanish tarragon.
Test the mixture and form into a patty. Does it hold its shape? If not it may need more of a binder e.g. more grated cheese or a bit more egg. Is it too heavy? Add more panko or bread crumbs. Taste and test.
Once thoroughly combined, form into patties and chill them and let them set for 30 minutes and then you can brown them in a cast iron pan with a butter and oil mix and finish them in the oven (350 F) for 10 minutes.
That is really it...I know you will enjoy and drop me a line and let me know how you made them or variations. I'd love to hear!