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A Truly Wild Meal

The foraged items I got in my box

The foraged items I got in my box

  • The foraged items I got in my box
  • Nettle and spinach soup
  • Savory flan with miners lettuce salad.
  • Pan-fried sole with kurozu beurre blanc and sauteed mushrooms and fiddleheads
  • Banyuls pavlova with oranges and marionberry chantilly

By Dabney Gough, contributor

April 13th, 2009

Apparently it's no longer enough just to shop at farmer's markets. The next big thing among the gastroscenti is right in our own backyards, in the form of foraged food. Foraging - the ancient technique of hunting and gathering food - has maintained a small following through the ages, particularly among mushroom lovers, but now a local business is trying to make wild-harvested food a little more accessible for urban folks like me. ForageSF operates on a subscription model just like a CSA and draws on a network of foragers for each of the biweekly boxes.

Always eager for a new cooking challenge, I decided to give ForageSF a try. When I got my first box on Saturday, I was surprised at both the variety and quantity of food I got: miner's lettuce, stinging nettles (fresh and dried for tea), fiddlehead ferns, sea asparagus (again!), spinach, radish greens, oranges, mixed mushrooms, and Dover sole. None of it cultivated, all of it from the Bay Area, and some of it (like the oranges) from my own neighborhood. You can't get much more local than that!

Once I had the goods, I started sketching out the menu for the dinner party I had planned for that night. I wanted to make maximum use of the foraged items and minimize buying any additional ingredients. Here's what I came up with:

Chilled nettle and spinach soup with cilantro oil and crema. I served this in shot glasses because greens yield so little once cooked, and I couldn't bear to dilute the beautiful puree with broth or cream. So the soup itself consisted of nettles, spinach, and salt alone - the greens were so intensely flavored that nothing more was needed.

Individual savory flan with sea asparagus and chive, with a salad of miner's lettuce and sherry vinaigrette. I wanted something eggy and make-ahead as a vehicle for some of the veggies, so I came up with the flan recipe on the fly. Miraculously, it worked!

Pan-fried sole with kurozu beurre blanc and a saute of mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns. I was inspired to do the beurre blanc by way of kurozu, a type of Japanese rice vinegar that's aged in ceramic jars. Its complex sweetness made the beurre blanc really special. (I got my kurozu as a sample from a food show; sadly, I think the company is still looking for an importer, which means I can't get any more.)

Pavlova with oranges and marionberry chantilly. Pavlova is one of my favorite make-ahead desserts. I started with this recipe for the meringue, but left out the cocoa and used Banyuls vinegar (an aged wine vinegar) instead of regular red wine vinegar. For the chantilly, I just whipped heavy cream and mixed in some marionberry jam I had in the pantry.

Of course, eating wild-harvested food doesn't come without some major potential risks - the possibility of poisonous mushrooms being the most obvious - and so I felt obligated to issue a disclaimer to my friends before we began the first course. Nobody opted out of the meal, everyone enjoyed it, and nobody has died yet (I don't think). Fingers crossed...

posted in: Blogs, Dabney Gough, San Francisco, ForageSF, foraged, pavlova, sole, miner's lettuce, Banyuls
Comments (5)

Tyler_M writes: That's amazing! You've inspired me. I'm heading out to forage some avocados from the neighbor's yard. Posted: 5:18 pm on April 13th

sbreckenridge writes: OMG I'm so jealous...I totally want to join one! How much does yours cost? Posted: 1:41 pm on April 13th

dabneyg writes: Lisa, you may not want the recipe after you find out what's in it: egg yolks, whole eggs, heavy cream, salt (and the sea asparagus and chives). That's it :) Posted: 1:40 pm on April 13th

MichelleBee writes: What an amazing meal! Who knew that Sea Beans could taste so delicious? And, that meringue is to die for - I would gladly eat poisonous mushrooms to get to that dessert. Posted: 1:08 pm on April 13th

LisaWaddle writes: So impressive, Dabney! It's not enough you are engaging in extreme locavorism, you have to come up with such amazing ways to use the goods. I want the recipe for that flan! Posted: 9:59 am on April 13th

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About the Eat Generation

Follow the foodie adventures of former Fine Cooking recipe tester Dabney Gough as she takes a bite out of life in San Francisco. By day she's the marketing director for a specialty grocery store. By night, she's usually out exploring the city's amazing cocktail scene.