(These recipes were published in the San Jose Mercury News and its sister papers on November 17, 2011.)
Fennel and Tomato Pasta
Tomatoes and fennel pair well together, and this recipe is wonderful with the baby fennel that is sprouting all over the Bay Area right now. The sauce gets an added anise hit with a splash of Ouzo or Pernod, just to liven things up. It is a great vegetarian sauce to serve with pasta, ideally a long pasta like spaghetti, bucatini or even homemade tagliatelle. Once you make the sauce, it will store in the fridge for 10 days or so. You can also freeze it.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup wild fennel, finely chopped, or finely chopped fennel bulbs from the market
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
1 quart tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon mint or lemon verbena, chopped
Salt to taste
Pasta, fresh or dried
Pecorino cheese to garnish
1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep pan or a large pot. When the oil is hot, add the fennel and onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until the veggies are translucent. Don’t let the veggies brown — turn down the heat if you need to. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.
2. Pour in the ouzo and let it boil until it is reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, honey and mint and mix well. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Let this simmer gently for 30 minutes.
3. Put the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree. Pour the blended sauce back into the pot and bring to a simmer. You’re ready to serve. This is a powerful sauce, so use less than you think you need at first. Toss with pasta and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Wild Salmon with Miso Glaze
1 T white miso paste (available from Asian and health food markets)
2 T white vinegar (any kind)
1 T soy sauce
1 ½ T minced or grated, peeled fresh ginger
4 6-ounce salmon filets (preferably fresh-caught local salmon)
1 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2-3 scallions, finely sliced
3 T chopped cilantro, stems removed
– To toast sesame seeds: Put them in a thin layer in a small frying pan and heat on medium until they turn color. When slightly browned, remove from heat and put into a bowl to stop cooking.
– Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan with cooking spray. Alternatively fish can be grilled on an outdoor barbeque.
– In a small bowl combine the miso, vinegar, soy sauce and ginger, whisking until smooth. Liberally brush cleaned, deboned salmon filets with the glaze. Put the salmon, skin side down, on the broiler pan and broil it about 8 minutes until it is golden on top and opaque in the middle. Note: Do not turn over the fish. Check the salmon for doneness while cooking so it’s not overcooked. Salmon can also be grilled, following the same approach.
– Before serving, sprinkle sesame seeds, scallions and chopped cilantro on the cooked salmon. Excellent accompanied with brown rice and stir-fried bok choy.
Wild Mushroom Tart
One tart serves 8 or more.
9-inch tart shell (see below)
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms (ideally, black trumpets, but cultivated wild mushrooms like king trumpets, oyster mushrooms and maitakes can be used)
16 ounces fresh chèvre (goat cheese), room temperature
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 slices of bacon roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
– Make tart shell and partially bake according to instructions below.
– Wash the mushrooms, particularly if they were gathered from the wild. Black trumpets should be torn open under running water and rinsed again in fresh water. Drain off water. Larger mushrooms should be roughly sliced or chopped.
– Dry sauté the mushrooms to get the moisture out. Place them in a cold pan (no oil or butter) and slowly bring the heat up until they start to give off liquid. Adding some salt speeds up the process. This should take about 5 minutes, but be careful they don’t burn. Once the liquid has evaporated, remove the mushrooms, wipe out the pan, and continue with the recipe.
– Cook the bacon in the pan until done but not crispy, add butter and a splash of oil if not enough fat has rendered from the bacon. Add the shallots and leeks and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the mushrooms, sauté for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, fresh herbs and lemon. When the garlic starts to take on a slight color, add the wine. Turn down the heat and cook about 10 minutes, until the mixture gives off most of its liquid.
– Allow the mixture to cool, then in a large mixing bowl, fold in the chèvre, then add salt and pepper to taste.
– Fill the partially baked tart shell to the top with the mushroom-cheese mixture and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the top starts to get a nice golden brown color. Remove the tart pan ring before serving. The tart freezes well, so consider making a double recipe.
Use your favorite savory pastry crust recipe, a pre-made crust or follow this basic recipe for pâte brisée from Julia Child.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (or more) cold water
- Special equipment: 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom
- Dried beans or pie weights
– Whisk flour, salt, and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 4 tablespoons cold water. Work mixture with fingertips until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
– Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 12-inch round. Carefully transfer dough to 9-inch tart pan. Press dough onto bottom and up the sides of pan, pressing to adhere to sides. Fold down and roll 1/2 inch of dough sides inward, forming double-thick edge at top of crust sides. Using dull edge of small knife, make small indentations at 1/2-inch intervals on double-thick edge. Chill 20 minutes.
– Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides of crust are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Pierce bottom of crust all over with fork. Continue to bake until bottom is set and pale golden, about 8 minutes longer. If top edges begin browning too quickly, cover edges with thin strips of foil. Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack.
Wild Bay Leaf Potatoes
California bay laurel trees are very common in our area. Many recipes call for the sweet, perfumey flavor of bay leaves and you can easily substitute a wild leaf for a store-bought one. Just remember that the California bay leaves are much stronger than the imported variety sold in stores, so use about one-third of the amount the recipe calls for. To soften the flavor a bit, you can dry the leaves for a few days first.
This simple yet very tasty recipe can be served as a side to a dinner at home or could even be prepared over a campfire on the trail.
8 medium-sized potatoes
4 California bay leaves
1/2 cup California olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut a slit in each potato and place the potatoes in an oven-proof roasting dish. Pour the oil over the potatoes and toss them until they are covered. Place 1/2 bay leaf in the slit of each potato. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Roast potatoes for about an hour, or until soft. You can try them with a fork to see if they are ready.
For an extra-wild dinner, serve these potatoes with any type of wild game, or fish and a salad of wild greens.
For tips on identifying the California Bay Laurel in the wild, see www.bayareaforager.com.