Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday that holds special appeal for tree-loving nature worshippers like me. It is described as a new year for the trees, and while it coincides with spring in the middle east, here in Toronto it is celebrated in the depths of winter, providing a welcome festive focus to January or February.

Friends of mine host a Tu Bishvat seder dinner every year. We start by going around the table and sharing which is our favourite kind of tree and why. I always have trouble choosing, but will pick one to highlight some of the medicine trees have to offer, like willow or hawthorn. They ask each guest to bring a food contribution in keeping with the tree theme.

I have brought this dish for several years. It is a yummy salad, providing a perfect counterpoint to rich winter food with its nutrient-dense ingredients, and bitter, sweet, and fresh flavours. But more tree-relevantly, it contains the fruit of two trees (avocado, pomegranate), the nuts of one tree (pecan), and the heart of another (palm). It also happens to feature red and green, making it in keeping with the colour theme of a certain December holiday 🙂 In our household, we think it pairs well with roast for Christmas dinner, too!

Consider this salad for a festive occasion in your life this winter.

arugulaPecanspomegranate on boardavocado1

Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free

Salad:

  • 1 box baby arugula or 2 bunches arugula, washed & chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into quarter rounds
  • 1 can heart of palm, drained and sliced in rounds
  • 1 medium haas avocado, diced
  • Seeds of 1/2 -1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and toss well with dressing to coat.

For pretty presentation, toss arugula with dressing before adding the other ingredients artfully into the serving bowl or individual salad bowls.

Dressing:

  • Olive oil – ~1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice – ~1 lemon
  • Dijon mustard – ~ 2 tsp
  • Sea salt – ~ 1 tsp
  • Maple Syrup – ~2 tsp
  • Garlic, pressed – ~ 1 small clove

Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake to emulsify.

Taste and adjust quantities as needed to please your palate.

Zucchini Salmon Fritters

In my first trimester of pregnancy, I needed to eat every hour or two to keep my blood sugar level

Zucchini-Salmon Fritters (photo from taste.com)

Zucchini-Salmon Fritters
(photo from taste.com)

and keep nausea at bay. I did have some hilarious food cravings (celery and of course the stereotypical dill pickles). But, I was also aiming to stick to my usual conscious, careful, diet while upping certain nutrients for baby-growing. These fritters satisfied my winter need for more oil, AND they contain easy to digest vegetables (I have yet to have a client who is sensitive to zucchini!) and omega-3-rich protein that can be stored in the pantry. Win-win-win. I ate them with pickles, naturally.

Make up a big batch and grab them for snacks/lunch/dinner. Pregnant or not, they make a nice, nutritious change from the usual dinner options.

Adapted from Gluten Free Gigi

 

Recipe type: Main Dish, Fish

Prep time:  10 mins

Cook time:  6 mins

Total time:  16 mins

Serves: 3-4

 

This recipe is free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts. It is also toddler-friendly, a novel way of using up the garden’s zucchini abundance, and a great way of making canned fish (and good omega 3 fatty acids) exciting.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (6-ounce) can wild caught salmon, drained
  • 1/3-1/2 cup tapioca flour or cooked quinoa (or sub almond flour for paleo version, but then not nut-free)
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained and minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill (or use 1-2 teaspoons fresh dill, if you have some on hand)
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder (add a couple tablespoons minced fresh onion, if you prefer)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (use ½ – 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic, if you prefer)
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Oil for greasing skillet
  • Lemon wedges and fresh parsley, optional garnish

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine zucchini, eggs and tapioca flour/quinoa.
  2. Break salmon apart with a fork and add to the bowl, along with remaining ingredients.
  3. Stir to combine, making sure ingredients are well-mixed. (Mixture will look a bit liquid-y, but that’s okay.)
  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and grease lightly.
  5. Once the skillet is hot (but not smoking), use about a heaping ⅓ cup of the mixture for each patty/fritter. (You can make these as small or large as you like, of course. I fit 3 larger fritters in the skillet at a time).
  6. Cook patties 2-3 minutes per side until brown and crisp on the outside.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

Great paired with Parsley-Radicchio Salad, and homemade sauerkraut. And, especially if you are pregnant, kosher-style dill pickles.

 

Bring on Spring / Lettuce is Boring Radicchio & Parsley Salad

In keeping with the seasons, I don’t eat much in the way of raw salad-type vegetables in the winter.parsley-bunch This salad was an exception last winter, during the first trimester of my pregnancy. It is a great break from boxed mixed greens, and is packed full of fresh flavour and fantastic nutrition. Also, it answers the eternal question of what to do with the rest of the bunch of parsley when you use 1 tbsp in a recipe. Now you know: make salad!

If you haven’t used radicchio before, it is the pretty little purple hued vegetable in the lettuce radicchiosection of the produce store. It is classified as a bitter (but i think it sweet as well), making it an excellent ally to digestion and liver function.

This salad is: Liver Loving, Energizing, Detox-supporting, Cleanse-friendly, Nutrient-dense, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free (it is a salad!), Nightshade Free (if you omit the red pepper), Nut-free, and most importantly, Tasty.

 

Ingredients

Salad:

½ a head of radicchio, chopped

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

1 bunch/bag of spinach, stemmed (optional)

½ an English cucumber, sliced or cubed

1 red pepper, chopped

 

Dressing:

Juice of ~1 lemon

Olive oil ~1/3 cup

Celtic Sea Salt ~1 tsp

Optional: 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard; 1 clove garlic, pressed

 

Wash all vegetables well. Add the first two or three ingredients to a salad bowl and mix. Top with cucumber and pepper.

 

Mix dressing ingredients in small jar, close lid and shake to blend. Dressing ratio should be approx. 2/3 lemon juice to 1/3 oil, or half and half if you prefer a less acidic dressing. Adjust ingredients to taste.

 

Pour dressing over salad, toss, serve.

 

This salad is a great accompaniment to zucchini-salmon fritters or beef & lamb koftas.

urban herbalism: nettle joy

Mahalia Freed, ND

I live in the city.

10 minutes by public transit and I am in the downtown core. There is a highway very close to my house. And also, there are green spaces, and there are wild plants. Medicinal, weedy, wild plants. The blessing of using medicine from the earth, the beauty of it, is that the medicines we need are very often right in our (metaphorical) backyards.

Today I harvested wild nettles. I truly love nettles. They are not only a medicine I prescribe often – for everything from seasonal allergies to low iron – but they are delicious and nutritious as food. Allergic to spring pollens? Nettle tea to the rescue! Pregnant? Nourish with nettles! Gathering this particular weed, then, brings me great joy.

Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)

 

By their sting, nettles teach us to be fully present, fully aware of our bodies in space. If your mind wanders, and your shirtsleeve doesn’t entirely cover your forearm, nettle will bring you back with a sting that lasts and lasts. I was reminded. Thank you, nettle. If you are thinking about gathering nettles yourself: wear long sleeves, long pants, and gardening gloves, and make sure to pull the gloves up over your sleeves!

 

Because I was harvesting near home in a well-used public park, I happily engaged in quite a bit of impromptu herbal education. I answered people’s friendly queries as to why I was choosing to pick a stinging weed with musings on potential recipes I could choose for dinner, and I expanded on some of nettle’s uses in addressing inflammation, seasonal allergies, pregnancy, and more. I learned from one woman passing by that she grew up eating nettles in India (different species, same idea), and another couple paused their workout to tell me about a raw nettle eating competition in England (don’t do it. Remember, it stings!)

 

transporting the urban nettle harvest

 

Wildcrafting guidelines teach that one should never harvest things that are endangered or rare in the area in question. Pick plants that grow abundantly, and then take no more than 30% of the stand in that place. But please, harvest only what you will use. Depending on the plant, a little may go a long way. Lucky for me and the other urban harvesters, nettle is prolific. I harvested nearly the maximum I could fit in my bike’s panniers, which in this patch was maybe 2%.

 

 

Drying Nettle

A Wildcrafting ND’s Office

While in the past I have preferred to dry herbs spread out on a screen, our current space doesn’t allow for this. Hanging herbs in bunches is another easy, reliable way to dry them in any (indoor, ventilated) space. I strung some twine across the bay window in my treatment room, and tied bunches of 5-9 stalks across it. When that row was full, I moved onto the hallway.

 

Prep Tip

Gather any loose leaves and put them aside for dinner. If the loose leaves don’t add up to enough for your pesto or soup or frittata or sauté plans, keep some stalks aside. Wearing your gloves (you always wear gloves when handling raw nettles!), grasp the stalk near the top and strip off the leaves from top to bottom. They should come off easily this way. Strip as many stalks as you & your crisper drawer need. If you aren’t using them all right away, store fresh nettles in the fridge in a plastic bag, like most produce.

 

Wild Nettle Pesto with Rice Linguini

Ingredients

  • ~5 cups fresh raw nettles
  • 2-4 cloves raw garlic, finely chopped or pressed (4 was intensely garlicky)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts (or sunflower seeds or almonds)
  • 1 tsp celtic sea salt, or to taste
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • Pasta of choice (I used organic brown rice “linguini-style” noodles, and made enough for two generous servings of pasta. We have pesto leftover)

 

Preparation

Nettle Pesto

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Wearing gloves, add your nettles to the water to blanch them. Simmer 1-3 minutes, then remove and drain off excess water. Reserve the nettle-blanching water to cook the pasta. Add pasta to the boiling water. While pasta is cooking, roughly chop your squeezed out nettles and measure them. You should have about 2 cups now. If not, adjust other ingredients as needed. Dump nettles into a food processor along with pressed garlic, olive oil, sea salt and nuts/seeds. Process until smooth-ish. Add lemon juice and process again. Taste it. Isn’t it delicious? Adjust seasonings as desired. I ran out of olive oil so I increased the nuts, and then had to add salt to balance out the bitterness in the walnuts. Delicious results, though!

 

Dump cooked, drained pasta into a big bowl, and toss with pesto to generously coat. Add more pesto. People never use enough pesto.

Top with whatever you fancy and have on hand.

Nettle Pesto Linguini with Grilled Chicken & Sun-dried Tomatoes

 

My choice today: chopped leftover grilled organic chicken breast and sliced sundried tomatoes. Would also work with other leftover meat, grilled veggies, marinated tofu.

 

I gathered weeds instead of going grocery shopping today, and I had a delightful day. I highly recommend taking a week-day afternoon off from your to-do list, and getting to know a local weed. And your neighbours 🙂

 

Sesame Broccoli with Arame & Daikon

(Mahalia’s Recipe)

This recipe is a simple “side” that integrates a sea vegetable, Arame.  With the classic Japanese flavors of toasted sesame with soy sauce, this broccoli dish will disappear fast. Perfect to accompany broiled/roasted tempeh, fish or chicken with ginger-tamari marinade, this dish is fancy enough for a party and easy enough to be part of a weekday meal.

 

Continue reading

Lentil-Walnut Pate

Red Lentil-Walnut Pate

From Christina Pirello’s fantastic macrobiotic-style cookbook, “Cooking The Whole Food Way”

“This dip is rich and delicious, and will disappear fast at a party.”

“Pan-toasting the nuts instead of oven-roasting them gives a better flavour for this dish.”

 

Ingredients

Lentil Walnut Pate @ Real Food Daily, Los Angeles
Photo by IronChefVegan

  • 2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed well
  • 1 (2 inch) piece wakame, soaked and diced (I just crumble it and throw it in)
  • 4 cups spring or filtered water
  • Soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Generous pinch dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces, lightly pan-toasted
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Umeboshi vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar

 

Instructions

Place lentils, wakame, and water in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until lentils are very creamy. Season lightly with soy sauce (or sea salt) and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and basil and cook, stirring, 3-4 minutes or until softened. Set aside.

Transfer cooked beans, vegetables, walnuts, parsley and a dash of soy sauce (or salt) to a food processor (or add everything to the lentil pot & use a handblender). Puree until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a serving bowl and lightly sprinkle with umeboshi and balsamic vinegars. Mix well and serve surrounded with crackers or toast points. Delicious on slices of daikon radish.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

 

 

Happy Soup (aka Nettle & Fiddlehead Soup)

Happy Soup

Seriously, this is the happiest soup I’ve ever made or had the pleasure of consuming. There is no other way to describe it. Perhaps it is partially the virtuousness I feel, eating local, wildcrafted herbs & greens in season. Mostly, though, it is just a great, simple soup. Click here to learn more about nettles (and allergies), and here for more about fiddleheads.

Recipe

(Based on the suggestion of the Friendly Happy Guy from Forbes Wild Foods at Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh local fiddleheads, soaked and rinsed in a bowl of water several times, ends cut off.
  • 1 heaping, packed colander full of fresh wild stinging nettles, stems removed (remember to wear your gloves to avoid the sting!). (Sorry, didn’t weigh the nettles)
  • 2 onions, chopped (plus green onion, or the green shoots growing off an old onion if that happens in your house)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2-4 cups stock (I used veggie stock)
  • Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Saute onions & garlic in olive oil until tender. Add water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add cleaned fiddleheads and continue sauteing. Add a bit of stock. Wait a minute or few. Add nettles. Pour stock over nettles, and add water to just barely cover the greens. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, swirling/stirring to make sure nettles get wilted. About 10 minutes in, add the green onion. Add sea salt and maybe pepper. Blend. (I use a handblender, right into the hot soup in the pot).

Enjoy Happy Soup!

PS: some internet recipes for nettle soup swirl in cream at the end, but i really think this soup needs no enhancement.