My foray into foraging…

(Friendly caveat: I’m not advising anyone to forage. This blog post is about my experiences as a novice forager.)

Within the last six months, I’ve gotten into eating wild food. More importantly, I’ve learned the joys of sustainably foraging. As a lot of you know, organic gardening is a huge part of my life.  Eating with the seasons, caring for the health of our Mother Earth, and growing the food that nourishes my little family is an inherent part of my identity. Foraging is just another facet of that. 

I have a wonderful friend who is from the Appalachians. She has a degree in biology, she’s an organic farmer, a homesteader, and a consummate steward of our planet. She knows more about our local flora and fauna than anyone I know. Megan is teaching me how to identify edible fruits and plants and how to harvest them sustainably. If I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t be foraging. It can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing or where it’s legal to do so.

I’ve learned enough to do some basic foraging for things that are pretty easily identifiable. 

So far, I’ve found wild ramps…

…morel mushrooms…

…tasty little wild strawberries…

…and wild black raspberries…

Recently I’ve spotted some sweet patches of blackberry bramble, and I’m salivating at the thought of eating them still warm from the sun. 

Foraging is the ultimate way to eat with the seasons. It’s exciting, it’s cost-effective, it’s a wonderful way to get outside, but it’s imperative to be safe. Eating things that grow wild can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Go with a knowledgeable guide or do a lot of reading on the subject before eating something you’re not sure of. And if you’re not sure, DON’T EAT IT. And don’t forage on private lands or in parks that prohibit it. And don’t eat things from roadsides or other places that have been sprayed with herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. (I know I’ve mostly just said “don’t,” but this is about my experiences as a novice forager and advice I was given.) 

I just want you to be safe, my lovelies. 

Until next time,

Jenna the Happy Forager

It’s Comfort Food Time: Rustic, Organic, and Spicy Chicken Cacciatore

20131001-095000.jpgIt’s finally October. Comfort food is screaming my name. I want potatoes, crust, gravy and/or egg noodles with everything…for about a week until I want a salad again. But, for now, break out the deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot because it’s time for (drumroll, please) Chicken Cacciatore!

This is one of those dishes that’s rustic and forgiving. The tomatoey, herby, gravy is just perfect. (Did I mention you’ll only need one pot?) I took the basic components and steps of this classic braised Hunter’s Chicken, and made it my own. I’m picky; I admit it.

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 organic skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 8 ounce package of organic button mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 organic jalapeños, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups organic all-purpose flour (skip this ingredient for gluten-free)
  • Sea Salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Dried thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can of peeled plain organic whole Roma tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Fresh chives
  • Canola oil

Method:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

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Dredge lightly in flour. (Skip this if you’re gluten-free.)

In a heavy-bottomed, large skillet, add about two tablespoons of canola oil and turn heat to medium-high. Once the oil comes to temperature, place the chicken skin side down in the pan.

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Turn each piece over after 3-4 minutes. The skin should be golden brown.

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Let cook for another 3-4 minutes and transfer the chicken to a separate plate.

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Using the same skillet, without wiping out all of the good stuff, add the onions, garlic, jalapeños, and mushrooms. Also add a few cracks of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.

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Sauté for about 5 minutes while stirring often. The veggies should just start to brown. Add the thyme. I add about 1.5 teaspoons, but you could add more or less depending on what you like.

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Add the tomatoes you’ve lovingly crushed with your bare hands. Give it a good stir. (Side note: I got this all over my dress, so crush with care.)

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Let this come to a simmer and turn the heat down to medium. Let simmer for about five minutes with the lid on, and then add the browned chicken.

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I like to spoon the sauce over the top at this point.

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Let the chicken braise on low with the lid on for another 8-10 minutes. I know this may seem like a lot of time, but the chicken will come to nearly fall from the bone and the flour will thicken the sauce. (For gluten-free folks, you could add a bit of cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce at this point.) Don’t cut this short. Believe me, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your patience.

I like to serve one chicken thigh with a ton of gravy and veg over buttered egg noodles and then garnish with fresh chives.

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If you’re gluten-free, you could serve this with whipped potatoes or gluten-free noodles. It’d be just as good!

Happy October, everyone!

Sun Dried Tomato & Garlicky Mushroom Pizza

Tonight was pizza night. We do this every week, but tonight we did something a little different. First, we made beer crust. Second, Celeste was our dinner guest…and photographer. We used our Zojirushi bread machine to mix and knead the dough to perfection, and, believe me, it’s worth the investment. We sautéed mushrooms, rolled the dough, preheated the pizza stone, chopped the sundried tomatoes, made the sauce, and voila! PIZZA! There were a few steps in between that I’ve left out, so let me know if you’d like the details…but, hey, it’s late, and I have to work in the morning. Thank you, Celeste, for this photo. As you would say, “I wish people could smell this.”

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