Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Service With a Simile

I'm gearing up for spring, as the daylight hours grow visibly longer and my mood, once as dark as the moonless night, brightens like a dog who hears the treat bag rustling. I'm making plans for meals in the months to come the way Martha Stewart must have been scribbling menus in jail, waiting for the day she'd be sprung free as a lark and hungry like the wolf.
Shortly before Valentine's Day, Cranky and I went foraging, more avid than Euell Gibbons on cheap absinthe, for sour grass and miners' lettuce. I blogged about the sour grass, and received assurances from a couple of knowledgeable food people that I'd be just fine using it in soup... but I chickened out, and the bag of (oh, let's be honest here and call a weed a weed) weeds went out in this morning's trash, so wilted it was pathetic (well, it was picked more than a week ago). Surprisingly, no more wilted than most of the slime in my crisper drawer — but hey, that's why it's a weed. It will probably survive global warming and nuclear meltdown, same as Velveeta and cockroaches.
However, we did make good use of the miners' lettuce, and since I've been as busy as a ho' on nickle night learning little new CSS and HTML secrets, I haven't been active in the kitchen (or using my camera much), so I'm going to put up the old picture I took of it.
We served the miners' lettuce dressed with a beet-vinaigrette, and watch out, because I learned the hard way that beet juice stains clothes worse than Mrs. Macbeth's dog (and keep it far, far away from your raw oysters). Alongside the salad was a simple soup based on pork broth (I just swiped a bone and shreds of meat from an uncooked pork chop, and stewed it in water for a while — easy as hell); the soup was tinted red, as you can see.
The best part, at least because of the holiday it was meant for, is that miners' lettuce has beautiful little leaves cuter than any old valentine.
Darn, my mind has more holes in it than Harry Whittington's face. I wanted to talk about this new book I bought yesterday, "Edible and Useful Plants of California," by Charlotte Bringle Clarke, a little guide more useful in the field than a pack of tissues in ragweed season, especially if you're hungry (and no, ragweed is not edible or useful, and is not in the book, and don't forget to take your Claritin). I learned that miners' lettuce is in season possibly through May — which happens to be the Eat Local Challenge month — so that's better than learning (in the new book) that even though wild celery looks and smells like domesticated celery, I probably better avoid it, because it also resembles poison hemlock, and you can never be too sure.
(Count the similes, and call my mom if I don't post for a few days...)

13 comments:

kudzu said...

No blisters at all, Cooks! You seem to have been inspired by your time bothering your head with all the techie stuff: the post is wonderful.

Today I went out in back of my house, wondering what I can do with all the super-powered vegetation that is not lawn or anything resembling it (lots of wild onion and non-native grasses and stuff my taxonomist friend tells me I MUST remove, even though I am renting). I found --- miner's lettuce! Yes!! How cool is that? It's right below the deer bed above a rock well, which has forget-me-nots now that they have gone back up the hill.

Spring isn't far off. Yer right.

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, dammit, Kudzu. I found out, upon reading this book (actually one of two books on foraging I consumed cover-to-cover yesterday, and Cranky thinks I don't read! The other was lent to me by Jen; A City Herbal by Maida Silverman) -- that at our old Mill Valley home, the weeds I'd been methodically yanking and bagging for Green Can Day were actually purslane. You're clucking to yourself right now: "Poor, dumb Cookiecrumb."
And you have wild onion? I don't believe we had that in Mill Valley, and at least I know what it smells like...
Sounds like you landed in a really great location!

Tana Butler said...

I love the little green heart peeking over the bowl.

Kevin said...

Gad!

Cyndi said...

Okay, you with spring all around you--I came back from Hawaii to 6 inches of snow on the ground at my house. The irises that had mistakenly thought it was spring are now cringing underneath the snow, wondering what the hell happened to the warm weather. That's two things I miss about living "down below" - my vegetable garden and my peach tree.

Gustad said...

i'h hungry and i eat

Greg said...

I went foraging too. The parsley and mint are taking over the deck.Trade ya some mint for some miners lettuce.

cookiecrumb said...

Thanks, Tana! Kevin, I assume you're groaning over all those overwrought similes. Cyndi: You had snow! What's your elevation? You're near Berdoo? Gustad: Me too! Heh; maddening. Greg: The miners' lettuce is out Sir Francis Drake toward Olema, on an abandoned bridge. Me, I got mint and all that in pots on the patio.

b'gina said...

I found some miners lettuce when I was out doing some pics for future Herb Blogging Weekends. The plants are pretty puny, though, compared to the huge, luxuriant things we used to have.

I wish we had ramps out here. I never did get around to trying them when I lived on the East Coast.

Jamie said...

I strongly suspect that one of the most persistent weeds around our place might be purslane. Which may be why I can't tell if there are any purslane plants sprouting where I planted them, or whether those are just weeds. ;-)

Our yard is practically nothing but wild onions. That, and dandelions. 100% edible, I guess, if a body were desperate!

cookiecrumb said...

B'gina: They'll get bigger. But I think it's best to harvest miners' lettuce before it forms that little cup with the teensy flower inside (not that I could tell the difference in taste). Yeah, I got all caught up in ramps; even thought about ordering some online. Then I decided: Not local.
Jamie: Aargh, I'm still kicking myself over not recognizing the purslane. According to kudzu, there's supposed to be onion around here, but I have not found any. Hey, but as of today, I have a new-found respect for dandelion! :D (Why did that scene from Gone With the Wind just pop into my head?)

adagio said...

herb/weed? it's just a state of mind.

cookiecrumb said...

Hi Adagio: And right now I have a bag of dandelion leaves in the fridge... I say it's lettuce!