Episode 4 of the Wild Harvest is here, and it’s a love letter to gardens and wild places filled with the edible treasures of summer.
The beautiful landscapes and images go by nice and easy with Jesse behind the camera, but this episode was by far the most difficult we’ve done yet. The first three episodes were pretty straightforward–a lot of work, and difficult in their own way, but straightforward. If there’s one thing I know though, it’s that nature doesn’t always cooperate, and this episode gave us our first real curveballs.
Planning, scouting and forecasting takes a lot of work in itself, especially when we’re trying to get things quickly edited to press for viewers so they can go out and see some of the same things around them we work with in each episode. Blackcap raspberries evoke a lot of nostalgia for people, and we originally planned to feature them along with a recipe using elderflowers, both of which you’ll see in the opening portion of the show, but don’t end up getting into the final cut.
The blackcaps were bountiful when we were planning, but when the week of shooting came, the outlook was grim. Ten years ago, we probably would’ve scraped by, but unfortunately there’s an invasive fruit fly that now seems to be everywhere in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The fruit flies are very difficult to see with the naked eye, but the berries will seem to ripen too quick, or rot on the plant, which is uncommon. The berries still taste fine, but they may have a shorter shelf life, at first glance it doesn’t seem too bad. Opening up a few of the “extra ripe” berries though will show you something you can’t unsee: writhing, wriggling fruit fly maggots, tearing through the drupes and slowly eating them from the inside out. It sucks. I don’t know if the wild blackberries that come afterword have it too, but raspberries and blackcaps definitely are heavily predated in our area by them. So, with the black caps dwindling and the only attractive ones left being in my freezer, we had to switch gears the week of shooting to look at wild blueberries, which meant doing another separate day of shooting in a remote section of the Pine Barrens where the bluebs were popping.
Turning on a dime because of some larvae filled berries was only one curveball though. I’d been coordinating with one of my old chefs who’s a talented fisherman, and he’d agreed to bring us to a beautiful class A trout stream to do some morning filming and (hopefully) catching. We’d already done some direct to camera work with the chanterelles talking about the dish they’d be featured in that included trout, so our chips were all in on the trout stream shooting. Wouldn’t you know it though, a little bit before we were supposed to film, I got a message from my old chef: 11 days prior to filming, he’d been at a barbecue with another old chef friend of mine, and that guy was now hospitalized with COVID 19. Joy.
The odds were probably that everything would be ok, but, it wasn’t worth the risk, so we had to figure something else out, preferably with freshwater fish, and quickly. I thought back to my old line cook days and remembered a dish I used to make for a certain bartender who loved to eat, wrapping fish in blanched leaves and grilling them, sometimes with a mousse or something stuffed in between the leaves and fish. It’s a pretty cool way to cook pieces of flaky whitefish like walleye, which would be a mess otherwise, falling apart (and into) the grill. Add a handful of chanterelles and a few young squash and their blossoms, and it’s a great summer dish.
The other two dishes are also old favorites. The lambs quarters salad is one I’ve discussed a couple times, and they make a great backbone for a wild-inspired salad, especially when the scarlet bee balm is blooming. The wild blueberries sottobosco with sweetfern creme anglaise inspired by the pine barrens I mentioned last week, since it’s special and needed it’s own post. Enjoy the show.
Lambs Quarters Salad with Scarlet Bee Balm
- Tender leaves and small clusters of lambsquarters at least 50% of the total volume of the salad
- Mixed wild or cultivated greens, to taste Purslane, nasturtium greens, lettuces, torn mustard greens, etc
- Edible flowers, to taste (optional) Borage, sochan petals, etc, choose some of your favorite
- A few leaves of fresh torn basil, to taste Cilantro, parsley, lemon balm and mint are good substitutes
- Scarlet bee balm flowers (optional)
- Flavorful oil to taste (I used acorn oil, but extra virgin olive or your favorite salad oil would be fine)
- Vinegar or lemon juice to taste
- Maple syrup to taste
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Wash the lambs quarters and other greens in cold water, then spin the greens dry, or roll them up in towels. It's nice to have some small clusters of lambsquarters, but if you want only leaves, that's fine too.
- Toss the greens in a salad bowl with a few torn leaves of basil or other herbs to taste then dress lightly with a spoonful of oil, a dash of maple syrup and vinegar to taste, then salt and pepper.
- Toss the salad gently, then taste, adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve. Garnish with a few scarlet bee balm flowers and other flowers, if using.
Walleye Wrapped in Sqaush Leaves with Chanterelles and Squash Blossoms
- 24 oz boneless walleye fillets
- 2 egg whites beaten
- 4 large squash leaves or other leaves like sunflower
- Fresh chopped herbs like dill or cilantro, optional
Chanterelles and pan sauce
- 12 oz fresh chanterelle mushrooms preferably left whole
- Squash blossoms a few per person, preferably with small squash attached
- Fresh lemon juice to taste
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper pepper
- A few teaspoons of cooking oil for greasing the fish packages
- 4 oz Unsalted butter
- For the walleye, I like to take a regular filet and remove the bones making a Y cut. Only the top, thick section of the filet is used, and the rest of the meat near the belly is used for something else, like making chowder. This is optional, as long as your filets are boneless, do what you like.
- Blanch the greens in boiling water for a few seconds to wilt them, then cool, press dry, and lay them vein side up on a cutting board. brush the greens with beaten egg white, then put on the fish filet, season with salt, pepper, and the fresh herbs, then roll them up into a package and reserve.
- Heat a grill.
- Lightly oil the fish packets, then grill on both sides until well colored and the fish is just done.
Chanterelles and squash
- Meanwhile, heat the chanterelles in a large pan with a pinch of salt until they give up their juice and start to color. If the squash blossoms have attached small squash, score them deeply to decrease their cooking time.
- Add the butter, cook until it gets nutty smelling and the chanterelles are cooked through. Add the squash blossoms and barely cook, then add a generous squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle the chanterelles and butter over the finished fish that have been cut on a diagonal and arranged attractively on a plate. Arrange the squash blossoms around the fish and mushrooms and serve.
Wild Blueberries with Sweetfern Sauce and Hazelnut Amaretti
- 4 cups fresh wild blueberries and serviceberries, preferably never having seen a refrigerator washed and cleaned, and picked over for stems, or a combination of fresh berries: raspberries, blueberries, groundcherries, etc, use your imagination
- 1 recipe sweet fern crème anglaise recipe follows
- 1 recipe hazelnut amaretti recipe follows
- Fresh lemon juice a few dashes to taste
- Crush the amaretti into pieces, assuming about 2 tablespoons per person (save some cookies to eat whole!).
- Toss the blueberries with the lemon juice, then divide the blueberries between 6 serving bowls drizzling each serving with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Sprinkle the crushed amaretti over the top and serve.
Hazelnutties (Hazelnut Amaretti)
- 1.5 large egg whites
- ¾ cups sugar
- 1.5 cups hazelnut meal
- Pinch of finely ground salt
- Do your best to measure 1.5 egg whites, it’s not an exact science, It’s just hard to make small batches of these cookies as you don’t need a lot of moisture to hydrate the dough (you can also double the recipe and use 3 eggs).
- Mix all ingredients until a dough forms, then allow to rest for 15 minutes to hydrate.
- Preheat the oven to 300, and drop generous teaspoons of batter onto a baking sheet. Roll each teaspoon into an even ball, then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned, then remove from the oven to cool.
Sweet Fern Crème Anglaise
- ¾ cup cream
- ¾ cup half and half
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon finely ground dried sweet fern nutlets
- Tie the ground nutlets in a cheesecloth packet for easy removal. Heat the cream, half and half, and dried sweet fern nutlets until steaming and cool. When the sauce tastes pleasantly of sweetfern, discard the packet of nutlets.
- Meanwhile, bring the maple syrup to a boil and cook for two minutes, then pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- While the syrup is still warm, beat it with the egg yolks until light in color.
- Whisk 1/3 of the cream mixture into the egg yolk-maple mix, then whisk in the rest. Transfer the mixture back to a saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon, until the mixture barely coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
- It’s important to take your time cooking the crème anglaise, as if the heat gets too hot it will curdle the yolks and make the sauce chunky. Even if you do curdle the yolks though, you can strain it and it will be ok. Chill the sauce completely before serving to give it time to thicken. If you're in a pinch, stir it over a pan of ice.