On Mother’s Day, I just wanted to turn up the music, open the windows, forage for food, and make a meal to give my family. Ever since we finished most of the kitchen remodel, I have been deeply in love with just putzing around the kitchen, snipping a bit of this and chopping a bit of that, and marveling at the feel of being able to move around freely in a sunny nook that feels like my perch in a castle. I can’t get enough of it. And something has changed for me–I feel more inspired and more free in general as a cook. I’ve always loved to cook, but I have always had a general opposition to following recipes, which means that I have generally made everything up as I went along and ended up with sometimes good and sometimes bad results. Now, all the things that drew me to this house and this land come into full focus in the springtime: Food becomes entirely tied to what is growing outside. Everything fans out from there–what flavors fit together? What colors will come to life on the plate? What wild bits can I gather from our property and cull into a story on our table?
I have always had an internal narrator waxing and waning in my head. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing stories while I wander around living life. As a child, I spoke them out loud in a constant stream that probably drove my mom insane. As an adolescent after taking keyboarding class, I typed them in my head, writing sentences while on endless training runs, my fingers typing letters one by one as I ran. What’s funny is now I have a constantly running narrative with all of you: I imagine telling you how to wash an egg before making fresh mayonnaise, and how to snip a nettle without getting stung, and how to make sure you’re having fun and not getting stressed out (one favorite option: turn up the music, open the windows and feel the fresh air on your skin, pour a decadent glass of champagne and sip it slowly while sorting ingredients).
So, on Mother’s Day, I awoke thinking about macaroons and meringue. I drank dark, creamed coffee and planned out how I would make the meringue peaks form and how I would grind the hazelnuts after they roasted in the oven. I formed the macaroons one by one and baked them while setting out the meringue ingredients.
It was a quintessentially perfect Northwest day of weather: Birdsong on overdrive, flowers bursting forth in lush attack; sunlight in full lemony wash over everything. My mom and her boyfriend and my sister arrived before Noon and took the kids outside to cut flowers and forage for greens.
The menu was inspired by a Martha Stewart Living menu for Easter Brunch featured in the April 2017 edition. The meal looked so delectable, I thought maybe I could do a spin-off here. I switched out a bunch of things but kept the forager’s salad, the beautiful shallot vinaigrette (changed for my own tastes), and the meringue. Oh, man. It did not disappoint.
On the menu: Wild salmon caught off of the Northern Washington Coast with wild nettle pesto and a celery butter gravy; forager’s salad with baby dandelion greens and herb flowers; cabbage-mint slaw made with homemade farm-fresh egg mayonnaise; grilled Walla-Walla onions; buttery blackened russet potatoes; homemade coconut and coconut-chocolate macaroons; and a hazelnut meringue mess cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I’ve included a recipe for the forager’s salad below.
Brian took these amazing photos and made this slideshow. I hope you enjoy it and find your own moments of happy inspiration to share with your friends and loved ones in a favorite food spread someday soon!
Here’s my favorite, easy Forager’s Salad recipe that you can use today. The only requirement is that you choose dandelions that have not been treated with pesticides or herbicides, such as Round-Up, as these are dangerous to eat. If you plan to forage in a local park, be sure to check the rules of your local park department’s approach to weeds, or if you plan to forage in your own yard, make sure that you know the history of your yard before you proceed.
Wild Foraged Dandelion Salad
Simple ingredient list: Wild dandelion greens and flowers; shallots; red wine vinegar; white, blush, or sparkling wine; vegetable oil; olive oil; honey or sugar; flake sea salt; fresh ground pepper; freshly shaved Parmesan (if desired).
- Make this easy vinaigrette ahead of time. Note that all proportions are completely open to your own taste buds. I suggest starting with the smaller proportions and adding as you go. Change and iteration are encouraged!
- 2-3 Tablespoons minced shallots
- 3-4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon champagne, white wine, or blush wine (rose)
- 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or other mild vegetable oil
- 3 Tablespoons best olive oil you can find
- Pinch of Kosher salt or sea salt
- Small squeeze of honey or pinch of sugar
- Add all to a jar, such as a mini-Mason jar. Screw lid on securely. Shake vigorously. Set aside for at least 30-60 minutes to allow shallots to infuse dressing and reduce “bite” of their uniquely oniony flavor. Shake jar periodically to combine flavors.
- Forage in a safe place for your dandelion greens. These uniquely bitter, tender, edible greens are wonderful additions to any salad and offer some fabulous bonus health benefits, as well. Pick dandelion leaves and blooms until you have filled your salad bowl to overflowing. Notice how closely dandelion greens resemble some of our favorite domesticated lettuces.
- Pick other edible flowers as available: Purple chive flowers, small wild daisies, blue borage flowers, nasturtium if blooming.
- Fill your sink with cold water. Submerge leaves and gently agitate using tongs. Despite their hardy ability to stay put in your yard, dandelion leaves are fragile. Treat with care.
- Spin greens using a salad spinner or my grandma’s old-fashioned method: Pile the greens into a clean kitchen tea towel, step outside, and spin the towel by hand using a windmill motion with your arm until no more water escapes.
- Remove greens from stems by hand. Leave smaller, baby greens intact, stem included.
- Rinse flowers gently. Remove dandelion flowers from their stem and break up the flower into confetti-sized strands. Same for chive flowers.
- Add all to your salad bowl. Just before serving, mix vinegairette into greens and toss gently.
- Top with fresh-ground black pepper, flake sea salt (such as Maldon) and shaved Parmesan, if desired. Red pepper flakes add a pop of flavor and color, too.
- Serve alone or with soup for a light meal. Here’s a recent iteration of dandelion salad (on left) served with a nettle soup and a cabbage slaw.
Wishing you a day in the kitchen with the music blaring and the windows wide open, making and eating buckets of happiness.