Simply Wild: Forage Recipes Garlic Mustard Pesto on Crisp-Creamy Polenta Yields: 4 servings Leda Meredith, author of The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles, says, “Wild food aficionados may roll their eyes when they see that I’m including this recipe because pesto is used as the go-to recipe for this plant so often that it’s become a cliché. But there’s a reason for that: it’s really, really good.
Buttered Cattail Shoots With Peas and Mint Yields: 4 servings This is a riff on the traditional English springtime dish of lettuce wilted in butter with peas and mint. The pleasingly mild flavor of the cattail shoots stands in for the lettuce. Stick with just the whitest parts of the shoots for pure tenderness or include some of the pale green bits if you want a sturdier dish. 2 Tbsp unsalted butter 3 cups cattail shoots, chopped ½ cup water 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled peas (if frozen, defrost them first) 2 Tbsp fresh mint, minced Salt and freshly ground black pepper Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the cattail shoots and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the cattail shoots are tender and most of the water has evaporated. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve warm.
“You can toss garlic mustard pesto with pasta, of course, but a spoonful added to soup just before serving is also wonderful, as is a smear of it on focaccia or toast. My favorite way to enjoy garlic mustard pesto is on pan-fried polenta that is crispy on the outside and creamy within.” 2 cups fresh garlic mustard leaves and tender stems 3 Tbsp walnuts or pine nuts, chopped 1 tsp garlic, minced (wild or cultivated) ¼ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2 Tbsp butter 8 slices (½-inch-thick) cooked polenta Put the garlic mustard leaves, nuts and garlic into the blender or food processor. Pulse until the leaves are chopped.
Add the cheese. With the motor running, add ½ cup of oil a little at a time until the mixture is well blended, but not completely smooth. (You want a bit of texture from the nuts and greens to remain.) Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the polenta slices. (You can use the precooked polenta that comes out of a tube, or if you cooked some from scratch, spread it out ½-inch thick on a baking sheet and refrigerate until sliceable.) Don’t try to move the polenta slices until they’ve browned on the bottom side. You’ll know that’s happened when they dislodge easily. Use a spatula to flip them over and brown the other side. Plate two slices per person, with the garlic mustard pesto spread on top. Serve hot or at room temperature. Tip: If you want to keep this pesto in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to six months, blanch the garlic mustard greens in boiling water for 20 seconds, then immediately run them under cold water or dip them in an ice bath. Squeeze out as much water as you can, then proceed with the recipe. This blanching step prevents the pesto from losing its bright green color and turning brown in cold storage.
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