Untame Your Life!

Quinoa ‘n Yucca with Chef Bob

May 31st, 2007

Chef Bob, featured in Wild Living with Sunny: episode 1, came over to help me weave the flavors of North and South America together. It’s almost the full moon, so I took advantage of all the sap running up the plants to harvest a not-yet-flowering Yucca whipplei stalk. We cut the stalk about a foot down from the top, where it went from flexible to not-so-flexible. Picked off the unopened flower buds and peeled the stalk like a big asparagus. Mixed with some red quinoa, bought from a fair-trade coop while I was in Cuzco, Peru, it made for a divine dish. You can see the small, bright green unopened buds, along with the chunks of peeled yucca stalk in the photo above. The spikes make for good toothpicks!

Here’s an example of a flowering yucca on the left, the emerging stalk with unopened flowers in the middle, and dead stalk on the right. I’m working on another videoblog with Chef Bob to create some powdered wild greens pasta with California sagebrush chicken sauce. So keep your eyes posted for that upcoming video.

Quinoa ‘n Yucca

1 T olive oil
1/4 c yucca stalk, peeled & diced
1/2 c yucca unopened flower buds
1/4 c chicken stock
1 T onion, finely diced
pinch salt & hot pepper powder
1/4 c quinoa

Saute onions until translucent. Add yucca stalk, unopened flower buds, stock and cover, slowly simmering for 10 minutes. Boil a small pot of water, then add quinoa to boiling water. Let cook about 11 minutes, strain in fine mesh strainer. Mix with yucca and enjoy! Serves 2.


Wild Living with Sunny: episode 1

May 29th, 2007

Sorry dial-up users…I’ve entered the world of videoblogging. This is the first, in what I hope to be a once-every-other-week show, about wild foods and sustainable lifestyle topics. This first show has all sorts of flubs; like forgetting you can’t shoot vertically (sorry Chef Bob it cuts your head off when rotated back to horizontal), not being able to stop the acid-trip-looking rotation once I got it going, crazy background noise, etc. But, that only leaves room for improvement. I’ll continue to post on the blog, but am excited to spend more time working with video. FYI, this website is best viewed using Mozilla/Firefox web browser.

My good friend Chef Bob, highlighted in this video, started cooking at 7 years old. His transylvanian gypsy grandmother let him start playing around with flour and by the time he was 9 he was carrying around application materials for the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) – which he later attended. He currently calls himself a ‘Chefalebrity’, and works as a private chef in Malibu. I’m excited to work more with him on wild and local food recipes…he is definitely a man of flavors. Here is his recipe for the dish highlighted in the video.

Acorn ‘n Sagebrush Chicken

3 chicken breasts, cut in 1” pieces
4 T acorn flour
1 t California sagebrush, dried
1 t hot red pepper powder
1/4 c olive oil
1 c yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c cleaned artichoke hearts, cut in 2” pieces
1/3 c carrots, chopped
3 c CA sagebrush chicken stock
1/2 c zinfendel, or red wine
2 t acorn flour
salt & pepper to taste

Cut chicken in 1” pieces. Place in medium sized bowl and mix in acorn flour, california sagebrush, and hot red pepper powder. Put oil in large soup pot and put on medium-low heat. Carmelize the dredged chicken for a few minutes, and then add your onion and garlic. Let this cook until the onions and garlic become translucent, about 4 minutes, and add the artichoke hearts and carrots. Stir for about a minute and add chicken stock. Let this mixture simmer on low, covered, for about 25 minutes. Liquid should be reduced and you can then pour in the wine. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle 2 t acorn flour on top. Mix in with desired salt & pepper and serve.

Please leave a comment about the film. Let me know what you liked or didn’t. I’m hoping to take the show on the road in the future, traveling to other parts of the country to highlight folks doing wild food, as well as other sustainable lifestyle stuff. If you have an idea for a future show, know someone doing something cool to highlight, or otherwise have suggestions, please leave a comment or pop me an email.


Fried Black Sage Leaves

May 28th, 2007

Have some leftover oil from making elderflower fritters? Have a recipe that calls for fried sage leaves? Step out your backdoor and you just might find some black sage (Salvia mellifera). This is a really common plant in this area, and I like to use the tender leaves sparingly in cooking. They’re good flash fried with a healthy dose of salt sprinkled on top when done.

Black sage contains anti-inflammatory compounds such as diterpenoids, aethiopinone and ursolic acid. Click here to read more info. The leaves in this photo I sprinkled on top of a beet salad marinated in vinaigrette.


Mariposa Lily Tubers

May 21st, 2007

The Mariposa Lily is an elegant little plant….but it’s got some substance! Found in the grasslands and coastal sage of the Santa Monica Mountains, we are at the tail end of its flowering period. Mariposa means butterfly in spanish, and there was a large swallowtail butterfly flying around as I took the photo.

Pictured is the Catalina Mariposa Lily (Calochortus catalinae). They have a delicious edible tuber that is really starchy…kind of like potato or corn. The state flower of Utah is the related Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii), raised to that status because of its importance in Mormon’s survival. During the early years in Utah, the Mormon’s were taught by native folks of its edibility, and it was eaten in great quantity.

I have heard that native people in this area cut large areas of grass and then rolled it up, picking out the tubers from below. This method allowed the tubers to be thinned and actually increased productivity. The ground is incredibly dry and crumbly here now, so you must dig the plants individually. There are many endangered mariposa lilies, and I would encourage you to sow seeds for future generations before harvesting the plant. I have only gathered a few handfuls of the tubers. They can be eaten raw or cooked. I would love more information about this plant from readers.


California Sagebrush Roasted Chicken

May 17th, 2007

This simple roasted chicken has turned into one of my favorite meals. California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) is a common plant in the chaparral, and can be used fresh or dried in this recipe. The Chumash call the plant khapshikh and say it brings back pleasant memories. It has certainly created some new ones for me. This is not an herb to consume daily, but I think its light/silver green leaves can be safely added in small amounts to the diet.

California Sagebrush Roasted Chicken

one whole chicken
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 c fresh California sagebrush, or 1/8 c dried
2 t salt

Preheat oven to 425°. Clean chicken and pat dry. Sprinkle salt on top of bird, then butter (cut into chunks) and California sagebrush. Cook for roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes…or until thoroughly cooked. I usually take it out about every 15 minutes to baste.


Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

May 16th, 2007

I had been hanging on to a little thread of hope that we would get some rain and I would find some motherload of mushrooms here in Topanga Canyon. I wanted the thrill of coming into an old shady oak grove to find chanterelles….but I’ve finally let it go. This is poised to be the driest year in California history….not really mushrooming weather. Above is my last store of dried morel mushrooms I had brought from Minnesota, wrapped in a California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) crepe. I ate them in honor of that crazy fungi kingdom and fun guy Paul Stamets. I was lucky to hear Paul speak here in LA a few weeks ago at Farmlab.

Paul believes we need to engage mycelium to help repair much of the damage we’ve inflicted upon nature. Mycelium are in every landscape in the world, and could be used to a much larger degree in habitat restoration and bioremediation. He has a visionary book called Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, which you can purchase on his website. Did you know that the common button mushrooms, as well as portabellas found in grocery stores, contain the same dangerous carcinogens as those produced when you smoke cigarettes? And that mushrooms in general contain more vitamin D than any land-based organism, with the ability to enhance that vitamin D content further by leaving them in the sun with the gills facing up for 2 days.

Daryl Hannah did a video blog on Paul through her site dhlovelife.com. Watch her cool little video of Paul by clicking here.


Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

May 15th, 2007

The creators of the 100-Mile Diet, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, have come out with their memoir of eating locally for one year. The book Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally can be purchased on links through their website. The February chapter of the book highlights Alisa’s stay with me, and visit with others participating in the Local Food Challenge, in Minnesota. It was wonderful to share stories with Alisa, and to feel the comradarie of a fellow local foodie.

It’s always interesting to see yourself through the lens of another. Being that I have the opportunity to clarify a few things though, I will take it. The very first quote is something that I never said. I didn’t butcher the roosters in the fall….and I certainly would never derive pleasure from killing an animal. My Dad was not of the beatnik generation, and it was the flower petals of the wild rose I said could be made into jelly, not the hips. And all this crap about Mayan prophesies was a conversation piece…not a centerpiece of my, or my friends and colleagues, lives. My vibe is not about preparing for the end of the world, but rather to actively participate in birthing a world-wide transformation to deep ecology. This is a non-fiction book, but our lives are stories and those stories are open to the imaginations of the storytellers. Those few things aside, I am so very grateful to Alisa and James for their work. They have, and continue, to open their lives…exposing ever larger numbers of people to the impacts of their food choices.

Here’s an excerpt from that February chapter: “These were the kind of people who could survive in the wilderness with just the clothes on their backs and a knife; Steve even made his own knife. What I learned from these folks wouldn’t necessarily translate into my urban life – to begin with, packing a blade in the city sends a totally different message. The lessons of Minnesota, however, might just turn the “impossible” into the thoroughly real.”


Acorn Black Walnut Bread

May 14th, 2007

There one minute…..

gone the next! This acorn black walnut bread was a huge hit at Saturday’s Wild Food Workshop. Topped with butter we made ourselves, it was gone in about 5 minutes. One participant even emailed me later to say eating this bread was a religious experience! This recipe comes from my foraging friend Sam Thayer Price.

Acorn Bread

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c acorn flour (I used cold-processed southern live oak acorns)
1/4 c milk
1 c maple syrup (I used agave nectar)
1 c crumbled canned persimmons (I used applesauce)
1/2 c crumbled black walnuts (I used about 3/4 c)
1 T baking powder
1/8 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 eggs (great reason to double the recipe!)

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix flours and baking powder in small bowl. Combine milk, agave nectar, applesauce, vegetable oil and eggs in large mixing bowl. Mix well and stir in dry ingredients…adding black walnuts at the end. Pour into small, buttered breadpan and cook for roughly 45 minutes.


Elderblow Fritters

May 14th, 2007

Grandmother Elder, you have sooo much to teach us! This is one of the most magical plants, in great abundance, to us all. Found throughout Topanga Canyon, this is the large shrub/small tree loaded with white blossoms right now. We have the Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) here, and its uses are many. I’ll have many more posts, which will include more about its use as food, medicine, music and utility. Below is a photo of the flowers, also notice the compound leaf to the left. Harvest just behind where all the stems of the flower umbrel come together. That way they stay together and can be used as a handle when dipping, frying and eating. I also dry large quantities of these flowers to make into tea during flu season. Use one teaspoon of dried flowers to one and one half cups of boiling water. Let steep at least 10 minutes, covered, strain out the flowers and add honey and lemon if so desired. Drink once per day, for first 3-5 days of cold or flu.

We had a fun group of people for the wild food workshop here in Topanga Canyon on Saturday. We went out and identified and harvested many plants availabe right now. We then prepared a feast of acorn black walnut bread, california sagebrush chicken, MN hand-harvested wild rice, South River Dandelion Leek Miso with ice plant, sow thistle greens/buds/flowers, calendula flowers, mallow leaves and cheeses, wild mustard flowertops, and wild arugula. We also made teas of sticky monkey flower and blackberry tops. Our final menu item was elderblow/elderflower fritters. I made a very simple tempura batter, so that people could taste the full flavor of the flowers.

Elderblow Fritters

1 egg
1 c cold water
1 c flour
oil for frying

Beat egg, then add cold water. Slowly add flour and mix until no lumps remain. Hold the flower stems as a handle and dip flowerheads into batter. Put into hot oil and cook until they just begin to turn golden. Enjoy hot!


Wild Mustard Vinegar

May 11th, 2007

Check out that bee’s back leg! It looks like its bubble is about to burst. This bee has trapped a fine amount of pollen into what I think is its leg pouch. While they gather nectar from the blossoms, they also get some pollen into their leg pouch to bring back to the hive to feed to the larvae. The pollen that sticks to their leg hairs helps to pollinate other plants. Bees are not the only pollinators on the planet though, click here to read more about the birds, bats, butterflies, moths and others who all play a part in fertilizing 3/4th’s of our food supply. When I found this patch of wild mustard there were well over a hundred bees buzzing around. That buzzing, that buzzing! It felt like their wings were going to buzz me to someplace I’d never been buzzed to before.

These wild mustard flower tops make for a very jazzy herbal vinegar. I picked those flower tops and added about 1/8 cup flower heads per 1 cup apple cidar vinegar. Ha’s Apple Farm makes wonderful unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. They sell their products at various farmer’s markets in the LA area, and also market them on their website. Making herbal vinegars is fun and easy to do, but be sure to put your mixture into a clean jar, with no metal lid (vinegar will react with the metal – or put wax paper between metal lid and jar). Soak plant material for about a month and then strain it out.