“SOL” – a play on words connecting the Spanish word for “sun” with the acronym for “Sustainable, Organic, Local” – has come to be something of a slogan, a rallying cry for Slow Food Movement. There are good reasons to eat food that is all of that, but it is also important to remember that all three parts of SOL are not synonymous. Food can be sustainable and organic but – like the Himalayan Black Rice in this dish (the only thing local about it was the fact that the rice was sitting in my cupboard, highly locally) – come from half way around the world with all of the transportation costs (monetary and environmental) that comes with it.
One way to pretty much insure that you are eating something that is Sustainable, Organic and Local is to forage it for yourself from your local environment. Foraging – the “gathering” in the old notion of a “hunter-gatherer” – if done by individuals and families for their own consumption (as opposed to commercial foraging) is inherently sustainable and definitionally local and almost certainly organic. In that sense, foraging for your own food is the ultimate in Sustainable, Organic and Local.
Our adventures in foraging began several weeks ago with Stinging Nettles, an ingredient that has featured previously in this space (http://sdfoodtravel.com/california-cuisine-bisque-of-suzies-farm-stinging-nettles/). At the Sunday farmer’s market in Hillcrest we asked Joe Rodriguez, the owner of JR Organics, our CSA about the availability of Nettles.
Joe told us that Nettles grew like weeds – mostly because that’s exactly what they are – on the farm and suggested we come up and get some. We decided to take him up on the offer.
On the way up to the farm we spoke by phone with Joan E. Marrero, the CSA Director, and she suggested that we also consider grabbing some “malvo.” I’d never heard of the stuff. Through the wonder of modern technology, though, we managed to figure out it was the same as “Mallow” and get some pictures of the leaves to help us identify it in the field. As Joe had said, the Mallow and the Nettles grew like weeds in the farm’s otherwise ordered fields. Once harvested, the careful rows belonged to these weeds.
After our successful farm “foraging” expedition it occurred to us that if Mallow and Nettles grew like weeds in North San Diego County they probably also grew like weeds elsewhere. Our first, more local expedition was to Maple Canyon, less than a mile from our house in Mission Hills:
We were right. On a walk up through Maple Canyon and then back down through a related canyon under the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge we found no shortage of Mallow. We foraged more than enough for a meal of Stuffed Mallow Leaves. On the way home, Nancy turned to me and said: “Hey, its not like we need more Mallow tonight, but do you think there’s some on our property?” In fact there was — and Nettles too — sustainable and organic vegetables that could not possibly have been more local to us!
Stuffed Mallow Leaves with Himalayan Black Rice,
Mushrooms and Lemon Hollandaise
- 24 large Mallow (or grape) leaves, blanched
- Juice of three lemons (more if necessary)
For the Filling
- 2 cups Himalayan Black Rice (also called “Forbidden Rice”)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced in quarter moons
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- 15 button mushrooms, diced
For the Lemon Hollandaise
- 175 grams of butter (about a stick and a third)
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the filling. Either in a rice cooker or on the stovetop, boil the rice in 4 cups of chicken stock until done. Sauté the onion until translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms begin to lose their texture. Refrigerate to cool.
Stuff the Leaves. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Place about a tablespoon of the filling in the bottom third of the mallow leaf. Starting with the bottom of the Mallow, fold the bottom two lobes toward the center over the filling. Next, fold the two sides of the leaves toward the center over the top. Compact the package and, holding the two sides with your fingers, continue rolling it on to itself, jelly roll-style. Continue rolling the dolmas until all of the mallow and/or filling is utilized, placing them in a baking pan as each is completed.
Bake the Dolmas. Squeeze the lemon juice all over the stuffed Mallow leaves through a strainer (to catch the pits). Place the baking pan with the dolmas in the oven and backe until completely cooked through (about half an hour to forty minutes). If the pan gets too dry squeeze some more lemon over the dolmas.
Make the Lemon Hollandaise Sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, skimming any froth from the surface and discard. Meanwhile, in the top of a double boiler over low heat (with water in the lower section), whisk the yolks and 2 tablespoons of water in a separate saucepan 2-3 mins, until the egg mixture is frothy and the whisk leaves a trail behind as you whisk. With one hand drizzle a steady but very slow stream of the butter into the eggs, whisking well after each addition. Avoid using the milky butter whey from the base of the saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Make certain the double boiler is over the lowest possible heat and set aside the sauce, whisking periodically to keep it from breaking. If it does break, add several drops of water (or a bit of ice) and whisk vigorously.
- Plate the Dish. Arrange three to four dolmas on each plate and drizzle with the lemon hollandaise sauce.