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Nettle Infusion

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Recipes
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Next month the bright green nettles will burst from the ground. Spring will arrive and the abundant world of wild edibles will begin anew.

Early Spring Nettles

Early Spring Nettles

Until then, I have stores of dried plants and herbs to use up. One of my favorite winter drinks is nettle infusion.

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Tea, Infusion, Decoction - what’s the difference?

When we think of tea we probably think of a tea bag which turns hot water brown and delicious. In fact, “tea” is a term properly used only when making the tea from one plant, the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis. Depending on how it is prepared, if it is wilted and how long it is oxidized or fermented, depends on whether it will be white, green, oolong or black tea.

Today we also drink herbal tea, which though technically is not “tea” since it is made with plants other than Camellia sinensis, is still plants steeped in water, which imparts flavor and medicinal properties into the drink.

Infusions and Decoctions are stronger medicinal drinks. They take a bit more work to make and are deeply healing.

Infusions: boiling water is poured over plant matter - usually leaves and flowers. It is then covered and left to steep at least four hours if not overnight.

Decoctions: plant matter - often roots, sticks and seeds - is simmered in water on the stove for at least 30 minutes.  Chinese medicinal tea is usually cooked as a decoction, with any aromatic elements - like mint leaves - added at the very end, when the stove is turned off.

Nettle Infusion - Urtica dioica

  • Take a quart jar and cover the bottom with about 1/2 inch of dried nettles.
  • Pour boiled water over the nettles to fill the jar
  • Place the flat part of the lid over the top. I don’t screw the ring on, but I do cover the jar.
  • Let steep four hours to overnight.
  • Strain and enjoy, either heated or at room temperature.
  • Will keep for 3 days stored in refrigerator.

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add boiling water

Add boiling water

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

Nettles is a fantastic herb for overall health. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. I have heard herbalist call nettle infusion “green milk.” It is particularly great for pregnant and nursing women, though pregnant women should start in small amounts and may want to consult with their midwife first.

Nettles is also known to influence the kidneys. When there is low back pain, knee pain, weakness, infertility, ringing in the ears, graying hair due to kidney energy deficiency, nettles is a great herb to take.

In Chinese medicine the kidney meridian influences reproduction, development, bones, brain, teeth. It is responsible for the emotions of fear, resolve, will and wisdom. The kidneys also govern pre and post natal jing, which is the energy you inherit from your parents and pass on to your children: your genes and dna.

Food Under Foot’s David Sokulski recently met a man from North Africa living in America. He was in his 20s when he got very sick. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is the type you are born with. This used to be referred to as Juvenile Diabetes (but now thanks to our awful diets of processed foods and sugar kids are getting Type 2 Diabetes - which used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes.) Type 1 means your body does not make insulin. Only 5% of diabetes today is Type 1, and it is thought that diet does not influence Type 1 the way it influences Type 2.

He was put on insulin. His mother sent him dried nettles from North Africa and told him to drink a daily infusion of it. When he ran out he bought more here.  Soon his doctor needed to lower his insulin, then take him off completely. His Type 1 diabetes - thought to be incurable - was no longer showing up.

He continues to drink the nettle infusion. He worked up to three cups a day but developed a rash, so he backed off back to one cup a day.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT medical advice! Please do not remove or adjust ANY medications without consulting a doctor! It is simply an interesting true story about nettles I wanted to relay to you.

You can also add nettle infusion as a base for smoothies, soups, and risotto.

I also like to add dried nettles to soup and smoothies.

Enjoy your wild pantry! The sun is out today…I can tell spring is in the air!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot

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Morel Mushroom Risotto

General Posts, Recipes
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The other day my daughter was taking a winter survival class. The other two adults and I were standing around, talking wild edibles. I wondered aloud what I might do with the last of my dried morels. The leader of the course answered without hesitation: “Morel Risotto.”

He was right.

Dried Morels

Dried Morels

The key to this delicious vegan dish was using the broth made from reconstituting the morels.

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Risotto - vegan, gluten-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinced
  • handful dried morels, soaked in one cup very hot water. Save the broth.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cashew milk, watered down with 1 cup water
  • 2+ cups water as needed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: pine nuts for garnish

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

To reconstitute the morels:

  • Place dried morels in bowl.
  • Boil water
  • Pour at least a cup of water over morels.
  • Cover and let steep
  • Save broth
  • Take morels out when soft (about 1/2 hour), squeezing broth into bowl. You are saving the broth to use in the risotto.

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk, olive oil

Directions:

Risotto is made by cooking the rice slowly in liquid, added liquid in small amounts and letting the rice absorb it before adding more. This imparts great richness and flavor into the dish.

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in pan.
  2. Saute onion til soft, about 3-5 minutes, adding a bit of salt to help onion release its juices.
  3. Add fresh mushrooms, cook 3 minutes more.
  4. Add garlic and dried morels. Toss and saute a minute or so.
  5. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and stir to coat rice with the oil.
  6. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until rice dish has absorbed it.
  7. Once the broth is used, add watered down cashew milk (the cashew milk will thicken if you add it without watering.)
  8. Continue to add milk and water.
  9. Add liquid, stir, and cover to let the rice absorb liquid. You can also begin to add a little salt and pepper. You may have to add up to 2 more cups of water until rice is soft…I did!
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add garnish of pine nuts if desired. Enjoy!

This dish was AMAZING! I served it with salad and roasted sweet potatoes. I’m glad I still have one more handful of dried morels left!

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Now I’m anxiously awaiting morel season…still over 3 months away!

Enjoy the winter and your stores of dried edibles!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot

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Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Sunchoke Latkes!

Recipes
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Baked Sunchoke Latkes

Baked Sunchoke Latkes

Chanukah is just around the corner and while it may seem taboo to tamper with perfection of the fried-in-oil potato pancake, I’ve done it before (raw sweet potato latkes) I did it last year with sunchoke latkes made the traditional way (with egg, fried in oil)and now I’ve done it again: baked, gluten-free, oil-free, vegan sunchoke latkes!

Actually, latkes (potato pancakes) are very versatile and so much can be added to them, and they always turn out great. Chopped wild greens can be added (garlic mustard, nettles, and chickweed are my favorites), different veggies can be grated along with or instead of the potatoes (case in point: Jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes).

But can they be made without all that oil?

That is the question I tackled this year with the result: a resounding YES!

Latkes are traditionally fried in oil to represent the miracle of the oil: olive oil in the ancient temple was only enough to last one night, instead it lasted eight: a miracle! (There’s  a bit more to the story than that.) But do we really need to cook things in an excess of oil to celebrate?

This year I made three batches of latkes:

  1. potato and onion
  2. sunchoke, potato, onion
  3. potato, onion, chickweed, jalapeno and scallion

grated sunchoke tubers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large potatoes, grated
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 Tbsp chopped wild greens
  • 1/4 cup grated sunchokes
  • 2 - 3+ Tbsp flour of choice (I used buckwheat flour to keep these gluten free)
  • salt, pepper
  • chopped scallions, or garlic mustard or onion grass
  • chopped jalapeno (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper.
  • After grating potatoes, squeeze out excess liquid. Place in large bowl.
  • Mix in 3/4 grated onion.
  • Mix in 2 Tbsp of flour, salt and pepper.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the rest of onion  and flour with grated sunchoke tubers.  You can add a spoonful of the potato mixture, or keep it sunchoke only, up to you.
  • Form the sunchoke mixture into patties (you can use a 1/4 cup measure to keep amount consistant), then press on baking sheet to flatten into cakes.
  • Do the same using half potato batter.
  • With the rest of the potato batter, add the wild greens, scallions and optional jalapenos. Mix. Place these in on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 20 minutes more, until browned on both sides.

Serve with applesauce (I make my own raw applesauce by simply blending apples in my blender!)

Also serve with plain yogurt or sour cream (can use tofu or cashew sour cream to keep vegan.)

Easy tofu sour cream recipe:

Blend a block of silken tofu with a juice of one lemon.

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Enjoy a healthier version of a holiday favorite, while getting outside and foraging for fantastic ingredients, even in winter.

In fact, the ground is frozen here in Pittsburgh, yet I was still able to easily forage Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus) tubers. How? Because they are so close to the surface that I just took a metal gardening rake and pulled away some of the frozen soil from right near the base of the plant and voila - fresh sweet tubers were revealed! Here they are washed:

Sunchoke Tubers

Enjoy the weather, the woods and your holiday traditions!

Peace and Joy to all ~

~ Melissa from Food Under Foot

Some Quick Links:

~ Make sure you sign up for our free newsletter (green box right margin.) You’ll get 5 great ebooks free!! Happy Holidays! ~

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Wild Recipes for the Holidays

General Posts, Recipes
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Sunchoke Tubers

Sunchoke Tubers

One of my favorite winter wild edibles is Jerusalem Artichoke - or Sunchoke - tubers.

Jerusalem Artichoke is actually native to America, and is in the sunflower (not artichoke) family. Its botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus. - the sunflower known for its edible tuber.

Sunchoke Flowers

Sunchoke Flowers

The flowers bloom in the late fall, usually September and October. All through the winter, as long as the ground is not frozen solid, the tubers can be dug up and eaten - and they are delicious! They can be enjoyed raw (I like to grate them into salad) or cooked (I love to roast them in the oven.) They have a wonderful unique flavor that I crave during the winter!

Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be used in any recipe in place of potatoes, but be warned they have a slightly different consistency when cooked than potatoes, they are a little more watery. This is because the starch is different. Jerusalem artichokes contain the starch inulin, which actually helps regulate blood sugar making it an excellent food for diabetics, or anyone with blood sugar issues.

Other than roasting it with other root vegetables, my favorite recipe is Sunchoke Soup (sometimes called “Palestine Soup”, a play on the name “Jerusalem.”)

This is a simple yet delightful recipe that is superb on the holiday table!

Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 - 7 tubers Jersalem Artichokes, washed well, peeled half-heartedly (don’t worry about getting all the peel off), and chopped
  • water or stock to cover vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, good if not using vegetable stock)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

onions and sunchokes

onions and sunchokes

  1. Saute onion in olive oil.
  2. Add Jerusalem artichoke and continue to saute, adding some salt, to bring out flavors.
  3. Cover with water or stock and let simmer until sunchokes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place in blender with cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Whizz til smooth.
  5. Reheat and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

This soup is simple and delicious!!!

You can find other amazing holiday recipes in my book, “Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting; Delicious Recipes for the Holidays or Anyday.”

You can get it directly from our website, and it is also available on Amazon Kindle.

I hope you are staying warm and enjoying some winter wild edibles! It can be fun to make the holiday table WILD with some great winter edibles!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa from Food Under Foot

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Make Your Own Herb Infused Honey

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Raw, Recipes
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Honey is amazing. There’s a lot of buzz going on right now (pun intended) about how bad sugar is, to which I heartily agree. Added sugar is in way to much of our “food” (processed food), things you wouldn’t even expect such as spinach dip or tomato sauce have oodles of added sugar. This is terrible for one’s health. And don’t even get me started on corn syrup.

However, true to form in our Western way of thinking, a carb equals a carb equals a carb. A fat equals a fat. To most Western trained dieticians, fat from an avocado is the same as fat from prime rib. It counts as fat. And sugar counts as maple syrup counts as honey counts as corn syrup.  It’s all added sugar, it’s all carbs, it’s all the same right? I disagree.

Way back in the nineties a WHOLE big chain of health FOODS stores would not sell anything with sugar. It was awesome! I could go to their bakery and things were honey sweetened, maple syrup sweetened, brown rice syrup sweetened. It was great! But then along came new sugar crystal products. Suddenly there were signs up in the store (literally!) about how honey is just the same for you health-wise as sugar, how a carb is a carb, and they realize how close-minded and out-dated their belief system is and BOOM, from then on the shelves were FILLED with cereals and other  foods with sugar. Now at the bakery if you try to find something with only maple syrup or honey, well, good luck.

Honey, especially raw honey, contains living enzymes as well as vitamins and minerals, includiing  B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

Honey has been used by herbalists for thousands of years. Honey has anti-bacterial properties, anti-tumer properties, energy boosting properties (well, ok, duh, sugar.) Herbalists have used honey to treat sore throats, coughs, nausea, all sorts of things.  And believe me, when you make your own baked goods or foods with a little honey or maple syrup, there is literally a little honey  or maple syrup. You are being mindful and conscious and getting way less sugar than the loads you get hidden in the products at the grocery store.

Honey is also a great way to incorporate healing herbs and wild edible plants into your diet. I love making things like infused honeys, vinegars, jams and butters that I actually use. It’s nice to make a tincture every once in a while, but those tend to sit on my shelf for years. The other things I use daily.  (I also love drying plants to use as teas, I use these all the time, too!)

Herbal and wild flower infused honeys are so amazing. I add them to tea, spread them on toast or rice cakes or drizzle them over homemade scones. And they are wonderfully easy to make. First get yourself some high quality (which usually means local) raw honey. Then find some empty jars. Now find your favorite herbs or wild flowers and you are in business. In general here is what I do:

  • Fill the jar halfway with fresh plants. Good ones to use for honeys include: violet flowers, calendula flowers, any kind of mint, sage, basil, anise hyssop, ginger, fennel.
  • Next pour honey over the herbs to fill the jar. Use a chopstick to tamp down and release air bubbles.
  • Cover and let sit in a warm place (the sun works well!) for at least 10 days before use. The honey will keep a long time, just keep the herbs right in there. They won’t mold, honey will act as a preservative. And the herbs are yummy to eat when spread on bread!
  • Label! Label as you would everything: the plant or plants, the medium (honey) and the date, including the year.

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Above are three honeys I made recently:  calendula and chocolate mint, lemon balm leaves and lemon peel, the third is sage leaves. On the left is chocolate mint sun tea. All you do to make sun tea is fill a jar with fresh herbs, cover with water, put the lid on and set it in the sun for at least 6 hours, but that is another post!

Enjoy!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac

Food Under Foot

Birch Center for Health

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Top 5 Gourmet Wild Edibles and A Recipe for Palestine Soup

Recipes
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Morel Mushrooms

Morel Mushrooms

Here on Food Under Foot, we celebrate the edible and medicinal qualities of wild plants and mushrooms, be they omnipresent dandelions, invasive Japanese Knotweed or hard-to-find morel mushrooms.

Some of these plants most people classify as weeds. Said columnist Doug Larson, “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

Some of these wild plants, including those omnipresent dandelion leaves, can be found at specialty grocery stores, with quite a nice price tag on them.

What are your favorite “gourmet” wild edibles? Maybe you live in the desert and Prickly Pear Cactus is your thing. Or morels from the woodland forests in Pennsylvania. Watercress growing from a stream is a good one…or how about bright yellow chanterelles? French chefs love those!

Here you’ll find an article with my list of my top five (well, seven…I added two more at the end.) It’s an article I wrote for Good Veg Magazine.

Is your list the same as mine? Different? Please let me know.

And don’t despair…one of these edibles is in season right now…in the middle of winter! In fact, Dave and I dug up 5 pounds of them the other day and had the most delicious Palestine Soup (recipe below) for lunch today! Did I give it away? You got it: Jerusalem Artichokes!

Sunchoke Tubers

Sunchoke Tubers

Recipe: Palestine Soup

And why, you may wonder, is this soup called “Palestine Soup”? According to infoplease.com, it is a case of a blunder begetting a blunder. You and I both know that Jerusalem artichoke is actually a native American plant, and the name came from the Spanish or Italian word for Sunflower: Girasol. The word Girasol sort of sounded like the word Jerusalem, and so this soup - made of Jerusalem Artichokes, is called Palestine Soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 - 7 tubers Jersalem Artichokes, washed well, peeled half-heartedly (don’t worry about getting all the peel off), and chopped
  • water or stock to cover vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, good if not using vegetable stock)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

onions and sunchokes

onions and sunchokes

  1. Saute onion in olive oil.
  2. Add Jerusalem artichoke and continue to saute, adding some salt, to bring out flavors.
  3. Cover with water or stock and let simmer until sunchokes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place in blender with cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Whizz til smooth.
  5. Reheat and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

This soup is simple and delicious!!!

Enjoy!

~ Melissa

Top 5 Gourmet Wild Edibles page in GoodVeg Magazine

Also on Food Under Foot:

Jerusalem Artichokes

Sunchoke Latkes

And please make sure you sign up for our newsletter and receive the first five ebooks in our Wild Edibles Series completely free! (Green box top right: Join The Family!)

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“Cream” of Morel Mushroom Soup

Recipes
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vegan "cream" of mushroom soup

vegan "cream" of mushroom soup

January is the coldest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps not coincidentally January is also National Soup Month!!!

So let’s see what wild edibles (dried or fresh from the tundra) we can scare up for some delicious soups this month.

dried morels harvested spring, 2013

dried morels harvested spring, 2013

Vegan “Cream” of Morel Mushroom Soup

Cashews and potatoes give this vegan soup its thick creamy texture.

Ingredients

  • dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
  • 12 oz fresh mushrooms, can be button mushrooms
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots (optional because will give soup an orange color.)
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 6 cups water, plus more boiling water to reconstitute morels
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Pour boiling water over dried morels to reconstitute and let soak for at least 20 minutes.
  2. While morels are soaking, saute 1/2 the onion, all the garlic, celery, half the fresh mushrooms and all the carrot in 1 Tbsp olive oil with salt in the bottom of soup pan.
  3. Once onion is translucent, add 6 cups water and potatoes, cover and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15  minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and let soup cool a bit.
  5. Put soup, morel soak water, cashews and nutritional yeast into blender and blend well.
  6. Saute soaked morels, the rest of the onions and mushrooms in olive oil with salt in a frying pan.
  7. Return blended soup to soup pot, adding sauteed onions and mushrooms.
  8. Reheat and adding pepper and more salt as necessary to taste.
  9. As you reheat soup may thicken due to the cashews, so add water and adjust seasoning if needed.

Other  wild ideas for this recipe:

  1. if you have dried maitake/hen-of-the-woods mushroom around, then leave out the button mushrooms and add a handful of dried maitake when you add the potatoes. These will get blended to make a rich mushroom-tasting broth.
  2. You can substitute dried maitake (reconstituting them the way you reconstituted morels), or use frozen mushrooms like maitake or chicken mushroom.

Enjoy!!

~ Melissa


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    Sunchoke Latkes

    Recipes
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    Sunchoke Latkes with Apple Sauce
    Sunchoke Latkes with Apple Sauce

    I have a new favorite wild food: Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), or Sunchokes!

    I know I say this every season, every time I get on a kick with a new wild edible. And I’m saying it again: I cannot get enough of Jerusalem Artichokes. I love their taste, I love their texture, I love them raw, I love how they cook up.

    Chanukah came (and went) early this year. Latkes (or potato pancakes) are the traditional food of the holiday, and we do have some latke recipes which incorporate wild foods on this website and in Winter Foraging Holiday Feasting, because chickweed and garlic mustard are great greens to find in the winter!

    Today I decided to make latkes without potatoes.  Though the ground was indeed frozen, we were able to break through and dig up some sunchoke tubers, a traditional native food which I used instead of potatoes.

    grated sunchoke tubers
    grated sunchoke tubers

    I grated the tubers and then grated 1/2 onion, mixed in some flour (my flour mix included black rice flour, which is why the potato pancakes came out darker than usual), an egg, salt and pepper. I sauteed the latkes in olive oil, celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights, which is why latkes are a Chanukah food!

    Latkes cooking up in olive oil to celebrate the Chanukah miracle (of the oil lasting 8 nights)
    Latkes cooking up in olive oil to celebrate the Chanukah miracle (of the oil lasting 8 nights)

    In my vitamix I whipped up some apple sauce (ingredient: apples) and there you have it: pure deliciousness.

    Sunchokes differ from potatoes in that sunchokes carbohydrate is mostly inulin, which is a blood-sugar stabilizing carbohydrate.

    So there you have it, latkes without potatoes, the way the Native Americans and pilgrims must have enjoyed their latkes on Chanukah (haha, not!)

    Ingredients

    • handful of sunchoke tubers, grated
    • 1/2 onion, grated
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 egg
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • olive oil for cooking

    Directions

    • Mix grated sunchokes, grated onions, egg, flour and salt and pepper. If using non-wheat flour like rice flour (like I did) allow a minute or two for the flour to absorb extra liquid
    • Add 1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil to pan, to cover bottom. I do not deep fry my latkes.
    • Heat oil on medium until a drop of water sizzles on the surface.
    • drop pancake mix in 2 inch diameter thin circles
    • Allow to cook until bottom browns, about 6 - 8 minutes
    • Flip and cook on other side until browned, about 3 - 5 minutes
    • Remove to paper towels to absorb excess oil
    • Continue in batches, you may need to add more oil every couple batches.

    This only made 6 pancakes. If you have more tubers you can make more.

    sunchoke latkes with black rice flour

    Traditionally served with apple sauce and sour cream.

    Enjoy!

    Melissa

    3dbookcover2For more winter recipes, check out our newest book: Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, available now!

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