Even plain white rice turns into something special with conifer needles, pollen, flowers, and wild mushrooms! Come into my post and enjoy my rice and some amazing wild flavors! On a rock!
So often, when I cook with rice, it seems like the rice can simply disappear in a meal. For this Steemit Iron Chef challenge by @progressivechef, I didn't want to hide my rice. Instead, I wanted to feature how rice is so incredible at carrying flavors, but in a way that kept the rice as the main ingredient.
The conifer trees are starting to wake up for spring. They all have timing that's a little different. So I'm featuring 3 conifers that have really different flavors right now. The new needles of the Western Larch with it's light lemon tang. The Colorado Blue Spruce still has only older needles, with a bold resin and some bitterness -- an acquired taste, but so good once you're hooked! And it's got new male cones just opening up to release their pollen, with a slight nutty flavor. And the Grand Fir, always good for a light orange-minty kick.
Those Slippery Jack mushrooms are only the tubes, from underneath the cap. You can read more about the Slippery Jack in these two posts - 1 and 2. I dry the tubes separately, because they have their own flavor and texture.
I picked some flowers that have flavor, too. I used the wild field mustard last week, but in a different way. I've used Maple flowers in salads for a long time. But I only recently learned how the center of the flowers, at just the right stage, tastes like maple syrup! I never appreciated that's where their sweetness has been coming from. Focusing just on those specific flowers makes that maple flavor more pronounced. Redbud flowers have a sweet-sour tanginess. Yellow Deadnettle flowers have a spark of nectar at their base, just like a honeysuckle flower.
I used my coffee grinder to pulverize the different conifer needles. I separated the flowers from their stems. I mixed the Grand Fir with some salt, because that is just so incredibly delicious. This link shows how I used it on a Wild Shaggy Stalk mushroom for an earlier Steemit Iron Chef round. I mixed the spruce needles with sugar to balance the bitterness.
I like to toast my rice in a little butter before I add water to boil it. I think it brings out the rice flavor. I used one pot of rice for the conifers. But I made a special pot of rice with the mushrooms. I put the mushrooms in the water as the rice was cooking.
Each one of these stacks of rice tastes completely different! And they taste even better off this 12-pound rock, lol!
Many Steemit Iron Chef rounds ago, @progressivechef encouraged me to serve my wild food on something natural. It seemed hard to do with sauces. But with this plate of rice, I can use a rock. I foraged this rock from the Finger Lakes National Forest in upstate New York, years ago. That's the smallest National Forest in the United States, just over 16,000 acres. After traveling to some meeting in nearby Ithaca for work, I went backpacking for the weekend and found this slab of slate. I brought it back in the overhead bin of the airplane, no problem!
What Do You Think?
- Have you ever eaten your food off of a rock?
- Have you ever used needles off conifers as a spice?
- Which stack of rice would you like to eat?
I eat a lot of wild plants and show you how, because I believe that we can all have lives that are richer, more secure, more grounded, and more interesting by getting to know the plants and the land around us – in our yards, our parks, and our wild places.
Thanks @progressivechef for creating the Steemit Iron Chef contest series!
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- Western Larch - Larix occidentalis - tender, young needles
- Colorado Blue Spruce - Picea pungens - needles and pollen cones
- Grand Fir - Abies grandis - needles
- Slippery Jack Mushroom - Suillus luteus - tubes from under the cap
- Norway maple – Acer platanoides - flowers with sap in their center
- Eastern redbud – Cercis canadensis - flowers
- Wild field mustard - Brassica rapa - flowers
- Yellow deadnettle - Lamium galeobdolon - flowers