Cristy and I were served huazontles rellenos by our host Areli at the Spanish language school we went to last year in Cuernavaca, Mexico. They were excellent! The huazontles looked familiar and not terribly exotic. We would be able to get them at home. Later Cristy did some googling and found that they were the flowering stems of lamb's quarters, also known as wild spinach, a common weed in North America.
Here Adriana Rosales shows you step by step how to make huazontles rellenos. Her preparation turns out a bit different than Areli's, which looked more like this. You broke apart the relleno, extracted a long stem and then used the stem as a handle to nibble off the cooked flowers.
It is about time I got around to trying this plant. It's everywhere in my neighborhood. I can think of few weeds that are more pervasive. Foxtail maybe. You see london rocket everywhere. Curiously, in all the reading about edible plants I've done, I can't remember a single reference to this plant outside an article in The Alibi, but that could be because there seems to be some disagreement on what to call it, so I might have missed the connection.
Anyway, I found a couple healthy specimens in my side yard and trimmed off a bunch of the leaves.
I used a recipe for pesto from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian which notes that arugula can be substituted for the spinach. In this case I substitued london rocket for the arugula.
Then I mixed it with pasta.
I am pleasantly surpised by how good this is. I could probably eat some of this every day. I ate quite a bit of it, too, and didn't get a tummy ache like I did when I overdid it on the lamb's quarters, which was encouraging. Don't get me wrong: it doesn't taste like you think pesto is going to taste. It mustardy odor is strong and it tastes more like horseradish than spinach. If you are the sort of person who likes horseradish, you might like this. Cristy ate it without complaining but it was clear that she wasn't going to be clamoring for me to make my delicious rocket pesto again.
You may be wondering why london rocket is called london rocket. This seems to be the accepted theory: "Rocket" is a common British name for arugula and arugula-like plants, and according to In Search of London by H. V. Morton, this particular rocket was associated with the aftermath of the Great Fire of London:
For years Londoners camped out in shacks and tents and other makeshift shelters and saw, as we see to-day, the site of their dwellings covered with weeds. The plant of the Great Fire was the London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio), as that of the Blitz was the willow-herb.
Yesterday I attempted to make lasagna in my new solar cooker. Careful readers of this blog may remember that I said I was going to throw out my old solar cooker. I did, too. I threw it out numerous times, each time with more disgust and determination than the time before. First I threw it into the giant dumpster that was parked in my driveway for the purpose of disposing of demolition and construction debris. The workmen tossed it out. I never mentioned it to them, but I got the feeling that they didn't like anything but their own trash in their dumpster. Didn't matter that I was ultimately paying for the dumpster - it was theirs. Somewhat perturbed, I stuffed it into my trash can (really one of those large black plastic dumpsters on wheels) and put it out on trash day, only to find that the oven was wedged into the can so snugly that it wouldn't fall out into the trash truck when it was overturned by the big pincer robot thing that dumps the cannisters. So more garbage got piled onto it. Next week, same thing. The garbage on top was disposed of, the oven and whatever garbage was below it was intact, mocking me. I felt sure, however, that the next garbage day would be different, that something would shake loose and I would pull the garbage can in from the curb empty. But I was to find that my Theory of Things Shaking Loose was based more on faith than anything else and so I was, in the end, forced to dig through the garbage and rearrange it in such a way that elimination of the hateful solar oven was possible. Good riddance.
Last weekend I made myself a new solar oven, as promised, based on the Cookit plans. I really should start calling it a "solar cooker" instead, since it's not an oven.
I decided to make lasagna, mainly because it seemed easy to prepare, although I had doubts about the noodles actually cooking to the point where you'd want to eat them.
Anyway, I just sort of made something up. Used two partial jars of Newman's spaghetti sauce, ricotta, mozarrella, noodles, some pine nuts, and layered in a bunch of lamb's quarters, freshly harvested from the forest of lamb's quarters which occupies the space formerly known as our garden. I put it out in the yard at 12:21pm.
June and July would have been the perfect times to use the cooker - that's when the sun beats down all day relentlessly and it the temperature hangs around 100F all day long. Now we're in our rainy season. It's warm, partly cloudy, and there's a fair chance that it will rain in the afternoon and evening, but it seemed like it was sunny enough. After I put the pot into the cooker, I went to find some stones to put under the pot because I had apparently lost my homemade cooking trivot. When I came back a minute or so later the pot was already too hot to touch, which was reassuring.
I left it alone all day. Ok, I peeked at it once, but I didn't poke it and obsess over it. I figured if it was a failure we could eat soup for dinner.
The sky became cloudier all afternoon, and finally around 6pm it was completely overcast, so I took the pot in. The recipe calls for 2 hours, but I gave it about 4 and a half. No sense in bringing it in anyway, since it would just cool off and then we'd have to warm it up before dinner. And goddammit, do you know what? It worked. I tasted it and it and it tasted like lasagna. I coudn't believe it. The noodles were cooked perfectly. The top layer ws a little dry, but other than that it was completely appetizing. Not bad for never having made lasagna before.
We've been ignoring our garden area for the last two months or so when it started getting too hot to bother with it, so now it's overgrown with a jungle of lamb's quarters.
It's August 12. Can lamb's quarters still be eaten? Everything I've read says that they should be eaten in spring, which is the only time we've eaten them. Early spring is also when the greens that we've planted, mainly chard and kale, are at their best, so we tend to favor those for obvious reasons.
One of the apparent differences in summertime lamb's quarters is the size of the leaves - they're generally smaller than they were in the spring, but there's more of them.
I went out with a plastic bag and picked the leaves like you would pick berries. I was pretty sure that I didn't want any of the leaf stems and that I didn't want to spend time cutting them off of each leaf, so I was careful to pinch off each leaf right at the top of the stem.
After about 15 minutes I had what the kitchen scale said was about 6 ounces, which is more than enough for one meal for two people.
We decided to cook them using a Korean spinach recipe from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman, page 33) that mainly involved sauteeing. It's a pretty easy and quick recipe. Cristy decided to split the cooking experiment up into three sections:
- Blanching, then sauteeing.
Cristy divided up the leaves into two piles, then boiled the first for 1-2 minutes. She just strained half of that and put it on a plate. I salted it and put some sri ratcha on it.
The results were surprisingly good. It really needed the salt, but it wasn't bitter and pretty much tasted like any boiled green might. The leaves weren't tough at all.
Then she took the rest of the boiled leaves, drained them and sauteed them in a cast-iron skillet for a couple minutes, then dumped them onto a plate.
Even better. But... there was a weird aftertaste... I'm not sure how to describe it... almost like something was coating your mouth. It could be that it might not even be noticed if you were eating this as a side dish with chicken or potatos or whatever, but there was definitely something there.
Finally she took the remaining leaves and dumped them right into the skillet and cooked them for a couple minutes and then plated.
These tasted mostly like the boiled and sauteed, but the leaves were al dente. There was no strange aftertaste as with the previous batch.
As I write this I have a little nausea. Too many greens?