Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Post! An Introduction. Includes Chicken Stock, a Cocktail Cake, Prickly Pears, Potatoes, Rose Hips and other Wild Things.

As a first post, I am going to introduce myself a bit, and give a background of what I am all about. As a consequence, this first post is quite long, and I apologize, and please do not feel like you need to read the whole thing. Also, I am trying to get better at taking pictures. Most of the photo quality is sub par, sorry! Future posts will be about a single adventure and should not be as absurdly long. This blog is meant to be an informal thing! Please enjoy! I will be including not only my own cooking, but reviews of other tasty things that I have experienced that I just have to share.

My name is Sara. I grew up in Maine, went to college in Boston, moved to the San Francisco area for a bit, and now I live in Los Angeles. I am a creative, in more ways than one. I enjoy making things and sharing with the world, whether it be producing music, engineering music, playing music, painting, and of

Those of you that know me, know me well. Cooking has always been one of my favorite things and is like therapy to me.  It has never been a problem for me to take 3-4 hours (or more) to cook something awesome and then clean up after -- especially if I have had a bad day otherwise. Ever since college, I have loved to cook and explore different parts of the world through food, and I love to share it with other people. I would send texts out: "I'm making Thai Curry!!! Come eat it!!?" -- Or whatever it was I happened to be cooking at the time. I remember knocking on the door of my roommate Owen's room and saying "Pad Thai?" and his face would just light up like none other. I love these moments. I have been known to decline offers to hang out (sorry, friends!) countering with "Well....wanna come over here?" because I had decided to spend the entire day simmering chicken bones with leeks, carrots and onions to make homemade chicken stock.

Chicken stock after being drained out.
I have had friends tell me that when they eat with me and my boyfriend, we are the only two people they know that have the ability to be eating something and still manage to talk about food... and sometimes completely unrelated to what we are currently eating. We are completely out of our heads. "Hey guys! Does this remind you of that other thing we ate/want to eat? We should eat that soon..." I have planned food dates with my friends...which is not just ONE meal...but rather a day of planned meals. "We are going to eat this, and then we are going to eat this, and then go to this other place and eat this...."

And all my friends know that if they invite me to something, I will be bringing something delicious, from homemade picked golden beets with rosemary (adapted from this recipe), to Roasted Grape Crostini with homemade (yep!) Ricotta, to a salad of Watermelon With Fresh Mint and Feta (adapted) and anything else in between. I once even made an awesome cake inspired by an "Old Fashioned" cocktail for my friend Kris on his birthday.

Please observe:
"Old Fashioned" Cake.
And...I am the only person I know that is crazy enough to climb up the steepest hill imaginable behind the back patio of a house I was housesitting (I was for the big black dog barking at me from below as if yelling "Please don't die!!!"On the way back down I accepted the fact that I was going to have to slide down most of the way). I was bound and determined to get up there. I had a paper shopping bag, a silicone oven mitt, a knife I didn't end up needing, and I got myself full of prickers that to this day have still not washed completely out of my beloved Disneyland sweatshirt. All for the sake of the beautiful prickly pear cactus. I'm nuts. I'm the first to admit it. Not my smartest or proudest moment, but I just couldn't stand looking up there and seeing them like beautiful red garnets just waiting to be plucked and enjoyed. I made prickly pear syrup which found its way into prickly pear margaritas and prickly pear lemonade that night. Definitely worth it.

Prickly Pears.

....all the scooped out prickly pear insides!
Making prickly pear syrup!

As you may have guessed, I love cooking with color. I found these beautiful potatoes at Whole Foods once and I just HAD to do something with them!

Potatoes at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods potatoes ready for the oven!
And last but not least, I love utilizing wild and foraged ingredients. I appreciate the time and effort gone into obtaining the ingredients and I love incorporating these wild (and traditional and often forgotten) flavors into my kitchen life. I grew up in Maine, and I had made it my mission to know about the plants around me and what you could use them for. I couldn't wait for spring where we could find fiddleheads at the market! Super short season, but my mom used to steam them and toss them with butter, garlic and lemon. I remember the first wild plant that I picked and used.....I learned you could eat dandelions! I must have been 12 or so. I picked a bunch of dandelion buds and steamed them and ate them with butter, salt and pepper. I also remember sitting on my friends lawn with a tiny cup of salad dressing picking dandelion greens and dipping them and eating them. I was a weird kid, what can I say? I can mostly attribute this curiosity of wild things to my Mother, who would be driving through the countryside and would just HAVE to stop because she saw a big patch of St. Johns Wort and she just HAD to pick it to make a tincture later. I also have fond memories of driving down to Bar Harbor and picking bags of rose hips with her. These are from the Rosa Rugosa variety that line the shores of Downeast Maine. She would make jelly out of them, dry them and use them in tea and cider, etc. They are really high in vitamin C and used to be ingested to help prevent scurvy (gross). Now you know where I get my crazy from. This is a good thing. I love you, Mom!
Rose hips.
They were HUGE! I never remembered them being this big!
Rose Hip cleaning last time I went home! I made a giant mess....
I also grew up with my Czech uncle (by marriage) Peter coming to visit and going into the woods around my house and coming back with BAGS full of wild mushrooms. When I got old enough, he started to take me with him. I used to love going out there with him. He's an expert, he grew up with his family teaching him about mushrooms in the forests of what was then Czechoslovakia. He always says, "If you are not sure, TOSS it. Do not eat it." And there are only a few types I trust myself with, even if I get excited because I *might* have finally found this great elusive tasty mushroom for the first time. But this is serious business, and I stick to the ones I know.......none of which I have ventured far enough to be able to find here in Southern California.
Wild mushrooms from last time Peter came to Maine. He brought a paper bag full on the plane to take back to Florida with him! Photo taken by Katy Eggleton. 
One of my biggest dilemmas with moving to SoCal was that ALL of the plants here were foreign to me. I was used to looking around and being familiar with what was around me. Not here, nope! Most of my wild food knowledge here I can attribute to Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich of Wild Food Lab. They both are some of the nicest people I have ever met, and definitely some of the most creative and inspiring. It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege to learn from both of them, whether it is from Pascal's foraging/hiking classes (Urban Outdoor Skills) and following him on social media; or being able to help out in the kitchen to put on a Wild Food Event (Transitional Gastronomy) which included duck breast prosciutto, nopal sorbet (cactus pad), homemade nocino from wild black walnuts....and much much more. It was really an awesome experience and I look forward to learning more from them!

Because of this new found knowledge, I have created many dishes such as potatoes roasted with wild sweet white clover (truly amazing flavors); wild mugwort beer; polenta cakes with asparagus, fava beans, and a wild nettle puree topped with a fried egg; and pickled wild mustard buds and flowers.
Pickled mustard flowers and buds with garlic, California bay leaf, black pepper, pink pepper, bird's eye chile, white vermouth and cider vinegar, salt.
Spoils from a foraging hike. From left to right, top to bottom: black mustard flowers, giant nettles, black sage, california sagebrush, mugwort, and two piles of sweet white clover.
And thus concludes my first post about my adventures. If you are still reading this and have made it all the way through, I commend you! That is a feat. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have enjoyed it! From now own I will be posting a single adventure each time. Please stay tuned for South Indian Style Chana Masala, and some juicing adventures. 



  1. Wonderful first post, Sara!

    My wife Karen and I are "foodies", though foraging has not been a part of our lifestyle. Maybe part of that is because both of us are Los Angeles natives....

    We focus on northern Italian and Spanish cuisines, with a heavy dollop of regional Mexican and South American styles too. I'd like to think that we'd make Mario Batali, Jose Andres, and Rick Bayless proud... :>)


    1. Ooh, South American styles! My boyfriends mom's side of the family is New Mexican....and that cuisine has definitely become a comfort food for me as well. There will definitely be posts on it :)

  2. Love your post.. .would like to read black letters in white/light background. Will check in again. Martin

    1. Hi Martin! Thank you for reading :) I picked a template, and added my own background image and chose my fonts. I do not know much about code, so I am not sure how to change it into a lighter background with dark letters. Will look into it!