I have made countless brownie recipes over the years, and this is what I have long been trying for: dense, dark chocolate that satisfies. The brownies are thick, and fudgy but not under baked. It’s like getting that perfect mix of cake and fudge together. They slice up easily and taste even more amazing when chilled.
The bonus is this recipe is easy to make. No hard to find ingredients. In fact, you might have everything you need on hand.
It’s rhubarb season here, and the ruby and green stalks are nearing peak season! This banana rhubarb bread recipe takes about half a pound and adds a really tasty sour bite to the bread. I didn’t tell the kids that it was in the bread, and they loved it (then I told them!).
Banana Rhubarb Bread
1½ cups all-purpose flour (180 grams)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (at least 1 cup mashed)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup rhubarb, finely chopped
Lightly oil an 8×4 bread pan. Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk the eggs, bananas, and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Add in the dry ingredients, stir to combine, then fold in rhubarb.
Scrape into prepared bread pan, smooth out.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until it smells done and the top is golden brown.
Let cool on a rack, loosen the edges with a butter knife and turn out.
Once cooled, store sealed, preferably in the refrigerator.
This week I had an amazing dish at Higgin’s in Portland. It was nettle pesto served with hazelnuts that was so flavorful! It was worth every bloaty minute of the carb coma I had from the pasta. If you are ever in Portland, drop in for an amazing meal.
Which leads to……
As Spring returns to the Pacific Northwest, one of the first signs is Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) coming up in damp areas. On our land, we see them first in the draw that goes into our well head. We get some amazing nettles there. These grow low to the ground and are typically lush and deep green. Nettles are one plant that is hard to misidentify – all it takes is a brush against them, and you know it is that season. Most people react to Nettles with the feeling of a warm stinging sensation, that is itchy. However, a few will have a deeper reaction, and get weepy blisters (Nettle Dermatitis). If you are an unlucky one, get someone else to pick for you. Once cooked, the nettles don’t react this way.
In our upper field, in an area that has been disturbed, the first ones are popping up in sunny patches, where rotting logs and dirt sit.
In summer the plants will grow tall (up to 7 feet high), and become scrawny, with just a few leaves. They lose their deep green color and go to a pale, washed out green, with white-ish tops. They still sting however, and are harder to avoid when tall. In Spring you can step on them, and not worry about your legs.
Learning to pick them is a worthy adventure. Bring a pair of gloves, dipped ones work best. I wear Carhartt gloves when I work the fields, and do foraging of this type. Add in a picking container (sure, a woven basket is what the hippy chicks would use, but a Ziploc tub with lid or a brown paper shopping bag on dry days works even better). Wear long pants, closed toe shoes and long sleeves to avoid getting “warmed up” while picking. Some sexy overalls goes well……
Pick in the cool of the morning. It is easier to see, and the plants are hydrated. This applies to picking of all greens (and herbs) – the earlier in the day, the better the quality. If you must pick later in the day, do it before sunset so the plants have time to cool down a bit from the day.
If you wish to dehydrate nettles for use all year-long (it makes a great tea), place the leaves in a large, clean brown paper bag and stash in an area to dry, shaking every day, to distribute them. You can use a dehydrator on its lowest setting, but I find the brown bag method works better and you preserve all oils, color and texture better without heat. Paper bags compost well afterwards as well.
I have two recipes to enjoy. One for dry leaves, the other for fresh leaves – in a backpacking and camping friendly meal.
Nettle Leaf Tea
1 tsp dried nettles
1 cup hot water
Raw honey, if desired
Pour water over the nettles leaves, let infuse for 5 minutes. Strain tea, over sip with the leaves at the bottom. Sweeten if desired.
Nettle Pesto Pasta
8 ounces pasta of choice, cook time under 7 minutes
1⁄4 cup toasted finely diced pine nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds or hazelnuts
Pack the pasta in a sandwich bag, the nuts and garlic in a small bag, the Parmesan cheese in a snack bag and the olive oi in a leak proof container.
In your pot bring a ¼ cup water to a boil, add your nettle leaves, cover tightly and let steam a couple of minutes (lower your stove’s flame). Drain off any water left, then chop the leaves as finely as you can. Add the olive oil to the nut bag, then add the nettles. Stir well and put aside.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in your pot, add the pasta and cook for time on package. Drain carefully. Add pesto to pasta as desired, top liberally with the cheese.
The sauce can also be made at home, process in a blender or food processor till smooth. Feel free to use fresh Parmesan cheese if done this way.
WITH ALL WILD FOODS CONSULT A KNOWLEDGEABLE GUIDE FOR PICKING BEFORE CONSUMING. Follow all rules for foraging/picking on public lands. Do not pick where herbicides have been sprayed on or nearby, nor near highways. Use caution serving wild foods to small children, pregnant women and anyone with medical issues.
Sunday April 28th is the Nettle Festival on Whidbey Island, from 11 to 2, at the opening day of the South Whidbey Tilth Market in Bayview. We are a vendor this year, and would love to see you there. And….yes, we will have dried nettle leaves for sale.
Quail eggs are not easily found in most places, but search online and ask – you might just find someone raising quail, who sells the eggs. We are fortunate to have a local larger scale egg grower who also raises quail. They sell the eggs in our local independent grocery store for about $2.50 a dozen. My plan is to eventually raise quail ourselves, as they are easy to handle – and take up a lot less spaces than chickens.
One of my sons loves hard-boiled quail eggs, and for him, I am happy to do the work to make a bunch up. The tiny eggs are 3 to 4 to equal a chicken egg in size, however the yolks are a higher ratio than in chicken eggs, which make for a more satisfying egg to nibble on. They are gorgeous in ramen, in soups, served as mini deviled eggs, or tucked into lunches. And as a bonus, they are often tolerated by those with chicken egg allergies – and unlike duck eggs, don’t have a strong taste or texture going on.
That they make tiny egg cartons for them……squeeee! The eggs are durable, but be careful to not drop them when raw, they will still break (though some use a special cutting tool to break raw eggs).
Hard Boiled Quail Eggs
Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Gently place 3 to 4 eggs in at a time, using a slotted spoon.
Lower the heat to medium, gently boil for 4 minutes.
Take off the heat and immediately transfer the eggs into a bowl full of cold water, drain carefully and let cold water run over, and drain as needed, till the eggs cool a bit.
For easy peeling, work with lightly warm eggs. Crack the bottom of the eggs on the counter (I line the counter with a paper towel). The secret to easy peeling is to make sure you break the membrane under the peel. Once you break that, the peel comes right off. It is easier to peel quail eggs than chicken eggs! The inside of the shells are a pretty light blue.
Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Use within a few days.