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The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook--a Forager's Culinary Guide in the Field or in the Supermarket to Preparing and Savoring Wild (and Not So Wild) Natural Foods," with more than 500 Recipes, by "Wildman" Steve Brill

Reviewed by Caryn Hartglass

I was a little apprehensive when asked to review the "Wild Vegetarian Cookbook." I thought it would be another cookbook to dress the shelf with too many complicated, hard-to-obtain ingredients to get involved with. I was delightfully proved wrong!

"Wildman" Steve Brill spends the first 30 pages of his 500 page cookbook (small font!) to explain his journey into foraging and healthy food preparation. His tale of being arrested and subsequently hired by the New York City Parks Department draws you in to read more. This section supplies the novice vegetarian with comprehensive, hand-holding information about nutrition and food preparation. There are even some helpful tips for the well-seasoned vegetarian chef. His approach is personal and friendly, peppered with a few bad puns.

The "unwild" food recipes are presented first, including tofu cheeses, nut butters and breads. The wild food recipes come next, sectioned by seasons. Brill offers common supermarket substitutions for most of the wild ingredients. The book includes an herb and spice user's guide, and quick guides to making dairy-free cheese and wild wine.

All the recipes are primarily vegan. Some call for honey, with alternatives provided. Brill uses natural sweeteners such as fruit juice, stevia, rice syrup and barley malt. Most of the recipes are wheat-free.

How many times has a vegetarian been asked by a meat-eater, "But what do you EAT?" I know that I eat a far more varied diet compared to those on the standard American diet just with the variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes available in any local supermarket. Brill offers an enormous list of wild, edible plants to forage locally, from our backyards and parks and experience more variety than ever. He provides a description of each, including what they look like, when they are available and what they taste like. Even if you don't try any of the 500 recipes in the book, the information on the available plants to forage make the book a good read and a good resource for your cookbook shelf.

After picking up the weekly box of produce from my local CSA (community supported agriculture), I had a huge bag of dandelion leaves that I didn't know what to do with. The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook had a delicious solution (see recipes below).

I have signed up for a wild food and ecology tour in Central Park at the end of the month. I plan to fill up my bags with weeds and flowers and experience their new and exotic flavors with more delicious recipes from this cookbook.

For more information about "Wildman" Steve Brill and wild food, go to his website at http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com.

Dandelions and Vegetables Smothered in Hollandaise Sauce

3 T. olive oil, or as needed
3 cups dandelion leaves, chopped
One 16-ounce package firm tofu, drained and diced
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced
1 medium yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. arrowroot or kudzu
2 cups Healthy Hollandaise Sauce (below)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the dandelion leaves, tofu and onion and cook, stirring for 10 minutes. Add zucchinis, bell pepper and garlic, and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix the arrowroot with the Hollandaise sauce and stir the mixture into the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 10 minutes.

Healthy Hollandaise Sauce (makes 51/2 cups)

One 19-ounce package silken tofu, well drained
½ cup water
½ cup fresh lemon juice (2 large lemons)
½ cup corn oil, flaxseed oil or olive oil
¼ cup goutweed leaves (this common wild green tastes like an exotic combination of parsley and celery leaves)
3 tablespoons lecithin granules
1 teaspoon freshly ground mustard seeds (1/2 teaspoon seeds)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Vege-Sal or ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat it all the way through over low heat. Do not bring the sauce to a boil or it will lose its texture and become watery. Healthful Hollandaise will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.