Inexpensive, fun, and yielding delicious results, foraging for local, natural plants is gaining popularity across the nation. Experienced foraging guide Leda Meredith has written the book The Forager’s Feast to break down everything you might need to know about the sensation. Learn to identify edible plants in the wild, how to harvest them without harming the growing plant, and try some original recipes while you’re at it!
The trouble with henbit is that its flavor includes musty overtones. Someone commented on a Facebook wild edibles group that henbit has a “mushroomy taste.” Bingo! Pairing henbit with wild mushrooms turns that characteristic into a pro rather than a con.
For more about this wild green, see: Foraging Wild Henbit.
For the noodles:
• 1/2 pound henbit leaves
• 1 garlic clove, peeled
• 2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 3/4 cup semolina flour
For the sauce:
• 1 cup fresh mushrooms or reconstituted from dried (save soaking liquid), chopped
• 2 tablespoons butter
• Salt to taste
• 1 cup mushroom stock (or soaking liquid from dried mushrooms) or vegetable or chicken stock
• 1/4 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1/2 cup light cream
• 3/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated and divided
• Freshly ground black pepper
For the noodles:
1. Put the henbit leaves into a pot with 1/4 cup water. Cook them over medium heat until the leaves are completely wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately run cold water over them. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
2. Pulse the cooked henbit and the peeled garlic in a food processor (or finely mince both with a knife, or put the garlic through a garlic press and chop the henbit separately).
3. Add the eggs and olive oil and purée the ingredients.
4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour. Whisk together the rest of the all-purpose flour and the semolina flour in a large bowl. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a clean counter or cutting board. Make a well in the center.
5. Pour the egg-henbit mixture into the well in the center of the flour. Mix the flour into the liquid mixture with a fork.
6. Knead the mixture by hand for 10 minutes (or in a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment, or in a food processor with the dough blade) until the dough comes together into a ball. Kneading by hand is the best option because you have more control over how much flour ends up in the dough. Stop incorporating more as soon as you can knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers.
7. Cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
8. Lightly dust your work surface. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Roll one of the quarters out with a rolling pin or an empty wine bottle until it is as thin as you can get it. Turn the dough over frequently while you roll it out and dust with additional flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking to your rolling implement.
9. Give the rolled-out dough one more light sprinkling of flour, then roll it up loosely. Cut crosswise so that it forms coils of 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide noodles. Uncoil the coils and dust them with additional flour.
For the sauce:
1. If you’re using dried mushrooms, first soak them in boiling-hot water for 15 minutes. Drain (reserve the soaking liquid) and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Whether you started out with fresh mushrooms or dried, coarsely chop them before the next step.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and a little salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then most of the liquid evaporates.
3. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high.
4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid (if you started with dried mushrooms) and/or the stock a small splash at a time, stirring constantly. Add the thyme with the first addition of liquid. Allow the sauce to thicken after each addition of liquid before you add more. When it is all the consistency of a thick gravy, turn off the heat and stir in the cream and salt and pepper to taste.
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh henbit noodles and stir gently. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Return to the pot and add the sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Toss gently to coat the noodles with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Serve with additional grated cheese and a little minced fresh henbit or parsley sprinkled over as a garnish.
Other plants you can use in this recipe: pretty much any leafy green will work, but for vibrant color plus extra nutritional value, go for nettles.
For more from this book, see:
Reprinted with permission from The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles by Leda Meredith, published by The Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.