(Such timing, this morning, while finishing this post: SAVEUR announced their 2013 Best Food Blog Awards finalists, and I am utterly thrilled, humbled and overjoyed that The Year in Food is among those nominated. I’d be so honored if you took a moment to cast a vote for this site! xo, Kimberley)
When I was a kid, my sister and I frequented a little stream in the woods about a quarter mile from our house. We snuck along the side of a neighbor’s house, through overgrown thickets of blackberry brambles and along a long-neglected utility road to a tall, shady stand of trees and fallen logs and big boulders. Miner’s lettuce is a shade-loving plant and it was everywhere. The name is so evocative, and its relationship to California’s Gold Rush history, even if exaggerated, made me feel like I could be a totally self-sufficient forest dweller if need be. We would catch newts and pretend to grill them. (Apparently, they’re poisonous. Good thing we never actually ate them. And so much for self-sufficiency.) We had a series of plywood planks and old wood boards criss-crossing a huge grove of hollowed out redwoods: that was where we would live, in our forest dweller fantasy. I’m so happy that I got a little bit of a carefree childhood like that, that I could wander into the woods and play with my sister and fall off rocks and make a big mess in a stream and survive all of it. Because I think most of us survived those less-tethered, occasionally unsupervised childhoods. And our unsupervised adventures to the stream are among my absolute favorite memories.
This year on Easter Sunday, I went on a rainy day photo walk with some friends in the Presidio. It was nice to be out earlyish, and on such a quiet morning, and with such dramatic weather. I love spring storms and glorious grey light. It makes me happy. Also making me happy: that I discovered a huge grove of miner’s lettuce in the urbane wilds of the Presidio. It brought me right back to those days of childhood survivalist fantasies.
It’s among the most easily identifiable of plants to forage, owing to its unique round lettuce leaf with the little white flower in the middle. The flavor is mild, sort of spinach-y, with a pleasant sturdiness to the leaf despite its delicate appearance. Just make sure you positively identify it before munching on them!
Love this article by the ever-wise-about-foraging Hank Shaw: Foraging for Miner’s Lettuce
MINER’S LETTUCE WITH SOFT EGG AND ASPARAGUS
Yield: 2 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon grain mustard
1 small shallot, finely minced
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups miner’s lettuce leaves, thoroughly washed and rinsed
4 asparagus stalks, sliced on the bias into one inch pieces
First, make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, grain mustard and shallots vigorously. (If using a more acidic vinegar instead of white Balsamic, consider reducing vinegar. Adjust to taste.) Set aside.
For the soft eggs, bring a small pot of water to a gentle simmer. Once simmering, carefully lower eggs into water with a slotted spoon. Keep at a low simmer, and set a timer for 7 minutes.
While the eggs simmer, warm a skillet over medium heat. Add a small amount of olive oil and the asparagus slices. Saute until just tender, about three minutes.
Remove the eggs from heat. Let them sit in a pot of cold water until ready.
Combine the miner’s lettuce with the asparagus. Toss with the dressing.
Crack the eggs. Carefully slice in half. (Some of the yolk may run.)
Top each salad with egg halves.