Moving to Maryland just over a year ago has really opened my eyes even more to the natural wonders of this grand Earth we live on! Probably the most exciting thing is having the opportunity to forage for delightful, wild edibles. In the desert, there either isn’t much to forage, or you have to work so much harder for it. So when the Hubbs and I realized that foraging came easier than back home, we became enamored with it!
Foraging for food is akin to gardening for me, as it drives home the notion of being spiritually and nutritionally connected to the land that surrounds us. It feels so good to pick a vegetable off the vine, or out of the Earth, and nourish our bodies. It’s local, and the only carbon footprint associated with it is driving to your nearest trail-head! If you’re lucky enough, you may even find some goodies growing in your yard!
This is what Garlic Mustard looks like in the wild as a young plant. This is the ideal time for harvesting, as the young, small leaves are less bitter than their more mature counterparts. As the plant grows, it spikes, producing lovely white flowers, but also increases in bitterness. The flowers are still edible, and I have heard the roots are too, but please do your own research before eating any wild plants!
This plant was originally brought to the US by way of Europe in the 1880’s, where it was used medicinally and also for erosion control. It is also incredibly invasive, and according to the Nature Conservancy is a threat to forest ecosystems. It’s one of the first spring plants to grow, and because it’s so prolific, it blocks out sunlight to some of the other native plants found in the forest ecosystems. So, having said that, it’s advisable to not only forage for eating, but to also harvest the whole plant before it seeds, root and all, to help stop the spread of this plant.
Making a pesto with the Garlic Mustard is always ideal. According to the above referenced link – if you do harvest more mature plants, be sure to cook them. I cooked my young leaves anyway, just to be safe. If you can’t find Garlic Mustard, you can substitute fresh basil – and you don’t need to cook it.
So, not only is this recipe dependent on the foraging of garlic mustard, it’s also a great example of my philosophy on cooking. Did I have an exact recipe for this? No. But I did have a few things in my refrigerator / freezer that needed to be eaten. After all, I do firmly believe that this is how all great recipes start!
We make our own almond milk with real almonds in this house. You can see my post on how to do that here: How To Make Almond Milk. The problem with almond milk though, is that it leaves you with spent almond meal, and it’s tough to know what to do with it. Luckily, you’ve got me (and this recipe) to help you with that, while making sure that food waste is not an issue. This is a perfect application for the spent almonds. The other ingredients like the pesto we make with the Garlic Mustard and hummus restores some of the fat and nutrients that are extracted as a part of the milk making process.
Making the Pie
Once you’ve got all the components, this delectable dish comes together fairly quickly. The most effort comes with draining and squeezing the moisture out of the spinach, and mixing everything up! Patience is required while painting each phyllo sheet with butter, but it’s 100% worth it. Biting into that crispy, crunchy, flaky goodness is nothing short of divine! Serve with your favorite creamy sauce to bring it all together!
Spent Spinach Pie
For the Pesto:
- 4 Cups Foraged Garlic Mustard* Loosely Packed, Fresh
- 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
- ⅓ Cup + 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ⅓ Cup Pine Nuts
- ⅓ Cup Nutritional Yeast
- 4 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice
For the Pie:
- 12 Sheets Phyllo Dough thawed
- ½ Cup Vegan Butter melted
- 1 Batch Spent Almonds from making Almond Milk
- 8 Ounces Hummus
- 10 Ounces Frozen Spinach thawed & thoroughly squeezed with a clean kitchen towel
- 2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds
For the Pesto:
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add in the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add in the garlic mustard, and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the pine nuts to a dry pan over medium heat, and toast for 2-3 minutes until they start to turn slightly golden. Remove from heat.
- Add the sauteed greens mix to a food processor, along with toasted pine nuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice. While the food processor is running, slowly add in the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil.
- *If you can’t find garlic mustard, you can use fresh basil instead. In this event, you can skip wilting the greens in the pan, and go straight to the food processor with the basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and olive oil.
For the Pie:
- Preheat an oven to 350℉.
- In a large bowl, mix the pesto, spent almonds, spinach, and hummus. Set aside.
- Use a half sheet pan (18” x 13”), or a large cookie sheet, and lightly brush with melted vegan butter using a pastry brush. Roll out the phyllo dough on a clean surface, and cover with well wrung out paper towels to keep the dough from drying out (it will dry out fast, and will crumble like dry paper if you let it sit for too long).
- After brushing the cookie sheet, carefully place one sheet of phyllo on the cookie sheet, and brush with butter. Continue layering until you’ve got 6 sheets of phyllo, brushing the top of each one lightly with butter.
- Once you’ve got 6 sheets, carefully spread the filling over the entire sheet, leaving 1 inch border. Cover with a phyllo sheet, brush with butter, and continue layering for an additional 5 phyllo sheets (for a total of 6 on top), finishing with a generous brushing of butter. Fold the edges under to create an outer crust, and then carefully cut into 12 squares. Using a sharp knife, make two cuts long-ways, and three cuts short-ways.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in the oven for 60 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with your favorite sauce, and enjoy the flaky goodness!