I am beginning to wonder if perhaps Obama was right to tackle health care reform as a first initiative. It is difficult to find health care issues to write about these days…our mainstream and alternative media are rightly wrapped up in the crises of the day, the Gulf oil spill disaster, the Afghanistan War and high unemployment rates. Of these, at least two are directly tied to our inability as a nation to confront Big Oil. Frustrated with tepid Congressional efforts to stem the oil tide, I decided to take a small step to wean myself off of oil. I began cooking locally available food: weeds!

I love Barbara Kingsolver. Last year, after reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, I made a trip to our local (and extremely affordable) farmers’ market, bought up a farmer’s entire crop of tomatoes and inexpertly canned them. I would have grown them myself except a local dry cleaner dumped their petroleum-based solution onto the ground and polluted my well. Until the superfund clean-up site completes its project, I can’t eat anything grown in my yard.

This year, I have decided to cut down on the amount of plastic bags in my home by shopping at grocery stores that don’t give them away. I am actually experiencing a shortage of bags for lining trash cans. I mostly shop at a local organic farm, Camino de Paz or at La Montanita Food Coop in Santa Fe. Located 45 minutes south of me, La Montanita sells organic foods grown by my neighbors. It doesn’t make sense to fight the ravages of the oil industry by driving 45 minutes to buy my neighbors’ products, so this week when the Espanola Farmers’ Market had its first really good day (growers were delayed by unusual weather patterns), I stopped by. I resolved to make up recipes to cook whatever I found. The results were delicious concoctions of locally gathered weeds.

The list of ingredients I came home to work with included:

Purslane (which I normally spend inordinate amounts of time removing from my garden
Lambsquarters also known as “wild spinach” (which also tends to take over my garden)

Squash blossoms
Garlic
Onions
Garlic chives
Fresh eggs

I came up with two delicious recipes based on these foods and what I could dredge up in my Kitchen. Here they are:

Squash Blossom, Lambsquarter and Saffron Quiche
10 Fresh squash blossoms
1 c lambsquarters
6 eggs
1 bunch chopped garlic chives
1/2 cup chopped red onion and onion green
3 small cloves pressed garlic
about 2-3 cups half and half, milk, cream or some combination thereof
1-2 cups lite shredded cheese
1/4 tsp good saffron
4-6 mild roasted red Chimayo chile
pie crust

Throw squash blossoms, chile and green stuff into a food processor or chop by hand. Layer it on the bottom of the crust along with all other veggies. Layer cheese on top. Warm or simmer about 1/2 c liquid dairy in a saucepan with saffron. Stir until the mixture turns yellow. Beat eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and dairy products until frothy including saffron mixture. Pour it into crust. I use one huge deep dish crust but you could use two regular 9 inch crusts. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then at 350 until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and everything looks yummy.

Purslane Pesto

1 bag carefully washed purslane
1/2 c walnuts or pinon nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 c (or more) good extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 small chopped red onion
1/2 c grated parmesan
2-3 roasted Chimayo red chiles
whole wheat spaghetti
salt, pepper, thyme, a little bit of tequila lime seasoning if you have it

Clean the Purslane, cut off the roots and simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain and puree in a food processor with all other ingredients except spaghetti which you boil in the normal fashion. Reserve a bit of olive oil. Saute all ingredients except spaghetti in reserved olive oil. Drain cooked spaghetti and mix it up with purslane pesto. It can be served hot or cold. My kids, who normally prefer fast food, ate three servings.

Warning! Use your own judgement if measurements don’t look right. I don’t measure, I cook by look, smell and taste. These are my best estimates.

And feel free to modify based on ingredients available locally. That’s what I usually do.

Happy oil protest!