Oh, sweet spring! It’s come early in Colorado, with unseasonably warm temperatures and no snow this March—which is usually our snowiest month.
But I was ready for a little green to start poking through the brown. I am ready to be done with winter for this year, ready for things to be growing and blooming again.
AND, I’m ready to get out foraging again! Last year, when I really started to develop an interest in foraging, I had this little tiny baby, just born, and not really up to being out in the sun a lot or being carried down into ditches.
But this year, I have a toddler (how is that POSSIBLE??) who will be much easier to take along as we go out looking for wild foods. In fact, you can see a photo of us on our first outing of the year with Wendy over at HungerandThirst.
We were out gathering dock, one of the first edibles to appear in our area. It’s a leafy green that can be used anywhere you’d use cooked spinach. (That’s what it looks like raw, above.) It has a slightly stronger flavor, but that’s in its favor, as far as I’m concerned. Dock is the wild ingredient of the month for the Wild Things Roundup, and you can find a great primer on how to forage for dock on that page.
I knew, when we hit the mother load in a big field, that I wanted to try out Julia Child’s baked spinach recipe with this dock, imagining how well it would go with the Swiss cheese, yet how the recipe would allow its own special flavor to shine through.
This recipe is actually in pretty heavy rotation at my house—whether with spinach or dock—in the spring, and we usually eat it with fried eggs and crusty rolls.
- 1½ pounds fresh dock, washed
- 2 T butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 T flour
- ½ cup stock (your choice)
- ½ cup Swiss cheese
- 1 T fine, dry breadcrumbs
- Wash dock well and remove any large stems; no need to get it very dry. Prepare a bowl or sink full of cold water. Put your dock in a large pot over high heat and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a colander and immediately plunge into cold water to halt the cooking. Once the dock is cool, squeeze it as dry as possible and then chop coarsely. You should have about 1 and ½ cups of wilted dock.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a shallow 1-quart baking dish.
- Wipe out the pot and melt 1 T butter over medium heat. Stir in the dock and cook for 2–3 minutes until all the moisture has boiled off. The leaves should just begin to stick to the pan.
- Lower the heat and stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes. Add ⅔ of your stock, slowly, stirring and scraping up any stuck bits of the dock as you go. The liquid will appear to get absorbed. Once all the liquid is added, cook about another 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add additional 1 T butter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir half the cheese into the dock and then pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until slightly brown on top and bubbling at the edges, about 30 minutes.