Friday, October 5, 2012

Autumn Olive Recipe - Goat Cheese and Autumn Olive Dressing/Dip

Autumn Olives (Elaeagnus umbellata) are an invasive and abundant berry in the southern New England area, and spreading west and south rapidly. Originally from Asia, they were promoted and planted as recently as the 1980's as bird cover and food, and erosion prevention shrubs. Now it is known that they are aggressive invaders, spread easily by the abundance of berries and seeds produced, the speed of maturity of a bush,  and by their their ability to negatively alter the soil that they grow in by fixing nitrogen and making it difficult for other plants to grow. Autumn olive bushes often create entire fields of nothing but autumn olives.

While they are an ecological pest, they do produce a tasty, nutritious, and abundant berry in the late summer and autumn season. We have been eating and incorporating this berry into our diet for years, adding them raw to oatmeal, made into jams and jellies, and dried into fruit leather. The berries freeze really well by spreading them on a cookie sheet and freezing them, then bagging the frozen berries in plastic baggies. By adding them to recipes we would already have eaten, we are using them as a staple food in our diet, as opposed to a survival-only food. We are attempting to eat as seasonally as we can, and these tart, red berries work nicely into many recipes that we cook in the autumn.

We often have cooked autumn olive puree on hand in the fridge to add to recipes, and it is made by cooking about 8 cups of fresh berries with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat for 5 minutes, until all of the berries have softened or burst open. Then I run the puree through a food mill to remove the seeds. When this puree sits in the fridge for a few days, it will separate into two layers, which I just whisk together before using the puree.

This recipe is for a thick, creamy dressing or dip. We served it with some toasted croutons, vegetables, and oven roasted yucca fries as a dip, but it would also nicely dress a green salad filled with walnuts and diced apples. When making the dressing, it thickens in the refrigerator after being chilled.

Goat Cheese and Autumn Olive Dressing                    makes about 2 cups

2 oz. fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. autumn olive puree
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground white pepper to taste
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

1. In a food processor or blender, combine the goat cheese, vinegar, and maple syrup and pulse.
2. With the food processor or blender running, add the olive oil and autumn olive puree, blending briefly until smooth.
3. Pour into a bowl, and whisk in the salt, pepper, and optional chopped tarragon. Chill about 20 minutes before serving with raw veggies for dipping, or dressed on a salad.


Wonderwoman said...

Great to have met you today on the foraging walk! Love the recipe - am pinning it. Nice blog too...

Sandra said...

This sounds great!