Today's Site We Love is Wild Greens and Sardines, where D.C. resident Linda Schneider creates original dishes with a heavy emphasis on local ingredients and fresh preparations inspired by her travels in Europe and the Mediterranean. Her eloquent, accessible writing is paired with equally bright and sophisticated photographs. Here's what Linda has to say about her site:
Blog Name: Wild Greens and Sardines
Live since: August 2010
Posting rate: 1–2 times per week
Geographic location: Washington, D.C.—after residing in Chicago for the past 10 years.
Why is the site called Wild Greens and Sardines? Wild Greens and Sardines was inspired by my travels to the Greek Islands, where I was introduced to fresh sardines and wild greens (aka horta), and was instantly hooked. My initial trip abroad opened my eyes (and palate) to a world I had no idea existed. It all started when I first traveled to Europe in 2001. That's when I started to truly appreciate food and, thereafter, became increasingly captivated with food during trips to France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Turkey. The more I am exposed to new flavors and dishes, the more curious I become about others. What I most appreciate are simplicity and freshness of ingredients. There is nothing better than a whole grilled fish or a plate of grilled sardines that were caught in the Sea of Crete by a local fisherman early that morning. Or, local fruits and vegetables, including any number of greens (dandelion, puntarelle, chicory, etc.), picked/harvested by a farmer at the peak of ripeness—hence the name of my blog, Wild Greens and Sardines.
What's your favorite post? Hard to narrow it down, but one that immediately comes to mind is a whole Rainbow Trout with a Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter I made a few months back. This is the day I discovered brown butter (and all I can say is, what took me so long?). I love the fact that rainbow trout is sustainably raised…the tarragon, hazelnuts, and brown butter pair well with the trout. I also like experimenting with bread making: Kneading the dough by hand and being able to feel the dough transform as it evolves. It's a genuine labor of love. It takes time, nurturing, and patience to make a great loaf of bread; you can't rush it. While I continue to hone my bread making skills, I was quite pleased with how my Whole Grain Walnut Sourdough Bread turned out.
What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet. After many years spent searching for my true passion, blogging has made me realize that I love food, love to cook, and love to share this passion with others. Blogging has also enabled me to connect with a network of people who savor and carve out time to enjoy some of life's simple pleasures: good food, good wine, and good company.
I read somewhere that the way to learn how to cook is to never cook the same thing twice. Since I started blogging, I’ve challenged myself to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients and to step out of my comfort zone in the kitchen. I’ve learned essential skills—for example, how to roast a whole chicken (and duck too), how to clean/scale/filet a fish, how to shuck an oyster, and how to soft boil an egg (timing by 1 minute intervals). Simply stated, blogging has helped me to become a better cook, which is deeply satisfying.
What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? A post usually starts with a trip to the farmers' market. I'm inspired by whatever is in season; that's when things taste the best. I also like to seek out less mainstream vegetables such as salsify, flowering rabe, stinging nettles, oka hijiki (aka land seaweed), purslane, and dandelion greens, and then figure out what to do with them. This typically entails scouring through my ever-burgeoning cookbook collection or getting inspiration from fellow food bloggers.
My posts are also informed by travel, near and abroad. I lived in Chicago for over ten years before recently relocating to Washington, D.C.—Chicago is replete with creative chefs, restaurants, farmers, and food artisans. I love tasting new flavors and dishes, and then recreating them at home (e.g., squid in its own ink; grilled octopus; pasta with fennel, sardines, and bottarga; goat tacos, etc.).
What are your favorite ingredients and tools? Hot smoked Spanish paprika is my go-to spice. It's ideal for livening up just about anything, from sautéed broccoli to grilled shrimp. Other favorites include: peppery extra virgin olive oil, maitake mushrooms, duck eggs, goat cheese (Capriole Goat Cheese is fantastic), spicy Spanish chorizo, snails, fresh herbs such as Thai basil, chile peppers, all types of fish or seafood ( including squid, octopus, anchovies, sea urchin, oysters, and, of course, fresh sardines), and just about any type of fresh, seasonal vegetable. A good chef's knife makes a world of difference in the kitchen; I love my Kikuichi knife.
What are your favorite food and cooking resources (books, stores, etc.)? Besides farmers' markets, I like to visit ethnic markets (Indian, Ethiopian, Korean, Mexican, Greek); you never know what new and interesting ingredients you'll find lurking on the shelves. As for books, I have quite a few, but here are some favorites: Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen, Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, Diane Kochilas' The Glorious Foods of Greece, Jose Andres' A Taste of Spain in America, Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Cookbook, Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and Nigel Slater's Tender.
Where else can we find your work? Right now, mostly just the blog. It's more of a hobby than a full-time gig (hoping that will change someday soon). I was recently featured on SheKnows as Food Blogger of the Month for August 2013, and have had recipes featured in the Huffington Post and Bon Appétit.