Category Archives: Photographs

Every fisherman starts out as a boy or a girl.

My love of fishing, or at least of watching fishing, started as a toddler.  I would wake up on Sunday mornings, 6am and watch fishing shows on TV.  Later on I got a little more participative and I remember having the best experiences of actually fishing.  Waking up early, rowing out with Grandma, Grandpa, and parents in tow.  Yes, I was so strong then I rowed them.  Well not really, but I was so enthusiastic it seemed to me we were powered on that enthusiasm alone.

I’ve been fishing with Alex once since we began this project and the successful outcome of today’s meal was NOT due to my fish whispering skills.  All the fish we ate for this meal were the product of Alex’s last trip to the Thornapple River and a generous donation from our friend John.  The menu was as follows.

Breaded and Fried Catfish/Blue Gill

  • All the Catfish and Blue Gill fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • Breading made from Veggie Chips
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the vegetable oil until at frying temperature.
  2. Dip fish fillet into eggs, into breading and place gently into the pan with oil.
  3. Fry until fish is cooked and breading is crispy and brown.
Sauteed Cattail Shoots
The Cattails were as always, DELICIOUS.  As for the fish, we were amazing at how good the breading turned out!  Veggie chips are definitely a new twist on breading for fish.  The fish was cooked to perfection also.  Who would’ve thought Alex knew how to cook fish so well?

-Sam
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Friday the 13th, 10 Kilometers and a Fish Fry

Friday the 13th began not unlike many of the days before it. I awoke, ate breakfast, and prepared myself for a day off work fishing on the Thornapple River. The night previous I had watched the red Wings loose game seven and had wallowed in suffering with a few of my friends; so as memory serves I did wake up much later than usual.

With my late start I was afraid my great plans of fishing were dashed as I had slept through the great fishing hours of the wee morning. However, I had the day off; if I didn’t go fishing what else was I going to do? So at the bright hour of eleven o’clock I began to prepare my affairs for a day on the river.

Thursday night I had arranged a fishing spot at my friend Del’s mom’s house who lived on the river. Finally at one in the afternoon I had my line in the water. My plan of attack was to go after Catfish. Her house is situated on the right bank of the river at the beginning of a long slow left curve meaning the current and depth of the river are right along her side of the river. Perfect for bottom fishing for Catfish. I was fishing with a (guesstimated) size 5 hook with half of a big juicy night crawler impaled upon it and a large split shot sinker about 3 feet back on the line. I cast it out into the current and waited.

The sun was approaching its zenith and the fish were jumping all over the place, needless to say I felt real good about my location. Sure enough it wasn’t too long before my bait was hit. I love the way Catfish take bait. Not a nibble nor a half assed bite, no Catfish take the bait strong. With my first fish on my smile grew from an inquisitive smirk to a full grin as I felt the familiar slow, strong pulses of fighting a Channel Catfish. When I got the fish to shore I was surprised by how big it actually was, nearly 17 inches! I dispatched the hook from his mouth with my pliers making sure to avoid his spurs and placed him in my waiting live-well.

With my first fish on land I prepared my hook again and cast back into the same hole. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I had another fish on! It seemed I had found where they were hiding faster than I had thought I would. After another battle with a fish I pulled up a 12 inch Catfish. Things were really looking up. By now the sun was high in the sky and the fish had stopped jumping it was the perfect time to drink a few beers and soak up some sun as the full heat of the day came to bear.

At three o’clock I was joined by my friend Del. We fished together for quite some time with neither of us getting as much as a snag. Finally Del broke the spell and brought in a nice 15 inch Catfish. Like a gentleman he practiced catch and release.

Not long after Del’s success I too had my third fish on and landed a 15 inch Catfish. My live-well was now quite full of fish. With the hour approaching six in the evening and dark clouds rolling in Del took his leave and I prepared to take off. But just as I was preparing my things I decided to toss my line in and see what happened, and Bam I had a forth fish on!

This fish was no Catfish. It hit my bait in a very similar fashion but it acted very different in the fight. Catfish keep constant pressure and pull in slow rhythmic pulses against you. This fish however, was swimming left then right, giving slack and then taking out line and finally jumping clean out of the water. I had hooked my first Bass of the summer!

I tell you, sport fish are sport fish for a reason. They are so much fun to catch. The 12 inch Small Mouth fought twice as hard as my largest Catfish and was half the size. Sam and I won’t be able to keep the Bass we catch until after Memorial Day but it is a great pleasure to catch one. With my grin a full on jovial smile I released the Bass back into the river, re-baited my hook and cast again. Not too long after I caught the fifth and final fish of the day and my second Bass of the summer.

With the clouds looking meaner by the minute I released the Bass and began gathering my affairs and loading them into the car. Before long I was home and it was time to begin the process of turning whole Catfish into Catfish fillets.

The process begins by cutting the skin back just behind the gills and then using a vice-grip pliers to pull off the skin from head to tail.

Once you have removed the skin it is as simple as cutting down the spin on either side avoiding the guts and taking the fillets off.

This was my first time in a long time filleting a Catfish and I was bit rusty, but even though the fillets look rough they should taste great just the same.

Now, I know what your saying. For such a long winded story Sam and I didn’t eat a foraged meal yet this week. That is true and false at the same time. Saturday morning I ran the 10k in the 5/3 River Bank Race and then had the work in the afternoon. Fortunately we had been invited to a fish fry being put on by my boss at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus so we decided to let him do the foraging for us this week. Saturday night we indulged our selves in fried Blue Gill, Perch, Crappie and Salmon as well as…. MORELS!!! That is correct Sam and I finally ate Morels this season though on someone else’s labor.

All in all it was a great weekend. Sam and I are still clinging onto the hope that we may find Morels on our own. Until then we may have to keep mooching off people who are generous enough to share their morels even though will never divulge where they found them. Until then we’ll be eating Catfish and telling more stories of our time spent outside.

– Alex

Keep your eyes open, but more importantly…take whatever you can get.

Cattails.  Delicious….yes.  Exciting 3 consecutive meals in a row…not so much.  We thought this past week’s meal was, once again, going to rest in the verdant hands of Typha latifolia (the Common Cattail).  Thank the Lord we were wrong.

Last week, Alex and I foraged three times in different places around the area for something new to consume, but to no avail.  Neither did we find the species of fiddleheads we were searching for nor the early season Morels and wild Asparagus that are said to be sprouting around Michigan.  It’s sufficient to say our spirits were low.  As of Friday, we had NOTHING to prepare for our meal that night.  Postponing the meal until Monday we felt less pressure and decided to try foraging once more in Seedman Park (Ada, MI).

Right away we were happy to see the largest Dandelion’s we’d seen yet this spring and snatched those babies up. Praise the Lord and…pass the Dandelions I suppose?  The rest of that trip turned up little else other than a couple fiddleheads that unfortunately, we not of the Ostrich fern specie.   We’ve read that technically, there aren’t any poisonous fiddleheads, but we heard some are definitely more tasty than others.  We’ll have to try the ones we found this past trip in our meal this Friday.  Oddly enough, we also came across a Ribbon Snake that we were able to catch, clean and refrigerate to add to our meal Monday.  I’m still not so sure about that one.  Hm.

As all of you know, Sunday (yesterday) was Mother’s Day.  So as I’m sure all of you were, Alex and I were spending our days separately with our Mom’s.  Thank goodness we did.  After spending time with my own Mom at the Tulip Festival in Holland, MI, my parents and I went out to my Dad’s parents home in Nunica.  My Grandparents live on a large amount of land and have a field and adjacent woods comprising most of the acreage.  After coincidentally discussing Alex’s and my blog, Grandma Joan kicked me out of her house.  I didn’t need too much convincing to go forage the woods I had explored most of my childhood, but I did need some encouraging after all the snacks we had eaten.  I needed boots so Grandpa Otto provided, with dead mouse included.  How nice.


My Aunt Paula and Uncle Greg were nice enough to let me tag along and boy did we hit the mother load….of Wild Leeks!  Up until this point, Alex and I had only found wild onions with deeply rooted, not to mention tiny, bulbsThe wild Leeks we found were large and ripe for the picking.  Not only were they in huge, easily accessible clumps, but their bulbs were so close to the surface my family and I were able to use our hands to dig them out (a not so easily done task with wild onions).  In 10 minutes or so, we easily collected 50 plants. 

FINALLY!  Alex and I would have a foraged resource to make our meal with.  Right off the bat, I decided we were going to make Leek Soup the next day and boyyyyy did we!  Our meal we prepared for lunch and follows below.

Sauteed Ribbon Snake

  • 1 ribbon snake, gutted, cleaned and sliced
  • Butter
  1. Fry up the snake meat, tiny bones included, with butter in a pan until golden brown and crispy.
  2. Dish and serve.

OUR OPINIONAlex: loved.  Myself:  Tasty, but I hated the bones.  Worth trying once though.

Dandelion and Leek Leaf Salad

  • the leaves from 20 dandelion plants
  • 2 Tbsp of sliced leek leaves
  • preferred dressing
  1. Thoroughly clean the dandelion/leek leaves and prepare as one would a typical salad.
  2. Slice a few leek leaves long wise and add to the dandelion leaves.
  3. Add preferred dressing and serve.

OUR OPINION:  Alex and I both found incredibly tasty, but a little on the bitter side.  Dandelion leaves would really compliment a Romain leaf salad as well we decided.

Potato Leek Soup  (3-4 Servings)

  • 1-2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 leeks, in our case we approximated with our small leeks what we thought would be the equivalent, washed and sliced
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, optional
  • 3 – 4 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 Asparagus (we got ours from the garden), we added for fun
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-ground white pepper
  1. In a large pot heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the slices leeks and season with salt. Cook the leeks over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re completely soft and wilted.
  3. Add the thyme, if using, and stir for about 30 seconds, cooking them with the leeks to release their flavor flavors.
  4. Pour in the water, and add the potatoes and bay leaf.
  5. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife. Depending on which potatoes you used, it could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

THE LAST STEP BELOW (we didn’t do this step due to time shortage, but we will try it next time for sure)

  1. Pluck out the bay leaves and puree the soup with the white pepper, seasoning with more salt if necessary. I use an immersion (stick) blender, but if you use a standard blender, be sure not to fill it more than half-full and secure the lid, and cover it with a tea towel when blending, to avoid hot soup or steam for causing problems. Don’t use a food processor as that will make the potato purée gummy.If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water, until it’s the desired consistency.

OUR OPINION:  Alex and I both loved it!  We can’t wait to make it again and maybe this time around, we’ll puree it like the recipe’s last step suggests.  The one thing that truly amazed me was how tasty the 3 cups of water became after combining all the other ingredients.  There really weren’t that many, yet the liquid in the soup tasted like some bouillon or chicken stock were added.  So healthy AND delicious.

– Sam


Warm weather brings mushrooms!

Spring seems to have truly sprung this weekend here in Western Michigan.  Yesterday and today have given us beautiful warm and sunny weather.  They must have been just the missing ingredients our LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) needed to reveal themselves. Yes,  we have mushrooms! Some sprung up near my home just last night.  I have little, if any, experience in identifying fungi so I immediately started researching how to correctly identify the genus I discovered (see below).

After some quick, but thorough research, I discovered….well….that there are a million genus’ of mushrooms that resemble the ones I found.  They are placed in the catchall category of LBM‘s (little brown mushrooms) and it is strongly advised not to risk harvesting and ingesting these types of mushrooms.  So, that’s a no-go on a possibility of mushrooms for this upcoming weeks meal.  We’ll continue to look for new produce this week, but man! I really want something other than cattails!

-Sam


Our second meal is tomorrow. Will you cook with us?

As those of you who live in Michigan know, it has been raining all week.  Due to this fact, neither Alex or I have gotten outside to forage for our second meal.  So…we were so very thankful when we awoke to a cloudy, but RAIN FREE sky this morning!

Our recipe tomorrow will once again focus on the wonder plant, CATTAILS.

Cattail and Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 cup dry wild rice (produces 4 cups of rice when cooked)
  • 2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Wild rice should be cooked until tender.
  2. Saute the onions and cattail shoots in sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, until they become tender and translucent.
  3. Add to the pot, the cooked rice, 4 cups of chicken broth (or other soup stock of choice) and also add salt.
  4. Simmer the mixture in the pot for 15-20 minutes and serve!
Our foraging experience began where it did last time, at  a Cattail swamp.  We were soon forced to forage elsewhere for cattail shoots though due to a small harvest.  Walking closer to the lake, Alex and I found the El Durado of Cattails!  Furthermore, we met one of my super nice neighbors who showed us once of her paths right down to the shore of the lake.  Lo’ and behold, we found the largest cattails as of yet!  We concluded the most likely, the cattail swamp we found them in was more mature.  
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION!  We thought it necessary to mention that in their young stage, Lilies tend to look very similar to cattail shoots.  Lilies are NOT edible.  Example below.

Lilies: Slightly purple. Cattails: Not purple.

I can’t imagine how grateful, and not mention sick of, the Native Americans who utilized Cattails were at this time of the year.  There really isn’t much other vegetation available for consumption right now.  Fortunately, the sprouting flowers and plants are pregnant with edible possibilities for later this spring and summer!

– Sam

Who would have thought.

While visiting a relative of mine at the new Metro Hospital  in Wyoming, Alex and I couldn’t believe our eyes….a bio roof!

Looking down from the 3rd floor

If you are wondering what is so exciting about this colorful roof before you, you’ll be interested to know it is a biological, “bio”, roof.  The purpose behind implementing these bio roofs into new buildings is to reduce run-off, increase the buildings temperature retention ability, and filter pollutants (just to name a few).  I’m looking forward to seeing how Grand Rapids’ booming medical community will continue to implement environmentally friendly technologies such as this into their new buildings!

– Sam

Earth Day – Our First Meal

Today is EARTH DAY 2011!!!  Alex and I enjoyed a beautifully cloudy and chilly celebration of our mother earth cooking up our first officially foraged meal.  It was so exciting watching the fruits of our labors meld into a delicious concoction.  The scent of sesame and onion filled the kitchen and set our mouths a-watering.

For those who are interested in what we cooked, here is our menu below.

Menu

Wilted Dandelion Salad

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dandelion leaves from 6 plants approx.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Brown the minced garlic in olive oil, add dandelion leaves, mixing thoroughly to make sure all the leaves are coated in oil, add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat once the leaves are just slightly wilted.

Cattail Stir-Fry

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp crushed Sesame Seeds
  • Wild onions
  • Cattails
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  1. Roast Sesame seeds in olive oil on low until you can smell their aroma, add the diced up stalk of the green onion and sautee on low for another 2 minutes.  Add the onion bulbs, chopped to bitesize, and  cattails (cut to about 1-inch long), sautee for approx. 3 minutes.  Add a little water and cover pan, let simmer until the cattails become translucent.  Add cooked rice, stir, salt & pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

Candied Violets

Before baking

After baking

  • 1 egg white
  • sugar
  • wild violets (icluding stems) washed!
  1. In bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk just until frothy. Place sugar in another bowl.   Taking one violet at a time, pick it up by the stem and dip into egg whites, covering all surfaces.  Gently dip into the sugar, covering the entirety of the flower.  Place on wax paper-lined baking sheets and snip off the stems.  Using a toothpick, open petals to original shape.  sprinkle sugar on any uncoated areas.  Dry in a 200 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until sugar crystallizes.  Remove violets to wire rack, sprinkle again with sugar if violets appear syrupy.  Cool.  Store in airtight containers with wax paper between layers.
    Nutrition Facts   (1 Flower = 1 serving = 3 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 9 mg sodium, 1g protein, trace carbohydrates, 0 fiber)

Our Meal Review

The meal as a whole was delicious!  We especially enjoyed the cattails and  onion, but they were a lot sweeter than we thought they would be.  The flavors were subtle and pleasant, and they complimented each other extremely well.  The candied violets were messy, but uber sweet and surprisingly, they tasted like a combination of berries and leafy greens (it might sound odd, but it tasted amazing!).

For all our praise and enjoyment, this is a learning experience and there are some changes we’ll make next time.  For example, when adding vinegar to the dandelion salad, the rule of thumb should be LESS IS MORE!  Also very important, make sure to not over-wilt the dandelion leaves.  As with the aforementioned vinegar, less is also more when it comes to the amount of egg white and sugar coated on the violets.  Our violets didn’t crystallize all the way through, even though we baked them for the allotted time, and proved to be a gooey mess.  If you decide to use our recipe, we advise an application of non-stick spray to the wax paper prior to preparing the violets.

This meal was many things.  It was fun to research, clean, prepare, cook, present, photograph, ingest, delight in and ruminate on.    One thing it wasn’t?  Hard, expensive, inedible (thank goodness) or gross!    I honestly cannot believe all the produce that was right in our metaphorical backyard.  Nor did we have to search for days to find it!  The hardest thing about preparing for this meal was waiting for a day…in April…in Michigan, with good weather.

– Sam and Alex

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