One thing I love about life in the countryside is that there's always something new to be foraged. Each season brings its own timely treasures and, by the time you feel like you don't know what else to do with your baskets of walnuts or mushrooms, there's something new to be on the lookout for.
Full disclosure: winter is not my favorite season. I've never enjoyed the cold and while I recognize the importance of winter and I know that everything that grows depends on these colder months in order to do so, it's a time of year that I have a hard time with.
Maybe I should try harder, maybe I should get over the fact that I really hate wearing layers of winter clothes, maybe my feelings will change next year- but for now all I know is that during these months of the year it is really hard for me to get excited about getting out in the cold.
But now that I live in the countryside, it's easier for me to get out into nature. And that's how I'm discovering that winter is different when you're outside. Like, really outside- not walking from the metro to a coffee date, but like in the out-of-doors, like no doors in sight- just trees and leaves and greens and browns. If I can get it together to put on those dreaded layers- my doubled up socks, laced up boots, jacket, scarf, and wool hat and get outside, I realize the december landscape is worth exploring.
One thing that makes winter worth it to me is wild mâche. Mâche, or Lamb's Lettuce, is a delicate bright green bunch of baby leaves that grows in freshly tilled soil. In the winter, when the earth around the grapevines has been worked to give the plants some space to breathe, wild mâche fills in the cracks, peeking through mounds of dirt.
Foraging for mâche is like foraging for anything- at first you think you'll never be able to spot it among all the life and richness of a happy vineyard floor. But then you see one, and then two or more bunches of this cheery wild lettuce and all of the sudden you can't stop seeing it.
You get hooked, working against the clock that is run by a swiftly setting sun, digging your fingers into the earth, extracting the small sturdy mâche by its roots, adding it to your list of things that make winter worth getting out of bed for.
Poached Eggs on Mâche
2-3 handfuls of fresh mâche
For the Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Soak mâche in a bowl of cold water, emptying repeatedly until the water runs clear and mâche is clean. Spin dry and set aside. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, shallots, a dash of salt and a turn fresh ground pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil in a steady stream. Toss clean mâche in vinaigrette and serve in equal parts on two plates.
To make poached eggs, bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a light boil. Once you have a steady, low boil crack open your egg and let it slide down the side of the pot into the water (if the pot is big enough you can do both at the same time). Let cook, untouched, for three minutes then remove with a slotted spoon. Place on top of the mâche and top with salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve with bread or toast (goat cheese makes a great toast topping to go with this dish). Serve immediately.