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In the Kitchen With Ricky: Pancakes made with surprise wild onions from the yard

By Ricky Webster For The Spokesman-Review

It’s June, and we’re finally seeing some normal weather, knock on wood. It’s time to get out into the yard and plant flowers and veggies and tend to the lawn and everyone’s all-time favorite spring and summer activity: weeding.

My partner and I were tending to the yard a couple weeks ago while the sun was out. In between an afternoon hail and evening thunderstorm, I stumbled upon a weed. When I tried to pull it, it snapped a bit awkwardly. Upon breaking midway, the most frustrating way for a weed to break, I got the scent of onion.

There are plenty of bulbs, especially in spring, and plants in the garden that have pungent aromas. In the allium family (onions, garlic, shallots, etc.), there are hundreds of species, but that doesn’t mean they’re all edible.

This didn’t represent any typical onion, but when I was able to finally get one up to the roots, I did notice a purplish hue. This gave me hope that I may have stumbled upon an edible wild plant in the garlic family and that I could attempt turning it into a culinary treat.

Now, I wasn’t going to immediately fry up and eat these without knowing for sure that they were edible. I have a couple foraging books and I scoured the internet, but I still didn’t trust my findings.

I snapped a few pictures, and with the suggestion of my mother-in-law, emailed the Master Gardeners at WSU. The Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State was established in 2010, and its mission is to provide public education in gardening and environmental stewardship. At one point, I was thinking about joining the program.

I sent off the pics and a few days later received a response that they thought they were wild onions. I had speculated this myself, after online research, and with their email, that was good enough for me. I went back out and carefully pulled up the onions to capture the bulb portions.

After thoroughly cleaning them, I was inspired to cook them up as fresh as I could and made my rendition of a classic Chinese scallion pancake. I thought that this would be an easy and effective way to highlight the onion flavor and unique variety that I had stumbled upon at home.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have wild onions popping up in your yard, or if you’re a little too efficient on that weed pulling and already yanked them up and discarded them in the green waste bin, feel free to substitute them for traditional green onions or scallions. Spring onions, still available at farmers markets, are also a great substitute.

Wild Onion Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

⅔ cup water, boiling

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon sugar

1 bunch or about 1 cup of green onions, both white and green parts thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

1 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided

Canola oil, for frying

In a bowl, combine the flour, boiling water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and sugar. Once it comes together, continue to mix this stuff dough on a flat surface, until smooth.

Cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Separate the rested dough into two pieces.

Working one piece at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface into an 8-inch-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush on 1 tablespoon sesame oil over the rectangular surface.

Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ tablespoon sesame seeds atop the oil. Spread half the onions over the dough.

Tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll, being careful to keep the filling inside. Divide the roll into two pieces by cutting in half horizontally.

Roll each half log in on itself, like a snail, pressing the exposed end into the side of the rolls, and lightly press down on the tops. Repeat these steps with the other half of the dough.

Roll each piece into a circle about 8 inches in diameter, being careful to keep them from breaking open and losing the filling.

Set a pan on to medium heat and add a couple tablespoons of canola oil. Heat to shimmering.

Place the rolled-out pancake in the preheated oil and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until evenly browned.

While the cake is cooking, roll out the next. Remove the pancake from the pan and drain on a cooling rack. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Continue to fry. Cut into wedges to serve with a soy-based sauce. Ponzu sauce is a good option.

Yield: Serves 2-4 people

Ricky Webster, owner of Rind and Wheat and Morsel by Rind and Wheat, can be reached at ricky@rindandwheat.com. Follow Webster on Instagram @rickycaker.