The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write. As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the pearly bunches of fragrant flowers. My nose noticed the first ones on April 28, this year, as I was walking out of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire & Rescue Hall where I was cooking for a wedding. But unlike many other years, this year was a good season, with showy, abundant and long lasting blossoms – well over 10 days. Despite almost 6 inches of rain last week, they kept blooming. But all things end, and now they are just drooping, brown and limp, rain water pulling them down closer to the ground… Read more
Archive for Recipes
As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.
The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!
Happy to share my recipe below.
I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.
But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.
Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.
I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!
Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. Read more
Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds we’ve been seeing the last few years: hot, hotter, no rain, and yet muggy. Ouch.
But at least we have blackberries. That means blackberry sorbet, blackberry sourcream sherbet, creme de blackberry, blackberry shrub. But not blackberry gastrique nor blackberry jam, of which we still have plenty. We eat them. We freeze them. Me make juice. We sell them. It’s blackberry time, I tell you.
It’s also hot. So, preparations with minimum applications of heat are ideal. And blackberries, with their sweet-tart flavor, lend themselves well to savory dishes.
Recently, I prepared a smoked duck salad as an appetizer for a 32-guest lunch (inspired by this recipe from the James Beard Foundation). I simplified the James Beard Foundation recipe by using smoked duck breasts prepared by The Whole Ox Butcher Shop in Marshall, VA (which sliced paper-thin with their meat slicer); changed the sauce a little bit… and reduced the plate to appetizer size.
An easy dish and attractive that’s great for a crowd, as all the components can be prepared ahead and assembled up to 30 minutes before serving (because we are using robust greens that can stand to the sauce).
So there, Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad – Appetizer for 12 Read more
It took me a long time to accept the idea of fruit in my salads. Too gimmicky, if you had asked me! As a properly raised French child, the only acceptable fruit that was not dessert was an appetizer of charentais melon with port (or maybe Jambon de Bayonne, the French Basque version of Prosciutto). But now? Now… I toss blueberries in massaged kale salad; I mix cantaloupes, canaries, and honeydews with purslane, shallots & jalapenos; I love peaches everywhere, including in salsa, or sliced thinly on a goat cheese open sandwich with black pepper & a drizzle of honey… and when it comes to watermelon, there is almost no limit.
Not only is this particular salad pretty, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead, keep them refrigerated in separate containers, and assemble at the last minute.. which makes it perfect for entertaining or even for potluck. Imagine the exclamations! Edible flowers bring a nice touch to the dish – in fact they are part of the WOW factor, something we can all relish occasionally. Read more
As one who loves beets, I have yet to find something made with beets that I don’t like. Raw beet salad, roasted beet and goat cheese sandwich, borscht, pickled beets (a favorite), beet ice-cream, savory beet tart, sweet beet tart (see Bar Tartine, by Courtney Burns and Nicolaus Balla), and, of course (thank you Nigel Slater) beet and chocolate cake – yep, over here, please!
It’s possible that this love for beetroots goes back a long time…. As kids, when we had a cold/sore throat, my mother would thinly slice beet root, layer them with sugar, let them sit until the sugar dissolved and the beets released their juice and give us spoonfuls of the most delicious medicine one can imagine. Cold, unctuous, sweet, and beet-y. In fact, something good enough to feign a cough! Totally unlike cod liver oil!
And although homemade kvass has not been a success (it got to be pretty sticky and literally oozed out of the jar), I have not yet given up on that.
Yet, beet seems to be one of those polarizing flavors – one loves them or hates them. Over several trials and error (and the desire to serve beetroot as hors d’oeuvre without a mess), I came up with a recipe that many people who told me they don’t like beets have enjoyed: Beet root pesto (no cheese). Read more
When my neighbor went to Turkey a few years ago, she was fortunate to spend time with a Turkish family, and taste true Turkish cuisine prepared at home. She also had a grand time at the Istanbul Bazaar and came back with amazingly fragrant spices, some of which she gifted me. She really enjoyed many vegetable dishes and was particularly intrigued by a vegetable she never had before… and had I ever heard of it? such a funny name: purslane?
I burst out laughing, and told her I’d bring her a big basket the following morning, wanted to harvest it when it was cool. Which I did. Fair is fair: a basket of “weeds” for a basket of spice.
Because, as you know, many Americans consider purslane (Portulaca oleracea) a weed. In fact, many don’t even know it’s edible. It’s a cousin of the ornamental moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), sometime also called purslane. Don’t confuse the two when buying seeds (you are unlikely to find Portulaca oleracea plants for sale)
Yet – it is. It’s also nutritious, mild (vaguely lemony) & crunchy – and for me it grows when lettuce does not. In the garden, it’s an annual succulent. It self-sows (and how!) but does not germinates until it is quite warm. In poor soil, it can look “weedy” indeed. But in good garden soil, it becomes a handsome plant that hugs the ground. Pick often to delay flowering and to encourage more leaves.
Leaves, stalks, buds, flowers and seeds are all edible. But the younger, firmer, leaves are preferable – so pinch out shoots to harvest (and encourage branching at the same time). I dislike the texture of the tiny seeds, so I swish my harvest in a large bowl of cold water to dislodge the seeds that sink to the bottom of the bowl.
A cultivated “improved” version of purslane exists. The pale-golden green leaves are fleshier than the ones growing wild in my garden, but also more fragile and the plant is not as robust. I prefer the unimproved version.
So how do you eat purslane? Read more
Winter. Cold and white this February. We have seen -2F (-19F) several nights, which, for us, is cold, and it’s been sustained. There are days where the high temperature nudged 15 or even 20F ( -9 or even 77C). Even the Chesapeake is frozen in place preventing boats from reaching tiny Tangier Island!
Few clients are entertaining and, with snow on the ground, there is no outdoor gardening. There are only so many seeds you can start in the greenhouse … So… I cook (and I write a little more)
Long simmered dishes call to me on those bleak days – or on those piercingly clear and cold days. When I have rabbit, I generally roast it, but recently, I made a rabbit stew, which just reminded me how good rabbit is. Especially when a little cream is thrown in the sauce… and then something almost magical happens. Because, you see, rabbit does not taste like chicken, it tastes like rabbit! And that’s good.
The dish is white – sorts, off – muted in color is a better description: I used peeled potatoes as well as Hakurei turnips which I had on hand, but any young small turnips will do. Just don’t go for those old shriveled things that have been sitting in the produce bins. Carrots would certainly work, although they would bring sweetness instead of a slight bitterness to the stew – and will also break the whitish color of the stew. But the important point is: don’t get hang up on the specifics of the ingredients! Just make the stew. It will taste great and comforting.
It’s rather soupy stew; if you want it less soupy then decrease the amount of liquid. It’s critical however to use a really good chicken broth, that means homemade. If you decide to decrease the amount of liquid, you may omit the potatoes, add more turnips, and serve the rabbit over grits or rice. Otherwise, pass the bread!
A Winter Rabbit Stew With Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips
A rabbit’s back leg is very meaty… Read more
Let’s get it out of the way right now: duck is fatty, and duck is delicious, a rich dark meat that is quite distinctive and … – surprise! – does not taste like chicken. I sometime roast a duck mainly to collect its fat – because (as everyone knows) duck-fat fried potatoes are a treat. So if you are afraid of fat, skip the duck!
Duck is poultry, but a duck’s skeleton and body are very different from a chicken. A 5-lb duck yields a lot less meat than a 5-lb chicken — don’t forget that pound of lovely fat — mostly in breast and leg meat. Everything else is “gnaw off the bone” meat (wings, neck and back – and innards, of course!), stuff that not everyone cares to eat. At least not at a fancy dinner as fingers are required. Go figure. So… anything smaller than 5 lb is not really worth roasting.
Ducks are — I am told — somewhat harder to raise than chicken. Mostly the processing (getting the feathers off) are a lot trickier and slower. So, it’s not that easy to get local ducks in the mid-Atlantic area. The closest duck farm I know is Free Union Grass Farm in Free Union, VA, more than 60 miles away (which is further than I want to drive on a casual basis).
So duck is a treat here.
A rich meat, it marries well with bitter or sour: cherries in the spring, turnips and ginger in the fall, oranges & olives in winter, or like the recie here, make a tart sauce with current jelly. Or you could use tart cherry jam or jelly, or a seedless blackberry jam. Read more
To the music of “These are a few of my favorite things” – and with apologies to Maria! – let’s all sing together:
Soufflés & Quiches, Omelets & Crepes
Clafoutis, Flans, and Croque-Madames
Waffles & Cremes, Meringue & Mousse
Not to mention sunnyside up
Custard & Ice, and Devil & Neige
Angel Food Cake
Steamed bread pudding and lemon pound cake
These are a few of my favorite things.
Somewhere along the line, eggs got a bad rap. Too much fat! Too much cholesterol! This from people who did not blink an eye about recommending margarine and other wholly unnatural man-made white fats. And then thanks to the horrors of factory farming where hundred of thousands of hens are crammed together, fed junk, and forced to lay continuously, salmonella scares have further discourage the eating of eggs. But of course! Anything produced in factory “farms” conditions is going to be less than wholesome.
But a pastured flock has access to a varied diet of grass, weeds, bugs; enjoy sunshine & fresh air; range and do what chicken naturally do (scratch, run, take dust baths etc). Those eggs are truly an amazing food, a power house of protein, minerals, vitamin and oligo elements – delicious and nutritious.
In my area, eggs from pastured hens sell vary from $4.25 to $5.75 a dozen, generally depending on whether the grain rations are GMO-free or organic, or soy-free. At 2 oz per egg extra-large), that’s 24 oz or 1.5 lb per dozen – or $2.83 to$ 3.83 per pound – a pretty good deal!
Besides, consider that chicken lay unfertilized eggs while wild birds lay eggs only after mating. Does that give us an indication of how long the relationship between chicken and humankind is?
So… need some egg ideas?
IDEAS FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR LIGHT DINNER
IDEAS FOR LUNCH OR DINNER
Everyone like deviled eggs! Here’s my recipe.
Sunnyside eggs anytime – that’s the ultimate fast food!
IDEAS FOR DESSERT
While many desserts include eggs, some rely almost exclusively on eggs, including these:
Baked custard. I vary the sweeteners, often using honey, as well as the flavoring: almond extract, fennel seeds, orange oil are flavors I often use (but vanilla bean is the most frequent)
Fruit curd, including lemon curd are good on toast, mixed with plain yogurt, as cake filling, or as a base in a fruit tart. Add whipped cream and/or whipped egg whites and you’ve got lemon mousse.
Meringue & passion fruit curd… and also pavlovas