Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

Beet-root Pesto and Beet-leaf Pesto

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 […]

Shades of Honey

Have you ever wondered what determines the color of honey? or its texture? why are some honey darker or lighter? why are some honey extremely liquid, other much thicker, or some even “solid”? why do they have different textures? In essence, it boils down to […]

For the Love of Purslane

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?

Basil & purslane both like hot summer weather
Purslane & basil both like hot summer weather

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? (more…)

An Early Taste For Greens

I am not a professional forager, but I do harvest wild plants for eating. The easy ones are summer berries, autumn berries, and pawpaws; the more glamorous ones, morels & chanterelles (although to be truthful, my husband does most of the mushroom hunting);  the prettier ones […]

Sprouting

It’s a little hard to get live green food out of the cold frames right now. And anyway, we don’t have that many cold frames; … and they weren’t planted that thickly… and they’ve been depleted by earlier harvests. We just need to get more […]

A Winter Rabbit Stew With Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips

Rabbit Stew
Rabbit Stew

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

Rabbit Stew A rabbit’s back leg is very meaty… (more…)

A Duck Roast With Currant Jelly Sauce

  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 […]

The Miraculous and Delicious Egg

  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 […]

Lard: make it at home. A pictorial guide.

Despite Thomas Jefferson’s efforts 200 years ago, olive trees don’t grow in Virginia. Erratic winter weather with nightly lows in the single digit temperatures followed by days at 70F — as well as hot muggy summers — don’t make happy olive trees. Anything below -10C (14F) will severely damage even a mature olive tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love olive oil. And I used quite a bit of it along with avocado oil and nut oils. But in the last few years, I have been switching part of my cooking  fats to … lard, specifically home-rendered lard from locally pastured pigs. Here, in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, what other cooking fat is locally available to me? in such abundance? and so easy to make at home? (more…)

Honey For Sale!

The 2014 harvest is now available for purchase at R.H. Ballard in Washington, VA,  and through Heritage Hollow Farms Store in Sperryville.  We kept a few jars for direct sale, if you are local and interested. It’s a very small harvest as we are letting […]