best coast picnic

Last week I was out on the West Coast and visited with some friends in Albion, in Northern California near Mendocino. The drive up Highway 1 from San Francisco is absolutely stunning no matter what time of the day you choose to do it. Before heading up North we stopped at Bi-Rite Market to pick up some provisions. Bi-Rite is at the center of the food frenzy happening around 18th Street and Guerrero. (Tartine Bakery, Delfina, Delfina Pizzeria and Bi-Rite Creamery all share the block and now very near is a Freeman's Barber Shop) Bi-Rite is the sweetest little market busting at the seams with gorgeous produce, citrus, meats and cheeses. We picked up some Anna's Daughter's Rye Crackers (there seems to be a major cracker scene happening out West) and some Cowgirl Creamery Inverness cheese, both, which are not available on the East Coast. The Inverness cheese is pure Jersey cream heaven and was perfectly paired with the thin rye crackers. We also picked up some Satsuma oranges and some smoked salmon. Then we hit the road, crossed the red bridge and started our adventure North. The Cow Girl Inverness cheese barely made it past Bolinas before we had devoured it entirely. It was tempting to open the second one we had picked up for our friends but we stayed strong. While in Albion, we decided to go for a picnic near the Mendocino Headlands. It was gorgeously foggy day. We stopped to pick wild watercress, which we spotted in the fresh water trickling towards the cliffs. Even though it was a foggy day, the picnic was brilliant! We did of course have some Mast Brother's chocolate to share with our friends so we could give Brooklyn a little love. We traveled with chocolate and Bellocq Tea to share with West Coast friends.

On the way back through San Francisco, we made sure to leave time to run to Bi-Rite to pick up those provisions once again to share with family in New York. We grabbed our last Tartine croissant, ran into our friends Gemma and Andy in line at Tartine and had a quite a laugh as we ran into them in Stockholm last summer! We see them more around the world than in Brooklyn. (They were just honored in PDN's 30) We then headed to the airport and said goodbye to San Francisco and headed home, cheese in hand. Last Sunday we had a best coast picnic right here on Broome Street, the only thing missing was the fog.




where the wild things are no. 10. juniper pickled onions.

Strangely, I have been craving juniper this past year. It started late last Summer, upstate, with a series of wild cocktails and juniper stuffed trout. I have since experimented with a number of recipes and drinks, to which my friends can attest, as I have plied them with many a juniper tipped cocktail.  I had never really incorporated juniper into my cooking in the past but now, I don't think I could live without it!  It should really have come as no surprise to me that I would like it this much. I do, after all, love gin, that brilliant aromatic spirit, spiced with juniper and other aromatic herbs and spices. I discovered gin in my early twenties.(Right now my two favorites are Hendricks and Breuckelen  Gin.) Juniper smells both medicinal and like the darkest forest floor. It is very complex. I have many Juniper recipes to share but for now I will post my current obsession; juniper pickled onions! Once you try them, there is no turning back.

 

Juniper Pickled Onions 

 

 (I added a few shallots to this recipe)

3 cups Japanese Apple Cider vinegar

(you can use Bragg's Raw Cider Vinegar if you want, I used what I had on hand)

1 tablespoon dried Juniper berries

1/2 tablespoon crushed Juniper berries (crush with mortar and pestle)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

3 tablespoons sugar

 

 To make the brine:

Add the spices and sugar to the 3 cups of vinegar

Heat to a boil in a non-reactive pot

Turn off and allow to steep for 20 minutes for the spices to infuse

In the mean time, thinly slice 2 medium  red onions

 

After 20 minutes, heat the brine to a slow simmer.

Divide the onions into thirds and drop into the brine for 20 seconds.

Remove after 20 seconds with a slotted spoon and set aside.

The onions will turn a brilliant pink.

When all the onions have been run through the brine, turn it off an allow it to cool.

When cool put the onions in a Weck or Ball jar or some other airtight storage container and pour the remaining brine over the onions.

The pickled onions will last for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.

nomad and rishikesh

Written post October snow storm.

Soho was very quiet the morning after the bizarre and historic October snow. While  everyone slept, I found the perfect moment to escape into Nomad a global approach to interior style, a new book from  Sibella Court. Nomad, follows her previous books, A Stylists Guide to NYC and Etcetera. Her book is a personal journey of her travels that inspire her sense of style , her interiors and her soul. There is a story about about her mother that is both incredibly real and personal. This is not just a book of suggested places to visit, it it a personal journey. I worked with Sibella, a kindred spirit, many times during her stay in New York and I was always inspired by the bits and pieces of travels she carried with her to every shoot. Like a tiny Weaver or Bower Bird she constructs the most elaborate nests wherever she is, pebble and shell, pieces of string, fragments of fabric all find their way to her into her pockets and onto her walls, sets and tableaus.

Nomad is divided into sections by country. She covers Italy, India, Syria and Mexico. Sibella gives  a personal account of travels through these countries and takes us to some of her favorite places. There are many beautiful travel photographs that make me want to pack my bag and hit the road. I have said before that I too collect things on my travels, like sea salt and honey, but it really goes far beyond that. On my last trip to Istanbul I had an entire fleet of paper cups wedged into my tripod bag, as they were just too beautiful to leave behind. I am a pilferer of matches and menus as well. I too am always looking for bits to bring home, things that remind me of a place or something I can later use in a shoot. I am a bit of an obsessive collector in that way and that is one  reason I enjoy working with stylists who share that same obsession. Last April, I was in India on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler. The days were hectic and the weather in the Northern Himalayas was unseasonably bad! A monsoon had rolled in and threatened to eradicate all blue skies with blinding rain and wind. It was one of those times that we had to wait it out a bit, something which is very hard for me to do when I am on a job. After giving in to the weather one evening we decided to take a couple hours and travel the twenty minutes down to the town. The town of Rishikesh is really very special as it marks  the beginning of the  River Ganges as it comes down from the Himalayas. The river is very clean there and it is a very sacred place. The Beatles wrote most of the White Album in Rishikesh in 1968 when they visited the now closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. Even in the rain, the little riverside town at the edge of the Ganges was busy with activity. We sat through Ganges Aarati ceremony, performed each evening at sundown at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram and listened to the most beautiful chanting and watched brilliant flowers and candles of offerings float silently along the river. After the ceremony we walked across a suspension bridge over the Ganges to the other side of town where the evening market was taking place. Single light bulbs hung on cords  illuminating each vendors stall like a perfectly styled theatrical stage. One  thing I have found is that markets stay open quite late in other countries ( it was on this same trip, though in another country, that we found ourselves making our way towards a hidden spice market on the outskirts of Dubai at nearly midnight!) It was in that hour or so in Rishikesh that I found some of my favorite souvenirs. A brass Ganesha, some ribbon, two pairs of tiny handmade shoes a pair of scissors some prayer beads and a medallion, but more than these it is the image of the little town in the blue evening , music floating up between the mountains that I will never forget.

 

Like Sibella, I am inspired by travel and try to make the most of wherever I am at any given moment. I carry my finds home where they work  their way into our lives. These bits are always there whether in a box of treasures or on the wall to remind me that I really did stand at the edge of that river clear across the globe.

 

 

You can buy Nomad at Anthropologie. And visit Sibellas shop The Society Inc. in Sydney Australia where she has landed.

 

where the wild things are. no.1. wildcrafting and wild edibles.

This post marks the start of an ongoing series relating to foraging, wildcrafting and wild edibles.  Gathering wild edibles has been something I have always done without really thinking about it. It was a way of life growing up on a small New England farm in a very rural area. There wasn't a season that we didn't gather some kind of wild edible. It helped that my stepmother was an amazing gardener/botanist and a Vermont farmer’s granddaughter. We spent countless hours in the woods and the fields on our small farm where she would point out edible plants to us. In part it was an economic choice to gather these treasures as it has historically been for many New Englanders. In the early days of may she sent us out to gather the tiny wild strawberries that grew in the cow pasture. With them she made her coveted wild strawberry jam. When we drove her crazy she shooed us outdoors to find "sour grass" or sheep sorrel and other wild greens for the salads. At summers end we gathered blackberries and elderberries, and with the colder days of fall we were sent in search of wild grapes and cranberries. I can still find the exact spot on my dad's property where wild cranberries grow and the one juniper bush lives at the wood's edge in that far corner of the large field. At the time I was not so crazy about growing up on a small family farm, but now I think it was the perfect place to be. We were given an absolute freedom of the woods that I am not sure kids have today. When I moved to New York for school some twenty odd years ago I never thought I would stay, but here I am, a complete city dweller.  So I have decided to bring a little of the woods and the country into my city life by using more wild edibles on a regular basis. Some of these I will gather myself when I can and others I will get from professional wildcrafters and gatherers at the many local markets here in New York City.

I was inspired by a recent trip to Faviken in Northern Sweden where I had the most unusual and spectacular meal of my life. I ate mushrooms and moss and lichens and a seven year old dairy cow, but it was the philosophy behind it that mostly had me hooked. The Sweden trip renewed my interest in gathering.  As I mentioned earlier, I am not a stranger to gathering by any means, I gather ramp and wild onions, dandelion greens and teaberry and of course all kinds of wild berries in Upstate New York where I go to get out of the city. The Sweden trip made me realize it can be part of my every day life even if I am not constantly living in the country. At Faviken, they take great care with what they pick. They gather ethically, only harvesting small amounts of wild edibles. They realize they have a relationship with the forests and the fields and they must at all costs protect that delicate balance. The dishes they serve are very minimal. I was suddenly seeing the beauty and the flavor in a single pea flower as opposed to a whole pile of them. I fell in love with the long forgotten lovage plant. I had wild herb infusions every morning and a cold juniper infusion with dinner. Walking the woods with Magnus, the chef at Faviken, suddenly everything seemed very alive. We talked about reindeer lichen and old man's beard, mushrooms and berries.

As far as mushrooms go I have never really spent much time picking them. I went with my grandparents and their Italian friends a couple of times in Northern Vermont, where they lived for many years, to pick chanterelle's and morels. I don't feel particularly confident picking mushrooms myself.  Since there are so many poisonous similes I tend to leave the mushrooms to the experts. There is a definite science to mushroom picking, spore prints must be done and guides should be consulted. I would never pick mushrooms without checking a guide and doing a spore print.

That is a whole other post for another time! 

 wild strawberry 

late summer berries

The  wild blackberries had another good season on our side of the mountain this year. We are on a north facing slope where the berries seem to thrive. Every year the tangle of brambles takes over more land on the slope.

I wasn't able to pick too many berries this year, summer was far too hectic and I found myself in the last hours of upstate time frantically gathering berries before heading back to the reality of the city. I am trying to embrace "small batch" or very "small batch" to be more specific. I don't need to pick every last berry in Delaware County! Last year's larder is still full of jam and pickles... what more do I need?.  This year, I picked just enough for a couple tarts and a few jars of jam.With an apple and blackberry tart in mind, I gathered a few fallen apples from our old but giving trees and headed south.

sunday night lentils

After a weekend like this, I feel like I need a little comfort food. I have a pot of Sunday night lentils simmering on the stove. The wind is positively howling outside and the clouds are racing across the city but there is a brightness to the sky, even as evening approaches. Let's hope this next week is kinder and less eventful than the last. 

 

 On to the lentils....

4 small carrots or 2 large ones

1  generous handfull of celery leaves

3 small onions

2 cups of french green lentils

olive oil

sea salt

red pepper

rind of parmesan or romano

10 plus cups of water

 

 Peel and coarsely chop the carrots and onions.

 Rinse and coarsely chop the celery leaves.

Add  carrots, onions and celery leaves to a stock pot with about 5 tablespoons of olive oil

Cook on low heat until onions are transluscent and carrts are soft

Add the lentils to the carrots and onions and celery and stir together for about a minute, lower the heat and add 8 cups of water.

Add the rind of parmesan or romano. ( I always keep a rind or two in the freezer to flavor soups)

Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Cover and let simmer on a medium flame for about 15 minutes, keeping a close watch.

When you feel you need to add the other two cups of water, then do so.

Add  more water to the lentils as needed if they start to thicken too quickly. ( how much water you add at this point depends on how thick or thin you may want your soup)

 

The lentils are done when they are soft.

Add sea salt and a pinch of ground red pepper to taste.

paris breakfast

Lost in Paris. Woke up this morning at Rue Martel in the shuttered dark room, left virtually untouched after my late arrival. I fell straight into bed and didn't move all night. 

This morning I opened the shutters and the light streamed in from the courtyard where marigold and geranium pots lined the ledge. Coffee was a priority. I dressed and walked up the somewhat familiar Rue de Faubourg St Denis until I came upon Chez Jeanette. 

After my coffee I wandered to Jules and  bought a baguette, jambon and some tomme. On the way home I spied these beautiful green plums and raw hazelnuts.

Breakfast day one:

green plums

tomme with raw hazelnuts

rhubarb yogurt

jambon buerre and baguette