where the wild things are. ramp bloody mary.

It has been one of those weeks. I am really looking forward to chilling inside today on this rainy rainy Sunday.

My bed and a good book is calling me. Today is kind of perfect for this spicy Ramp Bloody Mary. You might want to brew up a batch of this ramp infused vodka while you can still get your hands on some ramps. It is super easy and great way to have ramps throughout the year, that is if you don’t get too addicted and drink it all too fast!

Take a fifth of good vodka. 

Pour it into a large mason jar (I used a Le Parfait Super)

Trim and clean between fifteen and twenty ramps. 

Remove the greens to use for something else.

Place the ramp bulbs and stems in the vodka and store in your fridge from 3 months to one year.

I left mine for a year but after three months they were fairly infused. It is up to you how long you leave them.

Mine started to break down after one year and I eventually strained them out.

Infusing can happen rather quickly but I tend to push it's limits. Check the vodka from time to time to see when you like the taste of it best.

This Bloody Mary is rather spicy and full of horseradish. I like it that way but you can obviously tweak the spices to your liking.

I add crushed juniper to mine as well to give it a woodsy piney taste.

Enjoy!!

 Bloody Ramp

In a an extra large Mason Jar Mix:

3 ounces vodka ramp vodka

10 ounces tomato juice 

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

4 drops Tabasco sauce

1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon homemade celery salt

3 tablespoon fresh grated horseradish 

Shake and Chill the bloody Mary mix

When The Bloody Mary mixture is good and cold; Rim the glass with homemade celery salt

Pour the mixture over crushed ice and serve

Serves two.

Garnish with pickled ramps or a crisp celery stalk.

See this post from last year for Juniper Pickled Ramps.

Celery Salt

10 fresh green celery leaves

1/4 cup sea salt. I like grey.

Combine the sea salt and the Celery leaves in a mortar and pestle and blend together until you have a fine green salt.

It may be a little wet.

You can set it out on a baking sheet to dry and then store it in airtight jar in a darkened place like a pantry or stick the jar in the freezer to store it.

The green color will slowly fade over time.

where the wild things are.bucatini with hen of the woods and ramp butter.

I am extending the ramp season a bit with more with a few more posts. Sorry guys! On our side of the mountain the ramp is late compared to some lower zones.

I made pasta I wanted to share that is so simple. You can substitute the ramp butter for any other compound butter you feel like making. I imagine nettle or spring garlic or mixed herbs would be quite nice as well.

I used Hen Of The Woods mushrooms but you can substitute any other kind. Maitake or Shitakes would be just as good.

Bucatini With Hen Of The Woods And Ramp Butter.

Serves two

1/2-pound pasta

1/2 pound of Hen of The Woods 

3 inch long piece of old stale baguette or other bread

Olive oil

Salt + Pepper

Pecorino Romano

Set your pasta water to boil. When boiling generously salt it.

Start your Bucatini. It will take roughly 11 minutes or so and in the meantime if you have everything prepped you can cook the mushrooms and the breadcrumbs.

In a cast iron skillet or low sauté pan. Cover the bottom with a good olive oil.

Heat the olive oil on low-medium heat.

When hot drop your cleaned dry Hen Of the Woods into the olive oil and cook until some are just crispy.

Remove them from the olive oil and set in a dish to the side.

Chop your stale bread into small breadcrumbs. Drop them into the olive oil and cook for a minute or two. They will begin to brown and absorb most of the olive oil.

Add a Pinch of salt to the breadcrumbs.

Add a good dollop of Ramp butter and just melt it into the breadcrumbs.

Add the mushrooms and turn off the heat.

By this time your pasta should be done.

Before draining it reserve a cup or so of the pasta water. Set it to the side.

Drain you pasta and toss it into the mushroom ramp butter and bread crumb mixture.

Turn the heat on low and add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the mixture.

You will want to toss the pasta until all the ingredients are combined and everything is hot. 

Add the rest of the pasta water if you need it.

Season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and generously grate

xx

where the wild things are. ramp and nettle butter.

Looking back at my ramp posts from last year, I realized that I never posted a recipe for nettle and ramp butter. I posted the photos but not the recipe.

http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com/new/2012/4/5/where-the-wild-things-are-no-14-nettle-and-ramp-butter.html

Since the season is in full swing I thought I would share my recipe with you. I know some of you are probably so sick of ramp but I love it. Ramp has such a fleeting season. Every year I find there is more I wish I had done with it than the year before but I seem to feel that way about all the fleeting veg, wild or otherwise. 

I noticed at the farmers market this past week that some of the farmers selling ramps were offering up some ramp butter. Most of the ramp butter at the market was a compound butter, which is a mixture of butter and added ingredients, like ramps, herbs or lemon. You may have had maître d’hotel butter on your steak frites? This is a compound butter.

The ramp butter I have been making is essentially a compound butter but I make it in a different way and it is a lot stronger than the  ramp butter at the market. It is more complex and deep.

 If you want to take the fast route, you can make a compound butter by adding chopped herbs or ramps to a stick of room temperature butter. You will want to mash the ingredients into the butter and fully incorporate them into the butter almost folding it over on itself again and again with a paddle or a wooden spoon.

Here is a nice tutorial on making compound butter from Serious Eats.

I make my ramp butter by whipping up fresh cream in the food processor along with chopped ramps or nettles and herbs, depending on what kind I am making.

I mix the cream and herbs at a high speed in my food processor until the butter starts to separate from the buttermilk.  In a bout a minute’s time they will have formed a soft whipped cream cheese like spread. You could stop there if you would like and use it like a whipped butter but without separating the liquids from the butterfat it will not keep as long. I prefer to take it all the way to butter.

I pulse the cream and herbs until there are two bands visible through the sides of the processor. One will be a vibrant green liquid and the other will be the paler heavier fat of the butter as it separates. I keep pulsing the processor until the butter starts to slap the sides of the food processor.

The butter will appear grainy and clumpy at this stage and it will be sitting in a pool of liquid. This liquid is technically the buttermilk, but it is not like the commercial buttermilk that you buy in the store. It is much thinner. Commercial buttermilk is generally cultured and thicker.

 You will want to drain off the liquid. If you are feeling adventurous you can reserve it for a later use. I made ramp buttermilk biscuits with mine.

Scrape all the butter into a large piece of cheesecloth and give it good twist. The buttermilk will spurt out onto the bowl below. Drain it off into your buttermilk reserve.

You will know you have drained most of the buttermilk once the butter starts to come through the cheesecloth.

At this point stop and proceed to the ice bath.

Take a large mixing bowl and fill it with ice cubes and cold water. Spoon the butter into the ice water and gently scoop it together with your hands until you form a ball.

Let it sit in the ice bathe until it firms up for a minute or so.

Rinse the butterball under cold water and set it in a shallow bowl.

With a wooden paddle or a large wooden spoon start to fold the butter over itself pressing down as you do so. You will be forcing any excess buttermilk out of the butter by this repeated action. You are also "working" the butter. This was essentially what a butter paddle was for. Keep doing this and draining off any excess buttermilk into your reserve.

Eventually the butter will be free of all buttermilk and you are ready to store it.

You can either form it into a log or wrap it in plastic wrap and parchment to freeze for later use or you can store it in an airtight container in your fridge, I like to use glass.

It will keep indefinitely either way. If you freeze a big batch you will have it all year to throw into pastas or on steak. It is so delicious and so very different from the standard ramp butter I have seen floating around. You might have to be careful to not eat it straight! It is that good!

I hope you don't find this daunting. It is really very simple and once you do it you will find yourself making all kinds of flavored butters or maybe just fresh spring and summer yellow butter. 

Ramp Butter

1 pint of fresh cream

10 ramp greens 

10 ramp bulbs

1/2-teaspoon salt

Chop the ramps and bulbs coarsely

Add  the chopped ramps and the cream and salt together in the food processor.

Start your butter on high speed.

It will combine to a spread like texture within a minute or so. You can stop here if you want to use it like this.

At this point the buttermilk has not yet been separated from the solids.

I keep it going for another five minutes or so. You will at some point see the solids separate out from the darker green liquid (ramp buttermilk) in two bands along your processors edge.

I keep it going past this point until the butter starts to clump in small chunks and grains along the processors walls.

Continue following the instructions above.

Nettle Butter

1 pound of fresh stinging nettles

1 pint of heavy cream 

1/2 teaspoon of salt

You can make nettle butter following the same basic instructions with a few exceptions.. Start with a pound of fresh nettles. Use gloves when washing.

Blanch the nettles until bright green. (30 seconds or so)

Remove with a slotted spoon and squeeze the excess water from the nettles until the form a ball of what looks like frozen spinach.

Coarsely chop the blanched nettles and add to 1 pint of cream and 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Follow the same steps as above.

Here is a much less long-winded post on how to make cultured butter from food 52

where the wild things are. salted and pickled cherry blossoms

The bright weather this past week, though a bit cold, has really making me think spring! Pretty soon the West Village will be flush with blossoming Magnolias and Quince and Cheery blossoms. It is one of my favorite times of the year in New York and always reminds me of home. 

For me the seasons have always been marked by the comings and goings of botanicals. It is a little harder to notice these changes in New York unless you have a back yard or a country escape. To get your fix, you can visit the Green Market or make time to visit the Botanical Garden, which is just spectacular in the early spring and summer. You can also set out to explore one of New York's beautiful tree lines streets like many in the West Village or Brooklyn.

Recently, I needed salted cherry blossoms for a shoot and when the Internet came up empty (you can order them fro Japan but it would have taken too long) I have to admit I had never heard of them! I turned to Heidi Johansen from Bellocq Tea Atelier. I knew that if any one had a stash of salted blossoms it would be her!! Heidi is kind of magical and she produced these mysterious salty pink flowers of nowhere!

Now that the season is upon us, I have decided to create my own stash.

Sakura tea, or salted cherry blossom tea is often served at weddings or other auspicious events in Japan. It has a delicate salty and sweet flavor. It is fragrant and woody. The saltiness obviously comes from the salt but the sweetness is imparted through the flowers natural flavor and additional soaking in Plum vinegar.

Salted Cherry Blossoms 

2 cups of fresh cherry blossoms.

IF you have a  cherry tree in your yard you can pick from there or you may be able to pick up some branches from your local farmers market but be sure to ask if they are natural and pesticide free. You will want to pick them before they are full bloom when they are buds to a little more than half bloom. 

6 tablespoons of Japanese pickling salt

6 tablespoons of Plum vinegar

Wash the blossoms and set on a paper towel or kitchen cloth to dry. Gently pat until all the water is removed from the blossoms.

Place in a pickling croc or a shallow terra cotta croc.

Place a plate or a lid on top of the flowers. You will want this lid to fit nicely in your vessel. (I used a plate)   Then weigh it down with a weight of some sort. I used a river stone. You can buy a fermentation croc or you can use a vessel that you already have and weigh it down with a homemade weight.

Leave it in the fridge for two days. The salt and the pressure of the weight will force any liquid from the blossoms. 

After two days remove them from the fridge and drain off any excess liquid. My blossoms did not express much liquid.

 After draining any excess liquid. Place the blossoms in a glass bowl and add the Plum vinegar.

 Cover  and Refrigerate for another three days.

After three days strain the flowers through a sieve to remove any vinegar. Spread them out on a baking sheet covered in parchment.

Sprinkle thoroughly with pickling salt and set on your counter in the sun to dry or outside in a protected spot.

Allow drying for two or three days.

When the flowers are completely dry they are done. they will discolor a bit.

Store in a glass jar and cover tightly. They are preserved will last indefinitely.

Finally you can enjoy a cup of Sakura tea!

Boil some water and drop three or four petals in your teapot.

Don't be shocked! It is salty! It is an acquired taste!

Sakura Rice.

Rinse a handful of blossoms to remove excess salt.

Add to your rice in a rice cooker or on the stove. The blossoms will impart a lovely pink color to your rice.

 Here are some more ideas on what to do with salted cherry blossoms.

Below is a recipe from T Magazine

Salted Cherry Blossoms Adapted From Uni Sashimi Bar

2 cups rice vinegar¼ cup sugar½ teaspoon kosher salt1-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed1 umeboshi plum (available at Japanese markets or health-food stores)½ teaspoon grenadine syrup8 ounces cherry blossoms, or other edible blossoms.

1. Combine all ingredients except the cherry blossoms in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

2. Put the cherry blossoms in a heat-resistant container and pour the just-boiled liquid over them; stir gently to submerge the flowers completely in the liquid. Cool, cover tightly and keep in the refrigerator for at least three days before serving. The pickled blossoms will keep several weeks in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup.

Some other ideas..

Chop afew of the blossoms up extra finely and use as a special salt.

I am also thinking Salted Cherry Blossom shortbread?

Need to experiment with this one. 

This beautiful tea pot and cups from Jessica Niello at The Perish Trust

where the wild things are. the blue pearl.

One afternoon, a couple years ago, around a tiny fire outside their farmhouse in Southern Vermont, Les Hook and Nova Kim cooked up some wild mushrooms we had gathered that morning nearby. In a  large cast iron pan, they seasoned them with nothing more than a little butter or olive oil and some salt and pepper. It had just begun to snow steadily when we set out to gather. Large fat flakes  floated around us amd landed on our eyelashes.Les pulled over in his red Subaru, flashers glowing in the wild flurry of white. He deftly put up a twenty-foot ladder against a slippery maple tree and quickly climbed up. He pulled of the biggest Blue Pearl Oyster Mushrooms I have ever seen off that tree. We drove back to their place and lit the fire. It was then that Nova told us about her non-turkey, perfect for vegetarians on turkey day or for any feast any time of the year for that matter. You must start with a large fan of a mushroom, as you can see from the photo it kind of sweetly resembles a turkey's tail! Though I have roasted many a mushroom from them, it took me two years to get to this post. I asked Nova to save me a large Blue Pearl that I would pick up from the New Amsterdam Market. Luckily my snail mail reached her in time and I was able to get a beauty from them the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I kept in a paper bag on my fire escape until cooking day. Now I know I have sung their praises before but people, if you have not been to the market on a day when they are there then you are SERIOUSLY missing out. If you are interested in finding out when The Vermont Wild Food Gatherer's Guild will be in town go to The New Amsterdam Market website and check the vendor and calendar listings! They always have something special and if you have never been to the market then what are you waiting for? It is every Sunday from 11-4pm.

Back to the mushrooms...

The mushroom I got from Les and Nova was held together by a stretch of bark. I left the piece of bark on the mushroom while I roasted it.

I brushed the mushroom with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkled it with French sea salt cracked black pepper and thyme.

I put in my largest Cast iron pan...this was a BIG mushroom 14 inches across at least. I threw it in the oven at 350 degrees for a slow roast and when it started to brown at the edges I put about a 1/4 cup of water in the pan and covered it with tin foil to add a little more moisture. Mushrooms are essentially like sponges so they soak up all that moisture. I may not have needed to do this if I had roasted it right away but since I had waited a few days I thought it might help to add the additional moisture.. I took the tin foil off for the last five minutes or so of cooking. I can't give you a specific cooking time because it depends on how big or small the mushrooms are that you are roasting. So use your intuition. You want it to be moist and almost meaty when you slice it.

We loved this so much that we could almost forego the turkey next year and just eat this!

It was really good with gravy... 

Thank you Nova for this brilliant idea!

Roasted Wild Blue Pearl Mushroom Tail

Set your oven to 350 degrees 

1 large Blue Pearl Mushroom fan approx 12-14 inches in length

1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil brushed and drizzled on the mushroom

Seas salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

Gently brush any dirt or debris off the mushroom with a small mushroom brush or a small pastry brush

Place the mushroom upright in a large roasting pan or cast iron skillet

Brush and drizzle with olive oil. Mushrooms really soak it up so be generous with your application.

Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper

Add some fresh thyme leaves and a sprig or two for looks

Place in the preheated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of our mushroom.

Put about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water in the pan and cover with tin foil

When the water is all evaporated the mushroom will be done. 

Uncover for the last five minutes or so.

The mushroom should be moist and easy to slice along the grain.

Cooking time really depends on the mushroom size so keep and eye on it!@ You don’t want it to be too tough!!!

As always, a word of caution where wild mushrooms are concerned. Leave the gathering to an expert!!

roasted concord grape two ways.

Oh dear, I have been so delinquent in keeping up the blog lately! Life is getting the better of me and the days are flying by. Here we are mid October already! I want to share some of the things I have been making and eating lately. There are no recipes to accompany these as they are meant more for inspiration. The first is Roasted Concord Grapes With Olive Oil Maple And Sea Salt, on top of Greek yogurt with maple and flax seeds.. You can do it with any fruit as I been doing since the first stone fruits arrived in the Summer and unless you are really wild about Concord grapes like I am you might be better off with a simpler fruit like apple or plum The Concord grapes are real pain with the seeds and they require some serious work to get them out!breakfast I know I said I wasn't going to give a recipe but here is the gist of it in the loosest sense; Take whatever fruit you decie to use and spread it on a lined sheet pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and top with a touch of maple syrup. Pop the whole tray in the oven and slow roast the fruit at 350 degrees until it is soft. (With the Concord grapes, you must carefully split the grape and remove the seeds once they are soft and roasted... this takes patience and diligence and a small sharp knife!)

Once your fruit is roasted, Place a generous portion of it on top of your bowl of Greek yogurt and drizzle with a little maple, a tiny hit of sea salt and a good heaping tablespoon or two of flax seeds!

My other grape inspired recipe is Concord grape and Hen Of The Woods Crostini.

Place a generous amount of hen of the woods mushrooms on a lined baking sheet or in a big cast iron frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, seas salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Cut a handful of concord grapes in half and gently remove the seeds. toss the Concord grapes with the hen of the woods and olive oil mixture. Throw the pan in the oven and roast at 350 degrees until the mushrooms are soft and some of the edges are a touch crispy.

Toast some really good bread and brush with olive oil after toasting. Top the bread with the roasted mushrooms and grape mixture. Shave some Pecorino Romano on top and get to eating! 

That's it! 

Have lovely Tuesday friends!!

I promise to be back sooner than later! 

where the wild things are. hello fall.

Hello friends. It's been a while and though this is not quite going to be a proper blog post, I am getting there!

It is hard to get back into the swing of posting. The last two months have been super busy with work and travel. I am not complaining, as I do love both! As soon I got back to New York, I made a visit to The New Amsterdam Market, one of my favorite city markets. Les and Nova of the Wild Food Gatherers Guild of Vermont, were there with pounds of mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and colors. I couldn't resist. I dried some and plan on making a Chanterelle vodka and a mixed mushroom ragu with the others. Those posts will hopefully be up soon. For the moment, all I have to offer are these lovely wild mushrooms from Les and Nova and some gorgeous walnuts I picked up off the ground in France. Yes, I did smuggle the walnuts back. Bad, I know. I am hoping they will make their way into a french inspired cake very soon!

Have a lovely Wednesday!

X

where the wild things are. no. 20. pick a peck of pickled milkweed.

I have gone a little mad for milkweed this summer! You could have knocked me over when I first learned that it was edible. I have always known that Monarchs are dependent on milkweed for survival but I was dubious about eating it but no more, I am now a total convert. I have made milkweed frittata, a tempura of the blossoms and buds and now i have come to the pickled milkweed pods! They taste a bit like pickled ochre  and have a caperberry like texture. Do not worry, you will not end up like Sylvester with a mouthful of fluff! The tiny pods get pickled when they are between one to two inches long and the fluff inside the pod is not really fully fluff yet. I have tried these out on friends and family and the consensus seems to be that they are surprisingly good.

So grab some milkweed pods before they get too big and get pickling.

Pickled Milk Weed Pods

4 cups of milkweed buds (between 1-2 inches in size)

5 cups raw apple cider vinegar

1/4-cup sugar in the raw

2 sprigs of fresh dill flower

1-tablespoon whole juniper berries

1/2 teaspoon crushed juniper berries (crush them with a mortar and pestle)

1 tablespoon of black pepper corns

3 tablespoons grey sea salt

 To Make The Brine:

Add the spices and sugar to the 5 cups of vinegar

Heat to a boil in a non-reactive pot

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

In the mean time, clean and wash and de-stem the milkweed pods 

Blanch the milkweed pods for 30 seconds and then plunge them into an ice bath

Place the blanched milkweed pods in two 4-cup sterilized mason or Weck jars.

After the brine has infused for 20 minutes or so, return it to the heat and bring it to a quick boil and turn off.

Remove the brine from the heat and slowly pour it over the milkweed pods.

The pickled milkweed pods will last a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.