august tomatoes.

It is August and you know what that means... tomatoes are out in full force by the bushel load!

The farmers market was bursting with every shape and size. Our little garden upstate is not too shabby either. It seems that hot spell was just what they needed. Delaware County has a ridiculously short growing season so when we get tomatoes we are ecstatic.

I am eating them every way I can. Last night I made a salad inspired by one I ate at the new restaurant Estela on East Houston Street in NYC. There is really no recipe here as I just kind of threw them together based on the flavors and ingredients I remembered from the dish.

This is what I put in mine.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Purselane

Canary Melon

I added some fresh herbs and topped it with olive oil and chive blossom vinaigrette.

Hope you are inspired to make something with tomatoes too! When January comes you will be craving a real tomato. So what are you waiting for?

You can see the completed salad on instagram here

Check out the August issue of Bon Appétit Magazine for some great inspired tomato recipes

xx

heirloom tomato and celery salad.

07.24.12

The first of  summer's tomatoes have arrived at the markets. Green Market stalls are  filled with piles of gorgeous and unusually shaped heirlooms in purples, stripes, blacks, whites, deep reds, orange and yellows. I love the wabi sabi-ness of heirloom tomatoes. I particularly like the ones that look as though they have been carelessly stitched and scratched like a beautiful Lousie Bourgeois sculpture. 

Tomatoes are one of those foods that are in my blood. If I were on a deserted island I  could get by if I had stockpiles of my great grandmothers marinara sauce.  When I think about the things I love to eat most... they almost always involve this diverse fruit! Foccacia with cherry tomatoes sunk deep into little wells of crunchy bread and pools of olive oil...marinara with a punch of garlic and hint of basil, Panzanella a delicious bread salad, a BLT with a  thick chunky slice of  a fresh garden tomato, tomato soup and grilled cheese, the ultimate in comfort food or a very simple summer salad of tomato and basil, olive oil and a little sea salt or in this case some crisp shaved celery. Just give me a piece of crusty Italian bread to soak up that juice and I will be in heaven!

More tomato love to come 

 Heirloom Tomato and Celery Salad (for two)

This is sort of a non-recipe. It is just an inspiration! As with most summer salads they just kind of get thrown together!

4 large heirloom tomatoes

1 stalk of celery with leaves

A handful of fresh basil

Really good olive oil

Sea salt

Cut the tomatoes into pieces and put in a large bowl

Shave the celery stalk into ultra thin slices with a mandolin and scatter on top of the tomatoes

Tear the celery leaf and basil into small pieces and add to the salad

Add a pinch of really good crunchy sea salt

Douse with an extra virgin olive oil 

Toss and Devour!

As simple as that and DO NOT forget some crusty bread lest you waste that amazing tomato juice!

bellocq. tempura edible flowers. chinese tea eggs and tea salt.

06.29.12

We always plant a bed of edible flowers in our garden upstate to add to salads or to eat straight from the garden. So, I was super inspired when we shot our favorite tea atelier, Bellocq, for the most recent issue of Kinfolk. Heidi Johannsen Stewart of Bellocq came up with this brilliant idea to tempura edible flowers and to serve them with tea salt! They were so good and so beautiful! We ate and drank a lot of tea inspired foods that day. We also made Chinese tea eggs and paired it with the same tea salt. I will share them soon! Have a great weekend!

 If you are going to try this make sure you have done your research as to what flowers are edible! Never use anything that has been sprayed!

Tea salt can add an interesting flavor to just about anything you are cooking.

Tea Salt/Lapsang Souchong Salt

1/3 cup tea

We used a smokey tea for this one! (no. 19 Lapsang Souchong) Organic black tea scented with pinewood smoke.  Plucked at high elevations in the Wuyi Mountains, this tea has a distinctive earthy flavor, with strong notes of honey and a rich red liquor.  You can order this tea online from Bellocq

1/4 cup of sea salt

Mortar and pestle until they are somewhat combined

Store in an airtight jar

Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea eggs are a populaur street food in China. I never ate them while I was there because I kind of avoid street food whle working. They were super beautiful however and stayed in my mind long after the trip.

Most recipies for Chinese Tea Eggs call for the eggs to be steeped in a combination of  black tea, star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce and black pepper  but you can get creative and add bits of citrus or ginger.

We served these with another fragant tea salt. We used Kiykuya from Bellocq.

 To Make The Tea Eggs:

One dozen Arucuana eggs

1/2 cup loose black tea.

We used Keemun Panda from Bellocq. A Organic full bodied black tea, prized for it's sweet earthy flavor and floral notes with a touch of smokiness. You can use any black tea.

6 star anice

4 large cinnamon sticks

4 tsp. cracked black pepper

1/2-cup soy sauce 

To Make;

Combine your eggs, spices and soy sauce in a large non-reactive pot with enough water to cover the eggs. Simmer your eggs for an hour. Remove the eggs from the liquid and set them aside to cool. Reserve the liquid and spices. (you will later add the eggs to the cooled liquid.)  When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently crack the hard-boiled eggs with the back of a spoon all over the surface of the egg but not hard enough to remove the shell.

 Gently place the cracked hard-boiled eggs in the cooled spices and liquid in a big lidded jar and refrigerate for three days.

The liquid will steep in through the cracks and flavor and stain the white of the egg. The outside will become a beautiful brown.

I used Aracauna eggs so that when I cracked them, the shell on the inside would be blue. The outside of the egg took on the most perfect Wedgewood brown. I couldn't help but think that Martha just might fall in love with that color. Heidi and Michael saved the pieces of the egg shell and added them to their famously beautiful Bellocq tableaus.

Prop Styled by the ever talented Shane Powers! thank you Shane!xx

A GREEN BREAKFAST. LOVING LOVAGE.

I was reintroduced to lovage, a perrenial herb, on a recent trip to Sweden and was suddenly reminded of how much I have always loved it's pungent celery-like smell. In Northern Sweden I had a wild herb tea with breakfast at Faviken and it happened to have in it, among other things, lovage.This past Saturday at The Greenmarket, I passed a vendor selling some fresh lovage. I couldn't resist crushing the leaves a bit before I bought them because it smells that good! As I wandered around, I bought some eggs and some watermelon cucumbers from Windfall Farms. By the time I got home I was inspired. I had decided to make a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, melon cucumbers sprinkled with lovage salt and a fresh mint and lovage tea. A little wierd, I know, but it was all about the lovage.

Lovage Salt

1/2 cup of coarse sea salt ( I used a french one )

5 sprigs of lovage

mortar and pestle

 

Tear the leaves off the stems of the lovage.

Add the leaves of 5 sprigs of lovage to the 1/2 cup of sea salt

Start crush with the  mortar and pestle

The salt will start to turn a brilliant green as the leaves get crushed and combine with the salt.

Keep crushing until ALL THE LEAVES ARE COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATED AND THE SALT CRUSHED TO A FINE PASTE.

The salt will be a little wet this point.

Line a beaking sheet with parchment paper

Preheat the oven at 250 degrees. As soon as it reaches temperature turn it off so it starts to cool.

Scrape the salt out of the bowl and  onto the parchment.

Flatten the salt out with the backside of the spoon.

Place the baking sheet with the salt on it in the oven for just a minute or two. You just want to evaporate some of the moisture from the salt. ( if you leave it in too long or on too high of a temperature the salt will lose it's vibrant color)

 Once you remove it from the oven, flatten it out once again with the back side of a spoon to separate all the salt crystals.

Cool and place in an air tight jar. I like to use Weck or Le Parfait Super but a Ball jar with a lid will do just fine.

 

Lovage salt is very strong and has a lot of flavor, so use it sparingly.

It was delicious on the cucumbers and the eggs. 

You can make a flavored salt with any herb it is the same process, just be sure to alays use organic pesticide free plants. I plan on doing a more in depth salt post when I can upstate and see what is in the garden!

 

 

Fresh Mint and Lovage Infusion

Tear a good hand full of fresh mint and lovage leaves place in your teapot and pour boiling water over the fresh leaves. Your tea will be ready in jut a few moments after it has turned the palest of greens. Lovage tea is a great natural blood cleanser and really great for cleansing the kidneys, it also aids in digeston. It has when prepared this way the faintest taste of celery and is really quite nice when mixed with the fresh mint.

I was surprised to find fresh lovage at the farmer's market. I was sort of resigned to the idea that I would have to grow it. We grew lovage in our garden when I was growing up, however we didn't use it too often in cooking We just liked the way it was so fragrant and easy to grow. Lovage plants are perrenial and can grow to be quite large. I am definitely adding it to my garden next year!  Use Lovage anywhere you would use celery.

By the weekends end we were using the lovage salt in our favorite summer drink Salty Dogs....

Hendricks gin

pink grapefruit juice

lime and a healthy dash of lovage salt!

flying fox and sour cherries

I stayed in the city this weekend under the premise of mounds of work.  For the most part  I have been sticking to a rigorous schedule. I did however, let my dear friend Marcia pull me away to the New Amsterdam Market for an hour or so today. We met at 11am sharp in front of Pasanella and Sons, just as the market had opened. I told her we had better make bee line to see Maggie Nesciur at Flying Fox to get some cherries before they were sadly gone. Last time I was the market I showed up too late and all of Maggie's fruit was sold out! She is tucked away in the farthest Northwestern corner of the market. Today, we had no problem as we were early. We did scoop up the last three pints of the most beautiful little strawberries that Maggie had lovingly harvested on a small farm  in Upstate New York. It seemed she was a little meloncholy to see them go as they are the last of the strawberries she will pick this year.  Maggie harvests only by hand, small batch seasonal organic local fruits and berries, and ONLY from small farms. She picks everything by hand and runs a solo operation supplying a few small resturants and now doing the NAM market once a week.

Talk about hard work and dedication. Though it may be an Urban farming myth, I have heard that she even slept in a strawberry field overnight just to be able to give the berries a bit more sun in the morning, before gathering them and heading back to the city. I am kind of fascinated by her.

Maggie began harvesting seasonal tree ripened fruits and berries from small farms in the Northeast region in 2006. She is dedicated to building and maintaing a community through sustainable farming in New York city.

 

In addition to the strawberries I picked up some some local blackberries and some Hudson Valley sour cherries that I plan on making into jam later tonight.

 

 

 MAGGIE"S FRUIT CALENDAR 

 

 

JUNE

strawberries

rasberries ( red, yellow, black)

cherries (sweet+sour)

 

JULY

currants (red, black, white)

blackberries

rasberries

blueberries

gooseberries (green and red)

apricots

sugar plums

nectarines

peaches (yellow, white, donut)

 

AUGUST

melons

watermelons

blackberries

raspberries (red, yellow)

apricots

sugar plums

nectarines

peaches (yellow, donut)

 

September +

grapes

pears

cranberries

beach plums

figs

elderberries

raspberries (red , yellow)

pawpaws

apples

peaches (yellow)

 

 

CONTACT

Maggie Nesciur

FRUITERER

917-637-9143

maggienes@gmail.com

 

a tree peony

Right about this time every year, our tree peonies bloom Upstate for one glorious week. Ours bloom a little later than most because of the cold weather and the high altitude of the Catskill Mountains. Because of these factors, we have a very short growing season in general. It takes all of our efforts to get up the gumption to plant a garden year after year knowing many things will never come to fruition before the first frost. Yet, we all do it. We do it because there is something sublimely magical and satisfying in tending a garden. There is definitely magic and beauty in plants. Luckily, my peonies tend to look after themselves, more or less. They don't mind the fickle weather Upstate nor the partial shade of our wooded home. I never had tree peonies growing up. It wasn't until I photographed some for a story, that I became completely and utterly in love with them. Historically, tree Peonies were first present in China and later brought to Japan during the eigth century. Both China and Japan have a long standing love for both herbaceous and tree peonies. Along with being prized for their beauty, the roots and seeds were and are sometimes used for their medicinal properties. It was not until the 1700's that the first  Chinese tree peonies showed up in Europe. In the 1800's Japanese tree peonies made thier way to Europe, where the lighter single blooms gained popularity over the Chinese full double blooms. I have always loved herbaceous peonies having grown up with them as they tend to flourish on the East Coast. These are the more common bush peonies, pale pink, whites and deep reds, that you are most likely familiar with. For me, they always marked the end of school and the beginning of the  long hot Western Mass. Summer.   Tree peonies are different they grow on a hard woody stem as opposed to soft green ones and can with time become as much as five feet high. I feel very lucky to see them bloom knowing they have made it through another long cold Catskill Winter. Summer has truly arrived.

A trusted source for ordering tree peonies is Khlems Song Sparrow. Tree Peonies are planted in the Fall.

to see afull gallery of peonies and similiar images go to ; http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com/photo-archive/peonies/