goodbye spring. hello summer.

Life is flying by at light speed these days. I am already feeling spring rolling into summer. What is with this crazy weather? My head is chaotic swirl of work and kid schedules. I am trying to eek out some time to just chill. The heady smell of these Lily Of The Valley, one of my favorite flowers, remind me now and then to just breathe and to take a moment to pause and appreciate.

xx

egg. currently obsessed. how to boil an egg.

Spring is upon us even if a windy chill lingers in the air. I love this time of the year. The farmers market is bursting with ramp and spring onion and eggs of all sorts! I love the pullet eggs from the Amish Farmer at the Friday Green Market. They are so sweet and small. I have a soft spot for the newly laying hens that have come through their awkward and gangly teenage stage. This time of the year you will start to see duck eggs and goose eggs and quail eggs. The smaller pullets are perfect for Toad In The Hole, Egg In A Nest, or Egg in The Middle; whatever you may call them. Because of their small size, they sit perfectly in that cut out hole in the bread without running over the sides. We are big eaters of Egg In A Nest as we call them in our house. There is something so right about a buttery fried piece of bread with a perfectly done egg in the middle of it. It is both crunchy and soft and best when generously salted and peppered. We had chickens when I was growing up. We had Arcanas before it was cool. I have to thank my dad for that. He was into off beat breeds, hence the Sicilian Donkeys and Scottish Highlanders. We called our Arcanas Easter egg chickens. We bartered our plethora of eggs with neighbors for things like syrup or meat and gave them to pretty much anyone who happened to walk in the door. Some hens are prolific layers and one can quickly find oneself overrun with eggs!  If you find yourself in this situation or if you just want to celebrate spring's bounty, pick up a copy of Phaidon'sHow To Boil an Egg

It is the new book from Rose Carrarini of Rose Bakery on Rue des Martyrs in Paris and it is all about eggs! It seems deceptively simple but let's face it, the incredible egg is at times challenging and incredibly versatile. Here its secrets are revealed. How To Boil An Egg is gorgeously illustrated by botanical illustrator Fiona Strickland, with hyper real drawings that look like photographs. This is a lovely book filled with simple staples and a few surprises.

llustration Fiona Strickland 

Egg In The Middle 

From How To Boil an Egg

Rose Carrarini

2 slices of bread, preferably whole wheat

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 eggs

First stamp a circle from the center of each slice of bread with a 2-inch cookie cutter and reserve.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat, add the bread and reserved rounds ('hats') and fry until the undersides are lightly golden.

Turn the bread over, adding more oil if necessary.

Carefully break the eggs and ease them into the holes. (Sometimes I drain off a little of the white, but this is not a rule.)

Reduce the heat and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are beginning to set, but are still soft.

Using a spatula, transfer the slices of bread and eggs to a plate, with their hats over the yolks, and serve.

Now saute up some of that ramp, pea shoots or wild mustard you have kicking around and serve it on the side!

flying fox apples and french apple cake

10.27.12

This cold weather and early snow calls for a little something special with the afternoon PG Tips. I have been hoarding Maggie’s beautiful heirloom apples but yesterday's weather prompted me to finally use them.

I was recently in Southwestern France for work and was inspired by the small town farmers markets. It is fairly easy to find a market there on any given day. My favorite was a biodynamic market that sold organic fruit, vegetables and grains. Whenever we are traveling for work, I make it a mission to seek out these little markets. You never know what you will find. I am always on the look out for local specialties like honey and sea salt or liquor to take back home. At one of the markets in France there was a woman selling a very simple French apple cake. It was a plain and unassuming cake that tasted of butter and apples and not a trace of cinnamon which I find  to be highly overused where apples are concerned. The weekend before the storm I ventured down to New Amsterdam Market. The wind was wild and the rain was just settling in, but faithful vendors were there nonetheless. Maggie of Flying Fox had the last of the season's apples along with some beautiful medlars and quince.

Yesterday, I found a recipe worthy of her gorgeous apples, a simple French apple cake by Dorie Greenspan via David Liebovitz’s blogthat perfectly matches that simple cake from the French market. 

I made one substitution; instead of rum I used armagnac that I picked up in France.

This is a perfect cake for an afternoon tea or with a morning espresso. Come to think of it, it is just plain perfect anytime.

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake

 recipe via David Liebovitzblog 

 Makes one 9-inch  cake

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.

ingredients:

3/4 cup (110g) flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

4 large apples (a mix of varieties)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup (150g) sugar

3 tablespoons dark rum (I substituted armagnac)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch (3cm) pieces. ( use a mix of kinds. I used a mix of hierlooms)

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

6. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.

7. Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.

8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

Serving: Serve wedges of the cake just by itself, or with crème fraîche.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days covered. Since the top is very moist, it’s best to store it under a cake dome or overturned bowl.

Black Oxford, Old Maids Winter, D'arcy Spice and Hidden Rose... just a few of Maggie's beautiful hierlooms from The New Amsterdam Market.

 

The beautiful pink one is called Hidden Rose for it's surprising pink color.

The beautiful pink one is called Hidden Rose for it's surprising pink color.

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good butter makes the cake...

good butter makes the cake...

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shaved asparagus and pea salad with rhubarb vinigrette.

I love the Friday Greenmarket at Union Square, It is my favorite day to go as it is usually quite mellow there early in the morning. This week I met my friend Nancy Jo there. She is a crazy wild amazing intuitive cook and we generally bond over the baby Tuscan kale, the sweetest berries and the eggs from the Amish farmer. She gives the wave off to any produce she deems unacceptable like my Nonna in her flowered house dress. We talk about we ate that week and what we are going to make that weekend and then we dash off to work.

This past Friday we bought peas, pea shoots, asparagus, rhubarb, radishes, beets and summer savory. She had a plan to recreate a salad from Roman's and I wanted to continue my rhubarb lust by making a simple spring salad  with a rhubarb dressing.

 

Shaved Asparagus and Shell Pea Salad With Rhubarb Vinaigrette

This is a raw salad.

 

For The Salad

Ingredients;

 

6 stalks of asparagus

A handful of Fresh shell peas

 A handful of Fresh Mint

A handful of Pea Shoots

Shave the asparagus into long ribbons with a mandolin or a small shaver.

Arrange half on each plate

Shell the peas and divide between the two salad plates

Add a few pea shoots and some fresh mint and a few micro greens.

 

Makes 2 portions

 

 

Don't feel limited to my suggestions; throw on a few your favorite microgreens if you feel like it or some chives or chive blossom. I used beet micro greens and a ramp scape to pretty it up because that is what i had on hand and they are deliscious.

 

For the Dressing;

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

 

1 stalk of Rhubarb

1 shallot (I used a ramp bulb because I was out of shallot)

2 tblsp. raw apple cider vinegar

2 tblsp. sugar

3 juniper berries

1/3 cup water

Makes about 1/2 cup

 

Chop the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces

Crush the juniper berries with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon until just broken

Combine the rhubarb, the juniper berries the sugar and the waterr in a pan

Simmer the rhubarb, the juniper berries,the sugar and 1/3 cup of water in non reactive pan for about 5 minutes or until soft and tender. It should fall apart. Puree or strain through a sieve into a small bowl and set aside to cool. 

In the meantime; chop the shallot finely.

Add the shallot to the cooled rhubarb vinegar mixture.

Spoon the dressing over the salad and top with a really good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

.

Add a pinch of sea salt and cracket black pepper on top

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where the wild things are no. 13. stinging nettle and spring garlic soup.

NETTLES

According to one of my very favorite books, The Dictionary of Gastronomy 1969 which offers concise little blurbs of information of all things gastronomic; “Nettles are a troublesome weed sometimes called stinging nettle. They are nourishing enough to eat if picked when young and tender. Country housewives cook nettles as spinach and in Eire, nettle soup is a specialty. Nettle beer is also made in some countryside districts in Britain."

 

 

Though I won’t be attempting Nettle beer anytime soon, nettles have been on my mind since encountering the nettle and pecorino pizza at Pizzaiolo in Oakland last month. Nettles are not unfamiliar to me. My relationship with them, however, has always been a bitter one. As a country kid, left to my own devices, I had more than the occasional encounter with the tiny stinging welts that cover your flesh once you come into contact with them. In the summer, we kept several bottles of witch hazel on hand to combat just such encounters. Nettles grow in the tall grass, at the woods edge, in abandoned building lots and surround blackberry bushes as though they are standing guard against little hands of intruders.

 

Nettles, have a long history as both a food source and a medicinal plant. Perhaps you have the fairly common nettle tea or a nettle pesto? Nettles, which must be blanched to be used in cooking in order to remove the toxins from the stinging hollow needle like hairs, taste a lot like  spinach and are full of vitamins and minerals. Why not just eat spinach you ask? The whole process of battling this wild plant is fun. It is a challenge. Why not get to know some of your wild edibles, especially those that are abundant not endangered, long seasoned and often free. I do admit that my first sip of nettle soup was taken with a great deal of trepidation. I waited for my throat to sting wildly. It did not. Nettles are one of the first plants to show up in the early spring thereby making them an attractive and green food source after long winters for settlers and Native Americans. There are many benefits to this little weed that outweigh it’s stinging reputation. As well as from being good for you, the fibers of the plant can be used to make a textile similar to linen, it’s roots can be used to make a  vibrant yellow natural dye. Nettles are rich in nitrogen,  which makies them an excellent compost activator and of course they taste good!

Wear long pants and long sleeves to harvest your nettles and always wear gloves! Clip the top tender most leaves of the plant, throw them into a brown paper bag for transport. When you get them home put the gloves back on and throw them into a salad spinner to wash away any dirt or little critters. When you transfer them to the pot to blanch them wear gloves! They are not safe to touch until they have been blanched or if making  tea after they have been put in the boiling water.

 

These days, Nettles are popping up on menus all over the country. You can most likely find them, if you prefer to be less adventurous than gathering them yourself, from a local forager or wildcrafter or local green market.

I might just declare this nettle week here at hungry ghost and shoot them all week long!

I did not gather these nettles myself as the weather upstate is still a bit cold on our side of the mountain. I got them both from a wild food gatherer and from a stall at the Union Squre Green Market. Because nettles shrink so much, like any green when cooking, you will need much more than you would think you would need. I look forward to gathering some near my own blackberry bushes once the sun finally shines on delaware country.

 

Keep in mind if you gather in the wild to always positively identify a plant before consuming it!

 

 

Stinging Nettle and Spring Garlic soup

15 loosley packed cups of nettles

1 spring garlic

Three small shallots

3tblspoons butter

1 qt. of organic chicken stock

8 cups of water

bowl of ice for plunge bath

 

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh ground nutmeg to taste (optional)

Nettle blossoms for garnish (optional)

 

Method

Set 8 cups of water in a large pot to boil.

When boiling (with gloves) add your stinging nettles to blanch.

Quickly remove them once blanched and plunge them in an ice bath.

Squeeze the excess water from the nettles and set them aside ( they will be  a mere shadow of their former self at this point. greatly reduced in volume.

 

Chop the spring garlic bulb and the shallots into small pieces.

Add the butter to a medium size soup pot and melt over a low heat.

Add the onion and the garlic to sautee until just translucent and soft.

Remove from the heat.

 

Chop the ball of blanched nettles into coarse pieces.

Add the chopped nettles to the melted butter and sauteed onions and return to a low heat, Cook for two minutes stirring constantly.

Add the quart of chicken broth and simmer the onions, garlic, nettles and broth for twenty or so minutes until the nettles are very soft.

Remove from the heat and puree the whole mixture in a blender.

Run the soup mixture through a fine sieve o remove any large particles.

Return the soup to the pot and heat to serve.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with garlic mustard blossoms and fresh cracked pepper.

Serve with a hard boiled egg and some ramp butter on your favorite bread!


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!

update from the smorgasburg...

Ok. So yesterday was one really long day of eating! I may have eaten more yesterday than ever before! I don't know if it was the break in the weather or what but I was famished and didn't stop eating until I hit the pillow with a groan.

My partner in crime was none other than my friend and fellow gastronome Nancy Jo, who loves food as much as I do and is always up to try anything. We met at the entrance to to the L train at 9:45 and were off to check out the much anticipated Smorgasburg. When we got there, it was a pretty mellow scene. We were able to chat with the vendors who were still setting up and make a few rounds to survey the situation. As soon as they were ready, we dove right into the fried anchovies from Bon Chovie.  We opted for the " Jersey Style", five fried anchovies, heads on, served with lemon and pickled carrots. We took these, along with some Vietnamese street food over to a bench along the river and polished them off rather quickly. We sat for a moment enjoying the view before heading back to try something else. In the little bit of time between ordering and hitting the bench, the crowd had grown exponentially, but it was still manageable. We decided to spilt up and cover more ground as the lines were quickly getting long. Nancy waited in the Chonchos Tacos line and I in the Landhaus BLT line. For me, the Landhaus blt was the highlight of what I the at the market.  Two giant slabs of house cured bacon, cooked on the spot, with a generous slice of tomato, romaine lettuce and  lemon on crusty french bread , a little messy and  whole lot of good!

We headed back over to the benches and examined our eats before quickly devouring them. We decide to take a quick break from the food and walk up to Blue Bottle Coffee on Berry where there was a geneous line as well. It moved rather quickly and we were happy to get out of the sunshine for a second as there was no shade at all at the water front park. The Blue Bottle space is cavernous and beautiful. I think they took over the old Williamsburrg glass blowing studio which kind of makes me sad but there is so much transformation happening in that neighborhood at the moment that it is somewhat dizzying. We met up with a friend, Motoowner and photographer Bill Phelps who pulled up on his very cool vintage black Raleigh, to join us for a quick coffee. After contemplating a smore ( it was the descrition that lured me to it...this was not your average smore...it was a Brooklyn Bootleg Smore, made with King's County Distillery Moonshine, on a house made graham cracker with Mast Brothers Chocolate and homemade marshmallows!) deciding against it, we headed back to Smorgasburg to hit the greenmarket section. We were a little bummed that we hadn't purchased our greens from The Brooklyn Grange upon arrival because at just after noon they were nearly sold out! We grabbed the last dandelion greens, lambs quarters and arugula. I picked up a sweet little bunch of radishes. At 12;30 or so the market was total chaos, hipster and baby heaven. Food was selling out fast and  it was really hot and crowded. We hung out for a while longer meeting up with some friends who were more than a little disappointed by the lines. Lesson here, come early, come hungry, go for it and leave!

We made one last  valiant effort and stood in a really long long line for a Peoples Pops ( ginger pear and blueberry chai) after which we decided to walk to Marlow and Son's for an afternoon glass of rosé. As soon as we sat at that cool dark bar and were presented with the menu we knew we couldn't just have wine so it was rosé, rabbit meatballs and oysters... and more rosé!

We headed into the city to go to my friend Marc's Hundley's opening but were a little too early.. so it was Freeman's for some rosé and devil's on horesback and more rosé.. After the opening we were surprised by a quick downpour,  umbrellaless, and still hungry, in order to escape the rain, we darted into The National... for you guessed it more rosé ( the best of the day, from Puglia) a burger, a soft shell crab, a salad and lemon tart with a graham cracker crust of parsley and tarragon. ( which I am going to appropriate somehow as soon as I can!)

We rolled out of there and walked back to Broome street where Nancy caught a cab and I hit my bed with a generous thud. That was real Smorgasburg indeed!


My Top Picks for  the opening weekend

Anarchy In A Jar, I couldn't resist the rhubarb hibiscus jam!

Landhaus BLT

Bon Chovie

Peoples Pops

The Brooklyn Grange for fresh greens and herbs


Brooklyn Kitchen

Consider Bardwell Farm for cheese and maple syrup

Flour City Pasta all kinds of organic handmade pastas

Meat Hook 

the gathering

At 7am on a terribly rainy Saturday, I made my way up Broadway through the ultra quiet streets of Soho to The Union Square Greenmarket to meet my friend and fellow gastrophile, Nancy Jo. After much indecision about what to do for Easter this year, I decided to stay in the city and cook with friends.

Nancy and I decided to set some parameters for the meal. We would be inspired by our shared Southern Italian roots and the bounty of Spring. At the market we bought pink oyster mushrooms, ramps, Arucauna and pheasant eggs, dinosaur kale, french radishes,  spicy spring greens, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, rhubarb, cippolini onions, escarole, baby artichokes, artisan bread, mint and other herbs. Then, over a soft boiled egg at  Le Pan Quotidian, escaping the rain...we plotted our menu.

 

crostini with ramp

crostini with poached rhubarb, thyme and fresh ricotta

crostini with sauteed pink oyster mushrooms

hard boiled arucauna  and pheasant eggs with sale di cervia and crushed black pepper

 french radishes with sea salt and butter

assorted meat and cheeses, fennel salami and Prosciutto di Parma

homemade ricotta with miele di castagno

frittata de menta

raw kale salad

escarole pie

onion pie with anchovies and black olives

bucatini with ramp pesto

fried baby artichokes with lemon and sea salt inspired by the artichokes at Maiolino

 

maple cheesecake

and a beautiful cake from Fortunato Brothers 

guests brought Lambrusco and various other wines and drinks!

 

recipes to come.

 

gastrophile/ noun.

One who loves good eating and plenty of it.