where the wild things are no.19. fried milkweed blossom.

Milkweed is the new kale... just saying. 

 You might encounter milkweed on some menus this summer as it is popping up all over the place. I first heard about fried milkweed blossoms last year, through my friend Emily from Four and Twenty Blackbirds.  I immediately looked for some Upstate but was too late in the season for the young blossoms. I made a mental note to not miss them this year. I had a chance to collect some with Evan Strusinski in Southern Vermont last week. They taste a little like asparagus but with a broccoli like texture and they remind me a bit of squash blossoms or day lilies in taste. After a bit of research, I have found that the many parts of this much-maligned weed are edible. If you are interested in wild edibles you may want to pick upStalking the Wild Asparagus or Petersen's Field Guide To Wild Edibles. Research wild crafters or foragers in your area and make a point of taking a class with them. Always properly identify a plant before eating it! Milkweed in its early growth stages can be confused with Dogbane, a poisonous plant but in its later stages of growth it is easy to identify. You may know the Common Milkweed already, as the plant that attracts the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch depends solely on this plant for its survival. Farmers have never been great fans of this weed as it grows along the edges of pastures and fields and sometimes colonizes and can encroach on crops. Cows and sheep won't touch it. You will often see a field eaten clear down to stubble with the exception of a few lone milkweeds. The plant can be harmful to livestock so this is why they don't eat it. I don't think I ever knew that milkweed was edible. However, I had heard somewhere long about the sixth grade, when we were studying migration, that you could make cloth, paper or rope from the fibers of the pods and stalks but that was about the extent of my knowledge. There will be more recipes  in the near future using milkweed as this was a tasty hit at a Brooklyn party yesterday afternoon! It dissapeared in minutes. I made a batter of spelt flour and dark beer and served them with a generous squeeze of lime and juniper salt. I kind of wish I had some right now!

As a total aside... milkweed fluff was used during World War One to stuff life jackets and flight jackets and has higher insulative property than goose down! You can purchase comforters made with a mix of down and milkweed fluff from the Ogallala Down Comany in Nebraska.  The seeds of the Common Milkweed plant also happen to be full of Omega 7's.

Fried Milkweed Blossoms with Juniper Salt and Lime

1 cup spelt flour

2 eggs

1 cup of dark beer

Juniper salt 

Lime

Combine the eggs, flour and beer until a smooth batter is formed.

Clean and wash the milkweed blossoms. I left a bit of stem and some tender leaves on some as I thought it was pretty.

Blanch the blossoms quickly and throw in an ice bath. This takes away any acidity or toxicity.

Pat dry.

Dip the blossoms and leaves lightly in the batter and set on a plate to allow the extra batter to drip off.

Fry the blossoms in vegetable oil until golden. The exposed bits of leaves and stem will be a brilliant green

Drain on paper towel or brown paper bag. Squeeze with lime and garnish with sea salt. 

I crushed some juniper berries in some sea salt and used that for a spicier woodsy flavor. 

rhubarb ginger coffee cake.

I have always loved a coffee cake. It reminds me of my grandmother who used to make a particular one for me which she sent via the mail! This one is inspired by my love of rhubarb. I made this cake three times trying to get the ratios right. I can confidently now say that it is pretty tasty. The first time I made it I used all whole wheat flour. It was a little too dense and almost a bit bitter. The next I added half whole wheat pastry flour and half white flour and a bit of dried ginger powder. The last and final time, I added more rhubarb and grated fresh ginger. 

 

Rhubarb Ginger Coffee Cake

 

1 cup all purpose white flour

1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

 

 Combine the first six ingredients

 

 Add 

1/2 stick of  softened butter 

1/2 cup  heavy cream

2 eggs

1/4 cup of grated fresh ginger 

3  cups chopped rhubarb 

Chop the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces

 

Mix  by hand until all combined

 

Put the batter in a 9 inch round cake pan or 9 inch a cast iron skillet

Place 1/2 batter the batter in the pan

Spoon some of the topping over the batter

Add rest of batter

Spoon remining topping over the batter

 

Topping

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

 The gorgeous black porcelain plates and little blue bowl in this post were lent to me by the uber talented Marcie McGoldrick.

120518_HGFT_RHUBARB_2-30381.jpg
120518_HGFT_RHUBARB_2-30410.jpg

rhubarb shrub and other musings.

I am a bit of a Rhubarb fool. I tend to go crazy for this plant when it first appears in the late days of spring. I mark many of my internal calendars by the first sightings of plants, a by-product of growing up in the country and living by an agricultural calendar. Now, as a city dweller, I rely on the farmer’s markets or trips upstate for these visual cues. For me, wild strawberries hark the last days of school, lily of the valley marks May Day, violets, mothers day, and rhubarb the hot imminent approach of endless summer. These days with time literally flying by and working in an industry that is always months ahead of itself, I try to savor every one of those moments when they come.

This past week, while shooting the Four and Twenty Blackbirds book, we came across some amazing rhubarb given to the pie shop by a farmer from upstate New York. At the end of the day I was more than happy to take some rhubarb home and cull a post that has been brewing in my mind for days!

I first turn to Nigel Slater’s amazing Tender Volume Two. He offers a great synopsis of rhubarb; ”It was the darling of the Victorian kitchen, finding it’s way into pies, fools, crumbles and tarts quite by chance.” Rhubarb, according to Nigel Slater, had been used medicinally since 2700 BC. The British apothecaries grew tired of paying high prices to the Chinese importers and decided they could import plants and grow their own. Unfortunately, they imported a less potent strain of the plant which turned out to not be as successful for medicine but a more edible version. So this is how, more or less, it came to be in British kitchens.

How it got to America is another story…

A month or so ago when Back Forty West first opened in my neighborhood in the old Savoy they had a great cocktail on the menu called “Surrender Dorothy”. It was some version of Dorothy Parker Gin and pomegranite shrub. It quickly disappeared, and being a gin lover I was somewhat disappointed when they told me that they could no longer make it because they were out of the shrub and would not have anymore until pomegranites appeared again in the market. Now that rhubarb is in season I have decided to make some of shrub of my own! 

Different than a fruit syrup, a shrub or drinking vinegar is concentrated syrup made from ripe fruit, sugar and  vinegar.

I came across many different shrub recipes on line and in old cookbooks. Some were a hot process shrub and some were for a cold process shrub. I decided to try the cold process as it makes for a brighter flavor. There were also a plethora of conflicting ideas on the amount of sugar to fruit. I decided to go for equal parts sugar, fruit and vinegar for the simple reason that it would be easy to commit to memory. Shrubs take some time to make as the fruit needs to macerate and then rest for a few days before straining and adding the vinegar. I best get on with it if I want to be sipping an adapted version of Surrender Dorothy by week’s end!

If you don't like gin, no worries! Shrubs combine nicely with seltzer for a lovely non-alcoholic drink! (1part shrub to 2-4 parts seltzer, add more or less to taste.)

 

 

Cold Process Rhubarb Shrub:

 

8 cups chopped rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (this was approximately two large bunches of rhubarb from the green market)

8 cups sugar

 

Combine the sugar and the fruit in a large non-reactive (preferably glass) bowl. Mash or muddle the fruit a bit with a pestle to get it started macerating. Cover and set aside on a counter out of the sun for  24-72 hours.

Strain the fruit from the liquid with a fine mesh or cheese cloth. (I did mine in two batches.) Now here is the tricky part... I have read different accounts on this next step. You can add the vinegar to the fruit after 72 hours and let the fruit and the vinegar and the sugary syrup mellow all together for a week out of the refridgerator covered before straining, or you can strain the fruit from the sugary syrup at this point. I chose the latter, to strain the fruit and discard it after 72 hours. I then measured my sugary rhubarb liquid and added an equal and matching amount of vinegar. I poured this into a clean jar and set it tightly sealed in my pantry to mellow and age for a week. After a week I tasted it and it was both tart and sweet with a bright rhubarb note, though it smells strongly of vinegar. At this point I put it in the refridgerator for long term storage.

 

There is a great article on the history of shrubs both hot and cold process here on Serious Eats. It seems everyone from bloggers to The Old Joy of Cooking make it a little differently. I think it is all about experimentation. I used apple cider vinegar while others used balsamic or champagne. I will undoubtedly try it both hot and cold processed at some point and next time I will combine the fruit and vinegar and leave for a week to see how that turns out. So get your shrub on and let me know how it works out and if you have any great tips!

 

Click here for an interesting shrub recipe and some wisdom on technique.

 

BACK FORTY WEST'S SURRENDER DOROTHY:

Dorothy Parker gin, pomegranate shrub, lemon, and cinnebark syrup (substitute rhubarb shrub)

120516_HGFT_RHUBARB-35578_SM.jpg
After 24 hours

After 24 hours

After 72 hours

After 72 hours

 Rhubarb syrup and apple cider vinegar combined in a sterilized jar. Leave to set out for one week.

 Rhubarb syrup and apple cider vinegar combined in a sterilized jar. Leave to set out for one week.

shoot lunch

One of the most awesome things about shooting at home is that you get to eat what you shoot and eat what you want! There is nothing wrong with catering, BUT it can get a bit old and repetative eating the same thing day in and day out at a studio. So when I shoot at home, I am all about eating simply. 

This was today's shoot lunch.

Farmer's market salad greens and organic hard boild eggs smashed on toasts with pickled ramps and the most AMAZING lemon caper dressing from April Bloomfield via food 52.

Basically, anything is a vehicle for this dressing. It is just that good and that addictive. really. try it.

 

See yesterday's post for Quick Pickled Ramps 

 

 

Smashed Hardboiled Eggs On Toasts With Pickled Ramps and Lemon Caper Dressing 

2 hardboiled eggs

2 pieces of your favorite rustic bread toasted

Pickled ramps

Seas salt

Cracked black pepper

Generous amount of lemon caper dressing. see recipe above

 

Toast the Bread

Boil the eggs

Peel the eggs

Smoosh one egg to each toast with a knife

Add dressing

Add a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper

Top with a couple pickled ramps

Eat every last speck!

ceramics in the below shots are from a beautiful new shop in Williamsburg called MOCIUN.

Mociun, 224 Wythe Avenue, at North 4th Street, Williamsburg (718-387-3731 or mociun.com).

120409_HGFT_PICKLEDRAMP-31559.jpg
120409_HGFT_PICKLEDRAMP-31529.jpg

where the wild things are. no.15. eggs and ramp. easter breakfast.

What a gorgeous day it was here in New York! Spring has finally arrived and ramp season is in full swing both in the city and the forest. We celebrated by making poached eggs over rosti with sauteed ramp greens. (the greens were left over after making pickled ramps. The greens have a soft woodsy taste. I don't find ramps to be especially strong in flavor despite their intense onion aroma) The Green Market at Union Square this week was such an inspiration. I couldn't help but to pick up these beautiful organic eggs to accompany the ramps we gathered on our land upstate.

 

 Sauteed ramp Greens

 

1 bunch of ramps

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

 

Rinse the ramps under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.

Gently peel back the  lower outer most layer of the ramp and discard.  If the roots are on the ramps the outermost layer can be a bit transluscent and slimy, this is what you want to get rid of!

Cut the hairy root ends off the cleaned ramps and discard.

If you are using the bulb end of the ramps for pickling, cut them just above the pink stem, This will give you the bulb end for pickling and the green for sauteeing. You could opt to just sautee the whole cleaned ramp if you wish. I did it this way because I was using the bulbs for pickling.

Pat the greens dry and and plop them ino a large cast iron skillet.

Add a drizzle of olive oil.

Toss the greens over low heat until JUST wilted. do not overcook.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rosti with a poached egg or on any grain or toasts. Eat them any way you would a wilted spinch.



organic egg

organic egg

wild ramps

wild ramps

sauteed ramp greens

sauteed ramp greens

poached eggs over rosti with sauteed ramp greens 

poached eggs over rosti with sauteed ramp greens 

poached eggs over rosti with sauteed ramp greens and pickled ramps

poached eggs over rosti with sauteed ramp greens and pickled ramps

where the wild things are. nettle and ramp butter.

I have declared it nettle week in our house. So, while shooting a job at our place yesterday, I decided some nettle snacks were in order. We roasted some ramps with olive oil and sea salt and slathered some finish rye bread with some homemade nettle and ramp butter and topped it with the roasted ramps. It was the perfect afternoon treat, maybe the most perfect sandwich ever!

Recipes to follow on the weekend! (BUTTER RECIPE COMING SOON!)

 

 

Roasted Slightly Charred Ramps

 

1 bunch ramps

olive oil

sea salt

cracked black pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degree.

Rinse the ramps under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.

Gently peel back the  lower outer most layer of the ramp and discard. Sometimes if the roots are on the ramps the outermost layer can be a bit transluscent and slimy. This is what you want to get rid of!

Cut the hairy root ends off the cleaned ramps and discard

Pat the ramps dry with a paper towel and lay them out on a roasting sheet. Thye can overlap one another.

Drizzle them with  extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Roast the ramps until just tender. 12-15 minutes at the most. Some of the leaves will brown and crisp a bit but don't worry! They still taste fantastic even when a bit charred!

Serve them with scrambled or poached eggs or on buttered toasts. If you feel iinclined and you pobably will; eat them straight off the baking sheet because they are just that good!

120402_HGFT_NETTLE--31024.jpg
120402_HGFT_NETTLE--31079.jpg
120402_HGFT_NETTLE--31103.jpg

where the wild things things are no. 12. dandelion.

There is nothing quite like the first signs of spring. It is still relatively cold up here in the Catskills but the first signs of spring are all around. The woods are colored with vibrant green patches of ramp and the edges of nearby streams are dotted with clusters of wild watercress. In my own yard and bleak garden beds are a few renegade early dandelions. The name dandelion comes from the French word Dent de Lion, meaning lion's tooth. It is named so for it's jagged sharp tooth like points on its leaves. I decided to cook the dandelions I needed to pull from the garden beds and to roast the roots for a coffee substitute. The best time for dandelion greens, which are rich in vitamin A and C and Calcium, is when they are quite small early in the season before they produce flower buds. Later in the season they become too bitter. The early settlers used dandelion as a spring tonic to get a boost of the vitamins they lacked over the long cold winters.

My grandmother used to talk about eating wild greens both dandelion and chicory which grew wild in the hills of Puglia. I am not sure she really got her fill living in Long Island City. When she moved to Vermont in the mid 60's she was able to get clean pesticide free wild greens from the local farmers.

The whole plant is edible from the leaves to the flower to the roots. I sautéed the greens and made some dandelion toasts as well as a dandelion frittata. I then roasted the roots on a baking sheet until they were brittle and made quite a delicious coffee like substitute. In fact, I could grow to like the roasted dandelion roots very much.

You don't need a yard to get your dandelion on; they are available in the spring at most farmers markets. I saw they were starting to turn up the past few weeks at the Union Square Greenmarket. Prepare them anyway you would sautéed greens or make a pesto or a soup. The possibilities are endless. How will you get your spring tonic on?

I will post recipies in the next few days..but really this is meant to inspire whatever dandelion recipe you can conjure up!

where the wild things are. no. 11. wild mushroom miso broth

Last week while in San Francisco I had a strange stomach bug. I realized I was in trouble as I sat at Burma Superstar with the tea leaf salad and rainbow salad before me unable to take a bite! I didn't even venture to Mission Chinese... and was unable to finish a Nettle and pecorino pizza at Pizzaiolo; it was so sad! I started to feel better towards the end of the week as we headed up North after copious amounts of ginger drops and not a lot to eat. When I got back to New York I still felt a little under the weather and was craving something clean and healthy. I decided to delve into my stash of dried wild mushrooms to make a miso mushroom broth and to add all my favorite greens. It was kind of like making a faux Pho. I soaked a handful of dried mushrooms over night in three cups of water. In the morning I had a clear brown mushroom broth. On it's own it tasted a little forest floor, so I decided to add 4 big tablespoons of organic light Japanese Miso paste. To that I added a handful of beautiful little Beech Mushrooms and heated the broth to a simmer. I added a dash of Bhutanese red pepper (you can use any red pepper flakes you have on hand).

I cooked the buckwheat noodles separately according to the instructions, drained them and rinsed under cold water and set them aside. In the meantime I prepped mint leaves,  scallion, cilantro, basil and micro radish greens. I washed the greens and sliced the scallion.

When I was done with the greens I reheated the whole soup quickly to a rolling boil, then threw in the noodles to heat quickly and then turned it off.  I immediately ladled the soup and the noodles into two warmed bowls (I kept them in the oven on 200).

I topped it with all my favorite things... baby cilantro, coriander basil, mint, pea shoots and micro radish greens, hit it with the juice of half a lime and a hit of black pepper.

Totally healing and completely deliscious.

EmptyName 3.jpg
MISO_MUSHROOM_BROTH.jpg