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. 

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!

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Where the wild things are. no.2. elderflower vodka.

My sweet friend India made this elderflower vodka at the height of summer when the elderberry bushes were laden with blossoms. I imagine her, one baby in the sling and the other, Odette, trailing happily after her, sun hat tied tight, on some wild adventure to pick the elderflowers on Bramley Mountain Road. A recipe, from another friend at Eating From The Ground Up, inspired this vodka.  Elderflowers are the palest of cream or the color of summer butter. Their saucer-sized blooms are east to spot. They smell both sweet and a bit spicy. They are best picked before the scorching noonday sun causes their delicate aroma to fade. You will need to make the cordial immediately after picking the flowers. Take note of where you find your blooms so you can return in September to pick the deep purple black elderberries which are high in vitamin c and other antioxidants. This past weekend I made a delicious elderberry sorbet, but they are most commonly used for jelly.

 

Elderflower vodka adapted from Eating From The Ground Up.

 

Vodka

Elderflowers

Sugar

 

Place about 20-25 elderflower heads in a mason jar (don’t pick them all if you want elderberries later in the summer!)

Cover the flowers with vodka and seal the jar tightly

Place in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks to age. (The vodka in this photograph was left longer, about 8 weeks)

The liquid will turn anywhere from a buttery yellow color to a deeper amber, depending on how long you leave it to age.

After the appropriate time, strain the flowers off with cheesecloth and pour the liquid back into clean Mason jar

Add 1/2 cup of sugar and shake to dissolve. When the sugar is dissolved the cordial is ready to drink.

elderflower vodka aged 8 weeks

 

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 

the danes

The worlds top 50 restaurants awards were announced recently, and NOMA takes first place again!

If you get a chance you should peruse the gorgeously photographed book NOMA, photographed by Danish photographer Ditte Isager, styled by Christine Rudolph. The name NOMA is an acronym of the two Danish words "nordisk" meaning Nordic and "mad" meaning food.  NOMA is known for its reinvention and interpretation of the Nordic Cuisine. In both 2010 and 2011 it was ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World. A trio of Danes, Chef René Redzepi, Isager and Rudolph teamed up to create a Nordic sliver of exquisite beauty. I am most inspired by Redzepi's use of the local and wild ingredients. 

It is one of the most beautiful books I have seen in a long while. It also happens to be up for several James Beard awards including photography!

 Here is a link if you want to buy the book on line.

http://www.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/noma-9780714859033/

© Ditte Isager