Monday, April 28, 2008

O'er The Ramp-arts I Go

The pale green blush of spring is here and it is well into ramp season. I spent Saturday traipsing (sneaking) around in the woods on the prowl for those tender but not shy wild onion relations. The finding was a little difficult at first, with alien-size skunk cabbage beginning to cover everything. I admit my heart was pounding as I hoped I wouldn't be seen and because those things are tricky to pull up. The bulbs are just deep enough and the pink throats so slender that you really have to dig so as not to snap off just the leaves.

A clump of ramps visible in the central foreground

They say this rabbit-eared wild vegetable tastes like garlic and onion, but it has its own flavor, very green in the beginning with a spicy garlic burn in the back. And they are not messing around, either.

Ramp Pesto

About 50 ramps
Small handful of piƱon (pine) nuts
a generous pile of Parmesan
a few long pours of olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Clean ramps well (since they-and you- are covered in dirt, roots and slimy stuff) and chop roughly. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a paste forms. Yeilds about 3 cups. Toss into pasta, make bruschetta or freeze. You can also use ramps in quiches, to flavor oil, vodka, or anywhere you would use garlic, onions, or herbs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fridge Trophies

I like to think that I am aware of eating locally. I even think that I buy many local products. And beyond that, I tend to consider whole, organic foods as being important to me for a host of reasons. I DO go to the farmers market sometimes. And I shop in small, frequent, neighborhood trips, so my food is fresh and supports my neighborhood stores.

But when I look in the fridge, and stand there to pick items from my thoughtfully chosen collection of groceries, I realize that I don’t have tons of local stuff, and if I try to see myself through the labels of the cold storage products I keep around, really who AM I ANYWAY? I am clearly fascinated with eating a WIDE variety of items from very far away, and have no intention of avoiding or slowing this pattern.

I think that perhaps I collect them as prizes. Each one is a gem, a score, a novelty or a cherished standby. Here is a current portrait of my fridge, not including regular stuff like ketchup, mayo, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, relish, O.J., soy milk, leftovers of take out and stuff I cook. Note- this isn’t really a proper portrait of my diet, just my fridge trophies.

Cherry kefir
French sheep’s milk feta
Gold’s horseradish
Pickled ginger
Mole paste from Oaxaca, Mexico
Kalamata olives
Fig and sesame jam
Pink grapefruit marmalade
Chardonnay jelly
Tamarind chutney
Fig Greek yogurt
Organic brown, free-range, Omega-3 eggs
Happy chicken breasts
Nitrite-free uncured bacon
Nitrite-free smoked salmon
Herb polenta
5 kinds of unsalted butter
Organic Carrots
Black sesame butter
New Mexican green chile sauce (which may be the MOST local product since it runs in my veins)

Should I go on about the cupboards too? There are dried jackfruit chips, Heritage Bites cereal, three kinds of vanilla extract, blue cornmeal, coconut milk, chestnut cream, packets of borsht, active dry yeast, brown rice, almonds, agave nectar.

I adore ethnic grocery stores and grocery stores in general, and I blame my Dad for this. I will continue to pursue a local, seasonal, sustainable value system regarding my food, and y'know, try and do the right thing. But I'm no milquetoast, just check out my fridge.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Banh Mi Party

The crazy cats that threw the pizza party in December recently threw a Vietnamese sandwich shindig. It was a simpler affair, the only variations were the options of Nayonaise versus the real thing, and tofu, pork, or chicken. The meats had been marinated in a gorgeous place filled with star anise, ginger, coriander and other lovelies.

The recipe is roughly:

Meat marinade
1 knob of ginger, about 1.5" x 1.5", peeled and chopped fine
4-6 star anise, ground
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cayenne
1 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons brown sugar
*optional 1 tbsp honey

Four chicken breasts or equivalent pork, cut into thin strips. Baked tofu works well too.

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, or enough to cover
1/2 cup julienned carrot (i think 3" lengths work best)
1/2 cup julienned daikon radish
5 green onions, sliced into 3" strips

For Sandwiches
Cilantro, leaves only, washed
French baguette

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a gallon ziploc bag or large bowl. Mush around with your hand to mix well. Add the chicken/pork and allow this to marinate for 30 minutes - 2 hours.

Make the slaw: Grate the daikon and carrots first and put them in a small bowl and cover them with rice vinegar. This will give it a pickle like flavor. Prepare the other veggies.

Cook meat in a pan and let cool before building sandwiches.

This recipe was contributed by Zach, who has just started a garden on his fire escape, sure to be a hotbed (heh heh) of beautiful urban produce.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Homemade Chickens

Here is more maple syrup in action. My maple adventure was great, but truthfully, the maple was only part of the sweetness of that trip. People can tell me about their food politics, and I can read books and articles, and watch movies, and shop consciously, and its important; but going out of town and kicking it with a family that has a good idea about where their food comes from makes it actually register. My brain and body and memory heard it. See Amelia, there are these chickens and they run around over there, eat bugs, and get looked after. Then they make all this noise and lay eggs. Why don't you go collect them?

And then you get to eat them!!!

I am obviously very used to buying eggs, and even though I get the brown ones with "Omega-3" on the package and not the Styrofoam-packed ones with laser printed ads on the shells, I am so removed from chickens that it felt like a wild, jewel-like gift to pick up a warm egg. Which is what it is I guess. So now I know.

A beautiful view from the nearby town of Hudson, although not as dramatic as egg-laying.

On the way up to the maple trees, wild garlic grows.

Another stellar breakfast with homemade bread and bacon from a former resident pig.

I love cooking and eating homemade things, and eating locally if possible, but this was a new level for me. It was the edge of winter, so there weren't so many things from a garden, but there was homemade jam, pesto, sausage, bacon, bread, and eggs of course. I also had tea (PG Tips) steeped in half boiled maple sap (oh MAN). Spring creeps ever closer and so does the promise of fresh food, foraging, and more adventures...