Monday, July 21, 2014

hitting the road

Some things I will miss.

Some things I will not miss.

We hit the road at 5 am.  No traffic, no heat.

Seven looks out the window of our motel in Columbus, OH. 
 Mostly she's staying under the bed...not a happy camper.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


it's what's for dinner.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

elderflower panna cotta

This has been the best year for elderflowers I can remember.  I've posted here before about elderflower champagne, but this year I wanted to try something different.  A recipe for elderflower panna cotta caught my eye and seemed the perfect, cool, soothing dessert for this hot, muggy time of year.

Unfortunately, the recipe was not good.  My first attempt separated and was chalky.  Feh.

Fortunately, the internet is a very accomodating place, and I soon realized that the first recipe had not only left out several essential steps, but the proportions of cream and milk weren't to my liking.

Also fortunately, this has been a banner year for elderflowers, so picking a whole bunch more wasn't too difficult.

Elderflower Panna Cotta
2 cups elderflowers, removed from the stems (mostly)
2.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. unflavored gelatin powder
5 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. water

Stir together the elderflowers and cream, then refrigerate and let steep for 3-5 days.  (Yes.  You have to plan ahead.)

When steepage is complete and you're actually ready to begin cooking, sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water to let it bloom.  It will be ready by the time you need it.  Strain the cream, pressing the flowers to get out as much liquid as possible.

Combine the strained cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and bring it just to a simmer, then remove from the heat.  Whisk in the bloomed gelatin until completely dissolved, and rub a little of the liquid between your fingers to make sure it's silky, not grainy.

Place the saucepan in an ice bath (shallow pot or pan with a combo of ice cubes and water) and whisk until the liquid is lukewarm (essential step!).

Pour the liquid into mini-canning jars or ramekins and refrigerate until jiggly (4 hours or overnight).  I used 4 oz. canning jars because I have a ton, they're cute, and I appreciate that each can be covered individually without using that infernal plastic wrap.

I'm sorry I forgot to take a photo of the final product.  Perhaps that was because they disappeared so fast.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

pickle # 3

Last weekend was the official opening of daylily season in Shohola, PA.  A quick trip to my favorite country road and I had enough buds for a batch of pickles.  These are headed to San Francisco,

along with pickled milkweed florets

and pickled field garlic,

for the next foraged mixology adventure.  Each pickle gets a different brine because each plant deserves a pickling liquid that highlights its unique deliciousness.  I use my mental palate to imagine what the final pickle will taste like.  (The mental palate is sort of like the mind's eye...but for your taste buds.)  For the daylily buds I combined

1 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried, wild ginger stolons (Asarum canadense)
1/2 tsp. spice bush berries (Lindera benzoin)
1/2 tsp. dried pequin chiles
1 large Pennsylvania bay leaf (Myrica pennsylvanica)

I whisked together the ingredients over high heat, brought the brine to a boil, then simmered for a few minutes.  While the brine came to a boil, I filled the canning jars with buds, then poured the hot brine over the buds and sealed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

The result is tangy but not so intensely vinegar-y that it obscures the flavor of the flower bud.  The brine is a little smoky, a little hot, and a lot delicious.  Can't you just picture it in a foraged Gibson?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

foraged mixology in Austin

(photo by Emily Perkins, mixologist extraordinaire)

Austin, TX is officially one of my favorite cities!  Not just because of the fantastic food and inherent joy of the city, but because I met two talented local foragers (thank you Scott & Colleen) and an amazing, generous group of mixologists for the most recent Botany 22 event.

We juiced fresh guavas, pickled purslane with chile pequins, and created an Austin Bitters with dandelion root, unripe mustang grapes, pencil cactus fruit, and ok, a few more chile pequins.  (Hey, it's Austin...they like their heat!)  Then we got out The Botanist gin and made some magic.

Not only were the mixologists smart, funny, and irreverent (some of my favorite qualities), but they taught me a thing or two.  Like how bitters keep the raw egg whites in a sour from smelling like a wet dog and how increasing the proportion of sugar in a fruit syrup does more than just add sweetness; it actually intensifies and stabilizes the flavors of the fruit.

Thank you Austin, it was swell.  Emily, Justin, and the folks at Contigo, you have my gratitude and friendship.

San Francisco, here we come! 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

pickled milkweed florets

I've been experimenting with pickles, preparing for the workshops I'm teaching for The Botanist Gin.  I'm pickling bite-sized, foraged edibles to garnish a wild Gibson.

Last weekend I harvested milkweed florets, and after a quick blanch I made a brine of equal parts vinegar and water, then added fennel seeds, dried hibiscus flowers, and a bay leaf.

I used white vinegar so the green of the florets would shine through, but as the liquid hit the hibiscus flowers, their red color began to spread through the brine. 

No complaints.  The color may not be bright green, but the taste is tart, complex, and dare I say it, woodsy.  There.  I dared.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

my reward

The tax returns are in the mail.

As a reward, I allowed myself some kitchen playtime on Saturday.  And since this is also the time of year when I try to empty the freezer (to make room for all the great stuff that's about to come), I decided to whip up a few batches of jelly.

First up: currant-raspberry.  When Leda left Brooklyn, she gifted me with the frozen currants from her backyard shrubs.  I had a few raspberries in my own freezer and thought the high pectin of the currants would balance the low pectin of the raspberries to make a gorgeous jelly with no added pectin.  Not that I have anything against commercial pectin; I use it all the time.  But I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I get a firm jell without it.  It's worth the stress of wondering (as I do every time): Will it set?  Did I do it right?

Next: pear-vanilla-whisky.  No high pectin fruit here...this was a job for commercial pectin, which just about guarantees a quick, firm jell, as long as you can follow directions and tell time.  I love this flavor combo: the whisky and vanilla add layers of depth and darkness to the fruit.

And aren't the Weck jars pretty?  I don't have many, but every once in a while some generous soul gives me one.  I keep them for my greedy little self.