Thursday, October 22, 2009

the feast!

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the menu produced from our excellent fall foraging adventure:

1. watercress salad with roasted chestnuts and local brabander cheese from Fallsdale Farms

I confess, I forgot to photograph this course. Anyone who's eaten with me knows I get excited when anticipating deliciousness. In my excitement I tend to pick up a fork instead of a camera. We're fortunate to have the Barrett's cheeses at our farmers' market, but lucky New Yorkers can find brabander at Saxelby Cheese Mongers in the Essex Street Market. It's strong and sharp and holds its own against the peppery cress.

2. Hen of the Woods soup w/pig jowl bacon bits (from Lucky Penny Farm) & home-made linden flower wine

We sauteed the Hen of the Woods (aka maitake) in stock & butter with garlic & a little thyme, then pulsed a few times in the food processor and added cream, S & P to taste.

3. Chicken of the Woods mushrooms sauteed with onions, cream, and a little sherry

We sauteed the onions in olive oil till they were transparent, then added bite sized bits of chicken of the woods. This mushroom needs to cook for a while to soften, so we added stock and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, then finished with cream, tarragon, & a swirl of sherry.

4. roasted hopniss tubers & boiled evening primrose roots

The hopniss knocked my socks off. Sam Thayer describes the taste as somewhere between peanut and potato and he is right on! Roasted, they have a fluffy, nutty taste that I can't get out of my mind; I want more. The evening primrose roots were less captivating: boiled and served with butter, S & P. The next night I sliced the left overs and fried them with onions in a little olive oil...much tastier, but what isn't better with onions and olive oil?

6. steamed pawpaw/spicebush pudding

I know this isn't a beautiful photo but the dessert knocked my socks off and I'm a dessert connoisseur (not much of a food stylist though). Mark brought the pawpaw with him from KY, where the fruit is more familiar and better appreciated. What an extraordinary taste and texture: creamy, rich, and tropical. Pawpaw combines wonderfully with the peppery sweetness of spicebush and because the pudding is steamed in a covered mold, it's dense and moist and out of this world.

Extra spice bush berries are now in my freezer!

It's hard work being a hunter-gatherer, but the rewards are great.

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At October 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Yum! I wish I could have been there, especially for the hopniss! I've stocked up on spicebush berries for the year, too.

At October 23, 2009 at 3:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking me back to that feast while sitting at my humdrum desk on a cold damp Friday. I had the last of my hen mushrooms for lunch - they are as good leftover as fresh. Intoxicating, really.

Must go and check the persimmons very soon!

At October 23, 2009 at 8:28 PM , Blogger leedav said...

That looks incredible! So many things I have yet to try.

At October 24, 2009 at 4:10 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Thanks leedav, I'm not sure where you live, but now is a great time for foraging root crops like hopniss. And it's so tasty. I'm going to plant some in my own garden so I can have it more readily (without having to dig on public property!).

At October 29, 2009 at 6:50 PM , Blogger Marie said...

Oh my goodness. You ate pawpaws!

I am planning a couple of pawpaws for the East Houston parklet. I saw my first one this year in the St Luke in the Fields garden.

Euell Gibbons would be so proud of you. If you ever need someone to carry your basket for you...

I did not know that maitake were/are hen of the woods. We ate many in Woodstock and loved them.

At October 29, 2009 at 9:48 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Marie, it sounds like you're planning an edible garden for Houston St., what with the pawpaw and the Apios...I love the idea of sneaking in ornamental edibles whenever and wherever possible.

At November 5, 2009 at 12:40 PM , Blogger Holly, Wood and Vine, Ltd. said...

Ellen - have you ever used Callicarpa americana/beauty berry berries for anything? I've nibbled afew and they have a very good spice flavour.Baking?

I've just added spice bush (which I didn't know until I saw your bagful)to my plant list for Le Park and crossed off Lonicera fragrantissima, sigh.

At November 5, 2009 at 12:40 PM , Blogger Marie said...

Rats, that were me.


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