Sunday, July 25, 2010

crows or raccoons?

Who's the culprit?

The last few weeks I've noticed a murder of crows foraging about at the edges of our non-lawn. Hard NOT to notice, since they're highly verbal creatures, making their presence known at 5 am every morning. So when we arrived to find a handful of molested fruit lying beneath our largest tomato plant, I was all set to vote for crows...until another dastardly candidate presented itself.

In the middle of the night, Seven, our quiet cat (no joke), let out a sound that had me out of bed and at the front door (jumping over Michael) in under 10 seconds. It sounded like she was being ripped apart, slowly, with hot tongs. Instead, she was face to face (through the glass of course) with a raccoon. Said raccoon seemed entirely nonplussed by the screeching cat and sleepy human. It lumbered off the deck, slowly, leaving a trail of muddy footprints on the hood of the Volvo.

So who's the rat bastard who destroyed our first two red tomatoes before we had a chance to taste? All the rest are green, and it will be at least two weeks before we have another chance at home grown tomato goodness. If the craccoons don't get them first.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

oh noble milkweed

Is there any edible plant more versatile and obliging than the noble milkweed? (rhetorical question)

Euell Gibbons dubbed the cattail "the supermarket of the swamp" for its many edible parts, but I worship at the altar of Asclepias syriaca, the common milkweed. I've extolled its virtues here before, and last night I fell in love with yet another aspect of this delicious plant: the young seed pods.

Michael and I are usually in Santa Fe this time of year, which means we ALWAYS miss the milkweed pod harvest. I've been looking forward to it for years, and was thrilled yesterday to find a large field with plenty o' pods just the right size for picking. And what is just the right size, you ask? From nubbins to about 1.5 inches long, says Sam Thayer. And I trust Sam Thayer.

After bringing the pods home, I cleaned them,

blanched them,

tossed with olive oil and a few cloves of minced garlic, then finished with butter, S&P, and a dusting of parmesan.

Like the other edible parts of the milkweed (shoots and immature flower buds) the pods had a green bean-y flavor, but that doesn't do them justice. The texture is soft and chewy, and the taste is fresh and green.

I like my first experience with any wild food to give me a realatively pure taste of the plant itself, and now that I've got that under my belt, I'm thinking stir fried milk weed pods teriyaki, milk weed pod curry, stewed milk weed pods w/tomatoes and onions. I'm open to suggestions, people.

Addendum: Foraging companion Mark was a little more adventurous and picked some larger buds (up to 2.5 inches long), making sure they were soft and springy despite the larger size. He reports them to be as delicious as the smaller buds, so next time I'll give them a try, too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

frozen gin and the summer of sangria

In sultry summer a woman's fancy turns to cool beverages. Cool, alcoholic beverages. For our annual Fourth of July celebration I ceded responsibility for dessert (can you believe it!?) and contributed two intoxicating concoctions.

The Summer of Sangria

Michael declared my blueberry wine to be not quite delicious enough on its own (he has such a refined palate) and suggested I make sangria. I must give credit where credit is due. The recipe is mine, but the inspiration was his. The lovely carafe is thanks to Marie.

-one bottle homemade blueberry wine (creative substitutions acceptable)
-1/4 c. sugar (up to 1/2 c. if you like it sweet)
-2 oz. orange liqueur
-1/2 c. blueberries
-1/2 orange, thinly sliced
Refrigerate overnight or as long as you can stand to wait. Just before serving, add
-1.5 c. diet Polar Orange Dry (again, personal substitutions acceptable, just make sure it's fizzy)
Pour over ice and toast your favorite blogger.

Cucumber-Gin-Lime-Mint Popsicles

That's right, popsicles. I modified a recipe from Food & Wine, doubling the amount of gin. (I figured if 1/2 c. of gin was good, 1 c. would be twice as good.) It was only after I'd loaded the popsicle molds into the chest freezer that I remembered alcohol freezes at lower temperatures than water, depending on the proof. oh-oh. True, the popsicles weren't rock hard, but they were solid and delicious. If you want a harder sicle, reduce the proportion of alcohol. But I wouldn't.

-Combine 1/2 c. water, 1 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. chopped mint leaves and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Strain the syrup into a bowl and let cool to room temp.
-Add 4 tsp. lime zest, 1/2 c. lime juice, 1 c. gin, and 2.5 c. cucumber puree (sans seeds).
-Sprinkle 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin over 2 Tbs. water and let stand 5 minutes. Microwave on high for 8 seconds, to dissolve gelatin, then whisk into the cucumber mixture.
-Pour into popsicle molds and freeze (at least 24 hours with the increased alcohol)

What's your favorite summer cocktail, frozen or otherwise? Next weekend I'm going to try this whiskey-mint-hibiscus treat created by Zoe at Pearled Earth. Can't hardly wait.