Acorn Bread

IMG_2346

Acorn Bread

Perhaps the quintessential first dish to make using acorns, a simple acorn bread with a 50/50 ratio of acorn meal to white or wholemeal flour is a great way to really taste the flavor of the acorn meal. It doesn’t matter whether you use hot-leached or cold-leached acorn meal, just that it is very finely ground.

A light, moist, soft loaf with a very crispy almost cracker-y crust. If you’re feeling decadent you could turn it into a bread pudding, but I enjoy it as is, especially hot from the oven with just a dab of salted butter or jam made from wild berries. Hickory syrup and a touch of molasses really make the difference, both of those flavors combining well with the earthiness of acorns.

My method for hot-leaching acorns to obtain acorn meal is here.

Whisk together :

2 cups acorn meal
2 cups bread flour
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together :

1 egg or egg substitute
1/2 cup milk, whey or rice milk
1 tbs molasses
1/4 cup hickory or maple syrup
3 tbs olive oil

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir to combine, and pour into a greased loaf pan or cast iron skillet. Place the pan in a 400° oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Watermelon & Juniper Sorbetto

image1-2

Combine in a blender or food processor :

4 cups fresh melon, chopped into pieces and with as many seeds as possible removed

2-3 tbs of juniper berries

4 tbs sugar

1/2 cup water

Puree until well combined.

Strain through cheesecloth or a wire mesh sieve into an ice cream maker.

Use ice cream maker to freeze sorbet according to manufacturers directions.

Add midway if desired :

1 egg white

This makes a more traditional sorbetto and a creamier texture, but is not necessary.

Milkweed Stew

image1 (1)

This is a very simple vegetable stew, perfect for a summer evening when a hot meal that isn’t too heavy or complicated is needed. The milkweed can be either added to the stew as is (perhaps chopped into pieces if the pods are large) or briefly blanched first. The flavor of the stew will be perhaps a bit better if the pods are added without preparation, but the cooking time will be longer. Foraging books abound with instructions to boil milkweed in multiple changes of water for lengthy periods of time but all of that is really unnecessary, and usually serves only to ruin the taste and nutritional value of this delicious, wholesome vegetable.

When selecting milkweed pods for this dish, avoid any longer than 2 inches or so and any ones that have particularly tough exteriors. The pods should be firm but not rubbery. Avoid pods that are soft or have obvious slits or discolorations, as the material inside will be dark and bitter.

In a wide, deep sauté pan heat :

2 tbs vegetable oil or other neutral oil or fat

Add and cook until tender and slightly browned :

5 oz onions, diced

Add and cook for one minute or so :

2 tbs field garlic or minced garlic

Add and cook until tender :

2 oz celery, sliced thin

Add and cook until tender :

5 oz bell or sweet pepper, diced

1 chile, diced fine

Add and cook until juices are released :

5 oz tomato, chopped

Add :

1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

1 tsp wild parsnip seeds, toasted (optional)

5 oz milkweed pods (see introductory note)

Cook for several minutes, then deglaze with :

1-2 tbs sherry, shao xing wine or cooking wine

Add :

1 cup stock or water

3/4 cup sweetcorn, raw or fermented

Lower heat to simmer and cook until done. Add thickeners or more liquid as necessary.

Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh herb such as parsley, cilantro, basil or monarda.

This is an extremely simple recipe, and benefits from the addition of a dash of this or that as befits your taste and pantry. A little bit of nice olive oil added to the finished dish is quite lovely, as is a little soy or other seasoning sauce drizzled in as the stew thickens. The delicate flavor of milkweed pods (think okra combined with green beans) is best enjoyed in such simple preparations, but can be ruined if too many seasonings are added, so taste before tampering!

Elderberry Syrup

image1

In a medium saucepan, combine :

1/2 lb. elderberries (washed, still attached to stalks)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

Bring to a boil, crushing berries and sugar together. When the berries are smashed and the liquid begins to boil, cut heat, removing from burner if necessary.

Add :

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 cups water

Bring to a boil, then cut to a simmer.

Simmer for a half hour, then remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for eight hours or overnight.

Crush again and strain all liquids through a cheesecloth into a syrup bottle.

Keep refrigerated.

Use as a base for sodas, dessert sauces, granitas, etc. Excellent combined in preparations with strong spices and herbs such as spicebush, black cardamom, ginger, wild ginger, shiso, monarda, cinnamon, star anise. Extremely refreshing on its own, with an almost perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Chanterelle Sauce No. 1

IMG_3232

This is a simple sauce that tastes creamy and luxurious without using heavy cream – highlighting the natural flavor of some of the seasons’ finest wild mushrooms. You can use any kind of chanterelle or craterellus mushroom for this, but the sauce is at its’ best and most pleasing to the eye when a mix of different, colorful mushrooms is used. In the variation pictured above we used black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) and golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius).

As always, prepare everything in advance and have handy when making a sauce so you aren’t rushing around chopping shallots or looking for sour cream when the time comes to add it.

Melt / heat in a sautee pan:

2 tbs butter or oil

Add :

1 tbs. whole field garlic bulbils or conventional or field garlic cloves, minced

2-3 oz shallots, finely chopped

A grating of fresh nutmeg

Sautee the onions and garlic until softened, then add:

1/2 lb. of chanterelle or craterellus mushrooms, chopped into similar-sized pieces

NB >>> Different mushrooms will cook at different times, so if using a mix, they should be added one at a time. I usually find that golden chanterelles take the longest and horn of plenty the shortest.

Cook the mushrooms until they are softened but not yet completely tender, and add:

1 tbs. potato starch (corn starch may also be used. Flour can be used but must be well-cooked to avoid leaving an off taste)

Stir and sautee for 1-2 minutes, then add, slowly, mixing to incorporate :

1 1/2 cups hot whole milk, preferably fresh and of very good quality

Cook while slowly adding the milk for fifteen minutes or so. Add seasoning to taste while the sauce reduces a bit. If it becomes to thick and/or is cooking too fast add 1-2 stock cubes or ice cubes and reduce heat if needed. Season with :

Freshly ground black or white pepper to taste (optional)

Salt to taste (not optional)

Fresh or good quality dried thyme to taste

Once the sauce is close to the desired consistency and the mushrooms are mouth-tender, remove the sauce from the heat. If it is very hot, allow to cool a bit before adding :

1/2 cup sour cream, preferably at room temperature

Snipped chives if desired

Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve immediately.

If not eating immediately, allow the sauce to cool on its’ own without adding the sour cream. When serving, reheat and then stir the sour cream in, with chives if desired.

IMG_3227
Craterellus cornucopioides being prepared

There are of course any number of herbs or other seasonings that could be added to this sauce, but in this its’ simplest form I’ve used only the classic mushroom herb thyme and a bit of nutmeg and optionally pepper. Fresh parsley or celery leaf in small, finely-chopped quantities are a nice addition for a bit more green color. One could add a stronger herb as well such as oregano or tarragon if it seems appropriate for the dish it is to be used with.

The temptation with a sauce this rich is to toss pasta in it, and revel in the sumptuous texture combination of chanterelle and toothsome starch. And I won’t deny that it is a fine sauce to serve with a starch – heavenly with freshly-made egg noodles, homemade biscuits (a nice vegetarian replacement for Southern-style sausage gravy), even simple buttered rice. Some more interesting uses? A cream sauce for greens or a green vegetable, a base sauce for a pizza, on top of heated stuffed vegetables or grape leaves, especially ones filled with rice or grains, on top of a hearty bowl of cooked, mashed lentils or pulses, and a dynamite partner with polenta. I have even eaten this on top of some scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and green herbs and had no complaints about the experience.

Makes a little over 2 cups of sauce.

Pickled Burdock Root

2014-09-25_1411681264

Place in the bottom of a glass pint jar :

1/2 oz turmeric root, peeled and sliced into a few long strips (optional, can use turmeric powder instead)

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp whole yellow or black mustard seed

1/2 tsp whole pieces of vietnamese cinnamon

1 star anise, broken up

Fill with peeled burdock batons : cut batons to the height of the jar (allowing room for the spices and headspace) and about half as thick around as a pencil. Pack batons into jar until you cannot fit any more. Keep all the batons vertical. Trim any that stick out too far. This should require around 3/4 of a pound to a pound of burdock root.

Heat in a small saucepan until the sugar and salt are dissolved :

1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

When dissolved and the vinegar is still hot, pour into the filled jar. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Add more seasoned rice vinegar as needed to cover the batons.

This will be ready to eat when cool, but tastiest after at least 24 hours. It should last several weeks.

This can be made with either wild burdock root or the cultivated kind sometimes found in asian markets.

Pickled Kohlrabi

IMG_9836

Assemble in a clean glass quart jar :

1 lb kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into batons (as pictured below) or shreds

4 oz onion, peeled and cut into thick slices

1 star anise, whole

2-3 hot chinese dried chiles or 2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp whole mustard seed

1/2 tsp whole sichuan peppercorns

Heat in a small saucepan until sugar and salt are dissolved :

2 cups vinegar (see notes below, a mix of vinegars is best)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

While still hot, pour the vinegar-sugar-salt solution into the glass jar. Allow to sit until cool, then cover with a cap and refrigerate. Ready to eat in 24 hours, best after three or more days.

IMG_9014

Roasted Cauliflower and Cauliflower Greens

IMG_9707_2

Cauliflower is a delicious vegetable that is too often ill-served by the the one preparing it. The major culprits are boiling (which accentuates its’ heaviness and high water content) and pairing with cream and/or cheese (which accentuate its’ blandness). Prepared with some attention to its’ particular nature, cauliflower need be neither heavy nor bland. The high water content is a problem best handled with high heat and a bit of special attention.

This simple dish is one of my favorites to make, one I could happily eat any day. It can be endlessly improvised upon in terms of seasoning, but an even better idea is to prepare it and turn it into something else. Chop some up with olives and pickled onions and peppers and add more oil for a tapenade. Puree it with cooked onions and celery to make a delicious, creamy soup. Add large chunks of pickled vegetables and cooked potatoes and spices and make a potato salad version of aloo gobi. Or simply chop up the cauliflower and greens and use in a flatbread or omelette.

IMG_9700

Preheat oven to 450°

Remove the greens of the cauliflower. Chop these into pieces no larger than an inch and a half. Wash and pat dry.

Core the cauliflower. Cut away the base of the stem and any dirty bits. Chop the core into cubes of about one inch square.

Separate the cauliflower into florets. If the florets are large, slice them in half. If the florets are exceptionally large, cut them into thirds. You want large, flat-ish pieces for this recipe, so cut lengthwise and try to maximize surface area. Very small florets should be avoided, they will just burn up.

Toss the florets, greens and stem pieces together with olive oil to cover. Make sure that the cauliflower is well-coated but don’t worry about getting every inch. Resist the urge to use too much oil, it will impeded the roasting process.

Lay the coated cauliflower and greens in a large, heavy, deep roasting pan. Allow for space between each piece (as pictured above). If you feel like you are overcrowding the pan, roast in multiple batches.

Place the pan in the oven.

After five minutes, remove the pan and shake it a few times, tossing the cauliflower as much as possible but making sure that it is all still flat in one layer. Return to oven.

After five minutes (ten minutes total), remove the pan and place it on a trivet. Using tongs or careful fingers, turn the florets. Sprinkle with kosher salt, taking care not to use too much. Return to oven.

After five minutes (fifteen minutes total), remove the pan and place it on a trivet. Turn pieces if necessary. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Adjust for salt if necessary. Return to oven.

After five minutes (twenty minutes total), remove the pan and place it on a trivet. Test for doneness by cutting into one of the thickest florets. Taste if necessary. If it seems thick and stodgy, return to the oven for another few minutes.

At this stage you may add oil, if you feel that the cauliflower is too dry. I haven’t found it to be necessary. The cauliflower usually emerges tender inside from the combination of high water content and high heat, while the surface areas have a fine crispness that would be blunted if extra oil were added.

Serve this immediately or at room temperature. Hell, it’s good cold. Four ingredients, people.

As previously mentioned, this can be endlessly varied in terms of seasoning. One of my favorite things to add is paprika, especially a strong characterful Spanish or Hungarian paprika, hot or sweet, smoked or not. I would add any powdered spice ingredient with the salt, and make sure to give a more vigorous shake. One could also add powdered spices or dry herbs to the oil that the cauliflower is tossed with. I would add dry herbs in the last five minutes of cooking, fresh herbs only when the cooking was finished.

This is a dish exceptionally suited to buffets, meals of many small dishes, or meze / tapas / antipasto type spreads. Since it is still excellent at room temperature, it’s perfect for longer parties and more relaxed occasions. It also pairs well with a hearty, complex main course, and can stand up to many a sauce. It is also a great alternative to starchier sides such as roast potatoes, and makes an excellent second vegetable alongside anything green.

You will notice that the greens and stem of the cauliflower are used in this recipe. Don’t discard them, they are quite tasty and mild. All Brassica plants (cabbage, kale, mustards, broccoli, etc.) are edible from root to seed. Some parts of some plants are too bitter to be palatable, but most simply require the proper preparation.

Banana Bread with Black Walnuts, Vietnamese Cinnamon & Nutmeg

IMG_9301

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Whisk together in a large bowl :

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together in a small bowl :

1/2 cup neutral oil (sunflower or vegetable is best, 1/4 cup can be replaced with walnut oil)

1/2 cup soy or rice yogurt (or regular yogurt)

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, along with :

1/2 cup black walnuts, chopped (or 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup English walnuts)

1 1/4 cup banana, mashed or chopped with :

1/4 cup sugar or palm sugar (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

Fold all ingredients together, without overmixing.

Place in a lightly oiled loaf pan.

Dust top of bread with nutmeg and vietnamese cinnamon, freshly grated and ground if possible.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean, usually an hour.

Allow to rest in pan for ten minutes before removing from pan to cool on a rack.

This makes a soft, delicious dairy-free, vegan banana bread. If desired, you can use a dairy-based yogurt. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in flavor between the two, the yogurt is mostly added for consistency. The bread is soft and cakey, make sure that the pan is oiled before baking and that you allow the bread to cool a bit before removing from the pan or cutting into it.

I think this is easily the equal of any banana bread made with milk and butter, in fact I would argue that omitting those ingredients makes for a less “bready” treat, tasting mostly of bananas, nuts and spices.

Serve warm or cool for breakfast with an herbal or forage tea or coffee. For a decadent dessert, toast lightly in an oven and top with a spoonful of vanilla or caramel ice cream.

Tomato Sauce with Onion (with apologies to Marcella Hazan)

IMG_8556This is one of the easiest and tastiest tomato sauces you can make. It can be made with fresh tomatoes, but I usually make it in the winter months using high-quality canned tomatoes. This recipe is entirely based on long and slowly evolving use of Marcella Hazan’s “Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion” (see notes at end of recipe).

Gather your tomatoes. If you use fresh tomatoes, use about 2 lbs of a sauce-type tomato and remove the peels by whatever fashion you normally would. If you use canned tomatoes, use 2 cups or so (a regular large 35 oz can) and strain the fruits from the juice. Squeeze or cut each of the tomatoes and push out the juice inside them as well.

ALTERNATIVELY, whether you go fresh or canned, you can pass the tomatoes through the food mill before cooking. I find that the flavor is superior if the fruits are cooked a bit seperately, and while still mostly whole. It can always be pureed later.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, place a small knob of butter (2 tbs or perhaps a bit more) and a splash of olive oil (1-2 tbs). You can put a bit less or a bit more, but if you don’t use at least 3 tbs or so the sauce won’t be as rich. You may of course replace the butter with a substitute or simply use more oil. I have prepared this recipe just with oil. It is good, but not quite the same. A butter substitute appropriate to your diet would be a better replacement to create the proper creaminess.

Add a half an onion or a small whole onion sliced in half. Add as in the picture above, in one large piece, not chopped or sliced. Add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

You may also wish to add other things at this point, such as a few whole cloves of garlic or bay leaves other whole herbs or celery leaves or chiles sliced in half. Whatever you add, keep it in a large enough chunk to remove with ease. The idea is to bring the flavors out through slow cooking and permeate the sauce with them.

Immediately add the whole, drained tomatoes (whether fresh or canned, separate the juice). Sautée the whole tomatoes along with the butter, oil, onion and additional flavorings, slowly crushing the tomatoes them with a heavy wooden spoon or spatula, breaking them up and stirring while the mixture comes to heat. Cook the tomatoes and the aromatics together for five minutes or longer.

Add the reserved juice from the tomatoes. If you are using pre-prepared tomatoes, simply omit the sautée step.

Bring the saucepan to a slow simmer, bubbling occasionally. Think a classic Sunday Sauce, only on a much smaller (and quicker) scale. The longer you cook this and the lower the heat, the more flavorful it will be. It benefits from sitting overnight as well, but I can never resist it when freshly made. I usually find it takes about 45 minutes to an hour of simmering before the oil rises to the top and the juices have boiled down to a nice thick sauce. This is not a marinara-type consistency but a thick, chunky tomato sauce. It should be rich and creamy and look almost like a vodka sauce.

If the sauce is to be pureed, it can be served with thin spaghetti and the like, but I prefer to keep it somewhat chunky and put it on a thicker cut of box pasta, like the rigatoni below. It is also excellent (a la Hazan) with potato gnocchi, and many stuffed pastas with ingredients such as squash, pumpkins, mushrooms, nuts and bitter greens. You may add cheese or choose not too–I usually find that the sauce is rich enough and enjoy instead a sprinkle of oregano or marjoram. Likewise, I find that served with cheese stuffed pasta the cheese should be sharp and pungent rather than mellow like ricotta or mozarella, or the result will be bland. It’s also excellent served with stuffed vegetables or as a sauce to zest up a simple vegetable dish or bowl of lentils.

This is an extremely basic slow food recipe, but one that I hope you will find useful as well as endlessly variable.

IMG_8564

Further Recipe Credit / History :

This recipe… or procedure, perhaps–isn’t so much adapted as completely stolen from Marcella Hazan. It appeared first in The Classic Italian Cookbook (1976) where it was appealingly titled “Tomato Sauce III.” By the time her first two books were rebound as Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, it had become “Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.”

I had to look all this up not only to make clear my thievery, but because while I have been making this sauce since the late 90’s I don’t ever really actually look at the recipe. Once I had looked at them both I realized that I’d been making it unlike Marcella for many years. She must have made that same realization when she selected recipes for Essentials, the latter version being much lighter on butter and omitting sugar (!) entirely. Her version is made with fresh tomatoes, too, while for an unknown reason at some point long ago I began to make this sauce exclusively in the cooler months and good canned tomatoes.

If there is a cookbook writer to be recommended any more highly than Marcella Hazan, I can’t think of one. Even if you aren’t particularly drawn to Italian food, her description of cooking technique is unsurpassed. Always explained in the same authoritative, thorough and patient tone. Almost everything I make is an experiment, I rarely prepare the same exact dish twice. Many of my (hah!) canonical dishes are ruthlessly tweaked from Marcella’s master tapes.