Archive for 250-mile diet

Pantry Challenge, 2014

Either I have to eat a lot of my preserved foods this month, or I have to give them away. Let me explain:

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I have to move in less than a month. It’s not a move I saw coming, and I sure did stock up the pantry last year like I was planning to stay (and I have stayed here in Park Slope for almost 11 years, but that’s another story…).

When I say pantry, remember that I don’t actually have a separate room for all my canned, dried, fermented and otherwise preserved foods. I even keep some of my jars of home-canned goods under my bed (this pic is just of a bunch of jars that I pulled out for show).

I don’t really want to take it all with me because I don’t have a fixed address yet. I’ll be putting stuff in storage, staying at the home of a friend, and then heading overseas and, well, you can’t really travel easily with a winter’s worth of preserved food.

So…I’ve decided to make this a pantry challenge month. All meal planning will start by looking in the freezer or under the bed…um, I mean in my “pantry”…and choosing a few preserved foods to base the meal around. I’m not being crazy strict about this as I was with The 250. If I need an ingredient to make my food excellent, I’ll buy it or forage for it. Foraging is admittedly limited in Brooklyn at this time of year, but there is still some cold weather foraging.

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I started today with an American-style omelet (lightly browned and neatly folded over the filling, unlike a creamy, softer French omelette). It included kale that I had blanched and frozen last year, homemade bacon, and a sharp New York cheddar cheese. The salt was local, thanks to Sarah Sproule. And instead of pepper I used some home-dried and ground cayenne chiles (I like spicy) mixed with dried ground (and foraged) spicebush berries (Lindera benzoin).

Already I can see where what I’ve got on hand is going to fall short: animal products such as eggs, cheese, and milk are going to run out and I’ll have to buy more at the farmers’ market.

But that’s okay: this pantry challenge is not about trying to avoid purchasing food. It’s about using up my dehydrated, frozen, fermented, smoked, salt-cured, and canned foods in delicious, interesting, healthful ways. I hope to learn a few things and perhaps invent some keeper recipes along the way.

I doubt that you want the blow-by-blow of what I eat every day. When I come up with something especially good that relies mostly on home-preserved ingredients, including those made with wild edibles, I’ll let you know.

Happy Imbolc!

Leda

Available for pre-order:

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

and

Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

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How to Make Carob Powder from Carob Pods (plus a carob ginger snap recipe)

One of the fun things about traveling far from my NYC foraging grounds is that I get to learn new-to-me wild edible plants and play with them in the kitchen. That’s how these carob ginger snap cookies came to be.

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Here in Jerusalem, at the outskirts of the Ramot forest, every day I walked past a pile of pods that lay beneath the tree (Ceratonia siliqua) that they had fallen from. One day the forager’s identification lightbulb illuminated, and I realized that I’d been passing by carob pods.

By the way, you don’t have to be in the Middle East to find carob trees growing. My friends in the western states of the U.S. should be able to find them as well.

The smell brought back memories from my childhood: the hippie adults I was surrounded by thought carob was healthier than chocolate and therefore substituted it in many recipes. Actually, if you use carob as a chocolate substitute, it is disappointing. But if you appreciate that carob has its own unique and excellent scent and taste, then it is a first rate ingredient.

But before I could make the carob ginger snaps, I had to make carob powder. With carob, it’s not the seeds you use but the pod that surrounds the seeds.

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These pods can be quite tough, especially if you collect them long after they’ve fallen from the tree, as I did.

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It helps if you soften them. I did this by first rinsing the pods clean and then covering them with water in a large pot. I brought the water to a boil and then turned off the heat and let the pods soak for a few hours.

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Well, it was supposed to be just a few hours, but I fell asleep so it ended up being overnight.

The next day I split the now softened pods open with a paring knife and discarded the seeds.

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After that, I pulverized the pods in batches in a blender (really missing my food processor back in Brooklyn, which would have made this job much easier). I wasn’t after a perfectly smooth grind, just a coarse pulp that I could spread out on a baking sheet and dry in a low (200F) oven.

carob-pulp

Once dried, I ground the carob in an electric coffee grinder, et voila! Carob powder, ready to be made into these delicious cookies. I made a vegan version because we are going to visit my bf’s vegan son and fiancee, but you could substitute butter for the coconut oil if that’s not an issue.

Carob Ginger Snap Cookies

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  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Whisk together these dry ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup carob powder

1/2 cup sugar, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients:

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup date syrup (molasses or a dark honey would work, too)

1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter if you prefer)

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. On a plate, mix together:

1/4 cup carob powder

2 tablespoons sugar

  • Form 1 or 1 1/2-inch balls out of the dough and roll them in the carob-sugar mixture. Flatten each ball slightly between the heels of your hands. Place them on a cookie sheet with a little space in between each one and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. They will get crunchy as they cool.

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries is available for pre-order!

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Happy New Year from Leda’s Urban Homestead

I’m greeting 2014 with my bf in Jerusalem. This was the view yesterday morning as J-town re-emerged from the morning mists:

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Although I’ve cooked in this kitchen many, many times, I’d never baked bread here until this past week. I couldn’t find a rack to cool the bread on, so I improvised with chopsticks on a cutting board.

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Back in Brooklyn, the wood sorrel won’t reappear until mid-spring. Here, it is in peak season (although I’m picking Oxalis pes-carpae here rather than the O. stricta I find back in the Northeast). I used some of it last night in a fish soup.

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On the kitchen counter, I’ve got foraged olives in a salt cure, and chile peppers lacto-fermenting into hot sauce.

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In the fridge, the salt fish (haddock rather than cod because the kind of cod they sell here is endangered) will be ready in a few days. I’ve also got bacon and pancetta (yes, you can get pork belly in Israel) curing. And I’ve got several kinds of refrigerator pickles going.

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Next up, I’m making kumquat marmalade. And then maybe some passionfruit butter. Some of these passionfruits are from Ricky’s terrace garden, some foraged. It feels almost decadent to be foraging fruit in winter!

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May the year ahead bless you with delicious feasts, foraged and otherwise, and may there be loved ones near to share the joy. Happy New Year!

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Solstice Morning Foraging

snow-cyclamenHappy Winter Solstice!

This morning Ricky and I took a walk in the Ramot forest of Jerusalem. There are huge numbers of trees and tree limbs downed by last week’s snowstorm. But there are also signs of the bloom season starting, like these Cyclamen persicum…

…and these white crocuses.

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It’s weird for me, used to northeastern North America, to consider the Winter Solstice the start of spring as far as plants go, but that’s the reality on the ground here in the Middle East. I also saw some wild daffodils that I didn’t get a good photo of (next time).

trackWe weren’t the only ones out enjoying the warm morning. Any trackers out there know who this print belongs to?

And of course, we did some foraging. It turned out to be too early in the season for the Suillus mushrooms I’ve found here in January. But the recent storm knocked the last of the season’s olives and plenty of Arbutus (strawberry tree) fruit to the ground. The olives will get a simple salt cure. Not sure what I’m doing with the Arbutus yet, besides snacking on it.olives-and-arbutus

Other stuff I did this solstice day: made sauerkraut, made fish chowder, took a nap, was grateful for a day off. Okay, almost a day off: I also finished up an article on sunchokes. It’s ironic that I was working on an article about a plant also known as Jerusalem artichokes even though it is a native North American plant that has nothing to do with Jerusalem…while I’m actually in Jerusalem.

Next up, a salsa dancing lesson with my bf. Life is good.

Wishing you a wonderful solstice and holiday season!

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Food Preservation Report: Watermelon Radish Ferment

pickled-radishes-smDecember is the last hurrah for certain ingredients that I treasure. The Clementine oranges will be gone soon. Even the locally grown pears will gradually disappear from the markets. The apples will start to lose their crunch. But those aren’t the seasonal ingredients I want to preserve.

If you haven’t had a watermelon radish yet, you want to. On the outside, they look like beige turnips. The hint of pink on the tapering root end barely suggests the riot of festive color within.

What do they taste like? Well, radishes. But pickle them with either this lacto-fermented recipe or this overnight vinegar brine, and you’ve got a very special offering for your holiday feasts (and well after, when January’s blah colors could use a little pick-me-up).

Cheers,

Leda

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Thanksgiving Recipes and Thoughts

jellied-cran-smThanksgiving is an odd holiday. I applaud the notion of families getting together to cook and feast on native American ingredients like cranberry, turkey, pumpkin. I especially love the idea of pausing in our busy lives to give thanks.

But the old tale of pilgrims and “indians” helping each other out doesn’t hold up to historical truth 100%.

Nonetheless, here comes Thanksgiving. I will be spending it with a transcontinental couple. She’s from El Salvador, he’s from Bolivia. They were married not long ago, and if I’m not mistaken, this is the first Thanksgiving they’ve ever hosted as a couple.

I’m bringing two kinds of cranberry sauce, including this one that’s in the picture, and that is so good I expect it’s already a tradition in my kitchen. Here’s the video version of the recipe.

I’m also bringing green bean casserole (no, I’m not using canned mushroom soup, but you knew that, right?). Mine is going to include some chicken of the woods mushroom I foraged.

So despite the fact that Thanksgiving is politically and historically awkward, I am participating. I am in favor of occasions to give thanks, and to share meals.

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Trading Acorn Flour for Local Salt

Last night I got to enjoy a truly wonderful locavorian dinner. Dubbed the “hyperlocal” dinner by Lars Fuchs who organized it together with Matthew Fleischmann, the feast was cooked for us by Chef Sarah Sproule.

We started off with some excellent wine from Queens County Farm Museum. Then the courses began, and it’s really a toss up which was my favorite. Maybe the sunchokes with black walnut pesto? The bluefish cooked with chicken fat? The hen stewed for eight hours and served with broccoli raab and hawthorn sauce?hawthorn-hen

Or maybe the beautifully simple field garlic broth with oyster, chicken, and enoki mushrooms.mushroom-soup

The company was made up of guests who’d helped Lars and Matthew tap into local food sources as well as foraging skills during their project. Sitting at table with people from the mycological society, the Queens farm, Slow Food International – all of us passionate about sustainable food systems – was a treat.

The evening was videoed for a documentary of the project. But there are two things that won’t make it into the documentary: the bag of my acorn flour that I traded for the beautiful salt that Chef Sarah makes herself from the waters off the coast of Long Island, and the pipe of mugwort that we shared at the end of the meal. Truly a wonderful evening!salt

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Berry Bliss

I love summer’s parade of wild berries, each species catching my eye and delighting my taste buds for the brief time it is in season. Of course, nothing beats eating ripe berries straight out of hand in the field. But berry pie, berry jam…let’s just call it a win-win choice.

Last month I was traveling and missed the juneberries in the Northeast (as Ellen’s excellent video about juneberry a.k.a. Amelanchier tauntingly reminded me).

But I got to enjoy mulberries (Morus species) at approximately the same time I would have been gobbling them up in Brooklyn (still enjoying, actually – their season ain’t quite over yet!).

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Gary Lincoff posted that black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) are ripening in the Northeast. They are the first of the wild brambleberries each year, and arguably my favorites. I don’t think they’ll wait for me to get back in a week (the wild edible berry season is micro-seasonal, as in sometimes just a couple of weeks per species).

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But I’ll be back in time for wineberries (R. phoenocolasius), blackberries (R. allegheniensis), purple-flowering raspberries (R. odoratus), and the not-so-wild-but-oh-so-delicious red raspberries in my garden (R. idaeus).

Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely not complaining about the wild fruits and nuts I’ve been enjoying on my travels. I tasted my first blackberry of the season just inland from a beach in Israel about two weeks ago. I was wearing a bathing suit, which is hardly the best gear for reaching into thorny blackberry canes, but I didn’t care. The berries were worth it.

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Here’s some of what I do with berries:

The Best Way to Freeze Berries

Raspberry (or Blackberry) Cordial

Mulberry Jam with Homemade Pectin

Strawberry Jam with Homemade Pectin

Want more specific deets? I’ve started putting up foraging, food preservation, and other homestead-y videos here.

And I’ve got tons of food preservation info and recipes here.


The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes

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Keeping Up with the Forager’s Feast

linden-leafYou can see my fingers through the recently unfurled linden leaf (Tilia a.k.a. basswood tree), right? At this translucent, young stage they are one of my favorite wild salad greens. Soon they’ll be offering their honey-scented blossoms that make exquisite tea and can also be used to flavor homebrewed wine.

The garlic mustard is already at its most delicious, “broccoli rabe” stage right now in BK. Tomorrow I’ll sautee it up with some field garlic and red pepper flakes.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Ramps!!! ramps-smBe careful if you’re foraging for these. As exciting as it can be to find a ramps patch, they are overharvested in many places. Even if you find them in abundance, graze rather than decimate. A few here, a few from there, leaving plenty in between.

The violets are at their peak. I made violet blossom syrup a couple of days ago, might get around to a candied violets project, and have been enjoying the leaves in salads. The color of the syrup is amazing:

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Tonight’s dinner is going to be creamed oyster mushrooms and ramps with scalloped Adirondack red potatoes and a salad of linden leaves plus violet leaves and flowers. The ‘shrooms are from a previous haul that I dehydrated. Sounds fancy, but that’s no cred to the cook: with ingredients like these, it’s easy to impress.

I can’t vouch for elsewhere, but in Prospect Park this morning the redbud blossoms were at the “any day now” stage.

Shameless plug for upcoming foraging tours and classes – hope to see you at some of them, and if I don’t I hope it’s because you’re out foraging delicious, healthy wild foods.

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Food with Friends

We’re so close to spring, and yet still looking at the same few wild winter crops like winter cress and evening primrose plus cold-hearty cultivated greens and root vegetables from last year’s harvest. But that’s not necessarily boring.

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I had some friends over recently and the feast included initial nibbles of fermented cherries with goat cheese, watermelon radishes, and bread made with locally grown grains and sunflower seeds (yay, local sunflower seeds! Wish you’d been here when I was doing The 250), plus some very non-local za’atar from my most recent trip to Israel. Oh, and some good ol’ refrigerator pickles.

There was also some beet risotto that used the greens as well as the roots.

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And of course, we needed some wine to drink with all of that. My guests brought decanter-deserving and decanter-needing wine. Alas, I do not possess a decanter (now you know what to get me for my next birthday). We made do.

pyrex-decanter-smMy guests that night included Anne Fifield, who took these pics except for the first one, and Melina, her mom, and Jim. Melina did an awesome interview with me  recently, and if you haven’t seen her Valentine’s dinner pics, prepare to swoon.

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The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget

Botany, Ballet, and Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes

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