Archive for May, 2010

Peak Food: Why a Local, Seasonal Diet is Never Boring

Recently a woman told me that she doesn’t eat a local, seasonal diet because she’s afraid she’d get bored. “I’m so used to being able to get anything anytime,” she said. She couldn’t be more mistaken. I’d be willing to wager a hefty bet that I get excited about what’s on my plate more often than she does.

red-cloverToday I went foraging. I collected red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense), which I’ll dry and use to make wonderfully spongy, slightly sweet red clover bread. Red clover is in peak bloom right now, and that will only last another couple of weeks. That’s okay, the edible flower season is far from over. Today I spotted basswood (Tilia americana) about a week away from its bloom season. I’ll come back in a week and collect those honey-scented clusters for Ellen to make into one of my favorite wines.

I also collected burdock “cardoons” (the immature flower stalks of Arctium lappa) today, which I’ll marinate for an Italian-style antipasto, and pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) shoots that I’m going to use in a quiche. Both plants will soon be out of season, so I’m making the most of them now. That’s okay, because when they’re gone it will be time for milkweed florets, daylilies, and mulberries.

After my foraging jaunt I went to the farmers’ market. I bought strawberries and sugar snap peas. Neither was in season yet when I left for a working trip three weeks ago. I love both, and hadn’t tasted either since last year. Heaven. Of course, those will be going out of season by the end of next month, but that’s okay because then it will be time for cherries, new potatoes, the first summer vegetables…you get the idea.

Sometimes one food stays in season for so long, or there is so much of it, that it does take some culinary experimentation to keep it interesting (note: not because I can’t have it, as that woman supposed, but because I have too much of it!). Last year my CSA farmer inundated us with cucumbers. When it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to keep up by eating them fresh, I got creative with pickle ideas. The maple bread-’n'-butter pickles I came up with became one of my all-time favorites.

I like having choices and abundance as much as the next person. But for me those aren’t about anything anytime. They are about the right thing at the right time.

snap-pea-small

copyright

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

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

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Lost in Switzerland & a Bread Recipe

reute-streamToday I got lost in the woods and also baked a gorgeous loaf of Swiss Sunday bread. While I was trying to find my way home, I harvested wild red clover, nettles, and colt’s foot.

I’m here teaching and directing a dance show. I’m staying with my bosses, Rut and Roland. Today was a day off. They went to visit family, and I thought I might take a hike in the afternoon. Roland left me with detailed instructions for what he said would be a pleasant half hour walk: “Left, then across the little bridge over the stream, pass a wood pile on your left, then another one on your right, through the gate to the horse field, stay right and you’ll come out right by the house.”

Before I left, I baked a loaf of Swiss Sunday Bread (recipe below). I originally learned the recipe from their ex-daughter-in-law here in Switzerland, but I’ve tweaked it a little. I waited until the bread was out of the oven and R & R had taken off before heading out for my hike.

I managed to get utterly lost–or would have, if this wasn’t Switzerland.

Switzerland is walker/hiker friendly. There are yellow signs everywhere pointing hikers in various directions, and no one looks twice if you emerge from the woods onto a highway. So although after an hour it was clear I’d veered from Roland’s directions, I wasn’t really worried about getting seriously lost. Of course, some of the signs are vague.

wanderweg

I followed the wanderweg signs across fields and across woods

until I saw “my” town. reute

R & R hadn’t gotten back yet.

My bread had turned out beautifully.

swiss-bread

“How was your walk?” Roland asked when they returned.

“Fine, gorgeous,” I replied, which was actually true.

Swiss Sunday Bread

1 kilo bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

100 grams butter

500 ml. milk

1 packet dry or 1 cube moist yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

cornmeal or polenta

1. Whisk together the flour and salt.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the milk and warm until just above skin temperature. Stir in the honey.

3. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add to the milk mixture.

4. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid. Stir until combined. Knead 150 times. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size.

5. Press down. Let rest 15 minutes.

6. Cut dough in half. Roll or squeeze each half into a rope. Overlap the two ropes and braid them together. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under (you can skip this and just make one big or two smaller round loaves). Cover with the damp towel and let rise another 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 176 C.

7. Bake until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool 15 min. before eating (don’t bother slicing–best to tear into this one).

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

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

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