Holiday Recipes from Leda’s Urban Homestead

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m in a holiday prep state of mind. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been experimenting with in the kitchen. I’ve linked to the recipes where possible:

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Black Walnut Ice Cream. This one is thanks to my mom, Jackie Gordon, and Nicole Taylor, with whom I spent a fun few hours shelling black walnuts.

Naturally Red Spiced Apple Rings

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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Spicebush and Orange. If you didn’t forage any spicebush berries earlier this fall, or if Lindera benzoin doesn’t grow where you live, you can either use the spice substitution I suggest in the recipe, or order some spicebush from Integration Acres (they sell it as “Appalachian Allspice”).

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Homemade Bacon I used some of this in a dish for a holiday brunch yesterday (the recipe has been dubbed “L’eggs Meredith”). Kind of a cross between eggs florentine and eggs benedict: I did the whole poached egg on an english muffin covered with hollandaise thing, but under the each egg was a melange of lamb’s quarters greens and homemade bacon bits.

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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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Seasonal Shift

Although I consider myself a summer child most comfortable in warm breezes, scant clothing, and bare toes, over three decades in the Northeast have made me an appreciator of sudden seasonal shifts. And I’m not talking about the obvious calendrical ones of Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter. As any forager or gardener knows, there are seasons within seasons.

virginia-creeperFor instance, just a week ago the wall of my apartment building and the wires between buildings were scarlet with Virginia creeper leaves. But those are almost all gone now. Now I see the quirky curves of sassafras branches against the sky, and curse the squirrel who dug into my potted parsley to bury a black walnut.

I probably don’t need to tell you that last weekend’s resetting of clocks also contributes to this sense of abrupt seasonal shift. It gets dark so early! It happens every year, and yet every year I am surprised by it.

The foraging season isn’t over, though. Far from it. There are rose hips to gather, and it actually hasn’t been cold enough yet for the Jerusalem artichokes to be as sweet as I like them.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be writing my next book. The productive procrastination that is apparently part of my writing process is going very well. This week it included making green tomato and pear chutney, paneer, and ricotta.palak-paneer

Speaking of books (ahem), Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries will be out next April, and is available for pre-order now.field-guide-cvr

Happy November,

Leda

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Foraging Frenzy

I’ve been busy, busy, busy writing about foraging, teaching foraging, making videos about foraging, and I even managed to sneak in some actual foraging time for myself. My favorite find of the past week was butternuts.

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But I’ve also been collecting spicebush berries and beechnuts, and the ever-present smorgasboard of wild edible leafy greens.

I’ve got three foraging classes left this season, one in the Bronx and two in Brooklyn. The info is here if you’d like to join me.

I just did a really interesting interview about foraging for an upcoming online event on sustainable food systems. At least, the questions were interesting and hopefully I held up my end. If you’d like to hear it, just sign up here. It’s free.

I’ve also been writing a foraging blog for Mother Earth News. My latest piece on Hen (hen of the woods, a.k.a. maitake mushroom) should be up within a day or two.

Last but very certainly not least on the foraging front, I heard from my editor at Timber Press yesterday that the proof pages of Northeast Foraging: 120 Delicious Wild Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries are on their way to me. Homestretch for that project, which I’ve been working on for the past year and a half! It will be available in March, 2014.

Here’s a video on edible sumac that I did recently. It’s still in season in many places, so I hope this inspires you to make use of this tangy wild ingredient:

How to make sumac-ade

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From Elderberries to Wild Figs

elderberriesI’m on the road for a last few weeks of summer travels before strapping in for my fall schedule of foraging tours and other workshops.

Along with the public offerings you’ll see there, I’ll be doing several private foraging tours for garden clubs, schools, etc. One guy even hired me to do a foraging tour on his property as a birthday present for his wife and her friends.

The day before I left, I harvested several pounds of ripe elderberries and crammed them into my already full freezer. They were just too tempting to pass up - I’ll figure out what to do with them once I get back.

But before the fall foraging tours, before I deal with the still-on-their-stems elderberries in my freezer, it’s time to pick the wild figs Ricky promises are waiting for me in the hills near his home…

Foraging and Food Preservation Videos

Books:

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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On Pinterest

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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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Breakfast with Cesar - Smokin’!

We met Cesar at 6:30 a.m. in the Ramot Forest of Jerusalem. The intention was for him to show us how he smokes fish. While the fish started its long smoke, we’d have breakfast. Some of you may recall that breakfast with Cesar involves vodka (yes, even at that hour).
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Not just any vodka, in this case, but tarragon-infused vodka that was lightly sweet and absolutely delicious. He doesn’t extract the tarragon tincture-style straight into the vodka. Instead, he makes tarragon sugar by alternating layers of fresh tarragon leaves and sugar and letting that sit for a while. Then he sifts out the leaves and adds just enough of the tarragon sugar to the vodka to give it a hint of sweetness and tarragon perfume.

The vodka was poured before the coffee was ready. It was that kind of morning.

Meanwhile, Ricky got a fire going and made us a hearty breakfast of fried eggs plus the ubiquitous tomato and cucumber salad of the Middle East, and some good bread and cheese. The coffee came along about the same time as the second shot of tarragon vodka.

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Once breakfast was served, we put some dampened wood chips and fresh rosemary on the coals.

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Here’s our not-fancy-but-functional smoker:

Our low-tech smoker: holes in the bottom of a big can plus two on the sides for a wire to run through

Our low-tech smoker: holes in the bottom of a big can plus two on the sides for a wire to run through

We strung the fish (mackerel) through its eyeballs on the wire running through what would become the top end of the smoker.

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And then we went back to eating breakfast, sipping beverages, watching the dogs romp, and communicating in a mx of languages and charades.

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I tried a small nibble of the fish part way through its smoking and it was delicious, although Ricky thinks we had the fire going too hot. We saved the final product to share later with Cesar and his lovely wife Marina.

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Leda’s Urban Homestead videos on YouTube

Leda on Food Preservation

Upcoming Classes and Foraging Tours

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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Edible Wild Plant Videos

slow-food-foraging2The past month I’ve been busy teaching foraging, writing about foraging, and, well, actually foraging for edible wild plants. I love it that I rarely have to actually buy a vegetable at this time of year because there are so many delicious ones ready to harvest for free.

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I’ve also started sharing some brief tutorial videos about foraging, food preservation, and other urban homesteading skills on my youtube channel. Here are  my first three (be kind; the learning curve is steep!):

Japanese Knotweed: Eat the Invader

How to Make Violet Flower Syrup

How to Harvest Wild Ginger Sustainably

I’m going to be putting up more food preservation videos soon (in case you wished you could be peering over my shoulder while I test for that elusive jelly gelling point, etc.)…stay tuned (and thanks for putting up with this shamelessly self-promoting post!).

Busy, but yay! In all good ways. Hope you are having a glorious Spring.

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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Hello, Spring

This spring has been on the chilly side, especially compared to last year’s warm temps. But the last of the crocuses are blooming,

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the daffodils are kicking into full swing,

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and my neighbor’s apricot tree is in bloom.

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The early spring crop of dandelion greens and crowns, what my friend Melana used to call “yard squid,” are perfect this spring.

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Last year the plants went from just starting to grow to flowering and bitter in a blink. So I guess the extended not-so-bitter harvest season is the consolation prize for the cold start to spring.

Time to go foraging, yes? There are still a couple of spots left for tomorrow, Sat. 6th, and for Sun. 7th. Can’t do the short notice on this weekend? Plenty more classes, tours, and events coming up!

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