It may seem a bit early to go all harvesty on you, but the first big flush of Hudson Valley tomatoes is usually the best for both quantity and quality, so that’s the one it makes sense to put up. The season of need will be upon us sooner or later (probably later, the way the weather’s been going lately), no matter how hard that is to imagine when it’s 72 degrees at dawn.
Having recently worried around at the ethical questions attendant on promoting wild foods to all and sundry, I offer this post with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, Have Ramps Will Cook. We are lucky enough to have access to several large patches; the spirit of experiment springs eternal and besides, people have been asking.
On the other hand, providing recipes is – I hope! – an invitation to use those recipes, so there we are with the ethics again, along with another reservation,
Myself, I’m trying a blood orange version of the recent Shaker Lemon and Cherry Pie for Valentines Day, but this being a chocolate drenched holiday, I feel it incumbent to point you toward a couple of never-fail favorites.
This floated into the kitchen because Jan 23 was National Pie Day*, an event that got a surprising amount of PR, given that every day is pie day in most people’s estimations. It’s probably because good pie is still – compared to say, macarons – in woefully short supply.
Ok. Deciding to bake a pie was easy. Deciding what kind of pie to bake was not, fresh local fruit also being in short supply in the Northeast just now. We’ve gone through all the frozen berries already; we’re eating too much winter squash to make pumpkin appealing, and while apple might seem obvious, it’s not if you breakfast on baked apples with yogurt pretty much every mortal day of the winter.
The classic King Cake of carnival season has many variations: coffee cake-ish, briochelike, or based on puff pastry. It may or may not include embellishments like candied fruit, frangipane, and colored icing. It may even be chocolate with coconut. But one thing will be for sure: it’ll be sweet.
Not around here. At this time of year I’m still recovering from the holiday cookie binge, and the idea of more of the same doesn’t hold much of a thrill. Yet I’ve always loved the idea of the thing, so our traditional King Cake is basically cheese studded brioche. Traditional tradition is honored in the ring shape and in the hidden token whose finder is the King.
Or, to put it another way: Stop her before she bakes again.
I expect to discuss the Christmas Ham in the very near future, and may also pony up a picture of The Tree.
But first, even without cues from the weather, little miss knee jerk has responded to the usual stimulae in the usual fashion. Five or six pounds of butter, along with a similar weight of nuts but vastly less sugar – one of the reasons home made cookies taste so much better than store bought – have already been put to use and I can tell there’s more to come.
These classic holiday goodies are almost perfect: Only one (processor) bowl to wash; no cooking; deeply chocolate flavored without calling for obscene amounts of expensive high-end chocolate. Very simple to form and they keep for a long time. Just one small problem: their name.
You can’t really call them Hooch-soaked Crumbs with Chocolate and Nuts, but Bourbon, Rum or Brandy Balls doesn’t exactly do the job either. Maybe they should be called Poor Man’s Truffles. Please consider this an invitation, all suggestions cheerfully considered.
What we need is something that says Small, Rich, Alcoholic* and Chocolate, without getting any more specific. After deliciousness, lack of specificity is the distinguishing merit of let’s temporarily call them SRAC’s; they’re the pasta casserole of cookies. You can make them out of almost any dry sweet you happen to have around.
In the edible bird department, some givens, about which more below:
1.) Like the proverbial yacht, if you have to ask how much a heritage turkey costs you probably can’t afford it.
2.) Buying a heritage turkey helps keep an endangered gene pool robust, so you get preservation points as well as a delicious dinner (assuming you cook it correctly).
I’m not in the yachting class and am already convinced on the deliciousness front, but I’m cooking two turkeys this year anyway, just for the sake of comparison.
One is a heritage bird from a farm about a half hour north of here, the other is an “organic, free range heirloom,” imported from Pennsylvania (about 5 hours south of here) by a specialty grocery. Although I haven’t cooked them yet, some things are already clear.
Those who simply want kitchen tips can go immediately to Roast Turkey 101.2 for general cooking hints and a recipe for wild mushroom stuffing. Guidance that’s specific to heritage birds is in the second part of Wild Turkeys, Thanks But No Thanks.
Must say I do love a soup that tastes rich and creamy without being heavy – or containing cream. Also nice if it doesn’t require an arsenal of seasonings and is easy and quick to make.
The quick part does assume the squash is already baked, and that you know speedy ways to peel chestnuts, but why not? *
As usual, the ingredient list is pretty much the whole recipe, but given that the beauty shot of the main ingredients promised something a bit more extensive, here’s a rough outline, based on the most recent iteration.
“Rough” and “most recent” are definitely the words for it; this is one of those home style soups that’s infinitely variable.
In other words, almost impossible to screw up.
Would be me; thinking I could just make some of this classic English dessert, put up the recipe and move on to something gardenly like breeding peonies, growing great basil or one of the many other topics on the tip of my desktop.
Reading up on gooseberry fool – don’t laugh; it turns out to be a much explored subject* – led me into a briar patch of nursery catalogs, from which I have only recently emerged.