Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A very fragrant bloom

The air is rife with scent of spring’s rebounding life. Hidden bulbs have revealed themselves from the heady seduction of hyacinth to the aggressive assault of alliums; wild onions populate the fields all around me. Then there is the spotting of the cultish ramp.  This wild onion has achieved very little commercial production but demands the attention of all who have eaten them. Grilled, sauté and pickled are part of my personal applications for them. I am dreaming of starting a patch by the stream under the protective canopy of the oak trees, and I guess, while I am dreaming the dream, I should put in ostrich ferns and some watercress to flush my woodland tableau. For now, I am free to leave my front door to pull a clump wild onion that has more a chive-like leaf, and small bulbs that thrive in our open fields. It is safe to say, if it smells like garlic or onion then it is probably a wild variety and edible. The farmer’s market the past weekend gave me but a mere handful of ramps; five feet from the house, and I am hauling back a small basket full. So, I am on alert, knowing that the ramp season is ramping up, which means putting up the first pickles of the New Year and anticipating a distinctive oniony moment to the coming weeks meals.

Vegetable Burgers – yeilds 12 patties
2-cups cooked quinoa
8-ounces tempeh - shredded
½-pound carrot – shredded
¾-pound zucchini – shredded
3-celery stalks – shredded

½-cup minced spring onion greens
2-whole black cardamon
1-½ teaspoon whole coriander seed
1-teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1-tablespoon salt
2-egg whites
¾-cup chickpea flour

In a spice grinder place the cardamon, coriander, black peppercorns and process to a fine powder.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients to thoroughly combine.
Form into 10 patties about 3-inches across. Place in the refrigerator, and rest the burgers for at least an hour.

Heat an eight-inch sauté pan over a high heat, and add 2-tablespoons of canola oil. Brown the burgers on both sides. Keep warm in 300-dgree oven. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I forgot

Walking through the grocery store I saw that the Passover displays had gone up, I just wished they also posted the date of the first night. Since my mother’s death I have no one to remind that a holiday is coming. I no longer have someone who calls three months out, 2 months out, one month out, just so I don’t book work on the night I need to attend the Seder. I grow up in a reformed household, holidays were observed but Friday night dinner was not ritually preformed. As an adult, I would qualify as a cultural Jew – I love the flavors and smells of my mother’s kitchen; Borscht-belt shtick is definitely not lost on me, and I serve up a healthy portion of guilty as quickly as a fast-food joint can get your order out. As for the religious side of things, I would say I am more of a Universalist – enjoying the love and comfort of knowing we are all connected.

Food is one of the things that connects us and expresses love and honor. There is no kinder, gentler way of acknowledging a person then by asking them to sit at your table to break bread. Except on this occasion bread will be nowhere to be found, and in lieu of the staff of life you’ll find oversized water crackers. I will confess, I like matzo and happily eat it throughout the year; smeared with cream cheese sprinkled with chunks of kosher salt. I hated the tuna sandwiches that were packed for our lunches that week -- soggy bread may have stuck to the roof of your mouth the matzo sandwich just fell apart. Everything during Passover is matzo based, some for the good, and much for the bad. I warn all to steer away from the dessert table, only allowing the macaroons to tempt you. While the Passover table might not be the most glamorous meal of the year, in my family, there clearly was a celebration of spring. The first asparagus of the year were served and mushrooms where found in numerous dishes. And, lets not forgot the ubiquitous dipping of parsley, which this year could come from right out my back door. Unfortunately, I have booked a gig on that first night I will be neither attending or hosting a Seder – maybe, next year I can get Siri to start reminding me in February.  

Mushroom Matzo Kugel – 6 servings (3x3 per serving)
1-large onion
4-stalks celery
2-garlic cloves
1-pound mushrooms
1-teaspoon salt
4 sheets whole-wheat matzoh
½-cup chopped parsley
2-egg whites
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-tablespoon canola oil

Chop the onions, celery, garlic and mushrooms and place in a 10-inch sauté pan.  Add the salt and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes – the onions and celery will lose their raw look, and mushroom should leach out its liquid.  Remove from the heat, and allow it to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

In a large work bowl crumble the matzoh, and toss with the parsley and egg whites. Once the onion mixture has cooled mix into the matzoh to combine along with balck pepper to taste.

Drizzle the canola oil on the bottom of an 11x7 Pyrex baking dish. Add the onion/matzoh mixture and gently pack it down.

Cook in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My longest relationship

Up until a few years ago I lived my entire adult life alone. I never had a roommate in college, and the only time I shared a dwelling was for an extremely long three months just prior to heading to San Francisco for culinary school. Those 90 days formed my belief that you either crawl at of my bed in the morning, or go home the night before.  That has meant, for me, cooking many meals for one, particularly breakfast.

While I am still a newbie when it comes to cohabitating with another person I have lived with a vital, inanimate object for years – my wok. Purchased in New York’s Chinatown during my college days, it was one of the first pans in my kitchen. I have packed it up numerous times and shipped it around the world with me, this pan I could never let go of. It has decades of seasoning, which now makes maintaining quick and easy. Probably for the first twenty years of our relationship when it was used it would go for stovetop to running water to stovetop when it was being cleaned – it could never air dry. Now, it goes stovetop to running water to drying rack with no fear of it rusting.

Its versatility brings a font of nibbling satisfaction, and that is the reason we can never be parted. I am not sure there is not a dish I could not make in it from soups to steamed puddings it fulfills my needs – morning, noon and night.   

Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry – yields 4 servings
1/2-pound pork tenderloin
2” ginger - peeled and sliced thin julienne
2 garlic cloves - diced fine
1/8-teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/4-cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4-cup cornstarch
1-tablespoon canola oil
1-head broccoli – cut into florets
1/2-cup soy sauce
1/2-cup cilantro - leaves only, roughly chopped
6 scallions - sliced on the bias
1-tablespoon sesame oil

Clean the pork of any fat and sinew.  Then slice the pork into thin julienne strips and toss with the ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes, vinegar and cornstarch. Allow it to marinate at least one hour, and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat a wok or 12-inch sauté pan over a high flame and add the oil.  Place the pork mixture into the hot oil and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mix in the broccoli and cook an additional few minutes.  Pour in the soy sauce, and toss along with the cilantro and scallions – bring the soy a boil. Drizzle in sesame oil and serve.