Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mushrooms...another way

Having survived the MTA's secret Saturday schedule (they post one thing regarding subway service changes and do something else) we made it to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and walked amongst trees and leaves and chickadees. We saw no more mushrooms.

But had some waiting at home. Take Two on the oyster mushrooms: risotto.  Very simple - garlic, rice, mushrooms, white wine, stock, parsley from the terrace. And I sauteed some big steaks of mushrooms to have on the side: olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. These were fanTAstic. 

Peeled and sliced Honey Crisp apples for dessert. Bought them from Pacific Gourmet on Court and Pacific Streets ( who also have very good deals on olive oil, best I've seen. I think Trader Joe's across the road is hurting their business). I've never seen Honey Crisps anywhere other than farm stands or market tables before. They crackle and then drip with sweet juice.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oyster mushrooms in the hood

We needed to think about some things, so we went for a walk.

At Blue Apron in Park Slope, where we bought some ham and baguette (and perhaps some salami and some cheese) for an outing to the Bronx tomorrow,  I begged for a couple of extra bags because I had forgotten to bring any for the mushrooms I hoped we might find.We were given white paper bags. Plastic is not good for mushrooms, said the nice guy behind the till. Be careful! said a customer. And off we went.

About thirty-five minutes later, having scanned all the trees and logs we passed, and not feeling very hopeful, I froze. Mushroomsssss, I hissed, pointing and trembling like a bird dog. We waited for one of the solitary men that seems to haunt this part of the woods to pass. And in we went. Nearby a mother and two small children were busy on the path. We figured they would not turn us in.

What gorgeous mushrooms.

We picked about a third of what we found - the mushrooms were thick on two sides of a fallen tree, with some young ones and then very mature ones on opposite ends. Already far more than we needed for one meal, and my mom always taught me to leave some behind. Some for other hunters, some to drop spores and continue the cycle.

When we left, we walked past the young mother and her children. They were picking up trash and bagging it, and leaving it for Parks workers to fetch. There was a lot of litter - bottles, cans, thrown in here and there.

On the way home I stopped in at Blue Apron again to thank them for the bags and offer some mushrooms in exchange. While very interested in the oyster mushrooms, no one took me up on my offer (not that I blame them...beware a woman bearing mushrooms), but the girl now behind the cash register said she'd recently found chicken of the woods nearby.

Just under four pounds, all told. I washed them and a beetle floated up. They did absorb water like a sponge, though, into their caps, and I could literally press down on the caps with kitchen paper and bring it up sopping wet afterwards. I kept one bag unwashed, and it's outside on the terrace, secure from marauding squirrels.
I sliced and sauteed our supper mushrooms in sweet butter with a small clove of garlic and some lemon juice, then a splash of cream, parmesan, pepper, pappardelle.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just off the wires

We just scored the biggest, bestest haul of oyster mushrooms, ever.  More soon. Be still my beating heart.

Little bundles of joy

...or botulism.

Carrying on from where we began our duck prosciutto adventure:

I dusted the salt off, rinsed them, patted them dry.

I got nervous when I checked Voer's duck prosciutto method again. They left their duck breasts in salt for 48 hours, not Charcuterie's stipulated 24.

Why? More liquid extraction?

And they say to check for 'doneness' by weighing the breasts, that they should lose about 20% of their weight. So please weigh in on how you arrived this method, which I trust implicitly, but was expecting to find in The Book. And didn't.

So I weighed, and each breast is exactly 1lb, which is bit creepy.Then I ground white and a little black pepper over them and added some juniper berries. I'm not used to white pepper.

The Frenchie, it is worth mentioning, is all fired up. He loves eating, but is less excited about cooking. Until The Book. Now he wants to make sausage. He keeps saying, What's next, and Maybe we should get a sausage machine. I think he may have found a food calling.

After wrapping: the recipe says 'a layer of muslin' but it ought to be more clear. One layer of muslin is very, very flimsy and quite indecent. My duck is swaddled in about 6. Yes! it can breathe! I think. See, totally insecure about raw meat. The Frenchie says don't worry. I look at him, like, have you forgotten who you're talking to?

Then they were hung on the terrace underneath a chair on the table. You gotta do what you gotta do. Our options are limited. We figure, air circulation + cool air + dew protection + Unknown Risk Factor Which Makes It Seem Important. If it rains they must come in. But the duck forecast is fine.

The cat is merely curious and is not a thief, oddly, but two blue jays did visit, which is worrying. Maybe coincidence. The squirrel clutched its heart and beat a retreat.

Squirrel hocks.

That's what's next.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lamb stew

...otherwise known as lamb and tomato bredie, is next door at (the Food).

Open Gardens Weekend, Cape Town

 Eucomis (in bloom in January) 
Cape Town, South Africa:

Reminder, the gardens are ready: every flower has been polished, the earthworms groomed, the compost bins flossed, the fish told not to blow big, rude bubbles, the grass clipped and the birds rehearsed.

On Friday October 29th and Saturday 30th, five private gardens in Constantia and Bergvliet will be open to ticket-holding members of the public.

Friday hours: 2.30pm - 5.30pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm

Tickets cost R50 and can be purchased at the door. The price includes a scrumptious tea. There will be a plant sale at one of the gardens and Abalimi bezekhaya's super-local vegetables will be on sale, too.

This annual Open Gardens tour benefits two stellar organizations that rely on donations to function: Abalimi bezekhaya, and Soil for Life. (Here's a previous post I wrote about Abalimi). 100% of the earnings from the weekend are donated

The gardens are at:

9 Sun Valley Avenue, Constantia (my mother's garden and site of local vegetable sale)
11 Bruce Road, Constantia (tea is served here)
3 Zomerlust Avenue, Constantia (plant sale here)
34 Vineyard Road, Bergvliet
1 Ceres Road, Bergvliet

Info: please call Gail at 021-712-5668 or Elaine at 021-713-1845.

Fall in Brooklyn

Kale arrives. By the truckload. Three Mexican gardeners were inside its cab, giggling their heads off at me as I walked by. I wonder how much kale they've planted this month? Cease and desist, I say. Actually, I quite like it. In moderation. But not landlocked in deserts of mulch...

The locusts are dripping yellow leaves at the moment, followed closely by elms. Time to head back to the parks?

The best thing I ever did with fresh pomegranate juice was reduce it and drizzle it over some pan-seared foie gras, a long time ago. Now that you can't take two steps in a supermarket without tripping over the bottled juice it has lost its appeal. I still like eating whole bowlfuls of the juicy seeds, though. But not at three bucks a pop.

Zelkova trees, the only time of year when they look good.

And the golden raintree in Cobble Hill Park. In summer it looked like this. It turned this colour only at the end of November last year. Might this predict a severe winter (we want snow! we want snow!)? Or is it because of the dry summer?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Signs in grey

Harbor, by Frank James Meuschke, 2007

This morning a big rectangular box was presented to me by Vince, who told me that no, it was not from him. 

Turns out it was from the artist who had painted what the box contained.  It is a painting I have wanted for a long, long time, of gantries barely visible across New York Harbor, and one I have not been able to afford.  It's a long story, and affording art is a relative subject. But here it was, and here it is, a gift whose generosity I find hard to process.

Frank Meuschke, Brooklyn-based artist and blogger. And cybermensch. Frank's paintings, especially the harbor and city sketches  speak to me on a gut level, speak to me about the city I love, and represent it in the way I understand it, and in a way that I find thrilling. 

I find it hard to say more. And thank you is inadequate. I wish I could lead everyone who wants to keep a piece of the city to themselves to Frank's studio...Then there is this one, which I love, too, though it is of somewhere I've never been. But maybe Somewhere I've Never Been, is the appeal.

Thank you, Frank. Our boerewors is your boerewors.

It rained this afternoon. Then this happened.



The Frenchie gave me a book. Not any book; a book I've been drooling over, but hadn't even mentioned to him: Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn. Arcadia and jvdh have been cooking their way through it, it seems, over on Voer, and their duck prosciutto-  and pancetta-making has had me salivating.

For more about the big red X see the comments!

Now, as I write, two duck breasts (from Union Market on Court) are tucked up into their salt bed in the fridge. Tomorrow they will be washed, spiced, wrapped in cheesecloth and hung cunningly on the terrace to cure for a week.

We also visited Los Paisanos on Smith and brought a honking great porterhouse and tub of DUCK FAT back. We're not getting any younger so we might as well live it up. I'm roasting potatoes in the duck fat. One of the younger butchers (Pedro and Mike were not there) asked us how we liked the batch of boerewors they made, we said great, but we'll be back with the recalibrated spice mix.

Camping at the Mountain Zebra National Park

Morning at the Mountain Zebra National Park and we watched new neighbours pull in while we sleepily drank coffee in our camp chairs. Most of the people who camped around us, all over the country, were probably over sixty and well attuned to the lifestyle. You could see that routines and delegation were firmly established, and our own camp set up followed the same lines. Man does tent, woman does kitchen. The Stone Age rules. We saw no same sex couples except for two girls who left the site very early, in a Renault, and who slept in their car during the rainstorm in the night. So no observation was possible. 

We drove out for a viewing of animals, hoping to see the cheetahs that were somewhere in the park, and perhaps the buffalo. Buffaloes. Buffalo. Plural. We had also wanted to do the walk that set off right outside our tent, but were told that a minimum of three people had to go. One to be wounded/sick/bitten/trampled, one to stay with the wounded/sick/bitten/trampled, and one to go for help (and be wounded, faint, eaten or trampled on the way?). We were sad about that. We were not afraid of cheetah. Cheetahs. Cheetah. Plural. But of the buffalo/es, who are very mean when snuck up on unexpectedly and potentially lethal when they charge into you. 

So, no walk.

This was weird. A pristine pool a short drive from camp, surrounded by lawn and braai areas. With rules below. We took special notice of "preditors [sic] can enter the picnic site..."

We saw some kudu here, under the trees, but they bounded away in great leaps.

Sutera halmifolia

Please correct me if you notice that I have made mistakes identifying some flowers...

Aptosimum procumbens - Karoo violet, last seen on Doornberg.

A gogga with a fuzzy coat living it up. Mylabris occulata, or CMR beetle (ID courtesy of woodfirer).

Gazania pectinata growing in the gravel beside the road.

I am hopeless at differentiating between bushy helichrysums.

This view and drive were breathtaking. especially with the cloud cover. We spent a long time up here trying to find the buffaloes, looking at zebra, and scanning every bush for a rhino. And then our tummies growled and we drove back down to camp, for some lunch.

And a beer.This folding table was incredibly useful and versatile. One of my favourite things while camping. It made an instant home outside our tent. For coffee, books, beer, candles, plates...Just thought I'd mention it.

Lunch: toasted sandwiches, on the fire. Leftover potbread, unhealthy white bread out of a bag (and well aged), yellow (!) cheddar, and some cherry tomatoes, which travel very well.

Yee ha.

Clearly we ate them too fast to photograph.  

Time to make the afternoon drive. If you're tired of flowers go to Vincent's post and see landscape and animals...

Heliophila, definitely, and maybe H.subulata.

My new favourite genus, though that does not mean that I can identify its members. I saw my first Hermannia in Namibia in 2009, at Klein Aus Vista, and was smitten with their delicate, bell like flowers. I had no idea what it could be. Above, possibly Hermannia cococarpa.

Growing in a great mass in some stones at an outlook point in whipping wind, perhaps Hermannia depressa, or rooi opslag, in Afrikaans.

And Hermannia linnearifolia? Help.

Here's the happy gogga again, in what I was sure would be the easiest flower of all to identify. Obviously a hibiscus, yes? Malvaceae, yes? So, can I find it in a book or on the web? No. Help! It grew no taller than 6".

Sutera somethingorothera. Definitely. I know. I am forgetting to take pictures of leaves.

Is this tortoise berry, Nylandtia spinosa?

Below, looking like a white version of my birdsfoot violets (Viola pedata) in Brooklyn. Growing in bone dry shale beside the road, I think it is an oxalis, the split leaf helping with ID: Oxalis smithiana. They can also be pink. Closed perhaps because of the wind.

I am not sure where my love of pelargoniums comes from. I get so excited when I see them in the wild. This one was almost crushed by the heavy 4 x 4. Growing in the road, just on the edge, a tiny, tiny flower, smaller than the nail on my smallest finger, and almost black.

Back at home I started a lamb knuckle stew with tomatoes, herbs, peri peri, garlic and potatoes. It was the first time I had attempted something braised on a fire, and I figured about three hours for it, in cooling coals.

While it cooked we snuck up the forbidden path, just a short way.

And found a songololo.

Who played to the audience and curled up.

I used to play with them when I was little. Selina is terrified of them and freaks out 100% (loudly) if she sees even a tiny one in Cape Town (which only ever has tiny ones). She was told as a little girl, growing up in the Free State,  that if you were bitten by one you had to count all its legs, accurately, or you would die. The impossibility still gives her palpitations.

Back at home base: camp salad. Long-lived iceberg, well-traveled avocado.

And the bredie to end all bredies.