Monday, April 30, 2012

Flowers in the Monday evening house

Late to the party, here's my offering for Jane's Flowers in the House...they are rather staged, aren't they? Sorry. Those are our evening's gin and bitter lemons. Our almond snack. We sat and sipped and crunched and talked about Stuff, and shed a tear and made a joke, and got on with our respective evenings: laptops, photos, cooking, this post.

I had to have the peonies. In tight bud, as they should be if you want them to last for a long time, and not fullblown like the ones I wanted to buy from Seaport, a pretty flower shop up the road, recently.

I had seen them in the window - we were rushing along Henry Street to the subway for Manhattan, to pick up my mom for dinner. The peonies were peachy-cream and blousy, still cupped, almost full blown, and I wanted them as a perfect gift for my mother, who comes from a peonyless clime. She would fly back to Cape Town two days later. In the shop I ask a lady behind the counter how much they were. I was feeling reckless and had actual money in my pocket. Lots (for once). Not for sale, she said tersely (it seemed). Huh, I thought, I guess they've been sold. Then she added. They won't last! Hope, I thought: Oh, I don't need them to last, only a a couple of days, max. They won't last a couple of days! snapped the woman. Buy these,  she said, pointing to the unsexy peony bud balls in the fridge. But...I want the fullblown ones, I whispered.

We left, peonyless, and genuinely puzzled. And quite sad.

Dead Horse Bay bounty

Dead Horse Bay surprised me. First, we'd forgotten to check tides, and were met by high blue water. If you are beach combing for old bottles that's not good, but our reason for being there had more to do with checking on the state of wild green things than old thrown away things. So the blue was beautiful, and no hindrance. The green that preceeded it, visible already from the bus that dropped us in the middle of nowhere, was good, too. You forget how nice green can be, when you live surrounded by sidewalks and streets.

Below, I have forgotten the name of this flower , a nemesia-, linaria-like little thing. Anyone?

The bay was choppy and foam was pushing ashore. 

The innards of a long ago thing. Clock?

In the teeth of the wind we decided to head back inland to have our picnic.

I was looking for milkweed shoots. I did not want to pick many, as that would end the milkweed plant for this year, but did want to bring a sampling home to taste. Good thing I did. They are delicious.

Wild lettuce, Lactuca canadensis (probably), and a toothsome wild green. There is a very faint bitterness, a good crunch.

The Frenchie proudly identifies, with no help from me, pokeweed. Much earlier than last year.

My mom bought some candle holders from Crate and Barrel. I got the bag. I always use paper when foraging. Plastic makes plants sweat.

The bayberries had just begun to leaf out. Tender tips came home with us.

Pitch pine - not much of this around, and nice to see.

At last, off the path in a grassy field of bare sumac shrubs, we had our picnic. We could hear nothing but bird calls even though the busy road was not more than 200 feet away, hidden from view - the wind, from which we were sheltered,  blew the noise away. Occasionally a jet from JFK passed low overhead. The sun shone.

I admired my spoils. 

Later, home and tired but happy, we had a memorably good meal out of the tiny kitchen.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Green feast

I have to be quick: there are ribs sizzling in the oven. But I am on a forager's high...

Our trip to Dead Horse Bay today yielded unexpected bounty: wild lettuce! It looks a lot like a giant dandelion, with long, tender green leaves, no hairs or spikes, and the very mildest of bitterness. As well as the tell-tale white latex when you slice it. We have a salad of the torn up leaves coming up, with a warm bacon and vinegar dressing, and some creamy avocado cubes added for bland but rich comfort.

The ribs were tossed in a fresh herb rub of the first, most tender little bayberry tips - the leaves that appear on the very points of the shrubs' branches. I added powdered sumac and lemon juice, and a handful of chopped field garlic, also gathered there.

Our vegetable will be poke. Phytolacca americana - its firm, juicy stalks blanched thrice before being cooked in a reduction of lemon juice, one anchovy and a little butter.

I am in heaven.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Union Square Farmers Market

A-marketing we go, in this crazy April. Loads and loads of lilac.

Crates and crates of asparagus, from New Jersey.

Bunches and bunches of...POKEWEED!? Lanis Farms: the coolest stall of all award. Who needs to forage anymore? Not only misunderstood pokeweed but ramps and claytonia (which I didn't know grew here; it is at home in Califorian climates).

And at Paffenroth's, below...FIELD GARLIC! Forgive me for shrieking, but I've been muttering out loud here and on Facebook about this for weeks: why don't farmers sell field garlic???

Well, they do. They also had crates of chickweed and nettles. Foraging has arrived. The nettles we bought were turned into a sauce-bed for crabcakes with ramps. The sauce needed work.

Beautiful stuff everywhere - this was at Lanis Farms, again. Tatsoi flowers.

Garlic scapes. They became a crunchy bed - with ginger -  for chicken steamed on ramp leaves over a soy and ginger bath, the chicken then crisped under the grill. 

Rivers of greens.

More ramps.

Some tulips.

Rose Meadow Farms' exquisite anemones.

And sweet peas.

And then a long break at the popular, unpopular Coffee Bar where I still love their Pasiosa - passion fruit juice and prosecco, and some very good pancakes and crispy bacon. Skip the huevos rancheros.

Friday, April 27, 2012


No doubt Poor Man's Feast is known to many who love food on the Web, but it is about 30 minutes new to me.

Yesterday, Amy Eddings asked me, in a snap 60 second video quizz for Last Chance Foods, What is your favourite food blog? I froze, about to become venison in the headlights. I may have stammered. My mind was food blog empty. I am ashamed.

Anyway, read this post. It is a virtuostic performance. And you'll never think about eggs the same way again.

I love eggs. They are sensitive creatures. I bought the pan above just for them.

Fluffy coffee

I love the milk fluffer. Vince says I must stop calling it a fluffer. OK. I love the milk foamer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A present for you

Often taken for granted, pansies are flowers, too. And, come evening, their scent extends and brushes up against you softly, dislodging small pieces of recollection, inspiring modest actions, buoying light plans. 

Secret plants

I have been keeping things from you.

Last year I planted a small Wisteria frutescens to climb up the sturdy main canes of the Iceberg. This was ahead of the Martha Stewart shoot, and I was worried that the canes would look all...bare. As it turned out there was no need for camouflage, but I now I have this wisteria. Though far less rampant than Wisteria chinensis, wisteria is till wisteria and not the best choice for a container. The vines grow fast, grow deep, and generally tear down whatever they're growing on unless pruned very smartly. This one has already twined all the way to the top of the rose. So I can either turn it into a dinky standard, or rethink. A clematis would have been a better choice. I may still find the right type - Pruning Group 3 is what I am looking for, the kind of clematis that you mow down to the ground at the end of winter as it blooms on new growth only. 

Which brings me to...:

Bee's Jubilee! Growing up the lower canes of the New Dawn. The New Dawn really is in trouble. The Iceberg on the other side is not. That rose is very healthy. But now I have this bright clematis and an indestructible autumn clematis climbing up the unhappy New Dawn. Should I just grit my teeth and take the whole lot out? Bee's Jubilee is in its own pot. But in the big rose pot are two giant lilies, now three feet tall, and the autumn clematis. I am torn. And there are rose buds. Not half as many as in previous years, but they're there. Wait for bloom, and then replace with...another rose? Or see how it goes. It will be a huge performance.

Also, this clematis belongs to pruning Group 2, which means that it blooms on last season's growth. But it is supposed to rebloom on new growth. Does that mean I should not prune it after this first flush? I prune the Etoile Violette (Group 3) lightly after the first flush and it sprouts more and blooms more. 

That's the Iceberg in flower, above. At night with the door open, I smell roses.

And pansies. One forgets that they actually have a very good fragrance.

For the last few nights I have been moving my seedlings in and out, up and down. They are well traveled. At night they go under the table. I know. Over protective. And last night I squashed my first mosquito of the season. Yay.

So far, this spring has been an interesting ride.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Knotweed soup

Head on next door to 66 Square Feet (the Food) for a hot bowl of creamy knotweed soup (without cream: cunning). If you don't have knotweed, and do have sorrel, substitute that, instead.

Nowhere to go

We all have our problems.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

IAC cherry

And Gehry spake unto the office workers and said unto them - You are forbidden to plant a cherry tree to brighten the facade of my creation. But the office workers defied Gehry and planted their cherry tree. And it was good.

If a little on the small side.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What to forage in spring?

My spring list of forageable foods grows longer and longer. My story in the spring edition of Edible Brooklyn forecast good things to come.

Pictured above? Pokeweed, growing on the shore of Jamaica Bay.

The fallen

Sayonara, cherry blossoms. In wet, cold weather I walked, almost alone, across the pink carpet late on Sunday, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

A woman in a red jacket walked ahead of me. When she turned around, alone under her umbrella, she was smiling.

Petals collected in drifts and sluiced into gutters, to float beneath the streets of Brooklyn, and out to sea.

Perhaps they collect in that famous and growing flotilla of ocean trash that sits somewhere, far from our eyes, and turn it, briefly,  pink.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The High Line this April

The High Line, in this strangest of Aprils. We had that snow in October, breaking trees all over the city, and we have now three months of spring compressed into its beginning.

It is the least undiscovered of New York's parks. 

A fluoresent redbud. I refrained from nibbling its sweet flowers.

A white redbud.

Down in the woodsy sections, foaming tiarella and woodland phlox.

And in the era of reviled lawns, I still like the clipped green carpet above 23rd Street.

Below, the Chelsea Meadows are still flat. By August they are rolling, voluptuous grassland

And from below the park really does disappear, preserving its aura of lost and found.

I'll check back in again in late May, and see what is happening, then.