Friday, August 7, 2015

Harlem nights

In summer the Harlem terrace is deserted from midday till late afternoon, while the sun blazes down. By 5 o' clock the shade has arrived, cast by the tall building to our west, and I emerge to water the pots, often with a drink in hand.

While we are packing for our move I am consolidating all of my foraged infusions and cordials, so last night's drink took shape from a collection of crimson dregs: wild black cherry cordial (fizzy, with a hint of bitterness), sloe gin, and my second vermouth blend, Northeast #2, as it is known in these parts - lots of botanicals, including local bayberry, spicebush, sumac and super-invasive but essential mugwort (yep, Artemisia is an important ingredient in Noilly Prat!). So, those, with loads of ice, a twist of Thai basil from the terrace and a squirt of tonic water. Good.

I picked the hostas, as the flowers may be damaged in the move. They smell wonderful (the cultivar is 'Royal Standard'). The salad is figs, local tomatoes and quick-pickled Persian cucumber slices with pea sprouts and terrace basil. The vinegar is wisteria blossom, the last of the 2014 batch.

I bought some local beef short ribs from Harlem Shambles as a treat, and grilled them over coals after marinating in black soy sauce, lime juice and some mugwort leaves. After they had rested we sliced them from the bones and wrapped each bite in either a shiso leaf (terrace), or American burnweed leaf (Erechtites hieraciifolius, foraged, and the larger leaves on the platter). Interestingly - he is the perennial guinea pig - the Frenchman much preferred the burnweed, which has an amazing affinity for the flavours of southeastern and eastern Asia. It's a little like cross between culantro (Eryngium foetidum - also in the family Asteraceae) and  the better-known cilantro.

Lately, we eat on tin plates and drink from mismatched glasses. I am paring down the kitchen and packing it away. Soon, it will be like camping, as today I pack the cookware, and we will be down to grilling outside and one pan (cast iron, of course) if it rains and we are chased indoors.


  1. i find that shiso goes better with pork. it cuts through the unctuousness of braised shoulder or belly.

  2. The meal — even with tin plates and mismatched glasses — sounds wonderful. What does one have to do to get invited to your house for dinner?


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