Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Neighborhood Watch

Meet one of our neighbors. According to a handwritten notice taped to the lamposts on the sidewalk that this watchdog overlooks, the cameras were installed to catch a serial dog poo-er in the act. A feckless dog owner was very obviously not scooping the poop.

One day a picture was printed and taped to the lamp post. The offending person and her large dog.

The sidewalk looks much better, now.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

City escape

Once upon a time in the east... was high tide at Dead Horse Bay.

The bottle trees were in bloom.

And the sea green glass guarded the sand.

But the bayberry always hedges the bay...

...and green juniper waits in the wings.

Lamb's quarters...

...and wild lettuce flourish in obscurity.

And the most flavorful herbs of summer commune in plain sight.

These are the edges of the largest city in the USA.

Where you will meet no one else.

Because they do not understand that it is there.

Join me for a walk and picnic this Sunday (at low tide!):

Monday, July 22, 2019

Stuffed Tomatoes with Chanterelles and Black Currants

The Frenchman and I have enjoyed some very good chanterelle hunting, this hot summer. The glee of filling all your boxes and bags with the golden mushrooms is thrilling. It really is like a treasure hunt. And you can't help gloating about the fact that they are selling for $44.99 a pound at Union Market in Brooklyn.

After a happy hunt you are faced with the task of sorting and cleaning, and deciding how to eat them. There are worse dilemmas. I had a lot of fun devising new recipes for them. I cook instinctively, taking notes as I work. If we like what I make, the recipe is made again and again as I test it. The stuffed tomato recipe below is a keeper (I am addicted to stuffed summer tomatoes and could make a different version every night of the week).

Apart from the mushrooms we ate fresh, I pickled many, and quick-cooked and froze a stash, for later.

Chanterelles are more scented than they are flavorful. Fresh and raw their aroma is a lot like cooked apricots. But I like their texture, very much: it is substantial and meaty.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Chanterelles and Black Currants:

Makes 8 medium tomatoes

Here, aromatic chanterelles are complimented by tart and complex black currants.

This method also works very well with very young and tender chicken of the woods. If you do not have wild mushrooms, substitute chopped shiitakes or button mushrooms. Completely different flavor and texture, but not bad at all. And for a lower carb or keto version, omit the rice and bump up the walnuts.

Eat hot, at room temperature, or cold in the middle of the night.

8 oz chanterelles
8 medium tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup basmati rice
4 oz bacon, chopped
6 large scallions finely sliced (1.5 packed cups)
1/4 cup black currants (optional - substitute fresh sour cherries, or 2 tablespoons black currant jam)
1/4 cup (.8 oz) walnuts, chopped very finely
¼ cup finely chopped dill
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

To clean the mushrooms: trim off any dry or bruised pieces. If they are dirty, soak for 20 minutes in a large, salted bowl of water. Drain and dry the mushrooms (or repeat the wash if there was a lot of debris in the water). Cut larger mushrooms into halves or quarters.

Cut the tops or bottoms off the tomatoes and scoop out their insides, using a spoon. Discard any hard core at the stem end. Reserve the cut-off lids and ½
cup of the flesh and juice (save the rest for gazpacho, tomato sauce, or Bloody Mary’s). Chop any large pieces finely. Arrange the hollow tomatoes in a skillet or baking dish and salt their naked insides.

In a small pot melt the butter over medium heat and toast the basmati in it for a couple of minutes. Add ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil, lower to a faint simmer and cook for 5 minutes (it will not be fully cooked). Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat until the fat runs. Add half the the scallions and stir. Increase the heat to medium high and add the chanterelles. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice, currants (or sour cherries), nuts, rice, half the dill, and the thyme, and stir well. Add half the wine. Taste, and season with salt.

Stuff this mixture into the tomatoes and drizzle the olive oil over and between them. Top the tomatoes with the reserved tomato lids. Distribute the rest of the scallions and any leftover filling between the tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Transfer to the hot oven and bake for 1¼ hours or until the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize and the bottom of the pan is syrupy. Halfway through cooking, add the rest of wine, and add splashes of water if the pan juices begin to stick.

Before serving, sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

City sanctuary

It has been the year of the ghost pipe. I have never seen so many. In High Rock Park on a misty day they echoed one another across the damp and brown forest floor. This is a plant, not the fungus its ghostly color and texture resemble. It belongs to the genus Monotropa, and does not produce chlorophyll.

I was alone in the woods. It felt like a privilege. That is the kind of thing my dad would say. He recognised privilege, spotted it a mile away, and talked about it a lot. The fact that I was a woman, feeling safe walking in this city of many millions, alone, was the privilege. That this green space exists within the city of millions, is a privilege. That I have lived an unchallenged life, white-skinned and seamless, is a privilege. May it never be an entitlement.

This flower was everywhere. At first I was sure it was pipsessewa, but it wasn't. Isn't. Instead, it is shinleaf, Pyrola americana. I had never seen it in bloom, despite years of walking the city woods. You always see something new.

And then across the path a few feet from my feet sailed a long snake. S/he stopped to rest in the leaves. A bulge suggested lunch. This is a northern watersnake, and the water was a few yards away. I don't mind snakes. (Spiders? ...not so much.)

The city is full of wonders. We will not be meeting them on this Sunday's scheduled walk - the heatwave feel-like is in the 100's and I postponed it. But we will be going to Dead Horse Bay on the 28th, in time for sumac and low tide. See you there?


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Waterfront forage cocktails and snacks

Join me on a waterfront adventure at Bush Terminal - featuring wild cocktails and snacks - this Wednesday at 5.30pm.

When we moved to our (latest) new apartment we reconnoitred our new hood. And within its borders we discovered a park I had never visited, on the edge of New York Harbor. Since then we have returned, many times, for the salt air and the wide horizons.

In city terms, the park at Bush Terminal is new: it opened in 2014. It is a manageable size but seems much bigger because of its spectacular and big-sky views to the north (Manhattan) and to the west, across New York Harbor to the Statue of Liberty. The ship, ferry, and water taxi traffic is mesmerizing, and local waterbirds add a sense of discovery (I once saw an elusive green heron perched on a log in broad daylight).

Already, as is inevitable in this city, which underfunds its parks (if the park is in great shape that shape comes from private conservancy money), the designed landscaping has given way in many parts to weeds. Luckily, for our botanical purposes, lots of them are edible! There are also shoreline natives that speak to what our regional cuisine could be, if we let our culinary imaginations breathe. You will taste those possibilities in our picnic.

So on Wednesday we will explore this waterfront space, and finish with  cocktails and a picnic inspired by the microseason (that would be the first week of July) featuring the flavors I have recently foraged in the Catskills, and from the remote green wilds of the city itself.

The menu is never final until the day, but the canap├ęs will feature the scents and tastes of a wild botanical summer, including the flavors we have just met. I am thinking white sweet clover pastry, fava bean and common milkweed tartlets, yellow sweet clover mini-biscuits (fresh from that afternoon's oven), pepperweed relish (wasbai-ish), American burnweed and lime butter, and... some other things. And the cocktails of course. I'm leaning toward elderflower and wineberry for botanical base notes.


Where? BushTerminal, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
When? Wednesday, 10 July, 5.30pm - 7pm
How much? $45

I will email you with meet up details once you have purchased a ticket. I can offer a few rides from Windsor Terrace, but the R subway goes to 43rd Street (a 10-minute walk) and there are two buses. Plus Citibike and Lyft or Uber, of course.