Sunday, January 31, 2021

Winter night, before the snow

Saturday supper. In cold weather we eat at the kitchen counter. So, all winter. And last night it was covered substantially in the loot we had gathered in a giddy half-day of shopping at the Union Square greenmarket and Eataly (downtown). Inbetween food-buying stops we walked up and down the Arctic length of the winter High Line. The sky was blue, the sun shone, and we felt like visitors in our own city.

My guiltiest pleasure was a potful of New Zealand cockles. I love them. Just some garlic, finely chopped in butter, an overly-generous dash (meaning about one-third of a cup) of dry vermouth, cooked till boiling, and then the shellfish, steamed until open. 

After those we moved on to a smoked trout pâté (made by whipping flaked trout with cream cheese and Meyer lemon juice), unapologetic, oil-cured anchovies, smoked oysters (part of our early pandemic stash), green Italian olives marinated for an hour with blood orange zest in good olive oil, nine-minute eggs topped with bottarga, cucumbers washed in tulip poplar honey (a summer find at the greenmarket) and white wine vinegar and...a couple of rich slices of wild smoked salmon, each. 

The radishes were crunched as palate cleansers.

There is the out-of-focus Frenchman with an in-focus potful of cockles. With last week's tulips, our much-delayed bottle of New Year's Eve Champagne, and hot sourdough toast under the red napkin.

It is snowing, now.

And January has come to an end. We thought it never would. 


Find me on Instagram @66squarefeet

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Walk into the weather

Ahead of the inauguration of a person who appears to be sane, we went for a walk. It was a cold day but we needed a horizon. In New York, there's usually something between you and the horizon. Not at Breezy Point. 

The tide was out.

Flocks of sanderling were very busy, probing the wet sand with their clever beaks.

We used our much-less clever beaks to eat smoked salmon sandwiches (in the car!). I had committed the bread baker's cardinal sin of slicing into my sourdough while it was still warm from the oven. (Don't tell.) But life is short. So I sliced.

The sandwiches were seasoned with fresh field garlic, finger lime (from our little windowsill tree), and spread with cream cheese.

And now we can breathe, again. 


Forage, Harvest, Feast


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

January Tramp

January Tramp
Prospect Park
17 January 2021
12pm - 2pm

It may be January but the weather has been relatively mild and there is lots to see in the winter woods, wastelands, and fields. And Prospect Park checks each of those environmental boxes. 

After 10 months of pandemic this popular park is more worn around the edges than it has been before, but it offers what is always has: a chance to see, recognize, and learn about the many edible plants and mushrooms that surround us in the Northeast, from indigenous shrubs to invasive weeds to ornamental trees planted for beauty - but that also hold edible secrets in their branches, leaves and buds. And there may be winter mushrooms. We will talk about where to look and what they like, and why.

Our January tramp will take a us over lawns, under evergreens, past dead logs, and over leaf-littered floors where optimistic snowdrops grow. Come prepared for a proper walk. The faster we move the warmer we'll be. We will stop when our masks begin to suck to our faces. 

At the end the reward is a steaming hot toddy, perfumed with fir, juniper, and spicebush. And there will be a light snack. 

If you have credit from a canceled walk in early pandemic days, please email me at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com to reserve your spot. Otherwise please visit the PayPal button to pay and book.

Booking Has Closed

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Hot Pot - For What Ails Ye

The kitchen, the night of the day that this country's band-aid was ripped off to expose what wasn't really a mosquito bite, after all. Cue flesh-eating bacteria.

Not a good description of dinner, is it? 

But dinner was actually good. And the process of making it, necessary.  Even though it could have fed an imaginary army.  (Is that what I was doing?)

I revisited the burdock chapter or Forage, Harvest, Feast and reproduced the slow-cooked Burdock Root and Beef Short Rib Hot Pot on page 67. Didn't matter that I didn't have mugwort. In fact, if you don't have the burdock, use parsnips! Or even potatoes. It's delicious. 

And it heats up beautifully, the next day.

My burdock came from Chinatown, and in years past I have seen it at Whole Foods, too. But autumn winter and early spring are good times to dig that tenacious taproot.

What were you doing while Rome burned?


Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The winter wilds

Inbetween rainy days the Frenchman and I made our first 2021 visit to Mt Loretto Unique Area, the state park on Staten Island that is a regular escape for us within the city. It's about a forty minute drive from home and almost always offers us something interesting. Then again, we may be easily pleased: Even rabbits and groundhogs amuse us. But not in January. We could almost hear the groundhogs snoring. 

The spirit of my friend David Burg walked with us - he knew and talked a lot about this place, which he helped conserve. He died suddenly last summer. One of the many shades of 2020.

We walked to the beach, a rocky and eroded shoreline, equal parts crumbling infrastructure, New York Harbor detritus, pebbles and seaweed. 

We settled on some low tide rocks to picnic, and just as I had poured our steaming soup (borscht) from a Thermos and opened the container of flaky pastry oyster mushroom rolls, the Frenchman, always scanning the water, spotted splashes, and quivered. Soon, we could see a seal.

Then more seals, who found rocks exposed by the low water, and basked. We watched for a happy hour.

Near our feet a gull spent at least half an hour trying to dive for something, very unsuccessfully, too buoyant, it seemed to get deep enough. But then triumph. A nice, fat clam, which was soon dropped from a height to shatter, before being picked clean. (The gull asked us if we had any hot sauce but we couldn't help.)

We walked back to the car through the wet fields, and drove home to Brooklyn, counting deer along the way before crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and ending our Saturday holiday. 

Now, on a rainy Sunday, we are working, and sorting photos, and tidying away the old year, so that nothing clutters the new. Who knows what it will bring?


NYBG Class, 21 January 2021