Jerusalem Artichokes

I visited a friend‘s garden this week, and as we walked, he dug root vegetables. I left with a bag full of produce, including a whole bunch of Jerusalem artichokes. I transplanted a bunch of the tubers into my garden. They will grow into 10’ plants next year, topped with yellow flowers.

For the rest, I found this recipe for Palestine soup, which inspired me. It is so simple: Sweat an onion in olive oil, add peeled & chopped Jerusalem artichokes and salt, cook until soft, blend, stir in cream, garnish with chopped hazelnuts.

Jerusalem artichokesJerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes soup

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Growing a Garden for a Toddler

A little while ago, my friend Peter asked me to write an essay for Fish & Game Quarterly, a newsletter he edits for Fish & Game, a restaurant in Hudson, NY.

I wrote about the gardens my families have planted. My dad and his girlfriend grow enough food to dehydrate, preserve, and fill their deep freeze. My step-dad used to do the same. Currently, my brother is determined to turn the soil of an entire farm single-handedly. He says he will use only a shovel and a pickax. If you know my brother, you know it’s possible.

My own garden is low-maintenance and child-friendly. Link to essay here.

A garden for a toddler jennifer may photo

Cookbook Club, Feat Mario Batali’s Farm to Table

“Anybody interested in starting a cookbook club?” Chas posted a FB message. The idea was to get together at one of our houses, with everyone bringing a dish cooked from a previously selected cookbook. A dozen friends signed up immediately.

Chas & James hosted the first meeting, and we cooked from Mario Batali’s Farm to Table. I have admired the cover to this book many times, with Mario standing in front of a barn, holding a pitchfork and a rooster. It’s an arresting image. I ordered a copy from Woodstock’s Golden Notebook (conveniently, just another FB message, as James is a co-owner).

Three weeks later, we met. We drank. We feasted. We started with tempura green beans and melt-in-your-mouth jalapenjo poppers (“Thirty dollars in cheese!”), rigatoni with lamb ragout, stuffed acorn squash, roasted beet salad, and a fig tart.

I made chicken saltimbocca, and sang a little song to myself as I speared bamboo skewers through individual packages of chicken, wrapped in prosciutto and fresh sage leaves, “Rockin’ da house, rockin’ da house…” They were finished in a reduction of Marsala wine, shallots, and mixed mushrooms.

We ate very well, and it was even more fun in that it was a group project. I have a new recipe that will make a regular rotation for special occasion dinners. But best of all, it was a great excuse to spend an evening with friends. Some I hadn’t seen since my daughter was born, and I have missed them.

chicken saltimbocca Jennifer May photo

cookbook clubcookbook club Mario Batalimario batali cookbook clubmartini in hand

Autumn

These past couple of weeks have been a gift from the gods of autumn. It appears we have been spared a hurricane this year. The leaves have been brilliant, and without strong winds, they drop at a reasonable rate. In the years of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, they are gone overnight. And I mean gone, probably swirled away to Ohio.

I have been doing a garden clean up with my daughter. The leaves above our terraced hillside are a blaze of cadmium yellow. They make us stop in our tracks.

foliage-garden-r-3635

There is a hilly road by my house that I try to walk every day. That translates into a few times per week. I love this walk in all seasons, when I walk, my mind is filled with only good thoughts, I don’t know why, probably endorphins, but it has been especially beautiful this past week. I broke my no-touching-the-cel-phone-for-instagram-email-or-step-counting rule and took a photo. It was just too breathtaking.

NYC Food Photographer Autumn

As the leaves start to fall, we get serious about the yard clean up. Every fall, we take a day and rent a leaf blower. Chris blows the leaves into heaps, and then he shreds them with the lawn mower. I cart them over to the garden. According to Mike McGrath (the former editor of Organic Gardening magazine, and now host of a podcast on organic gardening) shredded, composted leaves are all the added nutrients a garden needs. I’m into this rather grueling day for the sake of the garden. Chris is into it because we are also obliterating a habitat for ticks. He enjoys that.

NYC Food Photographer Blowing Leaves NYC Food Photographer Fall Leaves Mowing

It is the end of the season for our CSA farm shares. It has been a bountiful year. I’m going to be sorry to rely on supermarket produce, flown in from Mexico, Florida, and Venezuela. I so enjoy focusing our meals on seasonal produce. But there are a bunch of winter farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley to get us through. Last weekend we visited the outdoor market in Rhinebeck, and I look forward to getting to know the vendors.

For a start we bought bunches of beautiful fresh scallions, and big chowder clams, potatoes, celery. My daughter spotted the colorful, twisted carrots. I made scallion kimchi from David Tanis’s One Good Dish. The recipe in the book is game-changer and will become a staple condiment in our house. (Here is a variation of the recipe, if you don’t have the book.)

NYC Food Photographer Scallions
NYC Food Photographer Clams

At least once a month I make lentil soup. It’s so easy, and full of iron & protein. I make it a little bit differently every time, and don’t use a recipe anymore. My favorite these days is an Indian-spiced red lentil variation. I would share the recipe, but I made it up as I went. Suffice to say, this was the best one I have ever made, and I just added a bunch of fried mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and a generous amount of fresh tumeric – about 3 grated root nodules.

NYC Food Photographer LentilsNYC Food Photographer Tumeric GingerNYC Food Photographer Lentil Soup

Finally, these last beautiful days of warm autumn weather have inspired us to cook outside. If you can call it cooking. A food-writer friend we invited called it a “weenie roast” and I’m not just a little bit proud to say that we hosted the very first one he had ever attended. And this is someone who knows food. He had spent the previous night out on the town eating and drinking with Anthony Bourdain. How does this happen? How does someone grow up in America, develop a full fledged career as a food writer, and yet never roast hot dogs over a bonfire? “I’m from California,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of fires in California.”

Of course, he loved it. Because, let’s face it, hot dogs around an open fire in the Catskills is the perfect day-after antidote to boozing with Bourdain in Manhattan.

We ate the hot dogs with pickled green tomatoes I made from a NYTimes recipe. A few weeks ago my daughter and I had gathered the last of the green cherry tomatoes from the garden. We got to them just before the first frost. It’s a great recipe, and paired well with hot dogs. Although next time I would make them with my new best friend, fresh tumeric.

And today, the warmth of this fall is still here. The days are sunny. It’s downright warm. The shredded leaves wait for me in piles around the yard. I will move them into the garden over the next week. And I’ll keep cleaning up the garden with my eye looking all the way across winter, to spring. Not that any season could be better than this one, right now.

NYC Food Photographer Green TomatoesNYC Food Photographer Green TomatoesNYC Food Photographer Green TomatoesNYC Food Photographer Hot DogsNYC Food Photographer Hot Dogs

Winter Soup of Celeriac, Leeks & Apple

For the woman who wondered what to do with a bulb of celeriac, here is a winter soup made of vegetables from this week’s CSA vegetables. Ingredients: celery root, leek, potatoes, apple, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and water or vegetable stock. Directions: soften chopped leeks in hot oil, add the chopped root vegetables, garlic and apple. Heat. Add stock or water. Simmer until ingredients are very soft. Blend. I topped with frizzled leeks, but you could also sip it from a mug.

celery root winter soup root vegetablesleeks on cutting board winter soup

celeriac celery root winter soupcelery root celeriac winter soup

Root Vegetable Salad + Goodbye Summer Garden

The first frost came. This season’s CSA farm box deliveries are almost done. I am picking as many herbs from the garden as possible, before they wither and fade away. I am also using up the root vegetables I have been neglecting from my CSA’s farm share. Today, in the bottom drawers of the fridge, I found celeriac, candy striped beets, a few knobby carrots, and a couple of kohlrabis. With this collection, I turned to Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.

root vegetable salad ingredients

His recipe for root vegetable slaw calls for just these ingredients. The vegetables are sliced thin on a mandolin, then cut into matchstick-sized widths. They are marinated for a while in vinegar, oil, lemon juice, sugar, and salt, and then tossed with hand fulls of chopped cilantro, parsley, dill, and mint.

And that’s it. The marinade softens the vegetables, and the herbs excite them. It’s a seasonal and bright salad on a cold day.

candy striped beets

herbs on black

root vegetable salad

Below are some snapshots of my garden this morning. I will keep cutting herbs, for as long as they keep growing. I’m trying to use up every last bit of summer’s goodness. It’s a race against the cold.

mint in the garden
Mint still growing in the garden in its raised pot (so its roots won’t spread.)
frost bitten tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes on the vine.
frost bitten basil
The garden basil did not respond well to the frosty nights.
garden herbs
Chives, oregano, and silver thyme still going strong.
alpine strawberries in the garden
The Alpine Strawberries are flowering and budding, and seem oblivious to the cold around them.

Dainty Yellow Plums & a Toddler’s First Ice Cream

We signed up for a fruit share grown by Hanna Bail of Threshold Farm and had yellow plums in our first delivery. I have been buying Hanna’s delicious apples for years, but the plums, peaches, and pears are only available to their CSA members. This year we decided to go all the way.

yellow plums

Chris picked up the first share last week, while I was away shooting food for a client in New York. On the shoot, we had the most extraordinary and unusual vegetables to work with. The chef had gone to the Union Square Greenmarket and bought dozens of different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, tiny Mexican cucumbers, red currants still on their stems, Alpine strawberries, and multi-toned carrots with dirt still clinging to their delicate root hairs.

Spending two days with this beautiful produce put me in the mood for more. Happily, when I returned home, there on the counter was a bowl full of the daintiest, jewel-like yellow plums, grown not too many miles away, on Hanna Bail’s biodynamic farm.

For this first pickup, I adapted a recipe for plum crumble from Nigel Slater’s Ripe. I didn’t have ground almonds, so I used shredded coconut, and the texture was a lovely compliment. An even better compliment was a scoop of vanilla ice cream – especially notable because it was my toddler’s first. We don’t eat a lot of processed sweets, and I think we are better off for it. But something about those juicy golden orbs made me feel like last night was the night for the introduction.

plum crumble
yellow plums crumble
As toddlers do, she loved it, and then forgot it. After four thrilling bites, she set the nearly full bowl down and declared, “It’s too sweet for me,” and ran off to her sandbox.

To me, the juicy flesh of the plum, and its semi-tart skin, paired with sweet vanilla ice cream is a visceral childhood memory. In the Hudson Valley, local organic plums are a rare treat. In British Columbia, the single yellow plum tree that grew in our front yard produced more plums than we could eat, and more than we could reasonably give to all of our neighbors. My dad had the entire block making jam for weeks, and still the ground beneath the tree was a soggy mess of over-ripe, fallen fruit.

I thought of that tree and those plums last night, as we ate with friends in the backyard. The night had become dark, my daughter had gone to bed, and a candle flickered on the table. This morning, my girl requested ice cream for breakfast. Denied, she gathered up a bowl full of plums and brought them over to her Nana’s house. Plums – even a single bowl – are meant to be shared.

toddler eats yellow plum crumble
toddler eats plum crumble

 

Cassis

I am making creme de cassis from black currants we grew in our garden! The recipe for the sweet, dark elixir is hands down the simplest recipe I have ever attempted. It is: fresh black currants + vodka + time. Soak together for a few months, strain, heat, add more vodka, water and some sugar.  The exact proportions I used can be found in Amy Thielen’s New Midwestern Table cookbook, although I added a step and smashed the fresh berries.

And now I wait, and try to forget about the berries steeping in the cupboard. It should be ready by the holidays.

black currant cassis
A bowl of black currants picked from my garden
black currants
Smashing black currants for homemade cassis
homemade cassis
Fresh black currants steeping in vodka, cassis day one

Black Currants in the Garden

A couple of years ago, I planted two black currant bushes in my garden. The location is at a forest’s edge, partially shaded in the morning and late afternoon. It is too shady for most other plants, but the black currants thrive. So far this year I have picked about 4 cups of the blackest, ripest berries, and far more than that are still ripening in clusters under the leaves.

black currants growing on a bush

Fresh black currants are rather sour and strong tasting and they are not for everyone. I remember my dad’s excitement over a black currant bush he planted when I was about six, and I remember my disappointment and bewilderment when I first tasted the tart berries. I could see from the dreamy expression on his face that he connected the taste to some childhood memory. He grew up on a farm in Manitoba and his mother preserved everything that grew on their acres. He would remember his mother’s homemade black currant jelly served on thick slices of homemade bread. And thinking of that, he would be reminded of his mother, who cooked for over 20 farmers every day, three times a day.

toddler holds rhubarb and pail of berries
A pail full of black currants and two stalks of late-season rhubarb

I have since discovered the thick, boozy syrup that is cassis, which is delicious on its own, and even more so as Kir Royal (when mixed with champagne), and I love black currant jelly almost as much as my dad does. My dad may never have had cassis, but my first taste of it, when on assignment at Clinton Vineyards, made a strong impression. And later, when photographing Amy Thielen‘s cookbook, I learned that you can make cassis quite easily. I will get around to following her recipe, but for now you can buy it from France, and I love the one made right here in the Hudson Valley.

Black currants are also exceptional as a savory jus to accompany red meat, or in any mixed berry pie. As an adult, I even eat them fresh off the vine. Although, as I eat them, I reflect on how far they would be transformed with the addition of a little sugar and heat.

This July 4th, on a spontaneous decision to make dessert for our guests, my toddler and I picked a bowl full and made a galette. The currants needed more sugar than I gave them. A scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream would have been perfect. But despite being tart enough to make us laugh, it was kind of perfect, anyway.

rustic bowl of black currants
Just picked black currants

 

Wild Grape Leaf Dolmades

Ever since reading Foraging & Feasting, I have been looking forward to making wild grape leaf dolmades. This afternoon, on our way to pick up our toddler, I spotted wild grape vines draping along the side of a quiet road. We snipped a few branches and brought them home. I blanched the leaves in water, salt & vinegar, then made the filling. They were deceptively easy to make, and next time I go to a vegan party, I very well make this version. Although before then, I will likely experiment with a ground meat filled variety.

wild grape leaves

wild grape leaves
Back at home, I trimmed each wild grape leaf from its stem
spring onions and herbs
These spring onions looked like jewels at the farmer’s market. Bulbs & some of their greens were perfectly at home in the rice stuffing.
dolmades ingredients
The wild grape leaf dolmades were stuffed with rice, currants, pine nuts, cinnamon, and fresh mint, parsley & dill from my garden.
blanched wild grape leaves
The wild grape leaves lost their vibrant green after blanching.
wild grape leaf dolmade
Stuffing a blanched wild grape leaf
wild grape leaf dolmades
Wrapping and finishing the dolmades. These were wrapped by the hands of three people who had never made them before (myself, and 11 year old, and a 3 year old) and each one is unique.

Recipe, based on one in Vegetarian Times:

Olive oil; 1 medium onion finely chopped; 1/2 cup rice; 1/4 cup pine nuts; 1/4 cup currants; 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon; 1 bay leaf; 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, mint, dill; fresh wild grape leaves, blanched; 1/4 cup lemon juice.

Saute onion until fragrant. Add rice and pine nuts, stir. Add currants, cinnamon, bay leaf, and 1 cup water. Simmer 15 minutes, covered. Rice should be mostly cooked but still firm. Stir in herbs, salt & pepper. Line a pan with blanched grape leaves. Fill remaining grape leaves with heaping teaspoon of rice & herb filling, fold up sides and roll into a tight bundle. Set each rolled dolmade in the pan, and fit tightly together. Set a heat-proof dish on top of the dolmades, add lemon juice & 1 cup water. Simmer 45 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand until liquid is absorbed. Best eaten at room temperature.

Wood Sorrel – Weed to Salad

My edible garden is accidentally on purpose filled with wood sorrel. This south facing slope at the forest’s edge is a hodge-podge of garden theories. I follow Lee Reich’s method of mulching to suppress weeds. But I also follow the Gaia’s Garden approach of letting things grow in organized chaos. And since I haven’t found a great source for organic compost, I don’t mulch as often as I ought. In some ways this garden is weeds suppressing other weeds. But I curate the weeds.

wood sorrel
Wood sorrel in the garden

Barberries I attack with a crowbar. Wisteria is clipped or pulled on sight. Periwinkles run rampant and the bees appreciate their early flowers. Clover is a boon for its nitrogen-fixing root nodules in the soil.

My toddler and her Nana love to nibble on wood sorrel, so it stays. Its delicate heart-shaped leaves bend and nod in every corner of the garden. It looks a lot like clover, but wood sorrel is a sour, lemony tasting green that doubles as a potent culinary herb.

Clipping the plants from where they were growing too closely to pear trees the other day, I gathered it for the kitchen, rather than the compost. I turned to Foraging & Feasting, a beautifully illustrated book about wild edibles, and made sure there are no poisonous look-alikes. (There are not.) Then I looked for recipes in my cookbooks.

wood sorrel from a garden

bunches of wood sorrel
Bunches of just picked wood sorrel

wood sorrel

ingredients for a spring salad
Ingredients for a spring salad

There are many recipes for sorrel cream sauce, sorrel and goat cheese tarts, and sorrel beverages. Apparently – although I have not tested this – cultivated sorrel and wood sorrel are so similar in flavor as to be interchangeable. I will do a taste-test when I get my hands on some farmed sorrel this summer. The delicate leaves of wild sorrel seem to me best suited to salads.

This weekend, I made wood sorrel salad, and I made a version of Ottolenghi’s lima beans with sorrel, feta and lemon.

For the salad: torn leaves of fresh young lettuce (I used red leaf), fresh dill, a big bunch of wood sorrel leaves & flowers, and since they were blooming, chive flowers.
For the dressing: olive oil, aged white balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a teaspoon of fig preserves, a teaspoon of stone ground mustard, one pressed clove of garlic, a wee bit of diced red onion, salt.
Garnish: Toasted sunflower seeds and grated aged parmesan.

Wood sorrel recipe ingredients
Deliciously sour notes of Ottolenghi: Sumac, feta, dill, lemon & wood sorrel
lima beans and sorrel in pan
Lima beans, chives from the garden, and sorrel in a pan
wood sorrel chive flower salad
Wood sorrel, young lettuce & chive flower salad

This was delicious. We ate the sour & sweet salad for lunch with some of the sorrel & lima bean dish I had left over from the day before. I made sure my husband got the single sorrel flower I harvested, and my daughter talked about that flower all through lunch.

 

Vegan Potluck Challenge

We were invited to a potluck at the home of some lovely vegan friends. I admit, I lean to butter and strong cheese as flavor enhancers in vegetable-based dishes. But I was sure I could find something I would love to cook, and that a vegan would love to eat. I turned to Ottolenghi’s Plenty and found a recipe for saffron-infused roasted cauliflower with green olives & golden raisins. This dish had just the kind of big flavors I like, and served well at air temperature.

The hosts made kir royale cocktails, which is prosecco and crème de cassis, and the taste of it is the reason I grow black currants. I believe I could survive on this drink alone. We threw blankets down on the grass beside old stone walls, and we were surrounded by toddlers who ran screaming to and from a chicken coop. The high pitched sound of eight little girls (my own included) was much more bearable with a glass of kir royale in hand.

It was three easy hours in the Catskills…. the stuff of which winter dreams are made.

vegan saffron olives raisins on board
Ingredients for Ottolenghi’s saffron infused roasted cauliflower with green olives & golden raisins
Cauliflower chopped on board
Cauliflower chopped on board
vegan Ottolegnhi roasted cauliflower
Cauliflower, purple onions, green olives & golden raisins are tossed before roasting
Ottolenghi vegan roasted cauliflower dish
The completed dish, and kir royale cocktails = heaven!
Parents walk with children by stone wall
Strolling by classic stone walls in the Catskill Mountains

Barely Béarnaise

Another tempting recipe from A Girl and Her Greens – asparagus with ramp béarnaise sauce. This will be the last ramp recipe of the season for me! But I had to try it, and I only had a few mishaps. First, I made clarified butter, and that went smoothy. Then onto the béarnaise, and I have never made that before.

The reduction of ramp bulbs & champagne vinegar went well, but it fell apart after that. Perhaps the egg yolks were too small, perhaps I didn’t heat them long enough in the double boiler, or perhaps I added the clarified butter too quickly. I ended up with béarnaise butter soup. I chucked it.

Luckily the clarified butter recipe had made twice what I needed, so, I started again. This time I used shallots (I was out of ramp bulbs), and I whisked that sauce until my arm ached. I poured in the slowest stream of clarified butter, stopping well before it got soupy. I’m sure it was too thick. But I stirred in the fresh ramp leaves, and dolloped the tasty mess onto boiled asparagus, and it was delicious. It was all the more delicious eaten with a steak we had been saving from the Applestone Meat Company. And when the wind knocked our power out, we ate this elegant feast by candlelight.

I’ll get a few béarnaise tips from my food stylist/chef friends, and give it a whirl again. It had great flavor, if not authentic consistency.

Clarified butter
Clarified butter
asparagus ramps
Ingredients for April Bloomfield’s asparagus with ramp béarnaise
ramps and asparagus
Ramps and asparagus
asparagus and bearnaise
Asparagus and ramp bearnaise

Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, I took a moment to survey the blossoming trees in my garden. It’s a promising year for pears, wild plums, and paw paws.

I also cooked from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens. There was a roasted & raw fennel & fresh orange salad; a bowl of fingerling potatoes with butter & mint; and a pea, mint & pecorino spread. There was also a 90-degree heatwave (in early May!), and I didn’t get around to photographing the food. But we did manage to transport it and ourselves to a park in the Catskills where Chris grilled wild salmon beside the lake. When the temperature cooled, we went for a walk in the golden hour, and I photographed my daughter and her grandparents.

It was a lovely, relaxing day. Can’t ask for more.

field at sunset mother's day
A daughter and her grandmother
blossoms in and edible garden
Left to right: blossoms of pear, wild plum, and paw paws in my edible garden
mint
Fresh mint on the counter

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads appeared in the market, and I cooked them for a mid-afternoon snack. This is a play on a Martha Stewart recipe. The fiddleheads are cleaned, steamed, and sautéed in butter. They are served with a squeeze of lemon and salt. I ate them all before I even sat down.

Fiddleheads

Apple Slaw with Onion Seedlings

This morning, while planting out seedlings in my edible garden, I discovered a patch of volunteers. A taste-test revealed them to be onion seedlings, and they had clearly sprung up from the spent seed heads I left in the garden over winter, to feed the birds. I am grateful to these volunteers for planting themselves – it’s less work for me, and it’s a clear indication of what thrives in my particular plot of partly shaded soil.

I have a patch of calendula seedlings – offspring from a single plant given to me at Field Apothecary a couple of years ago when I photographed them for Edible Hudson Valley. I will let the calendula grow as they are. My alpine strawberries, aka fraises du bois, are popping up all over the garden. I imagine the creatures who stole the fruit left a few seeds behind where they ate them. I am moving these tiny plants one by one into a brand new dedicated (and protected) garden bed – they are just too precious to share with wildlife.

The onion seedlings are growing too densely to leave alone, and I don’t have room for 100 onion plants in my already crowded garden. So, I pulled a bunch of them, washed them, cut off their roots, and added them to an apple-napa cabbage slaw. Micro greens!

onion seedlings
Onion seedlings thinned from my spring garden
apple slaw
Apple & napa cabbage slaw with onion seedlings

Ramp Butter & Quail Eggs on Toast

Ramp season means spring is on; and they are a rare treat. I did an online search for the most enticing ramp recipe and found one by April Bloomfield from her new book, A Girl and Her Greens. Sauteed & raw ramps, butter, anchovies, lemon juice & zest, salt, hot pepper, mixed and spread on toast, topped with a fried quail egg: I had to try it!

Luckily, my friends at the Tivoli General have a farm where they raise quail, and they bake bread daily for sandwiches in their cafe. A quick trip across the river and I had all my ingredients. This recipe is truly delicious as is, and the ramp butter recipe leaves enough extra for other uses…I imagine melting it over boiled new potatoes, and it would be luscious served hot on pasta.

And then, since I love vegetable recipes that are not strictly vegetarian, I popped over to the Golden Notebook and ordered Chef Bloomfield’s cookbook. I can’t wait to see the rest of this book.

ramps, quail eggs, bread
The ingredients for ramp butter, toast & quail eggs – a recipe inspired by April Bloomfield

ramps and quail eggsquail eggschopped rampschopped rampsramp butter

ramp butter toast with quail egg
Plated ramp butter toast with fried quail egg

Edible Gardening / Rhubarb Crumble

Gardening gives me so much joy, I sometimes think it is the reason I do almost everything else: take photos, clean the house, blog. I was raised in a part of the world where everybody gardens. The west coast of Canada is so fertile, it’s easy to grow food. Vancouver is filled with yards given over to bean trellises and mammoth sunflowers, and when I was a girl on Vancouver Island, catching fish, digging for clams, and prying oysters off the rocks was a common past-time. We paired these with potatoes, peas, and herbs from the garden.

Now I live in the Hudson Valley, bordering the Catskills, and part time in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My favorite moments of the year are when I tend my edible garden. My brother built a deer-proof garden for me the month my daughter turned one, and she and I have been creating it together ever since. This weekend I added elderberry bushes – which I have been dreaming of all winter – purchased from the Catskill Native Nursery.

My own rhubarb plants are only 3 inches tall right now, although where I come from they are ready for harvest. To feel the spring groove of my homeland, I made a rhubarb crumble out of pre-New-York-season rhubarb and post-season blood oranges. It is always delicious, especially after a day in the garden.

toddler gardening
My daughter helping pot herbs
Catskill Native Nursery gardening
The Catskill Native Nursery, where I buy my most healthy plants: blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, black currants, paw paws, and more
rhubarb crumble
Rhubarb and blood orange crumble in the making

Brisket Take 2

A family member ran the Boston Marathon, and we prepared a feast for him the next day. We had smoked brisket, potatoes au gratin, kale salad, and pickled beets. We encourage our toddler to help in the kitchen as often as possible, and here she is patting down the spice rub.

brisket rub
Toddler uses hands to pat down a dry rub of paprika, granulated onion & garlic, brown sugar onto a brisket

Broccoli rabe pesto, starting seeds & the first lakeside grill of the season

This past week I shot a campaign for Andy Boy’s broccoli rabe. That’s right, an advertising campaign for a vegetable. It’s one of my favorite green vegetables, they are one of the best clients a food photographer could have, and we work hard and have a good time. I came home with bunches of the beautiful stuff, and set to work making broccoli rabe pesto, right from their recipe page. I was going to bring some to our first lakeside cookout of the season, but we ate the batch I made (although there is lots more in the freezer). It’s one step more complicated than traditional basil pesto, because you parboil the rabe, but then you reserve that green water and boil your pasta in it, and I love that.

Back at home, the week was filled with starting spring seeds – rabe seeds! a gift from Barb Fritz, a prop stylist I work with a lot – and flowers for the pollinators. Then we grilled, and found a tadpole at the lake.

broccoli rabe pesto
Ingredients for broccoli rabe pesto
broccoli rabe
The heady smell of fresh rabe (aka rapini) has me dreaming of Italy, and of ancient Rome
broccoli rabe pesto
Blanching rabe; reserved green water for boiling pasta; finished pesto; a pear tree in bud; starting seeds for the garden

bbq at a lake

children look for tadpoles
Finding the first tadpole of the season
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May