Posts Tagged: Jennifer May

Nov 15

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 ArtichokesJerusalem artichokesJerusalem artichokes soupJerusalem artichoke soup

Nov 15

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

Nov 15

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

Nov 15


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.


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

Oct 15

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

Oct 15

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.

Oct 15

Sea Beans, Sea Asparagus, Pickleweed

I don’t know if I ever bit into a crunchy, salty sea bean when I lived on the shores of the Pacific. I certainly remember walking on them. I remember the crunch and pop of them underfoot.

sea beans sea asparagus on the beachsea beans growing on the beach

This summer, while walking with my dad along a rocky beach, near where he lives in British Columbia, I asked him if he knew of any local, wild edibles. “Well, there is sea asparagus,” he said. He gestured down beneath his shoes. He hadn’t eaten it either, but his girlfriend, a poet and a kayaker, knew that if she ever found herself stranded and starving on the Pacific coast, she could eat them. It would be a mighty salty survival food, and my lips still pucker when I think of my first taste. They taste like a sea water reduction.

sea beans

Chefs love them. And if they love them, there has to be something going on. I set to work harvesting a bowl full with my dad and daughter, and then I looked up recipes. We parboiled them, and flash fried them in butter, garlic and lemon. We did not salt them. I used them to garnish a beautiful wild Pacific salmon my husband cooked. The meal made so much sense, but they are still something of an acquired taste.

sea bean sea asparagus garnish

Then, because we had far more than we could eat as a garnish, I continued my research. Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook wrote of an experiment dehydrating them. Since my dad just happened to be driving around with a dehydrator in his truck, we gave it a whirl. I have yet to complete the final step in the mortar and pestle to make sea bean salt. I can’t quite imagine ever wanting so much ocean flavor in a dish.

I had one other sea bean experience this year. Days after I returned from the west coast, I found myself shooting a campaign for Neuman’s Kitchen, a high end catering company in NYC. They feed the corporate crowds, and they create extraordinary feasts for benefits. Chef Robb Garceau is a pleasure to work with, and for each of the photoshoots we have done, he visits the Greenmarket early in the morning for inspiration. Imagine my surprise, when one afternoon he suddenly appeared with an herb-salt encrusted Arctic char, a whole variety of beautiful shellfish preparations, and a bowl of pickled sea beans. I do think this is the best way to go. The salt, crunch, and pop of them is just meant to blend with vinegar, and is why sea beans are also known as pickleweed.

herb salt crusted fish

As for the dehydrated sea beans in a little baggie on my desk, they await grinding. I keep wondering what to do with the salt once I make it. Could I rim a glass in sea bean dust for an updated version of a Caesar (a classic Canadian cocktail made with clam juice)? How about sea bean salted wine for steamed clams? A dusting on white fish? And then I take a nibble of the now dry (but still very salty) sticks, and I’m right back on the shores of Hornby Island, picking them with my dad.

sea bean harvest

dehydrated sea beans

Dehydrated sea beans in the hands of a 3-year old

Oct 15

Cookbooks 2015

Three cookbooks I photographed over the past year have October 2015 release dates. They are all published by Clarkson Potter, and I love each of them for different reasons. Very soon, the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook launches. This is an amazing non-profit bakery in Harlem that teaches low-income, foreign-born women the craft of artisan bread baking. These women learn a profession, business skills, and English. It was inspiring to spend the time I did with them. And I always chuckle when I think about waiting for the train above the bakery to rumble by, when my camera was set for slow exposures, in fading light.

Hot Bread Kitchen cookbooks 2015

Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Earlier this month, Michael Symon‘s 5 in 5: Seasonal was published. This is the third book I have photographed for Chef Symon, and working with him is always a high point of my year. Chef Symon loves what he does, and he has a great team around him. It is a true pleasure and a joy to collaborate with him, and I’m eagerly awaiting getting my hands on this book. His fast, flavorful recipes are just the thing for my daily schedule.

Michael Symon 5 in 5 Seasonal cookbooks 2015

Michael Symon 5 in 5: Seasonal cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Another of my favorite authors is publishing her second cookbook this month. Alana Chernila and I have worked together on both of her books, and it has been such a pleasure meeting at her home in the Berkshires through the seasons. We photograph her children, her family, her friends, and her in the kitchen. Whenever I spend time with Alana, I can’t wait to get home and cook for the people I love.

Alana Chernila Homemade Kitchen cookbooks 2015

Alana Chernila Homemade Kitchen cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Sep 15

West Coast of Canada: Cortes & Hornby Islands

We just returned from an extended visit to my homeland on the west coast of Canada. A few years ago, when our daughter was born, my husband & I started an annual tradition of renting a big house on the ocean and inviting friends and family to stay with us. It is the most beautiful place I could ever imagine, and we love to share it. It is a place where food literally falls from the trees – apples, walnuts, hickory nuts, grapes, and any number of berries. We cook, eat, and drink. We walk and swim. I photograph everything. It’s refreshing to be in a new place, with different light, and surrounded in ocean-weathered textures.

From where I live in the Hudson Valley, NY, it takes two travel days to reach these Northern Gulf Islands that I love. But it is worth it. Miles and miles of shoreline are uninhabited. And the people who live there are island-folk. They make pottery, they paint, they farm. I will follow up in coming posts with some of the fun cooking projects we did. But for now, a glimpse to the remote islands of Cortes and Hornby.

Hornby Island BC

A beach on Hornby Island, BC. I will be seeing a lot more of this spot over the coming years

ocean view

My dad, daughter, and husband on Cortes Island, BC

BC Ferry boat

The ferry boats get smaller as you move toward the smaller islands.

apples on tree

I have never seen so many apples as I did this year. One house we rented was surrounded by different varieties.

raspberry picking

My daughter picking raspberries in her grandfather’s garden on Vancouver Island

grapes on the vine

A bunch of grapes hang on a vine in my dad’s garden

walnut tree

Walnuts on a family tree ripen and fall to the ground

table outside

An outdoor table at my mom’s became the ultimate picnic spot

West coast of Canada barn window

An old barn window on a farm, Hornby Island, BC

ferry view West Coast of Canada

Leaving is bittersweet. I love the west coast and I love NYC and the Hudson Valley.

Jul 15

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


Jul 15


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

Jul 15

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


Jul 15

Metropolitan Opera New Menu

Just before the July 4th long weekend, I did a couple of photo shoots at the Metropolitan Opera. One shoot was to update their restaurant’s website with new menu items. I am posting two dishes that speak to me. The salad on the left is the reason why I own a mandolin slicer. I love those thin circles of radish, beet and cucumber. This salad inspires me, and I will be riffing on it in future salads. The dish on the right is a spring pea risotto with red-veined sorrel and fiddle-heads. Photographing these dishes beneath the 30-foot Chagall painting was definitely memorable.

food at the met opera

Jun 15

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.

Jun 15

Mini-Vacation on Block Island, RI

Sometimes a mini-vacation is all you have time for, and all you need. My in-laws love Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. They visit at least once a year, and they always ask us along, but between work & life schedules, it’s been about 10 years since Chris and I were there. Earlier this month, we made them very happy when we all found time for a long weekend together. It was my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, so he and his girlfriend also took time away from their busy jobs in NYC. The drive is just a few hours, the ferry is an hour, and off-season you are rewarded with wide open, empty sandy beaches.

Block Island RI ferry

A ferry shuttling people from the mainland to Block Island

Beach on Block Island RI

Me in my beach best black capris

Kite flying on the beach

What mini-vacations are made of: sandcastles and kites

We packed our cars full of our favorite foods to cook (bone-out rib eye steaks & hamburgers from the Applestone Meat Company, endless salads, asparagus and ingredients for another attempt at Béarnaise sauce), and we bought fresh lobsters from the local fish purveyor, Finn’s. We flew kites, walked on the beach, dug holes in the sand, breathed deep of the salty air, grilled, and went to bed early.

I aspire to take more mini-vacations. I want to explore in short bursts. NYC & Brooklyn I see a lot. Boston we visit maybe once a year. Last year we rented a tiny cottage on a bay in Mystic, CT. If anybody can recommend great spots withing a 4-hour driving radius of the Hudson Valley, let me know.

sand castles on beach

Finns Fish Market

Fresh from Finn’s Fish Market. These lobsters were fiesty.

Grilling on Block Island RI
Steaming lobsters

Steamed lobsters

Freshly steamed lobster

Toddler tries lobster claw

My girl’s first taste of lobster

Block Island RI Beach
Block Island RI


May 15

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.


May 15

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

May 15

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

May 15

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


Fresh mint on the counter

May 15


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.