Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ruminating

  


Pokeweed from the Backyard
 The hungry gap of spring, that in-between time when a night frost is still possible, but green things are emerging, really pisses me off.
  Sorry, just being honest. Maybe to a farmer, this is LATE for me to be quibbling, since fresh lettuces and the last of the cabbages are being consumed, but for me and my tiny garden, things are progressing very, very slowly. Like watching the grass grow  (or, in my case, watching the peas grow). I diligently go inspect every morning, replant the infant seedlings the squirrels marauded, and crouch low to the earth, beging them to go faster! Damnit, I'm hungry for veggies!
   Last night, we thought it would be fun to eat chicken nachos for dinner. I used a hothouse tomato and jalapeno from God-knows-where. It was so bland and depressing, I quit eating and took a shower to cleanse my soul. No fun.
   Today, yet again, it's in the low 60's. While there are signs of life...pea shoots, bean tops, and perennial herbs...there was nothing of signifigance to cut and eat. I bristle at the idea of picking my pea shoots before the fruit sets; I'd much rather eat the pea. My asparagus are creeping up...so...slow...I can't in good conscience cut any stems, for fear of killing the entire plant. My first rhubarb stems have been cut and converted to a delightful compote, but I can't eat that as a meal (can I? It's really dessert...) And I let the fiddleheads go, because the ferns needed to be moved to a happier locale and needed leaves to grow and establish.
   It's days like this, waiting out the cool spring mornings and refreshing rainstorms, that I respect the ingenuity of the homesteader/pioneer food consumers. I know that I could eat dandelion, pea shoots, fiddleheads, if I so chose. Instead I complain and eat stuff from the freezer.
   But no, not today.
   Maybe it's because I've been home for over a week, waiting on a new job to get going. In that time, I cleaned the entire yard, and found reasons to be hopeful about food, and decided that today is the day I'm going to eat the opportunities nature has thrown at me.
   I found my first small radish, a French Breakfast, whch survived weeks of rodent assault. I also found juvenile pokeweed, which most Northern gardeners may be familiar with as an invasive, monster weed, but my Southern friends may know as a tasty spring veggie. Make the most of what you've got, right?
   I decided a warm bulgur wheat salad would make a fine lunch..hot food, but not stick-to-the-ribs winter food like I've been eating. Rather, it felt right for the day, for the weather. For my spirit to stretch its arms and embrace that for the first time in years, we're having a true spring here in New Jersey.

   OOOHHH, so that's what spring was! I simply forgot. This is actually, ecologically, meteorologically, correct for early May!
   The pokeweed is going to make a fine addition to buttermilk biscuits, to accompany my experimental manicotti tonight. Can't wait to eat!

Warm Bulghur and Egg Salad with Radish (serves 2)

1/2 c. cracked bulghur wheat
1/2 c. brown chicken, vegetable, or beef stock
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 fresh pastured eggs
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 small to medium French Breakfast radishes, with tops
flaky sea salt, for garnish

In a  small saucepan, bring the stock, coriander, pepper and salt to a simmer. Pour over bulghur, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes to absorb. Meanwhile, slice the radishes very thinly using a mandoline or knife. Reserve refrigerated, keeping tops separate.
 Heat a small nonstick saute pan on medium high. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter, and add bulghur to pan, stirring to heat through; transfer to two serving bowls. Wipe out pan, and place back on heat. Melt the remaining tbsp. of butter, and when it bubbles, crack the eggs in whole. Cook for 45 seconds, then gently flip and cook another 45 seconds. Slide one egg on top of each bulghur bowl. Top each with sliced radishes, and drizzle with any butter that remains in the saute pan. Garnish with fresh radish tops, sea salt, and a sprinkle of pepper and ground coriander.

Pokeweed Buttermilk Biscuits with Pepper and Cracked Coriander (makes 10- 2" biscuits)

1 c. loosely packed young pokeweed leaves
3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1 1/2 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. garlc powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut in small cubes and kept frozen
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. cracked whole coriander
1/2 tsp. pretzel or coarse sea salt

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add pokeweed, Reduce to a low boil, and blanch 15 minutes. Drain, and repeat twice more for three blanchings. Chop finely, and add to buttermilk. Keep cold.
 In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, ground coriander, onon and garlic powders. Pulse to combine. Add cubed butter, and pulse for 10 seconds to form coarse crumbs (most butter will remain whole-ish; this is ok). With machine running, slowly add buttermilk/pokeweed mixture until JUST combined - the mix will look very wet.
  Heavily flour the counter, and turn dough out onto flour. Using floured hands, press the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness. Fold in half twice, press again. Repeat this twice more for a total of 6 folds. Do not allow dough to stick to the board - flour as needed. Press dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2" floured biscuit cutter, press out biscuits and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Press remaining scraps together gently to use all the dough; you should yield 10 biscuits.
Brush the tops with the beaten egg, and sprinkle evenly with the cracked coriander and coarse salt.
Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and beautiful.

Serve warm, with a pat of butter, or use as a biscuit vehicle for yummy sandwiches!


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