May 26, 2012

Lilac Scones with Rhubarb Curd

These are enchanting days.

Between all the little lambs being born at the farm lately, the lilacs in full voluptuous bloom, and the multitude of rhubarb desserts I've been consuming, things have been good. Very, very good. Actually, it's impossible not to be ridiculously happy when surrounded by little wee ones that look like this:



I recently got to see a lamb being born and I wanted to share it with you on video because it was quite special. (Did you know they can stand up within an hour of being born! Takes us a whole year!!) Don't worry, I haven't given up on recipe videos and I've got a good one coming your way next week for strawberry-rhubarb sorbet served in ice bowls, which I can't wait to share with you! But today, you get newborn lambs and a recipe for lilac scones and rhubarb curd, below. Enjoy :-)




I wanted to capture the intoxicating perfume of lilacs in a recipe since I found out recently that they are edible.


And I have had scones on the brain, ever since I read Remedial Eating's blogpost about buttermilk scones. Remedial Eating is one of my all-time favorite blogs both for its magical stories and the artful way photos of daily family life and food are paired together. The beauty of Molly's buttermilk scones is that they are, as she puts it, "Plain, simple scones. White flour, white sugar, buttermilk, butter scones. These scones have no whole grains, no ground oats, no spelt. No zaps of candied ginger, no chew of dried cherry…" and as she says, "sometimes, simple is very, very good". I whole-heartedly agree! But I had to make one small addition because here's the thing: I have been dreaming of a lilac scone. So I hope Molly will forgive me for adding lilac blossoms to these already perfect scones. In every other way, I stayed true to her recipe which was everything she said it would be: tender, flaky, buttery. As far as the lilacs go, the flavor is so subtle that I missed it on the first scone. And the second. So of course, I had to have a third! And that's when I caught it, ever so faint and delicate. That's why I've increased the amounts of blossoms to 1 cup in the recipe (I used about 3/4 cup). It seems that either way, the perfume gets somewhat lost in the baking, but it's worth adding the lilacs, even if only for the sheer joy of inhaling and watching the delicate blossoms speckled into the rich batter. 



I decided to make rhubarb curd to go with these scones because I am a die-hard lover of lemon curd and when I first heard about rhubarb curd (in the dead of winter), I carefully filed it away in the must-make-this-when-spring-comes drawer of my brain. And these scones are the perfect vehicle for big gobs of tart and sweet and rhubarby curd. Mmmmm. 

RHUBARB CURD

3 cups chopped rhubarb
A handful of strawberries for colour and flavour (otherwise, the curd can be quite yellow from the yolks - I also used a few drops of beet juice to add rosiness)
Juice from one small lemon (around 2 tbsp)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

7 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of sea salt

Put the rhubarb, juice of half a lemon, sugar and water in a small pot and simmer gently until rhubarb is soft. Blend into a smooth puree.

Whisk egg yolks, remaining sugar, and salt in a double boiler until warm. Gradually add the rhubarb puree, stirring vigorously between each addition. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the eggs will curdle (yuck! rhubarb omelette!)

Once the consistency is rich and thick, remove from heat and gradually add butter, stirring until melted. Cool the curd and bottle up in jars. Refrigerate.

LILAC SCONES


3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling (or use turbinado, on top)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. salted butter, well chilled
1 cup full-fat buttermilk, well shaken

1 cup of lilac blossoms


Preheat oven to 425°.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Over bowl, cut butter into small bits, dropping them into the flour mixture as you go.  Work butter and flour together with fingers, until butter is about pea-sized at its largest. Add your lilac blossoms, removed from the stems (no green part). Give buttermilk a good shake, then pour into the flour-butter mixture, and fold together until you can pull the dough into a rough ball (mix as little as possible).  Dust surface with clean flour and roll out to a half inch of thickness. Cut into triangles and place on greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle generously with coarse sugar (turbinado is best) and a few more blossoms if you wish, and bake until golden at the edges, around 12-16 minutes. Eat when warm out of the oven.





And one last thing... while you're making lilac scones, you should listen to this song, a French ode to the beauty of lilacs.


Lilac Scones with Rhubarb Curd on Punk  
Domestics

May 20, 2012

Nettlekopita

I have so much to tell you I don't even know where to begin. I guess this is what happens when you move to a new place. Life happens, but its flavour is a little more intensified somehow. 

First, I'm dying to tell you about my visit to Salt Water Farm, named one of the world's top foodie getaways and a place I had read about even before I arrived in Maine. It offers cooking classes, farm feasts and full moon dinners with a focus on local ingredients. I was a lucky lady to be invited to a crab dinner at the farm, which was exquisite, and which you can read all about here. But even better was meeting the culinary geniuses who run the place!

In other farm news, I have just finished my second week at Hope's Edge Farm and despite the fact that every muscle in my body is hurting, I am blissfully happy and learning so much. I've already witnessed (and filmed!) 2 baby lambs being born, which I'll share with you in the next blogpost. As you may have noticed in past blogposts like this one and this one, you can count on me to give you cute animal videos when I don't have time to make a video recipe. Is that ok with you? I hope so!! I figure, who doesn't love a cute animal video here and there… I promise I won't overdo it though. But today is one of those days when I couldn't get a recipe video together (too beautiful outside for video-making). And since I'm doing another wild edibles recipe, I thought it would be appropriate to show you this little dude, who we found grazing on some yummy plants a couple days ago. (I think he's eating lupin leaves, but it's hard to tell)



So yes, today's recipe is another wild plant dish. It's partly motivated by a wild edibles walk we went on last week, and partly motivated by the enthusiastic response to my last post about japanese knotweed. But also, did you know foraging is all the rage right now?! I don't know if it's just a Maine thing, but ever since I got here, everyone is talking about wild this, and wild that. So we decided to go on a nature walk led by wild edible plants expert Tom Seymour, author of the book Wild Plants of Maine. 


The walk was enlightening! Tom's enthusiasm was contagious and made us hungry for all kinds of leaves, and roots, and berries. 


And while I learned about many new edible plants that I previously didn't know, I decided to stick to an old stand-by for this recipe: stinging nettle. Because it grows in abundance at the farm, and Farmer Tom put a bug in my ear by telling me about nettle spanakopita that he and his partner like to cook up. Well. I couldn't resist that one since my sister Ariell happens to be famous for her spanakopita. She used to sell trays of it at the Wolfville Farmer's Market, and it would disappear in an instant. So I asked her to send me her recipe. I modified it somewhat since I was missing some of the ingredients. And of course used nettles instead of spinach. It turned out delicious! I was groaning and moaning when I bit into the first one, hot out of the oven. My sister's recipes never fail!


But first, a word about stinging nettle. It hurts. Pick it with care. 



The reason it stings is that the plant contains formic acid, which is the same substance you get from a bee sting. But once cooked, its sting (obviously) goes away and it is delicious, AND extremely nutritious. Think spinach times 10. Nettle has more iron than spinach, it contains vitamin A, C, and E and it is very mineral rich, especially in calcium and magnesium. It's medicinal properties are too many to list here, but suffice it to say, it is VERY, VERY good for you.

Let me know if any of you out there do decide to make this. You won't be disappointed, I guarantee.



NETTLEKOPITA
About 1 pound of nettles, steamed and chopped
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup crumbled feta (1 x 8 oz. package)
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1/2 cup each fresh chopped basil & parsley (I didn't have these so I used chopped chives instead)
Lemon juice & grated zest from half a lemon
Pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated is possible)
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste (keep in mind the salty feta)
1/2 cup butter
1 package of filo pastry (thawed out in the fridge the night before)


Make the filling:
Cook the onions in the olive oil until soft and golden. Add the garlic (and chopped chives if using) and cook for one or two minutes longer. Plunge the nettles in a pot of boiling water for about 1 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to sit with a lid on for 5 minutes longer. (Save the water to drink for a nutritious tea!) Squeeze all water from nettles. Chop finely and mix with cooked onions and all other ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind the feta is very salty so tasting the mixture is a good idea).

Assembly:
Melt butter. Thaw out (night before) and unwrap filo pastry. Keep filo under a humid tea towel while you assemble the nettlekopitas. Take a rectangle of filo and brush with butter, lightly but thoroughly. Fold it in half, lengthwise. Brush butter on top. Place about 1/4 cup of filling on the lower edge. Fold diagonally across. Fold this way, all the way up, in a triangle shape, as shown in picture. Fold until you reach end of the dough. (except oops, I reversed pictures 2 and 3, so the 3rd picture is actually step 2)

(At this stage, once all your triangles are made up, you can freeze the nettlekopitas if you'd like to bake them at a later date). Brush tops of triangles with butter and bake on an oiled baking sheet at 350F for around 30 minutes or until golden and crispy.





May 04, 2012

Japanese Knotweed Quiche

Well after much anticipation, the 2012 Saveur award winners were announced yesterday! And I am thrilled and honoured to be the recipient of an award in the best single video category. Thanks so much to all of you who voted online. I spent yesterday afternoon either blushing, beaming, or ok I'll even admit, jumping up and down a little, and perhaps letting out a scream or two (when no one was around). Truly, I think my mom was working a little magic, from wherever she is… making sure a few more people know about her Baba au Rhum recipe which has always filled our hearts and bellies with delight at Christmas. So this one's for her, for my mom Jali, with a wink and a cheers, we did it!

Today's recipe with Japanese Knotweed is one I would have loved to have shared with my mom, since she was an expert forager and eater of weeds and all things wild (from nettle to lambsquarter to wild mushrooms). She was also a great lover (and maker) of quiche. And this is one wild thing I'm not sure she ever ate. I never knew it was edible until my sweetheart brought some home last week. 


At first I had no idea what it was and then I realized it's that invasive bamboo-like plant that grows everywhere. I used to poke a holes in it and make little flutes with it as a kid. 


Well, I am in Maine now, as of just over a week, in a brand new place, and the world is full of new possibilities! Even the possibility of turning an obnoxious weed into a delicious dinner. So last week, we had a knotweed stir-fry which felt pretty adventurous. Then we had knotweed mixed into hash brown one morning, which was delicious (the tartness of the knotweed added a za-zing to the potatoes that was insanely good). Next I made a knotweed cornmeal cake, adapted from this rhubarb cake recipe, which was not half-bad either. And finally, yesterday, I decided to whip up a knotweed quiche to bring to a friend's house for dinner (actually the dairy farmer who produced the exquisite raw milk I used in this quiche... best milk I've ever tasted in my life). The funny thing was, we got there and guess what HE had made…  guess. Knotweed and fiddlehead stir fry!


So while all these knotweed concoctions have been quite exotic, exciting, and tasty, I think I am done with knotweed for the season, having eaten it almost every single day since I got to Maine. I was going to try a cream of knotweed soup, but no, I think I'm totally OK with not eating the stuff for a WHOLE nother year.

The cool thing about knotweed is that in terms of taste and texture, it lies somewhere between rhubarb and asparagus. So you can use it in desserts in lieu of rhubarb, or in savoury dishes that call for asparagus. It has a delicious earthy tartness that is versatile and distinctive. You can find more recipes for japanese knotweed at punk domestics, a great site I've started following that is full of wicked recipes for cooking with wild edibles.

The not so cool thing about knotweed is that it is an invasive species. So you have to dispose of any remains ever so carefully. Do NOT put a single cutting from any part of the plant in your compost or you may end up with a very difficult-to-get-rid-of knotweed forest in your backyard.

What a wonderful time of year it is when we can start gathering food from the wild again! Now if I could just get my hands on some fiddleheads and wild leek, life would be perfect. But without further ado, I give you, knotweed quiche.



JAPANESE KNOTWEED QUICHE

1 batch of your favourite pie crust
Filling:
3 eggs
3/4 cup cream or milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese
1 large bunch of japanese knotweed (use the small young shoots and discard the leaves)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pie crust. Mix eggs and cream until velvety. Add cheese. Chop knotweed into 1 inch long pieces. Arrange over pie crust. Pour the egg mixture and bake at a 350 to 375 F oven.


See? Easy as pie! Har har.