Posts in Food
FOOD : Black Locust Blossom Syrup

A little over a year ago, I learned that black locust blossoms were edible (thanks to this post.) The very black locusts that surround our home! The very flowers that rain down in late spring and litter the ground! So, I waited (im)patiently for the showy blooms last year. My Grandmother had told me before that they only bloomed every other year. I couldn't find any information to back that up, so spent the bulk of that spring, staring up at the towering trees, searching for signs of blooms. After only spotting a few clusters way up in the tops of the trees, I realized she might be right, especially considering the year before the trees were coated in heavy globs. I still don't know if it's true but it she has lived here since the early forties so I won't question her. Especially after this abundance this year.

Making a cake wasn't my mission. Instead, I wanted to make a syrup, similar to one I make with elderflowers.  But like I said, the trees we have here are tall and being able to reach the blossoms was the first (and maybe only) challenge. Thankfully, my Uncle spotted a tree that had come down and was sending out new shoots, not much higher than an arm's reach. So, I filled my bowl. In the kitchen, I sat pulling the flowers off the stem (word of warning: the leaves, stems, and bark are considered toxic so only eat the flowers and always be a smart forager by double or even triple checking that what you're about to eat really is what you think it is!) The smell filled the room and everyone suddenly became infatuated with them--What is that, like honeysuckle or something? Locust!? How did we not realize they smelled so amazing? Can you bottle that smell?

I followed this recipe and made a simple syrup then left the flowers to steep overnight. The next day I strained and added the ascorbic acid. The raw flowers themselves simply tasted like...well, flowers. But the syrup, with the addition of the sweetness and tartness, is quite nice.

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Squash In the Kitchen

When it comes to food, we a pretty simple. In the summer, we kind of let freshness be the star by simply steaming or sautéing all our veggies and adding a sprinkle of salt and pat of butter. A longtime friend of mine said recently that she remembers eating sautéed squash with cheese often at our house when she was a kid. It made me realize we really haven’t changed much in over twenty years. All summer long we deal with the overabundance of summer squash in a small handful of ways. Occasionally we grate it to make pancakes or bread, or steam-puree-freeze it for winter soups. Rarely we will make a zucchini boat. One year I used larger ones as the “crust” of mini pizzas. But mostly, it gets sautéed in a pan with onions, salt, pepper and granulated garlic, sometimes topped with cheese and eaten with nearly every dinner. Which can get boring by August. Needless to say, I am continually on the lookout for great squash recipes to keep our interest in this garden staple. So when Amanda of HeartBeet Kitchen gifted me her book, Smitten with Squash, it was such a help.

The first recipe I tried was the Banana Oat Streusel Summer Squash Muffins, partly because I had all the ingredients on hand and partly because I can’t flip through a cookbook and not make the muffins. Once I get some cardamom I’m also hoping to bake the Maple Cardamom Zucchini Snack Cake. But since I can’t live on desserts alone and the squash was overtaking the fridge, I also made the Fluffy Lemon Poppy Seed Summer Squash Pancakes and Easy Curried Tofu Salad. Later today I plan to make the Bumper Crop Spicy Squash Pickles hopefully try the Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Meatballs later this week.

Amanda is gluten-free so most of the recipes are GF by default or are easily adapted to be so. I should confess I haven’t even looked at the second half of the book yet, which is all about winter squash. I’ve got quite a few winter squash plants in the garden. And I’ve since forgiven them for taking over everything since I spy a bunch of Jumbo Pink Banana and Butternut growing. Can’t wait to harvest them and dive into the second half of the book.

What is YOUR favorite way to eat summer squash and zucchini?

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Come Winter, You'll Be Glad

...that you can open a jar of homemade jam and smear it on bread. That the freezer is full of the likes of green beans, kale, red cabbage. That you can make delicious warming soup with the saved vegetable water and squash purées. That you can top your pasta with stewed tomatoes or pesto. That the pantry is stocked with jars of sauerkraut and applesauce. That you can treat yourself to a delicious berry cordial.

While I do enjoy preserving food, occasionally, when I’ve been up since dawn and it’s after dark and I’m still blanching and freezing kale, or cutting up green beans or washing pots, sticky with leftover jam, dead on my feet, these mantras akin to “come winter, you’ll be glad you did this” are what get me through.

So far, the freezer is filling up with bags of green beans, kale and summer squash purée. The pantry now has a decent collection of homemade jams and jellies* (mulberry, red currant, wineberry and blueberry.) There is a wineberry cordial in the works. Herbs are drying. Beets were pickled. The largest head of cabbage will become cabbage rolls.

What has been happening in your kitchen or garden lately? What things (food related or otherwise) do you push through, knowing they’ll pay off in the end? 

*This is the first time I’ve made it myself and am surprised how easy and fun it is. The only experiences I’ve had with making jams or jellies in the past have been kitchen grunt work: cleaning up dishes, helping seal jars. I’ve been using Pomona’s Pectin and really love how you can scale back the sugar content while avoiding all the added preservatives and whatnot.

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Hunger - A Food Post

For being such a short month, February can seem very long to those of us in this latitude. Even lovers of winter, like myself, have grown a bit weary of the cold and snow. The February Full Moon is often called The Hunger Moon, since, traditionally speaking, this is the time when hunting is more difficult as prey becomes scarce, the land, source of our food, has been frozen for months.

Even though I live in the age of the supermarket, I found myself with an insatiable appetite in February and wondered if maybe it was some ancestral hunger still deep in my bones. Then I realized it probably had more to do with the fact that I’ve spent most of the winter in a cooking slump, eating quick (often unhealthy) foods or scavenging for what other people made around here (thankfully I live with great cooks and bakers.) In the summer, fresh, colorful food is bountiful. But in winter, it’s so easy to get bored. But, luckily, my cooking interest has rekindled and I have spent more time in the kitchen. I’m now realizing that my appetite has simple been to cook more, to reconnect with my food.

Some of the things being made in the kitchen include:

  • SouleMama’s simple crackers have been a huge hit around here. Especially with homemade hummus.
  • Fried sauerkraut with onions and carrots (sometimes wrapped in rice paper.)
  • I’m on a mission to make the perfect freezable burrito. Amy’s Black Bean and Vegetable burritos are a favorite but I am certain they can be made cheaper, at home, from scratch. I’ve experimented a bit, using the refried bean recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook as a starting point (adding the likes of corn and broccoli and rice.) My Dad helped me make the spelt tortillas from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.
  • Then I helped him on his mission to make a homemade version of Mestemacher rye bread using the Volkornbrot recipe, also from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. It’s a lot of work, feeding a rye sour and all, but surprisingly close in taste and texture.
  • Finally made a ginger syrup. (I cut the recipe in half.)
  • My Mom makes the most amazing scones. (It’s a recipe from the Cuisine at Home magazine. I think this is it.)
  • Granola. (I didn’t have a hand in making it but I can guarantee you I’ve had a hand in eating it. If I know my Dad, it was probably another King Arthur recipe.)

Some things I’d like to try making soon include: These granola bars and these oat cakes look like the perfect snacks for early spring hikes (after this snow melts, and the ground dries up a bit, there will be hiking, so much hiking.) /// Peanut Butter Cups? Yes, please. /// We are hoping to have dinner of savory crepes (kind of like these.) /// And I want my mother to teach me how to make spaetzle. /// But first, Bangers and Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day.

What have you been cooking, baking and eating lately?

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Keeping Warm

This winter has been a bitter one here. I’m am doing all I can to keep warm. Wrapping my hands around mugs of hot tea, curling up under blankets and wearing woolen sweaters are some of the most obvious methods of dealing with the chill. But warming yourself from the inside out is equally important—-with love, laughter, and, of course, hearty food.

Recently I found the kitchen empty for a couple hours and since I’d lost my cozy knitting spot (thanks a lot, cat!), decided to cut up and roast the last of our homegrown potatoes. They were tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary and put in a hot oven until crispy. (I wish we had proper cold storage so we could grow and keep enough to get us through to the next season.)

I also made “refrigerator” soup. I’m pretty new to soup-making (and meat related cooking in general since I was a vegetarian for seven years) so I had a bit of guidance and advice from both my Mom and Grandma. Leftover turkey and chicken carcasses were boiled to make a broth. Then I added the essential carrots, onions and celery. Finally, everything else I could find in the fridge, like rice, corn, spinach.

Stealing away to my cozy basement studio to keep warm is another favorite option. (Posts with some finished sewn creations will be up in a couple days. As well as some proof of the knitting frenzy I’m in.)

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