30 April 2008

asparagus season

The sure sign of spring out here, asparagus is finally out. And best asparagus, in my opinion and in that of many others, comes from the Pioneer Valley's rich soil. The town of Hadley is famous for its asparagus, with farms stands abound advertising asparagus as the season begins. (This actually hailed from Sunderland, a few miles north.)


This is a bunch of asparagus, marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, ½ a preserved lemon (diced) and some grey salt, then grilled, tossed with pasta and pine nuts, and it's done.

20 April 2008

alemaking

I'm trying a go at beer making today. I made mead once and cider twice (almost, the 2nd batch of cider is still fermenting) with good, although maybe not predicable outcomes (all three of those were started with wild yeasts).

This time I'm trying an IPA style ale: the whole house smells like hops. I hadn't realized that the hop flower would smell exactly like you'd expect: it's exactly like the hop aroma you get in th finished beer. I'm using two hops -- Northern Brewer with Cascade for finishing -- as well as crystal and toasted malted barley. We'll see how it goes. It's from Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing (3rd ed.), which seems to be a good starting point save it's trite maxims and platitudes throughout.

natto

I was at Tran's World Market yesterday getting bean curd and such and they had something that I haven't seen since I was in Normandy (and stupidly didn't try then): quail eggs.

I tried one this morning with natto, a traditional paring. It was very good. Naturally the natto overpowers the flavor, but it makes it a bit richer. And the shells are wonderful, speckled little things.

07 April 2008

soon



Have my seeds started, some compost bought and now I just need it to be surely warm for good. (And to convince my landlord that leeks and tomatoes will look just fine in the yard). There are herbs from borage to thyme (that's parsley coming up in the first photo), leeks, "Purple Peacock" Broccoli, "Violet Queen" Cauliflower (the purple cauliflower that I got at the market last year was incredible), cucumbers for pickling and eating, some tomatoes. It'll be modest patch -- got a CSA share the month before last. (N.B.[17:59]: my landlord has given me the go-go for vegetables where I'd like).

the one-egg omelette

Someone I work with has been selling me eggs from her dozen or so hens. So far, they've been the richest, freshest eggs that I've ever had. It's also nice having un-graded eggs: you can grab one on the small side for mayonnaise, a few large for baking, etc. And there's something comforting in knowing that on sunny days the hens poke around outside. A few even have names. (The rooster, on the other hand, due to recent behavior as he ages will soon be a fine coq au vin.)

This week (pictured right), she gave me a total of eleven chicken eggs plus a duck egg (lower right in pale green) and a turkey egg (upper right). The turkey egg was a "try me" sort of bonus, so I didn't want to spoil it by mixing it with the others. I figured that, given its size, it could easily make a modest one-egg omelette.

The yolk was deep orange and thicker than I've seen or than I'd expect (it would make a rich mayonnaise or aïoli). It beat to a nice froth and, as you can see, set beautifully in a thin, soft layer. I tossed in a small handful of cress and seasoned with salt and pepper. A fine omelette indeed.

06 April 2008

mustard. & black radishes.

Two small, but wonderful discoveries. It's been cold, wet: not quite winter, not quite spring. Work's been quite busy, with some afternoon shifts, so I've not been cooking or eating as regularly. All of that notwithstanding, here are those two things.

Homemade mustard.


D. brought me some of his horseradish mustard the other day -- it's slightly sweet with a real nice kick. I tried it with some sauerkraut braised in a bit of stock with a seared fresh kielbasa. Not quite a choucroute garnie, but with two quite small roasted potatoes it was the perfect winter lunch. I still have about a quart of sauerkraut and maybe a bit less of sauerr├╝ben that I ought to consume by spring.

Black Radishes.

Just about the only vegetable left in markets at this time of the year from New England (these from Vermont, actually), these back radishes that I found are really wonderful. They're crisp and pungent without any harshness of a red radish. With some dashi (Japanese style stock of bonito and kelp) on hand, all you really need for a fantatic soup is some noodles (buckwheat here), carrots, the aforementioned black radishes and some seasonings like tamari or a bit of mirin. South River's miso tamari is especially good. (And another incredible product made just a few miles away). I wouldn't cook either the carrots or the radishes, just slice them paper-thin.