Monday, July 21, 2014

Wild Wineberries - The Tastiest Invasive Around

They may be invasive but wineberries taste waaaay too good to yank up by the roots. Native to Japan, northern China and Korea, wineberries were introduced to North America and Europe in the late 1800s as an ornamental and for the potential to create hybrid raspberries and quickly escaped from cultivation to become a flavorful fugitive.

Wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

But I never saw them growing wild here in New York's Hudson Valley until about 15 years ago when a large patch near my family's home in Shokan caught my attention. I'd never seen anything like those jewel-like, red berries. They seemed too dazzling, too showy to be real.

Now I see them everywhere - in the woods around my house, along the side of the road,and in fields. Not so surprising since, like all invasive species, they spread readily -- by seed, by sucker and by rooting the tips of their canes where they touch the ground.

Wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Their flavor is delightful - similar to a raspberry but a little bit tarter and a little bit juicier - somehow it adds up to being even more delicious than a regular raspberry. They are also lightly sticky to the touch, unlike a raspberry's dusky look and feel.

The berries are protected by a hairy, red calyx - a remainder of the flower that blossomed in the spring. As it grows, the calyx opens and peels back until the berry is fully exposed and ready to pick.

Wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

There are no poisonous look-alikes in North America, so go ahead and pick some. My advice is to wear long pants and sleeves (there are lots of thorns, ya know), keep an eye out for poison ivy and make sure to check for ticks after you get home.

Picking wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We went picking yesterday and tramped through tons of poison ivy but it's not a problem - we just stripped down when we got inside, tossed all the clothes in the wash with a generous splash of Tecnu and scrubbed all the skin that'd been exposed with it, too. Between yanking out Japanese barberry (my least favorite invasive), pulling up poison ivy, and picking wineberries, I should really buy stock in Tecnu...

A handful of wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I'd hoped to make something with our small haul (it's really just the beginning of their short season) but ended up giving in to the demands of my hungry children and allowed them to simply devour them on the deck this morning. It was either that or keep tripping over them as they'd been twining themselves around my legs just the way the cat does when I open a can of tuna fish...

Eating wild wineberries by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

But if you get a lot (and/or don't have small children in your house), below are some ideas that you might want to consider. These wild wineberry preserves from Kaela at Local Kitchen have a million yummy uses, this wineberry pie from Abbie at Farmer's Daughter would make a classic dessert, and this wineberry bavarian from 3 Foragers looks really decadent. And, if you imbibe, this wineberry cordial by Ian Knauer on Bon Appetit sounds pretty darn good.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Salty Sweet Roasted Cabbage - My New Favorite!

I made up this new of preparing cabbage last week and had to make it again today. It is that good. Roasting brings out the cabbage's natural sweetness and the mellow flavor is enhanced by the fruity richness of the coconut oil, the salt of the soy and the smoky sweetness of the maple syrup.

Salty, sweet coconut maple soy roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I had two thoughts on tasting the first bite. The first was, "Damn, this is GOOD!" and the second was, "Thank God! Now I can stop leaving those heads of cabbage at the CSA pick-up site every week!"

Coconut oil, maple syrup & soy sauce by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

The idea was inspired by some roasted cabbage wedges my mom-in-law served a year or two ago as part of one of the many dinners she's made for us. I'd been well and truly surprised by the delicate flavor, sweetness, and appealing softness of those wedges and had had it in the (very) back of my mind to try roasting cabbage ever since.

A head of red cabbage from Hearty Roots Community Farm by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

So when we started getting cabbages from our CSA, Hearty Roots a few weeks ago, the idea floated up from the murky depths of my mind. Our friend, Liza (the one who introduced me to these wonderful gluten-free muffins), who was over for dinner when I made this told me that the flavor brought her back to her time in the West Indies. Whatever culture it fits with, the flavor is really good.

As with all my favorite recipes, this one is simple and easy. Start with a big head of cabbage. Give it a rinse. Peel off any limp or damaged outer leaves.

A head of red cabbage from Hearty Roots Community Farm by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Cut the head of cabbage in half. Remove the core from both halves.

Removing the core from the cabbage Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Slice it up. You're not going for paper-thin strips here - it needs to be able to stand up to the heat of the oven and still have something left to show for itself at the end.

Slicing the cabbage by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Mound it up on a thick baking sheet. You may need to use two if it's a big head of cabbage. Pour coconut oil, soy sauce and maple syrup over it and use your hands to mix it all up and ensure that it's all well-coated. You can also do this step in a mixing bowl if you'd prefer but that's one more bowl you'll have to clean and it's not necessary.

Tossing the salty, sweet coconut maple soy roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Put it in the oven. Set a timer for 15 minutes (since my once sterling memory is now more like a very dull, tarnished silver, I have really come to embrace the timer on my stove) and go clean up whatever mess you made so far. When the timer beeps, take the sheet(s) out and stir them up to give any bits that weren't in contact with the metal a chance and put them back in the oven. Set the timer for another 15 minutes and repeat. And repeat one more time after that. roughly 40 minutes in the oven total.

Salty, sweet coconut maple soy roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Serve warm or cool (but not cold.) I served it with these ginger-soy baked tofu squares, a big bowl of my favorite peanut sauce which is a variation on Deborah Madison's quick peanut sauce in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and a pot of short-grain brown rice. In addition to being delicious, this cabbage is also gluten-free, dairy-free and completely vegan so you should be able to serve it to pretty much anyone, regardless of their dietary restrictions.

Salty, sweet coconut maple soy roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Salty Sweet Roasted Cabbage
Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

* 1 large head of cabbage (red or green, no matter)
* 2-3 Tbsps coconut oil - if the coconut oil has solidified, heat it briefly to get it to a liquid state
* 2-3 tsps maple syrup
* 3 tsps soy sauce

Directions

1. Turn the oven on to 325. Rinse the cabbage, remove any wilted outer leaves. Cut it in half and remove the tough inner core and stem from both halves. Slice into 1/4 inch strips and mound on a thick baking sheet.

2. Pour the coconut oil, soy sauce and maple syrup over the mound and use your hands to mix it up, making sure all the cabbage is well-coated in the mixture.

3. Put it in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking, until the cabbage is soft and tender and some of the thinner strips have turned brown and crispy. If you slice it thinner, it will cook more quickly, thicker strips take a little bit longer - hence the range in cook time above.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Glimpse Of My Garden

Come take a peek at what's happening in the garden. Things are growing like crazy from all the rain we've been getting. Although I much prefer the sunshine, I am grateful for the heaven-sent break from watering.

Playing hide n seek in the potato plants by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We harvested our first artichoke (the big one below) two days ago. So good! These are shockingly easy to grow here in the northeast. Try some next year - you won't regret it. But make sure you leave room - they need some space.

Artichokes by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

About two weeks ago, I noticed these pretty little flowers on one of our many potato plants. Then this week, these little fruits appeared. They look like tiny tomatoes but they are the fruit of the potato plant! Who knew??? But you can't eat them since they're filled with solanine which is toxic to humans. I'm just going to hope it's also toxic to chipmunks...


The cucumbers are ripening in waves and we made our first batch of bread and butter pickles this past weekend.

Cucumber vines by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

The beans we planted are up and just beginning to climb (this picture is a few weeks old - they've grown a bunch.)

Bean seedlings by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

There are also tons of tomatoes growing. The plants have become trees and my husband is just trying to keep up with them - this year, he's experimenting with stringing twine down from above. So far so good.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

And the sweet potato vines are starting to explore their cardboard-covered bed.

Sweet potato vines by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bunnies and Chipmunks and Bears, Oh My!

There's a whole lotta activity in the animal kingdom around our house lately. We had a surprise visit from a young black bear the other morning. Here he/she is ambling along on our deck, taken very hastily through the window behind our couch.

Black bear on our deck by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

I'm hoping it was a one-time visit as it's way too close for comfort with two small kids playing on the deck all the time. In my quest for bear deterrent strategies, I've gotten advice including a shotgun loaded with rubber bullets, a flare gun, an air horn, an electric fence, and leaving spicy food out (but what if the bear likes it hot?) For now, I've ordered this air horn in case we see him or her again, swept the deck of any fallen food since that is undoubtedly what drew him/her, and have my fingers crossed that our ursine friend stays in the woods.

There are several adorable, little eating machines bunnies who've been systematically decimating our flowers, ferns, and hostas. They even chewed up all the potted succulents I'd moved outside for the summer. Buh-bye, jade plant. Buh-bye spider plant. Buh-bye string of pearls... I am seriously considering shooting them and eating them but am not quite sure I can work myself up to committing acts of violence.

Bunny in the garden by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

There's also a pair of robins who have taken up residence in a nest that was just abandoned about a month ago - not something I'd ever heard of them doing but there they are. Whenever we open the kitchen door, there's this panicked flap of wings as they fly off, then settle a short distance away and squawk angrily at us until we leave. I like watching them forage for food - they're remarkably good at it.

Robin on its nest by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

And there are chipmunks galore. My personal theory is that the boom in hickory nuts last fall fueled their population explosion this spring and summer. They somehow manage to eat the strawberries right through the netting we put up... But they're usually too quick to allow for good photos.

Strawberry plant by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating copyright 2014

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Bread & Butter Pickles

As a child, I had a huge sweet tooth. So bread and butter pickles were the only kind of pickles I ate. I've since come to embrace salty and sour foods and my pickle horizons have widened accordingly but these sweet, crunchy chips still hold a special place in my heart.

Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

My not quite two-year-old son seems to have inherited my fondness for them based on the way he stuffs them into his mouth with both hands. He can fit an astounding amount into that adorable little mouth of his...

Spices for Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We made a big batch of these last summer but polished off our last jar two months ago and have been forced to bridge the gap with a jar from Trader Joe's so I was very happy to see the first pickles getting big enough to harvest. It's that time of year when things happen quickly in the garden. I could've sworn this cuke was only the size of my pinky finger just the day before I took this picture...

One of our cucumbers on the vine by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We began by grabbing our copy of Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton off the bookshelf. This is one of our favorite canning and preserving cookbooks as you can probably tell by the ridiculous number of recipes I've bookmarked.

Sherri Brooks Vinton's Instructions in Put 'Em Up for Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Then the slicing began. Luckily, my husband is something of a ninja with the kitchen knife. The end result of his hard work was a big bowl of sliced cucumbers and onions that got salted and placed under ice for two hours.

Salting and Icing the Cucumbers and Onions for Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I made lunch, made a stab at cleaning up the ever-present mess that fills our entire home, fed the younger child (the pickle enthusiast), changed his diaper, and played a few sweet if utterly mind-numbing games with him. Then it was time to drain the cucumbers and onions and get the brine going.

Sliced Cucumbers and Onions for Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Once the simple brine was ready, my husband tossed the cukes and onions in to soak up some flavor.

Preparing Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

While that was cooking, we sterilized our jars and lids.Unfortunately, it was quite a hot day but it will be worth the sweat come winter time when we can grab a jar of these crunchy chips out of the pantry. And then it was time to fill the jars and process them.

Filling the jars with Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

The payoff for slaving over a hot stove in 90 degree weather is being able to restock our pantry shelves with jars of these delightful coins, the perfect way to add a little sweetness and crunch to burgers, sandwiches and more.

Bread & Butter Pickles by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Bread & Butter Pickles from Sherri Brooks Vinton's excellent book, Put 'em Up!
Makes about 7-8 pints or 3-4 quarts

Ingredients

* 5 lbs cucumbers (Kirby's are ideal), ends removed and sliced into 1/4" coins
* 1 lb sweet onions, sliced (you can also roughly chop but I actually like to eat them along with the pickles and the slices are easier to handle
* 1/2 cup kosher salt
* 2 cups ice cubes   
* 4 cups distilled white vinegar - I like to buy white vinegar in bulk so I'm not caught out when I want to pickle something
* 2 cups water
* 1 cup organic cane sugar
* 2 Tbsp mustard seed
* 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
* 1 Tbsp celery seed
* 1 Tbsp turmeric
* 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Directions

1.Layer the cukes and onions with ½ cup of the salt in a large bowl and cover with a layer of ice cubes. Set aside for 2 hours. Drain and rinse in a colander.

2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seed, peppercorns, celery seed, turmeric, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the drained vegetables and return to a boil, stirring to ensure that all of the vegetables are heated through. Remove from the heat.

3. Now it's time to preserve them. You can either refrigerate them for short-term usage or can them for longer storage.

Refrigerate:
Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

OR

Can:
Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot pint canning jars, covering the pickles by ¼ inch with liquid. Leave ¼ inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Phoenicia Diner - Restaurant Review

A hip diner with healthy, delicious food? On Route 28? Is this a dream?!

Sign at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

Welcome to the Phoenicia Diner. For those of you who know the Hudson Valley well, this is the new Phoenicia Diner, not the old Phoenicia Diner that I remember from my childhood which was decidedly unhip.

Sign at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

Under the ownership of Mike Cioffi who bought resurrected the place in 2012, the place has gotten a serious facelift. Although it retains its non-descript, everything is new, clean and charmingly camp-chic, right down to the vintage counter stools and the logo - a wood-panelled station wagon loaded with a canoe, paddles and inner tube. Kind of like the Dwell version of a 1950's diner.

The counter at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

But the changes Cioffi made are more than just skin-deep. The menu features locally-produced eggs, dairy, bread, produce, coffee, chocolate and more.

Local suppliers listed above the counter at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

And the offerings are a nice mix of classic American diner fare with some creative and healthy twists. Like the "Arnold Bennett Skillet - locally smoked trout, parmesan cheese and crème fraîche scrambled eggs or the Cuban pot roast - braised grass-fed beef served with mashed potatoes and veggies.

The Phoenicia Diner's menu by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

I was joined by the lovely Martha Frankel, author, interviewer, radio personality, creator of the Woodstock Writers' Festival and a Catskills institution in her own right. While we ate, we discussed a wide range of topics including the ongoing fallout from Hurricane Irene, polyandry (no, it's not a personal practice for either of us), her new gig on WDST with Jimmy Buff and much, much more.

The lovely Martha Frankel, my lunch date at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

She ordered one of the specials - a crab cake BLT on a brioche roll for $11. According to Martha, it had a delicious flavor thanks to the bacon and was not too fried. She's into spicy and felt it would've been even better served with a nice chipotle mayo.

The special - crab cake BLT on a brioche bun by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

I ordered a cup of the chicken tortilla soup for $4. It had a nice broth - flavorful and full of veggies - corn, celery, carrot, onion, tomato, and free range chicken. Topped with thick strips of tortilla, sliced avocado and fresh cilantro, it straddled the line between light and hearty.

A cup of the tortilla soup at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

I also ordered the quinoa salad for $8. Greens, cukes, carrots, onions with a heavy garnish of quinoa. It was light, crunchy and fresh but a little bland.

Quinoa salad at the Phoenicia Diner by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating copyright 2014

The food was high quality and carefully prepared. My meal was by far the lightest, healthiest diner fare I have ever eaten. In retrospect, I wish I'd ordered something with some bacon on it. Next time...

If you don't live in the Hudson Valley (yet), take Mike Cioffi's advice and "come for the mountains, stay for the food." There's lots of good info on what to see and do and where to stay while you're here sprinkled all around the edges of the menu so take it with you when you go.

Summer Hours
Open daily from 7 AM to 5 PM in the summer and Thursday-Monday the rest of the year
5681 Route 28 in Phoenicia, NY 12464
http://www.phoeniciadiner.com/
845.688.9957, info@phoeniciadiner.com

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