Tuesday, April 10, 2012

foraging 2012: maple blossom beignets

that's right! The big leaf maples are in bloom (a month earlier than last year - further proof that this spring is definitely warmer and nicer than last year)! Monday night we visited a couple of pedestrian bridges over a ravine where the big leaf maples grow, so that we could harvest the flowers. The blossoms are at the top of the trees, some 50-80 feet above ground, so this was the only way I could think of to get at the blooms.

We gathered a small basket of them and I called our foodie friend to "come play!" in the kitchen with us. We threw together a pot of sorrel vichyssoise (a creamy potato-based soup, with lemony sorrel from our garden) so we'd have some real dinner, and got to work. Recipes for traditional native American fried squash blossoms abound, but we found that mix a bit too thin. We ended up making a lot more batter than we needed, as we figured out the proportions. If you'd like to try this, here's the mix:

whisk together 1 egg yolk with 1/4 tsp baking soda until smooth. Add 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1.5 c. flour and 1/3 c. sugar (or use a bit more maple syrup and a bit more flour).

Heat a few inches of oil in a deep saute pan. Dip maple blossoms into the batter. It's quite thick, so you need to use your hands to kind of pick up the batter and pull some of it over the top of the blossom (the goal is not to break the blossoms off the stems). Once you have it coated, ease it into hot oil, and use tongs to turn it every 30 seconds or so, until golden.

Set on paper towels to drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.


Friday, April 6, 2012

still blustery here

though we're starting to see some sunny days, most of them are pretty cold (we barely make it into the 50s by the middle of the afternoon), and sun and showers alternate (case in point: my laundry that was drying outside just got soaked in a sudden shower - whoops! Such is spring!). So, while things are still a little stormy-wintery, and while there is still interesting citrus available at the grocery store, I've canned a couple more jars of cured lemons and (above) made my first-ever batch of marmalade.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for seville orange marmalade, but threw two whole vanilla beans (I cut a slit down the length of the pods) into the fruit mass while it cooked, to give a sweet mellow counterpoint to the sharp piquancy of these tart oranges. Turned out pretty good - I will definitely be keeping this recipe on hand to make again!

(plus, my advisor likes marmalade. I feel like one of these pretty weck jars is a nice - if small - thank-you for all the feedback and help he gives.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

another go at flower arranging

belatedly, some pics from the post-dinner equinox table: flowers! I was able to order hellebores at my local florist, and supplement those beauties with some spray roses and waxflower from Trader Joe's, and dusty miller from the garden. This was my view down the table, between two rows of candles.

The six green beeswax tapers I snapped up on big dipper's website for a song (factory rejects - some are ever so slightly curved or off-kilter), the candle sticks and vases from goodwill, glass boboches from the hardware store (not that we needed them in the end - no drips! )
The flowers lasted over a week, which was really nice!

I'm still waiting for a friend, who obligingly took pictures of each of our six candlelit courses in order, to post them on facebook before I snag them and recap the dinner here. I think it went down quite well, though - I believe I'm starting to get the hang of a more polished fete! And it was lovely to have a nice big party for a leisurely meal and celebrate the new season together.

more soon - cranking out baby t-shirts...