Sunday, May 30, 2010

st. louis

Went to St. Louis this weekend for my cousin's wedding-- I had never been before. I felt strangely compelled to dance around and sing Judy Garland songs. Of course I had to take pictures of the mud from the Mississippi caked on the steps, and hopefully my grandma won't mind that I posted a picture of her on the internet- I love it and she was very excited to see the "mighty mississippi." The house second from the bottom stars prominently in a musical my sister and I decided should be written in our honor. It was probably only funny at the time in retrospect...

Monday, May 24, 2010

havre de grace

Took a little day trip up to Havre de Grace this weekend because I had to return my students portfolios and I figured that if I had to drive way up there anyway I should at least do something fun on the way. Turns out it was a good idea-- Havre de Grace is way cuter than I realized. In fact I think I want to go back and check out some of the stuff we missed. There is a grist mill in the park that still operates and they give you fresh ground cornmeal when you visit! Next time. Lighthouse and park (where all the birds were), Bomboy's Handmade Candy (worth the drive right here)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

asparagus ramp pizza

It still makes me giggle a little that ramps have become so gourmet of late. When I was a kid they were straight up hillbilly food. Schools in western maryland actually forbid students from coming in during ramp season because they all stunk like garlic. Because of that I honestly didn't start eating them until I was an adult. (They don't make you smell unless you eat a whole lot of them...) This is a cheddar cheese pizza dough with homemade ricotta, asparagus, ramps and fried eggs. (well I guess they are baked technically)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

urban garden party VII

What garden party is complete without croquet? Mine was a vintage table top version found on ebay. The cookies are italian ciambelle made with white wine, olive oil and lavender.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

urban garden party VI

Strawberry Basil Rose Trifles- Strawberry and rose is a classic combination and was kind of my starting point for this whole concept. I was originally thinking shortcake, but trifle seemed more elegant and appropriate. I made them individual to stick with the idea of finger foods and they looked beautiful in these vintage green ice cream dishes that my mother gave me years ago. I made the pound cake from my favorite recipe (Nick Malgeri High Ratio Pound Cake) but you could purchase one to make this easier. Strawberries were macerated with sugar and rosewater, and I used a basil infused simple syrup and sherry to moisten the cake. (I also tried a version with Campari and orange flower water, but didn't like it as much) I used my fake whipped cream, but obviously regular whipped cream would work just fine. Just layer strawberries, cream, cake, then syrup and repeat until you reach the top. I like to let them sit for a bit so that all the flavors meld.

Rose Punch- As I mentioned in the first post this is the recipe that started it all. I've been eying it since childhood. but had never made it before. The centerpiece is an ice ring embedded with roses- I am afraid it didn't come out that well in the photos what with ice being super reflective. The tween inside me was really happy with this though. The adult was happy with the booze. Punches have been out of fashion for so long and they really are pretty good idea for a party. In fact I always pre mix drinks for parties, so I guess I have been making punch all along. I didn't actually use the punch recipe that came with the ice ring because I thought it was a bit boring. Instead I used rose sparkling wine, (punch should always sparkle in my opinion) rose infused vodka, simple syrup and some cranberry juice. It is served in my pretty milk glass punch bowl that I got for a steal on ebay. I used champagne coupes instead of the little punch cups because I thought they looked more elegant and were more appropriately sized for floating a rose in. These roses were all from my garden (and not treated with chemicals) but if you bought them and were trying to conserve you could do a petal instead.

Rose Crackle Cookies- Found these on the web and added more rosewater and a little pink food coloring. I also used rose sugar (rosebuds left sitting in sugar, much like vanilla sugar then ground up in a food processor) on the outsides. They were a pretty good old fashioned cookie, although the rose flavor was far more subtle than I would have liked.

I don't have credit information on the drawing, but it is from the Life photo archive.

Flowers are roses from my garden and indian strawberries.

urban garden party V

Dayliliy and Mulberry Pavlovas- since I had already used some daylily tubers I wanted to throw some flowers in there too. (most recipes I found were for the flowers) I honestly used them more for color than flavor, I can't really say they added much flavor-wise, but they looked stunning. The mulberries were collected from a tree in my alley and are truly one of my favorite spring treats. They grow all over the city and a surprising number of people are unaware of their charms. The berries start out white and turn from red to almost black as they ripen. Supposedly the white ones will make you sick, but I suspect that is an old wives tale they just don't taste very good. I like them still on the red side- they are a bit tarter that way. They also feature into the story of Tristan and Iseult-- the original star-crossed lovers. Something about the white berries being turned red with blood. I can't seem to find anything helpful about it online. My Antonia, by Willa Cather also uses them for the star crossed lover metaphor I seem to recall... I made individual pavlova shells and piped them with a star tip to make them a bit fancier. I used coconut cream, but whipped cream would have worked just as well. I think the most important thing is to make them a bit in advance so that the cream has time to soak into the meringue and soften it up a little. I did not add any sugar to the berries as they were already quite sweet, but if you were using store bought berries I probably would. They are displayed on a chunk of birch bark that is resting atop a small cake stand.

Chicory Dandelion Coffee- This is another thing I have been meaning to make since I was a child. I remember my mother's confusion when I told her I wanted to roast dandelion roots and make coffee... umm why? I was a strange child. If you have ever been to New Orleans you have probably had Chicory Root mixed into your coffee, it's fairly standard practice there. I combined the two because honestly I couldn't gather enough of each to not combine them. Just gather the largest roots you can find, wash and dry them, cut them into smaller evenly sized pieces and roast in an oven at low heat. Mine never got super dark but were clearly dried out and reduced in size. Then grind them in a coffee grinder and prepare in a french press. The dried roots smell amazing- almost chocolately, but the tea you make from them is quite bitter like coffee. I thought it tasted great although if you are expecting it to taste exactly like coffee you will be disappointed. I used some teacups from my collection- I went through a strange phase of collecting small single tea cups as a teenager. Yeah... I was a weird child.

Chicory Tea Cakes- This may be my favorite recipe of all the garden party recipes. I knew I wanted a tea cake to follow with my evolving British theme and I was stumped for days about how to do something more interesting than just sticking a flower on top. Then somehow this came to me. I used my leftover ground chicory root and substituted it for the matcha in Nick Malgeri's Green Tea Pound Cake. I actually added about 4 tbs. which is twice what he calls for as matcha has a stronger flavor. I also added a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and water which was key I think- they were a little too dry without it. (And I am not generally pro-glaze I only added it to begin with because I thought it looked pretty) The tops are garnished with chicory flowers-- also edible. They were so tasty. The chicory/ dandelion root adds a subtle bitterness that makes the cakes so complex. I will definitely make this again. The platter is another piece of bark that sanded and waxed (so happy with these platters) and the little doilies are made like paper snowflakes. I wanted some kind of 'modern doily' for this party because it went with my theme and because the cakes were too close in color to the platter. I initially was going to machine embroider some but I ran out of time so I came up with this as a backup. It was super easy and fast and I think they look adorable. Here are the basics if you didn't do this ad nauseum as a child. Just round off the edges of your snowflake and you are good to go.

Flowers are milkweed, (which is surprisingly beautiful up close) feverfew and alliums.

Friday, May 7, 2010

urban garden party IV

Tea sandwiches- These seemed key for a proper garden party, so I started with a simple radish and butter tea sandwich, partially because radish is springy, partially because I intensely love these little sandwiches. It's on a rustic wheat bread that I made (crusts intact) simply covered with farmer's market butter, french breakfast radishes from my garden, scallions and a bit of sea salt. The french breakfast radish is long and skinny and I like the way the little slices look almost like petals. I threw in some strawberry blossoms just in case the radish petals weren't floral enough though. The orange colored sandwiches are inspired by another recipe out of Martha's hors d'oeuvres handbook. It's just carrots cooked until soft mashed with cumin and orange flower water. (Martha's used broth) I garnished them with an almond for some crunch and salt. The radish sandwiches are on one of the two wooden plates that I made for this party- they are another sculpture building castoff. It's a giant piece of bark from a huge stump that someone discarded that I sanded and sanded until smooth on the inside and then finished with carnuba wax. I left the bark side natural. I absolutely love the way they turned out!

Pansy cookies- I actually found several recipes for these-- you could use any favorite sugar cookie recipe really. You bake it about halfway then take it out of the oven, brush with egg white, lightly lay down the pansy, (they sort of stick to the warm cookie) brush on a little more white and then dust with sugar. They look adorable and aren't really much more trouble than regular sugar cookies.

May Wine Syllabub in tulip cups- this is another crabtree & evelyn inspired dessert-- there is a recipe for may wine, a traditional german may day drink. It is basically wine infused with sweet woodruff, a sweet little shade loving plant that pops up in early spring. There is often a strawberry or raspberry floated in the drink as well-- which is why I decided to incorporate rhubarb as well. Rhubarb is the quintessential spring flavor for me. Rather than make the traditional drink I used my sweet woodruff infused wine and rhubarb syrup to make a traditional British syllabub. A syllabub is essentially sweetened whipped cream with wine or liquor so it seemed like the perfect translation. I used real cream, in spite of my lactose issues because it really needs to be whipped, mixed with the rhubarb syrup for sweetness and then added the infused wine. (add a few tender sprigs of sweet woodruff to some white wine a few days in advance and allow to steep) The result was delicately pink and delicious although a little thinner than I would have liked, I think I could have whipped it a bit longer. I did actually purchase these tulips because mine were spent after a particularly hot april. I removed the stamens and piped in the syllabub for a beautiful little (edible) vessel. I put a little spring of the sweet woodruff on each as well. The tulips are resting on a curved piece of stainless steel that was another of my sculpture building finds.

Flowers are hydrangeas, lavender, wild indian strawberries and some pink weeds I found.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

urban garden party III

Ramp saffron vichyssoise-
Ramps are a quintessential spring vegetable and they work quite well in this soup in place of traditional leeks. I also added some zucchini to because I like the flavor and I thought it might be greener that way. I stayed fairly traditional-- Julia Child's recipe is just leeks, potatoes and water, but I used chicken broth and some garlic to bring out the garlicky-ness of the ramps. I used the saffron as a garnish as I was afraid it would make the soup too yellow, but it is still quite assertive. make sure not to use too much or it will overwhelm the delicate soup. Saffron is of course the stamen in the crocus flower, therefore fulfilling my floral requirement. I was particularly pleased with my presentation on this one- egg shell cups (boiled in hot water to sterilize) are nestled in chinese soup spoons which are in turn arranged in a stone bowl that has been in my garden for years. I stuck a little museum putty under the eggs to keep them upright, but make them still easily removable for drinking the soup. And the spoons caught and soup that spilled over. I thought the brown eggs looked so beautiful and springy with the green soup inside!

Asparagus, nasturtium & goat cheese terrine- I got the idea for this terrine from Martha's hors d'oeuvres handbook. I like the idea of a terrine (which somehow seemed fussy and garden party-esque) without aspic in it. Martha uses goat cheese mixed with a fancy middle eastern cheese- I just used my own homemade herbed yogurt cheese instead. I wanted to use the asparagus in keeping with my spring theme, but I wasn't excited about the mushrooms in Martha's recipe. I had this vision of a whole nasturtium flower on each slice, but of course they would then have to added after slicing (the whole thing is essentially a sliced cheese log) and the flowers were bigger than the terrine so I just used a petal on each. In retrospect a layer of petals in the terrine probably would have been better. Also the leek greens encasing the terrine look beautiful, but were a bit tough-- I might substitute scallions in the future. Toasted homemade wheat bread was served on the side. The silver platter rests on a rusty piece of steel plate that some former student of mine tossed, bad welds and all. I like the contrast between the metals.

Second photo: Guests attending a garden party, 1944, George Skadding

The flowers are a combination of echinacea, mint, sedum & some alliums from my garden.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

urban garden party II

Daylily and indian strawberry salad- daylillies are edible (asiatic lillies are not!!) and most recipes I found online call for the immature buds. I live next to a vacant property that is overrun with them and every year I have pull bunches of them out of my walkway. This year I saved all the tubers and roasted them just like potatoes. They look just like little fingerlings (3rd picture) and while cleaning them was a bit of a hassle they were quite tasty- like potatoes but a little sweeter. They are tossed in olive oil, garlic and rosemary and roasted for 25 minutes or so. The indian (or false) strawberries grow all over my yard and are kind of a childhood memory- I always ate them as a kid. They are not true strawberries and taste more veggie-like than fruit-like. They went beautifully with the daylillies. The purple flowers are chive blossoms. The white dishes are little soy sauce containers and a reclaimed piece of wood below that. I did a lot of layering of serving pieces for this party.

Dandylion green ravioli with wood sorrel butter sauce- This is just a standard pasta dough with dandylion greens worked in. I left the edges sort of rough because I thought it was sort of weed like. They are filled with homemade ricotta. The sauce is one of the few elegant recipes I found for foraged greens and it's from a larger article that is really interesting. It's basically a beurre blanc with wood sorrel added in and it is delicious. Wood sorrel is another childhood favorite of mine-- they look like clovers with heart shaped leaves and taste like lemon. There are some dandylion petals sprinkled on top. The serving platter here is a rattan charger that has been buried in my closet forever, a slate roof tile that I found, (this is when it's helpful to be a sculpture teacher) hydrangea leaves and the saucers from a tea cup collection that I have.

Red clover pimm's cup- The Pimm's Cup is a traditional British summer time cocktail- and I am always craving anything with cucumber in it this time of year. I was also tossing around ideas for iced tea and lemonade- the two most summery American drinks and what I came up with is a delicious combination of all three. First I made a red clover tea with clover blossoms, water and honey. Next a simple syrup with lemon zest and juice. I combined these with gin (should have used pimms but I didn't have any and it's gin based anyway) a little club soda and lemon slices, cucumber sticks and mint. I was worried that this was going to be too much-- I usually favor drinks with less ingredients, but they were brilliant, if I do say so myself. So light and refreshing. I must admit I drank both of them right after taking the pictures. The red clover tea really tasted good (I was a little worried...) and surprisingly tea-like. It's supposed to be really good for you as well. Apparently the "blossoms are rich in B vitamins, calcium and protein and they enrich the fertility of the soil they are planted in."

The flowers are roses, hydrangeas, honeysuckle and white and red clover. All of the floral arrangements are in reused glass jars.