Monday, October 20, 2014

Concord air


They perfume the whole apartment. From the tiny, one-stall farmers market on 117th and Lenox Avenue.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Puffball hunting


Rain, lawns, puffballs. After it poured with rain at the end of the week I could hardly wait to go out and search for mushrooms.

It's been years since I found decent puffballs.

The one above was about eight inches across.


Puffballs and imposters, possibly a species of Leucoagaricus - yet to be identified.


Rock, not puffball. Yes, I did try.


Puffball, emerging.


Old exploded or stomped-on puffball. The purple gives it its one common name: purple-spored puffball. 


Puffballs safely at home with a bonus of meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris).

The puffballs are probably Calvatia fragilis. They definitely are Calvatia. 

The 'probably' in this case is not rash carelessness: there are no poisonous true puffballs, though there are a couple of similar-ish mushrooms that you should be aware of, if you're puffball hunting. Purple inside when young means you have found a Scleroderma citrinum - do not eat. You want pure white, in cross section. 

And the creepy silhouette of a mushroom inside, when sliced in half, means you have the button stage of a destroying angel, or death cap, Amanitas you really, really don't want to eat. 


And, at last, lunch. I roasted the smaller ones whole, after peeling, then sliced, burning my fingers. They retain heat worsen' baked potatoes.


I love puffballs, though I don't know that the texture would appeal to everyone: buttery-silky, very tender, like the most delicate tofu, or, closer: roasted or poached bone marrow.

But then, I eat such things.

Recommended reading:

Mushrooms Demystified, by David Arora

Friday, October 17, 2014

The twilight hour


Uh...

...are you...

will you be...moving on...

...maybe? 

No...? Ah. 

Well, I'll just uh...go this way, then, and...


Oh!...you're still there...

do you mind if I uh...I was just going to...

I was just busy...


...that is to say...it is quite late and, I mean,

...for you, to be in the park...that is. This is my time, ...well, mostly

and I was...are you planning to stay much...longer...?

...Is that thing a gun?


...I have, uh, claws...if, you know...if necessary, that is to say...

I'll just go this way...and


Oh! You're there, ah...too. I see.

I see. Yes...

Well...

Do you have marshmallows?

__________________________

Tomorrow's Wild Edibles Walk - last of 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Harlem anniversary


The roses are making a modest comeback after hot summer, as the fava beans and peas are rising like skinny snakes from the planters on the terrace. The sun's four hour reign over the garden is interrupted now by the roof of the homeless shelter on 126th Street, so we get sun on one side of it, for an hour or so, a shadowed pause, and then some more on the other, western side, for another two.

Shadows are longer, the apartment is darker, and we have been here exactly a year.

I like the life on the street. The life where you greet neighbours sitting on their stoops, and where you are greeted by strangers on the sidewalk. I like the voices I hear through the window, at loud conversation, in accents only known from movies - deeply black American, a sense of the South. There is eye contact - I like that. I like the ease of communication between people who have never met. In Cobble Hill people studiously and coldly avoided it. I like the diversity. I like the Nigerian dress and the dapper suits and the sense of identity. I like the saxophone practising down the block and the opera singers exercising their voices as they walk to the subway. I don't like the screaming matches and the motorbikes that tear down the street. Nor having to skirt certain blocks at night. I like knowing which blocks to skirt.

I miss having a horizon. I'd give a lot for that bare silvertop rooftop where we could sit and watch the shipping traffic on New York Harbor, and watch the sun's path from its rise to to its setting over Jersey. We both need horizons.

It has been an interesting year. I have learned a lot about myself. In some ways I am weaker than I would like, in some ways I have done well, and have improved. One thing we both also know, and expressed last night - we need to think. I mean, we need time to think. I haven't really thought for a long time. So we need to find a place where we can both think, and a lifestyle that permits it.

Horizons help. One needs a view.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It ends with cheese


Party's over. The flowers on the table are volunteers from the terrace - the snakeroot and asters, which are three feet tall, now.

Two good, kind, generous friends came to dinner for the first time - we have been to several lunches in their gorgeous garden in New Jersey, and have been their guests on more than one special occasion. But how to repay the men who have everything?

The least I could do was cook.  

They were good, and kind and generous and the octogenarian gave us stern advice for the decisions we make about where to live, and why.  I tucked my tail between my legs. Then he offered his wonderful garden and kitchen to me if I ever want to cook dinner for rather high-paying guests.

What do you think?

I liked the first course best: two tiny baked potatoes each, slit and stuffed with crème fraîche and shaved bottarga. Carrot, cumin and curry soup followed, then a rather boring salad of quick pickled beets, orange and wild arugula (I know, zzzz - it needed nice nuts and more interesting greens), then roasted monkfish wrapped in happy-pig, no-nitrate bacon, with caramelized grapes and creamy-buttery puréed cauliflower, and finally some brûléed chocolate mousses, white and dark. 


And cheese. We managed to fit in some cheese.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Take me to the water


We drove out of the city, heading for the Delaware Water Gap area, at a friend's suggestion.


On the Delaware River, we sat on a big rock at the water's edge, and picnicked.


A toast to space and silence and turning leaves (and also to our kitty, who is still not well. No point in saying more as we don't really know more. But it weighs on us).


The oaks have not begun to turn, yet.


That is Dingman's Ferry Bridge. I lied about the silence. Cars kind of thumped across it.


The picnic. Cilantro on the sandwiches came from the Harlem terrace - it really likes cool weather. Plant it in the spring and autumn months. No bolting, then.


Below. Anyone? 


A hen of the woods chip, of course! Sadly half of them landed on the Zipcar's floor. Let's just say there was a red light incident.

To make them, clean the ears off as many hens as you have (submerge in water several times). Drain (but don't worry if they are still wet). Lay in a single layer on an oiled roasting tray. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 - 45 minutes at 400'F (turn over halfway through) or until they are turning crispy.  They will lose a lot of volume. Then watch them very carefully. They are ready when crunchy. The flavour is rich and woodsy, almost soy-like. Very surprising, I think, and very pleasing - at least to me.

I must find more.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shiso shrimp


After lunch with my friend Laura the other day, I walked across to the Chelsea Market and visited The Lobster Place, which is crammed with gorgeous fish and with tourists looking at the gorgeous fish (they are also eating entire steamed lobster, sushi and lobster bisque).

I took home fillets of mackerel for supper, monkfish (for a dinner party), two lobes of bottarga, because we eat it only in the dark, long-night months, and two giant shrimp, for an experiment. Then I was very poor, so I went home.

The latter, above,  made a very yummy and messy shrimp starter. Sauteed with olive oil, garlic and lime juice, drizzled with a quick, fresh sauce of finely chopped shiso, mint lime, sugar and salt.

We ate the mackerel that night. I slid the fillets on a tray into the blazing hot oven, with halved Muscat grapes scattered about, a drizzle of requisite lemon and some splashes of olive oil. After 12 minutes they were wonderful, and the grapes slightly caramelized.

If that fish market were any closer, I'd be in serious trouble.
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