Monday, March 28, 2016

Drink in the View (edible poetry)

"I want to drink in that view." That's what I said to myself when I rounded the corner on my hike up the McKenzie River Trail to see a pool of such a shimmering blue it didn't look real. I was looking at what is known locally as "The Blue Pool," also called the "Tamolitch Falls Pool." This shimmering blue water is where the McKenzie River resurfaces after some time underground and as a result, it is very cold. That, combined with extraordinary clarity, is what gives this pool such an incredible blue reflection. This hike was a gift to myself: I knew that I needed the kind of medicine that only a day alone in the woods could offer, so I took the time to give that to myself. While I was there, I took in my surrounding with all of my senses; the smell of lemony wild ginger, the feel of soft moss under my feet, the splashing of the river downstream. I wanted to bottle up that moment to drink in later which, of course, is impossible. But this tea is the next best thing. :3

Blue tea made with butterfly pea flowers and an assortment of foraged wild herbs I gathered on my hike: wild ginger, cedar, fir tip, yarrow, and pipsissewa. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring eggs (edible poetry)

This one is a 3 part post, with 3 delicious dishes prepared in eggshells. Let me know what you think in the comments below! :)

Hatching Violets: 
Happy Vernal Equinox! As soon as I see wild violets blooming in the forest, I know spring has arrived. These shy and sensual flowers have been praised since ancient times for their sweet smell, delicate flavor, and healing properties. I like them because they are the herald of the season, the gatekeepers of spring. And with spring comes a burst of energy: the beginning of the most fertile of seasons, when new life springs up everywhere. How magical this time must have been for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, hungry from living off of preserved foods and bark. Can you imagine the excitement of finding the first egg of spring, a rich source of food full of protein and vitamins? How sweet fresh eggs must have tasted after months of barely scraping by! How reassuring it must have been to see the wild violets in the woods and know that soon, very soon, the hunger would be gone and the bellies filled with nourishing delights. 
This dish is a "dessert salad" which is my new favorite thing. Silky-smooth blueberry violet panna cotta is presented in a real sterilized eggshell, surrounded by sweet and crisp pea shoots, fresh violet flowers, and a sprinkling of crunchy violet sugar crystals. 

Amongst The Lichen: 
The robins in my childhood home's yard never ceased to astound me with the care with which they built their nests. They foraged all over the neighborhood to find the coziest linings possible: a bit of dog fur here, some hay twine there, some cattail fluff to finish it off. Here in Oregon, the home decorating trend is a little different: moss, lichen, and more of it! How cozy it must feel to be nestled into a bed of soft moss lovingly prepared by your parents. And how blessed I feel when I stumble upon one of these living sculptures, a carefully-crafted nest filled with delicate speckled eggs. Of course, I always keep my distance so as not to disturb the next generation of industrious nest-builders, but it's lovely to admire from afar. 
This savory treat is a wildcrafted version of Chinese Tea Eggs, made with a medley of wild plants (nettles, fermented thimbleberry tea, wild mushrooms, juniper berries, and so on....), served in a nest of nettle crisps, deep-fried usnea lichen, and fresh spicy spring cress with stinging nettle salt to dip them in. 

Pink Potential: 
Spring brings so many beautiful scents to life: my neighborhood is full of sweet cherry blossoms perfuming my morning walks. When I venture into the forests, I am greeted by ethereal elderflowers. I love to dream of what these delicate blossoms will turn into: luscious sour cherries perfect for a juicy pie filling, glorious clusters of elderberries that will be powerful medicine come next winter, sweet plums dripping onto the sidewalk (a midnight snack for the raccoons.) Spring is potential. Blossoms are potential. Eggs are definitely potential. This time of year feels like a slow-motion explosion of life. Blink, and you will definitely miss something. Seeds burst through the soil and grow almost before my very eyes while overhead eggs crack and birds chirp and trees explode in blossoms like sweetly-scented popcorn. And even though I desperately wish I could pause it and just take a look around at all the miracles that surround me, the real magic is in standing out of Spring's way and watching it happen. And it happens FAST. 
Elderberry, poppyseed, and sour cherry cake served with plum blossoms*, elderberries preserved in brandy and honey, and homemade amaretto cherries. 
*a note on the edibility of plum blossoms: they contain a chemical that produces cyanide when it passes through your digestive tract. We can tolerate a little, but too much will make you ill. A few plum blossoms is fine. A salad of them is not such a great idea. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Checking in the Shrubberies, One Last Time... (edible poetry)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Today is special to me because it is my daddy-o's birthday. One year, during his birthday dinner, my dad told me about the secret patterns of leprechauns. He told me he had caught one, once, and that it lured him back to their magical tree home with tales of guinness and gold (probably in that order.) He said that they had such a wild time that night dancing in a huge stump that he fell hard asleep and when he awoke in the morning, there were no signs of the previous night's festivities other than a battered old tree stump with some tiny footprints surrounding it. He stumbled home, with memories of a hidden world that he knew nobody would believe...


And it was then that he looked right into my eyes and said "Betsy, if you ever find a leprechaun, you must never eat their food because it puts you to sleep. You have to stay awake all night and see where they disappear to in the morning to find their treasure!" By the time we finished the birthday cake, I was giddy with excitement to go hunt down a leprechaun party of my own. I ran outside and started poking around in the bushes. I was absolutely certain I would find a leprechaun hiding in there, ready to whisk me away to a night I would never forget. I looked all evening and I'll never tell you what I found, just that if the leprechauns were to have tempted me with a treat, it would have looked something like this. ;)

.... πŸŒΏπŸ€πŸŒ±....

Stinging nettle Ispanakli Kek, matcha almond cake rolls with douglas fir buttercream, wood sorrel, grapefruit curd, candied grapefruit peels, and edible gold leaf, served on a handmade stoneware plate I made. #ediblepoetry

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Eggs from my Foremothers (Edible Poetry)

Even though I think of the Pacific Northwest as my home I can't help but feel some ties to the many corners of the globe my ancestors hail from, in particular Eastern Europe. My father's mother comes from a long line of Hungarian people, while my mother's mother was the descendent of the Polish aristocracy. In fact, my great great great Grandmother was the revered Polish actress/folk hero Helena Modjeska (her son, Ralph Modjeski, designed many famous bridges in this country, including one I have been driving over almost every day during my stay in Portland!) I am proud to be descended from so many interesting and inspiring people and though most of my connections to them are through stories and photographs and heirlooms, I like to connect on yet another level: through food. 

The recipe for these naturally-dyed eggs was passed onto me by my grandmother, who described the blood-red eggs dyed with onion skins at Easter celebrations in her youth. I think of both of my grandmothers every time I make them, but I adapt the recipe to fit my current home: I use local herbs to decorate the shells but make the dyes with red cabbage, blueberries, and yellow onions just the way my foremothers taught me to. It's also worth mentioning that these eggs are presented in a hand-blown red glass bowl also made by me, as part of a performance piece I did in college about ancestry and origins. It's called "Rodzina" and you can see it on my website, This bowl (and the others from this event) were a gift to my mother to celebrate her and all she has done for me.


Naturally-dyed easter eggs with wild herbs, glossed with olive oil and served in a handblown red glass bowl. To be eaten with the customary horseradish dipping sauce

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nettle Moss Cake (wild love)

Stinging Nettle Cake

When I first saw the Turkish cake called Ispanakli Kek, I got very excited. The cake was bright green! And the green was obtained naturally with a bizarre secret ingredient: spinach. When I searched it most of the recipes were in Turkish, but the handful that were in English were mostly moms really excited about tricking their kids into eating lots of spinach.

I was really excited to try making this cake because it looks just like moss. And I LOVE moss. But I also love foraged flavors, so I started brainstorming how I could give this green cake some Oregon terroir. The answer came to me in a common spring green that just so happens to be in season right now: stinging nettle. Upon further research, it appears that I am not the only one with this idea! I decided to use a combination of the two above recipes, with a few tweaks here and there. I also doubled the recipe to make plenty for playing with. Here's what I did:

I prepared my nettles by picking off all the leaves (wear gloves!), and then boiling them for a couple of minutes, straining them, and plunging them into and ice bath to blanch. Then I pureed them into a smooth paste in my blender. To make the spinach puree, I just blended the raw baby spinach leaves in  the blender with enough water to get them to form a smooth puree.

Oven 325F (this lower temp will help keep the cake color very green!)

In a large bowl, cream 1 1/2 c. shortening (or unsalted butter) with 1 1/2c. sugar. Add 6 eggs, one at a time, until they are well combined.

Add 2 tsp. vanilla, 4 Tbs. lemon juice, and the zest of two lemons. Mix well. Add 1 cup nettle puree, and 1 cup spinach puree. (*Note: I know that stinging nettles have a bit stronger flavor than spinach, so I substituted half and half. In retrospect, doing all of either nettles or spinach would have been fine!)

In another bowl, sift: 4 c. flour (I used a gluten free baking mix), 4 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. mix well, then mix into the spinach mixture. Pour into baking pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

An Ode to Moss: 

I have a thing for moss. Seriously. Whenever I see a vast expanse of soft, glowing green alive-ness, I want nothing more than to take off all my clothes and lay down in it and allow my body to feel the soft texture and damp earthiness all over. I feel nurtured and alive, the spongy ground giving way to support my curves and tickle my skin. I am usually able to ignore these urges (when I am on a public trail, for instance) but every now and then I just dive right in and immerse myself in this green world, admiring the way dewdrops sparkle on the reproductive stalks or the way the damp earth smells. The forest is my home, and moss is my bed. Not only does this cake look like moss, it is flavored with the plants that grow in these magical mossy forests. Citrusy and light, it's a perfect ode to springtime! 
Stinging nettle and lemon cake with thin layers of almond matcha genoise and douglas fir-grapefruit buttercream. 

Other Recipes: 

For the matcha genoise, I used SprinkleBake's recipe. 

For the douglas fir-grapefruit buttercream, I didn't really use a recipe- I just do it by feel. I beat about a cup of shortening with some salt, then added some powdered sugar until the mixture was stiff. I beat in about 1 Tbs. of ground douglas fir needles (fresh) and added a couple Tbs grapefruit juice until the frosting was fairly runny. I alternated adding powdered sugar and grapefruit juice until it was the consistency and sweetness I wanted. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Rose Hips and Octopus, 3 ways (edible poetry)

An Alchemical History Of Dewdrops: 

Have you ever marveled at the perfect little spheres of dew bedazzling a leaf after a rainstorm? Have you ever been caught up thinking about the many places that dewdrop has been and the forms it has taken? It seems impossible to think that that very drop could once have been Cleopatra's tear, or Kerouac's margarita, or even a velociraptor's saliva. The journey that water has passed to reach our lips is mysterious and everlasting. I've been thinking lately about the magic of the everyday: that I bathe in water that has passed through the bodies of dinosaurs, poets, philosophers, and artists; that bright colors in food can be achieved with natural materials like turmeric and spinach and cabbage; and that a simple adjustment of pH changes blue-purple juice to bright red. I've used this last trick to my advantage in this wintery dish featuring red cabbage, apples, and squid: the acidic pH of the rose hip vinegar turns the purple hue of the cabbage red wherever it comes into contact with it. Now tell me that's not some kind of wonderful, practical, edible everyday magic! 
Purple cabbage with rose hip vinaigrette, rose hip marinaded squid, and sour green apples.

Purple Tentacles: 

Sometimes it's just so fun to play with color and texture inspiration. This dish is based off of the classic cabbage-apple combination, but with a few added surprises: rose hips and squid. I'll be posting a couple more iterations of this dish over the next few days. Comment below and tell me which one you like best! 

Purple cabbage with rose hip vinaigrette, cabbage and rose hip marinaded squid, apple ginger foam, and candied rose hips.

Gems in the Gray: 

It's an overcast day on the Oregon coast, murky and rainy. The waves crash onto the rocks and roar, sending up little clouds of seafoam. I watch them blow across the sand and rocks towards me, rolling and jumping like a little army of happy clouds. Down the beach a little kid in a red jacket chases these blowing bubbles, giggling at the new game she's discovered. I smile and turn back to the tidepool I am so carefully exploring: amidst this atmosphere of gr
ay skies, gray rocks, and gray ocean, I am searching for color. And I find it! My eye catches a glimmer of purple in the murky depths...I bend down close, almost touching my nose to the water. Under the surface I see a hidden rainbow: orange starfish and purple urchins and light green anemones! These colors, vibrant with life, seem to pulse with an energy that only the contrast of a gray day could bring.
Ginger-apple foam, elderflower-candied rose hips, sour green apple, cabbage and rose hip-brined squid, fresh cabbage, and rose hip vinegar.
This is the last version of this dish I made. Which one is your favorite?