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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label recipe. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label recipe. Show all posts

      Sunday, November 8, 2009


      Sorrel Pesto Appetizer

      This low fat appetizer is like a crustless quiche, served warm or at room temperature. The sorrel has a lemony taste, and is easy to grow as a garden perennial.

      2 ½ cups nonfat cottage cheese

      4 cups sorrel leaves, washed and spun dry*

      8 ounces low-fat cream cheese cut in pieces

      1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

      2 large eggs

      2 cloves minced garlic

      4 teaspoons chopped fresh basil

      ½ cup pine nuts

      Salt and pepper to taste

      *substitute a pack of frozen chopped spinach if no sorrel is available: pre-cook and drain in the same way as below. Still very good but missing that lemony zing.

      Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Chop sorrel leaves. Drop in boiling salt water for a minute. Drain well in a strainer, squeeze out additional liquid by hand, and pat dry with a paper towel. Let cool. Drain cottage cheese in the strainer and press out excess liquid. Put all ingredients except pine nuts in food processor and blend until smooth. Then mix in pine nuts and adjust seasoning.

      Bake in a buttered 9” round pan for about an hour, until lightly brown on top. Let cool. Cut in wedges. Serves 12 as an appetizer, 8 for lunch.

      Garnish with small fresh sorrel leaves, cherry tomatoes both red and yellow, extra pine nuts if you have them and extra pine nuts.

      Lemon Loaf Lavandula

      Not all lavender has the same great flavor. Some species taste like camphor. For cooking use any variety of Lavandula angustifolia, sometimes called English lavender. If you don't grow your own and are buying dried lavender buds, make sure it's 'culinary grade' not just anything they have lying around a cosmetics chain store.

      For the cake:

      1/3 cup butter

      1 cup sugar

      2 eggs

      1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

      1 teaspoon dried lavender buds, or two teaspoons fresh lavender buds (off the stem, no leaves)

      2 1/2 cups sifted flour

      1 tablespoon baking powder

      1/2 teaspoon salt

      1 cup milk

      Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-by-f-by-3-inch loaf pan. Cream the butter and sugar until soft. Add the eggs one at a time until smooth; add the rind. Pinch the lavender with your fingers to release more oils and add to the mixture. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, mixing lightly with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients and milk to the creamed mixture, alternating in two or three pours. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. While the cake is baking make this glaze.

      For the glaze

      1/2 cup sugar

      1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

      1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds or one teaspoon fresh buds

      1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

      1/4 to 1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur a delicious option

      Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan, pinching the lavender buds with fingers before adding. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from stove.

      When the cake comes out of the oven, let cool for about 10 minutes, turn out of the pan and place on a plate, right side up. Prick the top with a fork in several places and pour the glaze over the loaf letting it absorb slowly. Let the cake cool before slicing. Pass any extra glaze in a small pitcher when serving the slices.

      Tangy Herb Cheese

      Line a strainer or colander with rinsed cheesecloth, or if you don't have that, position several drip coffee filters inside. Spoon unflavored yogurt in the filters or cheesecloth. Place the colander on a deep dish, cover loosely with wax paper, refrigerate, and let the yogurt drain for eight hours or overnight. Put the drained yogurt in a container and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite finely chopped fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and chives. Spread on crackers, celery or cucumber slices.

      Monday, June 29, 2009


      For three days amid rain, wind and clouds, I joined hundreds of other lavender lovers at the PA Lavender Festival, Willow Pond Farm near Gettysburg.I was appearing in a huge dried flower hat with my Lavender book, and was fortunate to be placed under a small tent between the ice cream stand and the lunch line. No wonder I sold out of books! Visitors picked their own bunches, learned to weave lavender wands, attended lectures and demos, licked Bruster’s dark chocolate lavender cones, selected varieties to take home.
      Photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design


      The charming Lavandula stoechas above, sometimes called Spanish, French or Italian lavender, is hardy only in Zones 8-9. In the NY area, treat it as an annual and you wont be disappointed.

      If you use lavender in cooking, use a variety of Lavandula angustifolia like ‘Hidcote’ or ‘Munstead’, sometimes called English lavender. Other lavenders have a higher camphor aroma and taste which will not enhance your cooking. (see my post of 6/16/09 for ‘Hidcote’ on my roof.)

      When your lavender finishes its bloom, cut off spent stems down to the first cluster of leaves to encourage re-bloom later in the season.

      On the way home from the festival we stopped to see dear friends near my old Meadowlark Flower & Herb Farm. Their garden (above) had burst into lavender bloom, with L. x intermedia ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’ still in bud. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), which I had once helped to plant, had totally filled in the bluestone path.
      My parting gift to our hosts was a couple of hours of weeding in their daylily patch, as much a gift to me as to Gary & Diane.

      Even if you don't grow your own Lavandula angustifolia, you can buy a pack of culinary lavender buds to make these and other treats.
      LAVENDER MADELEINES (from: Lavender: How to Grow & Use the Fragrant Herb by Ellen Spector Platt, 2nd. Ed. Stackpole Books, 2009)
      These miniature shell-shaped cakes are typically French; rich and delicious they’re perfect for a tea party or afternoon treat. The only requirement is a Madeleine pan, available from most any cookware source. If buying a new one I strongly suggest that you look for the non-stick variety so the little dears will just pop out when you invert the pan. Lavender adds a delectable flavor here, as it does to most any simple cake or cookie recipe. Dunk the dainty Madeleine in a cup of tea to release the perfect combination of flavors.


      2 large eggs
      a pinch of salt
      ½ cup granulated sugar
      1 large lemon
      1 cup all purpose flour
      1 stick unsalted butter melted
      1 tablespoon dried, or two tablespoons fresh lavender buds
      1/3 cup confectioners sugar

      Don’t use a mixer for this recipe, beating by hand results in a lighter, more tender Madeleine.
      Butter and flour the Madeleine mold.
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
      Melt the butter, add the lavender and set aside to cool.
      Finely grate the lemon, yellow part only.
      In a medium bowl, wisk the eggs and salt until frothy.
      Add the sugar gradually, wisking as you go.
      Add the lemon rind.
      With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon fold in the flour.
      Mix in the melted butter with lavender.
      Fill shells 2/3 full with batter.
      Bake on middle rack for 12 to fifteen minutes until firm and brown around the edges.
      Turn out immediately on a cooling rack, then sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

      Makes 24 cakes. When reusing the mold for the second dozen, butter and flour again.

      Wednesday, May 6, 2009

      ON RAMPS

      Other Ellen forages in the wild; I’m more likely to forage at the Greenmarket. Mid spring takes me to my favorite, Union Square, to seek ramps also known as wild leeks, (Allium tricoccum). Ramps are the first of the outdoor greens to be offered for sale in spring, prized by chefs and home cooks alike.

      They have a sweetish, but
      strong onion flavor, used by
      AmerIndians and Settlers for
      cooking, spring tonics, and
      cures for colds, fevers, and
      worms in children. They
      grow wild from Nova Scotia
      to Georgia and West to
      Minnesota according to the
      Audubon Field Guide to
      North American Wild-

      If you do go out foraging in the wild, seek them in moist woods, often under maple trees. Note that like many decorative Alliums, the leaves die back before the flowers appear. To mark a patch in summer for next springs’ harvest, look for flower stems with cream-colored umbels, leaves dead or dying back. Even then, it's hard to differentiate them from wild garlic (Allium canadense) and wild onion (Allium cernuum) which is unpleasantly strong. Use a good field guide.Check for a definite onion aroma of ramps to be safe from Death Camass.

      Buy ramp bulblets or seeds for your own garden from the Ramp Farm. Although this farm still has seeds they're no longer taking orders for '09 shipments of the starters.

      Usually one or
      two stands sell
      ramps in the
      Greenmarket, often mobbed by area chefs, laden with a week’s supply. Edible parts are young leaves, stems and bulblets, as in scallions. Tasty varieties of mushrooms are available in the market simultaneously.

      The New York Times offers a recipe or two every April. Here’s one of mine, a simple but delicious combination featuring ramps and mushrooms.Spring Rice Pilaf with Ramps
      From Garlic, Onions & other Alliums by Ellen Spector Platt,
      Stackpole Books, 2003

      2 cups white or brown rice
      4 cups boiling water
      4 tablespoons butter
      ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
      Ground pepper to taste
      15 ramps, more or less
      Two medium onions peeled and chopped
      ½ pound assorted mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced
      1 cup dry white wine, such as Muscadet
      Grated Parmesan cheese

      1. In a saucepan, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of butter until golden.
      2. Stir in the rice until coated with butter. Add salt and pepper.
      3. Pour in boiling water, cover the pan and cook gently for 30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid. After thirty minutes turn off the burner.
      4. Meanwhile, prepare the ramps. Wash carefully, cut off roots and slip outer skin off stems. Cut off stems with bulblets and chop them. Chop leaves keeping them separate
      5. In a shallow pan, saute the mushrooms in the rest of the butter for about ten minutes, and add the chopped ramp stems. Cook another minute or so, then add the wine and reduce. The mushrooms and ramps should be ready about the time the rice is ready.
      6. Fluff the rice with a fork, add the mushroom mixture, fluff again. Then pour into serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped, uncooked ramp leaves. Serve with the grated cheese on the side.

      Serves 8 as a side dish, or 6 as a main dish.

      Monday, April 27, 2009

      Knotweed Crisp: follow-up foraging

      Went foraging with my sisters and their sons over the weekend. True, it wasn't in the five boros, but Georgia, at Local Ecology, directed me to a tasty dessert recipe after reading my last post here. She asked me to post a follow-up, and in gratitude for sharing the recipe, I do so now. Hope the rest of you forgive me for this rural post, but even a New Yorker has to get out of Dodge sometime. And the dessert tastes just as good with city knotweed, I promise.

      Start by enlisting your young nephews to help pick knotweed, even if they insist you're crazy. Clean and chop 4 cups of knotweed stems. Simmer over medium heat to create a tender compote. You won't need to add any water; the stems contain quite a bit of liquid. Add 1/2 cup sugar and move compote to buttered casserole dish.

      Assemble crisp topping from 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 tsp. cinammon, and 1/3 cup butter. Combine to form a rough, crumbly topping, and sprinkle on top of compote. Bake at 350 for half an hour.

      Serve with vanilla ice cream. It's delicious, no matter what the nephews say.

      Thanks, Georgia!

      April, 28, 2009
      P.S. I've just been asked to submit this recipe to the House of Annie: Grow Your Own Roundup. It's a recipe roundup of blog posts written during the month of April that feature ingredients grown in your own garden or foraged from your area. There are some tasty-sounding dishes there...I'm going to try the nettle pasta and ramps quiche!

      Friday, January 2, 2009

      Knotweed Wine

      In case you haven't noticed, Other Ellen is very crafty. Give her a few foraged birch branches and voila! You've got art.

      I'm not quite as aesthetically oriented...any creative energy I have left over after a hard day's work is devoted to investigating, preparing, and eating interesting food. Fortunately, I live in NYC where there's no shortage of interesting food. And some of the most unusual raw ingredients are free for the picking.

      This time of year there isn't a lot to forage, but today I opened a bottle of homemade wine made from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum aka Fallopia japonica) harvested in Central Park last April. Let me warn you, what I'm describing is illegal; you're breaking the law by removing any vegetation from NYC parks. I don't understand why, since knotweed is rampantly invasive and the USDA's National Invasive Species Information Center ranks it as a highly noxious weed.

      Knotweed is a good beginner's wine for several reasons: It's ready to drink approximately 6 months after bottling (this is fast in wine-making time), it's tasty, and the raw materials are very plentiful. You'll find it growing in vacant lots all over the five boroughs, in addition to the aforementioned, off-limits parks!

      Choose unbranched spears, between eight and 16 inches tall. They may be as thick as your thumb or as slim as a pencil. You can snap them off at ground level, but a pair of pruners speeds the harvest. In 15 minutes you can easily pick the 3 pounds needed for a batch of wine.

      Knotweed Wine
      Roughly chop 3 lbs. of knotweed stems (remove the leaves first) and combine with 8 oz. chopped raisins in a 2 gallon, plastic fermentation bucket. Crush lightly, then cover with a syrup made from 3 quarts of water and 2.5 lbs. sugar. Add a tsp. orange zest, 1/4 tsp. tannin powder, and a crushed Campden tablet. Stir, cover, and leave for 24 hours. Next, add 1/2 cup orange juice, 10 drops pectic enzyme, 1 packet wine yeast, and 1 tsp. yeast nutrient. Leave the mixture covered for 10 days, stirring daily. Strain the liquid into a one-gallon glass jug. Rack off the sediment every few months. Bottle when clear, and taste after 6 months (from bottling the brew).

      If you'd like to learn more about wine-making, check out Making Wild Wines & Meads. It's a rewarding hobby (for obvious reasons) and even the smallest NYC apartment has room for a few gallon jugs.

      And finally, in a bow to the ever-artistic Other Ellen, I give you knotweed in a vase. This is as close as I get to arts & crafts.

      Thursday, October 23, 2008

      Stinko Ginkgo

      Come here.


      Can you smell the ginkgo? No? Consider yourself lucky!

      Actually, despite the putrid smell of ripe ginkgo fruit, many (myself included) anticipate their arrival every fall. Come October I stuff my pockets full of latex gloves and plastic grocery bags and wander the streets and parks of New York City breathing deeply, searching for female ginkgo trees.

      The ripe fruit really DO smell like cheesy vomit (I don't mince words) but the nut inside the fruit is an under-appreciated delicacy in the US of A. If you get a whiff of something putrescent as you're walking down the street, look up.

      Perhaps you'll see branches laden with cantaloupe colored fruit above your head, or even better...perhaps the fruit will have started to fall, indicating it's ripe and ready to collect.
      Put on those latex gloves and pinch the fruit to squeeze out the kernel inside. This is what you'll be taking home with you. (The first time I foraged for ginkgo I made the mistake of bringing the whole fruit home. That stench fills up a studio apartment mighty fast, let me tell you!) When you get your harvest back to the kitchen, run the nuts under water to get off the last shreds of smelly flesh. Then, spread them on a cookie sheet and roast for an hour at 350 degrees.

      Once the nuts have been roasted, place them between two dish towels and tap with a hammer. After destroying a few, you’ll get a feel for how hard to hit without shattering the nuts.

      For pure ginkgo enjoyment, fry the shelled nuts in a little oil and toss with coarse salt. This is an excellent autumn snack with cold beer, cider, or a glass of wine. They’re also a tasty addition to stir fries and soups, adding unexpected texture. Or, try making a pesto from ginkgo nuts and basil; this takes perfect advantage of the cheesy nuttiness of the ginkgo seed.

      Ginkgo pesto
      In a food processor, combine 1 cup roasted, shelled gingko nuts with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 cup fresh basil leaves. (Yes, the end of basil season overlaps with ginkgo season.) Pulse until the mixture is a coarse paste (adding more oil if necessary), then season with salt and pepper to taste. You won’t need cheese; the ginkgo nuts do double duty in this recipe. The pesto keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month. At room temperature the oil may separate, so be sure to stir well before using.

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