Saturday, March 8, 2014
Does anyone else's gas range do this spooky thing, on High? Tendrils of flame curling around the pot.
The heat seems dispersed along with the flame. When I want High I, want High. HIGH. And no, I don't leave it like this when it behaves badly; I turn it back down to a point where it behaves as it should.
The flame does not always come on when one lights it electrically, by turning the knob. Half the time one must start it with a clicker/firelighter. That, too, is annoying, when one is juggling things and does not have a free hand to do the lighting thing. I work fast and with a short fuse, in the kitchen.
The range is as clean as I can get it. I asked our landlord (who's away on tour, yippee - meaning it's quiet!) if we could take the top off, but it seemed firmly stuck. So who know what's going on under there.
In better news, it's Day Two of the 127th Street sourdough starter and the bubbles look great, already. It has had one feeding. Next week there will be bread, made with our very own wild Harlem yeast!
(It was nice knowing ye...)
If you'd like to make your own sourdough starter - if you haven't already; I realize I am late to this party - I used The Kitchn's post by Emma Christensen as reference.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Breakfast at an early-morning water hole south of Satara in the Kruger (now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Peace Park). No one else there. Just a sleepy male lion and a submerged hippo.
It may sound odd that some of my happiest memories with the Frenchman have involved driving. Odd because our New York life is almost entirely carless. But these have been the best times. There is nothing better than getting in a car and heading out, away.
A flask of coffee - our espresso pot having perked earlier while I was still sleeping. Milk warmed, sugar added. Rusks packed, or perhaps some potbrood, cooked in the previous night's coals. Getting into the 4 x 4, and seeing where the road will lead us.
And then just sitting there, and looking, and sipping and chewing our breakfast. Nowhere to be.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
It may not look like much (and boy, does it look drab out there), but I'll tell you what this is. Sun. Staying above The Building to our south, for the first time this year.
Of course, then it must contend, in its descent, with The Other Building, to the right, which is a behemoth.
But it's progress.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
At least the snow on the terrace has melted. So there's that.
But the pots are still frozen solid. The new soil that I added to the built-in wooden troughs? Frozen solid. The fig is alive, though! And yes, I think the exclamation point is warranted. I gave one of the younger branches a thumbnail-scratch yesterday when I went out to feed the birds, and...green. Amazing.
Indoors, it's cabin feverish. Only that can explain my fascination with iceberg lettuce. Or perhaps I'm saying that because I think I have to. Iceberg is so uncool it's cool again if you're in a hipster diner.
Truth is, it can be really good. Why? - the crunch-factor, of course, the tightly layered leaves nested within one another's curves, the moisture. And also the relief after cosmopolitan years and years of baby arugula, adult arugula, wild arugula (arugula is the new iceberg) and the current avalanche of pea shoots.
For the two of us, I cut half an iceberg into three fat wedges, and then hauled out those newly ubiquitous peas. I'm not tired of them, yet. And you know what's weird? - they cost $2 less at Whole Foods at Columbus Circle than they do at the more humble Fine Fare on Lenox Avenue aka Malcolm X. Except the fact that they are at Fine Fare is cause for celebration in itself.
The dressing was soy, sugar, lime juice. Enough sugar and lime that the soy does not overpower. No oil at all. And into the dressing I tossed a knob of slivered and matchsticked ginger. Vincent has had a serial cold for what seems like our entire residence in Harlem, all almost-five months of it, bar a sunny break in South Africa. And ginger helps.
The salad was good. But he shivered every time he bit the leaves. He says iceberg squeaks.
So I ate the third wedge.
There's another salad next door, at 66 Square Feet (the Food). It's pink and white, and it won't squeak.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Tama Wong, author (with Eddy Leroux) of Foraged Flavor (about which I have written once or twice) wants to farm American sumac. To that end she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get the project up and running.
The plan is to plant around 500 sumac shrubs on an acre of land in New Jersey. The funds raised will be used to buy and plant the saplings (grown by a local nursery), install a deer fence (sumac shoots are delicious to deer and humans alike), acquire a sumac processor, and track and analyse the progress and results of the venture. Here's more from Tama:
Why do I care?
I love wild foods. Many of them have the potential to be tamed. I love American-made (apart from guns and things that blow up - why do my sumac posts always go with rants?). I love supporting local enterprises. I love organically-grown produce, and I love sumac. It is barely-known, Stateside, as an indigenous resource or ingredient. Promoting local plants makes great sense to me. And Tama Wong, as a supplier of wild edibles to chefs, and now an author, is helping increase awareness about excellent culinary ingredients.
So I made a contribution. You can, too. For as little at $1 - $5, or as much as you like, really.
I have used powdered Mediterranean sumac (Rhus coriaria) in my kitchens ever since I fell in love with the food of the eastern Mediterranean, to which it is intrinsic. It is tart and fresh, and sour tastes are indispensable to me.
My 2013 batch of sumac vodka
Here in New York, I have collected wild sumacs (Rhus glabra - smooth; and Rhus typhina - staghorn) for several years, turning the fruit heads primarily into a wonderfully astringent and complex infused vodka, which is versatile in cocktails. At my book launch at Book Court in Brooklyn last September the sumac vodka disappeared in flash, in the prosecco-based drink I call Rhus Hour.
There are another 12 days to go for Tama to reach her funding goal. If it is not met, the project is not funded, and everyone gets their money back. I don't want my $25 back. I'd really like to see how this farm turns out. There will be no pesticides, and no irrigation. Sumac grows like a weed beside highways and the hope is that it will cooperate inside its deer-proof fence. I can't wait for the first jar of New Jersey-grown sumac spice.
But wait! There's more!
Tomorrow night, Tuesday March 4th at 6.30pm, there will be a free sumac cocktail for every backer of this project when they join Tama and fellow host Mads Refslund (chef at ACME and one of the founders of the hallowed wild foods restaurant NOMA Copenhagen) at ACME NYC for a pop up wild sumac event.
See you there.