wild leek pancakes

IMG_6191IMG_6188

This past weekend took us to Vermont. We joined friends of mine from grad school to ride the Muddy Onion Spring Classic around Montpelier – 35 miles of gravel roads, scenic Vermont vistas, and a halfway fuel stop stocked with a cooler of PBR, chocolate covered bacon, and maple syrup shots. It was my second bike ride of the season, as things have only recently been thawing out and drying up where we live. I couldn’t stop proclaiming afterward that it was the most fun ride I’ve ever done, which is saying quite a lot given that I’m normally averse to hill climbing.

But it was just so beautiful out. The weather was perfect; it started off cool, but clouds gave way to sun partway through the day. I got to try out my bike with its new triple crankset setup, which likely explains why I enjoyed the climbs so much. Hill climbs are so much easier when you can stay seated, without effort, on even the steepest pitches. The early spring made for dry roads, which was a plus. 35 miles of sloggy muddy roads would have definitely been too much for me so early in the season, so I appreciated that. All in all, another ace weekend in Vermont.

Along the ride, I kept noticing wild leeks, or ramps, all over the place. In riparian zones near streams. In a bowl-shaped valley sheltered from prevailing winds. Underneath a maze of tap lines in a maple syrup sugarbush. And everywhere I looked, there were No Trespassing signs posted, until I finally found a small pocket growing within the right-of-way of the road. I snagged one and made quick work of it.

IMG_6189IMG_6186IMG_6195IMG_6182

It’s been something like seven years since I last picked ramps. They don’t grow up where I live in Maine, and I don’t think they’ve had them at my grocery store during that time either.

But if you know me, you know that I love free food. Free food sitting in the woods, waiting to be happened upon by me, my grubby hands, and a plastic bag. It’s a siren song I can’t resist. And resistance is futile when your friends know of a place just up the road from their home that has all the ramps you can dream of.

Since it’s still early in the season, the bulbs haven’t yet developed fully, but that’s no reason not to do a little foraging. After all, it’s been seven years since my last opportunity. So we did a little pickin’ and grinnin’.IMG_6183
IMG_6193IMG_6190IMG_6194IMG_6181

Joe and Jane kept a handful of our bounty, but graciously allowed us to bring the rest home. They can go back for more whenever they wish. A handful goes a long way with these little Alliums, they are awfully garlicky and oniony, and I love them. I cooked with ramps last night, and I can still smell them on my hands today.

And now that I think of it, I kind of prefer ramps in this early phase before they develop fully, because they’re a bit more mild. I remember popping a few late season some years back, and getting heartburn on the spot because they were so strong.

I chose to make Wild Leek Pancakes with mine, in homage to the scallion pancakes that we find on occasional dim sum menus, and can’t get enough of. This homemade version isn’t quite the restaurant quality I remember, but it was just as delicious, and just a little bit different. Perhaps if I had chopped the ramps finer, I could have rolled the pancakes out thinner, and achieved the ultra thin pancake I was aiming for. Oh well, laziness always wins.DSC06608DSC06615DSC06625

Wild Leek Pancakes (because Ramps Cakes sounds weird)
Recipe for Scallion Pancakes from J. Kenji LĂłpez-Alt, with ramps used in place of scallions

Pancake Ingredients:
2 c. all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
1 c. boiling water
1/4 c. toasted sesame seed oil
2 c. wild leeks/ramps, sliced thin (I used the white parts, and an inch or so of the greens)

1/4 c. or more vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp wild leeks/ramps, sliced thin
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or even a little more)
2 tsp sugar

Directions:

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside at room temp.

Put flour in the bowl of a food processor. With processor turned on, use feed tube to drizzle in 3/4 of the cup of boiling water. Process 15 seconds. If dough has not come together, drizzle additional water in, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough has just come together.

Transfer dough to floured countertop, and knead for 1-2 minutes until dough turns smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes at room temp, or overnight in the fridge.

Divide dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first ball of dough out into an 8″ round. Brush a thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk with a pastry brush. Roll disk up jelly roll style, then “twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath.” This is a bit difficult to do, but do what you can to tuck the ends in and bring the dough back to a round shape, and then press dough down to keep the ends from separating. Flatten dough by hand, then re-roll to an 8″ round. Brush a second layer of sesame oil onto the rolled out dough, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of ramps. Press ramps lightly into the dough. Again roll disk up like a jelly roll, twisting and flattening gently. Being careful to avoid ramp rupture, re-re-roll dough into a 7″ round.

Set prepared pancake aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat prep steps with remaining three balls of dough.

Heat oil in a small nonstick or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Kenji recommends an 8″ pan; I don’t have one that small, so I added extra oil to my pan. When oil is shimmering, slide one pancake into the pan. Cook until underside is an even golden brown, 2 minutes or so. Flip pancake, and continue cooking until second side is also an even golden brown, 2 minutes longer. Remove pancake from pan and place on paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Serve warm with dipping sauce.

IMG_6184

Happy as a ramp in a quality northern hardwoods forest

Advertisements

summer salad pie

summer salad pie

In May, I had my first surgery. It was minor, but it was not. I suppose it wouldn’t really be surgery if it was merely something minor, but really, it was quite minor. I spent many long moments post-laparoscopy melodramatically contemplating my mortality. That kind of thinking got me nowhere except dullsville, waist-deep in chocolate bars and pop tarts.

I feel better now. I’m still on the mend somewhat, but I’m alright. Summer has been beautiful up here. Warm and sunny and everything you hope for in the one season where you don’t need to wear a winter hat (or bonnet, as the locals would say). This past weekend, I cooked and baked for the first time in godknowshowlong. It was nice. I made a minty grasshopper pie. We cooked up a buttload of foraged mushrooms. We had vino and alfredo-y pasta, my fave. And I made this,….. this thing.

summer salad pie

This here is a gelatin salad nimbly resting in a cheese pie shell, topped unceremoniously with a tuna salad heavy to celery. The gelatin itself is of the lemon persuasion – mixed with tomato sauce – and is chockablock with onions, olives, and more celery.

And that’s really all you need to know, because any more would probably be incriminating.

If 1960s style cuisine gets you pumped, this is for you. Put on your best apron, don your pearls, set your hair in rollers, and get ready to finely dine on deep dish gelatin and tuna.

summer salad pie

Summer Salad Pie
Recipe adapted slightly from Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish Cook Book © 1965

“Pretty as can be”: serves 6-8

Cheese Pie Shell

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c. + 1 tbsp shortening
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tbsp ice water

Heat oven to 475 F. Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle water gradually over mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, tossing lightly with a fork after each addition (if dough appears dry, a few drops water may be added). Gather dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1″ larger than a 9″ pie pan. Ease into pan; flute edges of dough and prick with fork all over. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool.

Gelatin Salad

1 pkg. (3 oz) lemon gelatin
1 1/4 c. boiling water
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Few drops each
Worcestershire sauce
and Tabasco
Dash pepper
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1/4 c. chopped onion

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in tomato sauce, vinegar, and seasonings. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in celery, olives, and onion. Pour into cooler Cheese Pie Shell. Chill thoroughly.

Tuna Salad

1 can (5 – 6.5 oz) tuna, drained
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp minced onion or scallions
1 c. diced celery
Salt
Paprika
Mayonnaise

Lightly mix tuna, lemon juice, onion, and celery. Season with salt and paprika to taste. Chill. Just before serving, drain and mix in just enough mayonnaise to thoroughly coat salad. Spoon on top of chilled gelatin salad. Serve.

If I’ve done one thing this summer, it’s read more than my share of dated romance novels. They’re all quite aggravating, and it’s hard to accept that they’re so blantantly anti-woman and yet all penned by women. Did these ladies have no self respect? This particular diatribe doesn’t sound much like me, I must have changed during my post-surgical convalescence. To make up for my unexpected feminist thoughts, I continue to blast through these books.

romancey

We traveled down to Windham, NY, which is on the edge of the Catskills, to watch a world cup downhill mountain bike race. It was one of the most wildly exciting octane-fueled weekends I’ve ever experienced. I was starstruck and could not stop grinning like a crazy person for three days straight. It was a blast, and I hope we can make it to some of the other sanctioned races someday, which take place all over the globe (Norway? Austria? France?!).

There were other events at Windham, including cross country races and a pump track showcase showdown. Bikes are nothing but fun. It’s been a slow summer in the sense that I’ve been limited to spectating, but I was reunited with my mountain bike for the first time in over three months last weekend, and I was nearly as overjoyed by that as I was at the chance to stand next to my favorite downhill shredder, who happened to be shirtless, while at Windham.

windham

pump track

A few weeks ago, I had nine active logging jobs. Things have cooled down a bit since then, because that was over the top and ridiculous. Speaking of over the top, the wood is piling up, just like the pulpwood you see here. This might be the tallest stack I’ve seen yet.

pulp

Lastly, my multiple gardens are in full force. Lilies and plenty of other good stuff in the flower beds, with datura about to bloom next week. Scallions + kale + black radishes, along with greens, peas, tomatoes, carrots and beans in my veg garden. It’s been a top shelf summer.

veglily and skull

chanterelle duxelles turnovers

chanterelle duxelles turnovers

It’s been so long since I used my DSLR camera that it took me two days to find the USB cord to connect it to my computer for these photos. Since I last used the camera, I’ve packed up all my things, moved house, unpacked some of my things, been across the country and back, and put in a lot of hours at my job. I’ve also been falling less and less on my bike, and even competed in a 12-hour bike race last weekend, fighting a nasty case of strep throat to put in many miles on the bike, all the while also fighting just to stand up and stay awake.

Thankfully this weekend, all are healthy in my household, and we’re tucking away pound upon pound of freshly-foraged chanterelle mushrooms. Here in the Northeast, it’s the perfect year for these orangey gems, as the rain has been incessant for most of the summer. Summer? What’s that? I find myself wondering, as week after week cool temps reign, and precipitation cascades over my head and the tops of the trees at work.

Thank goodness for this delicious bounty that the forest provides. Every week it’s something new to admire and enjoy. This week, chanterelles.

chanterelles

If you want to forage for chanterelles, beware of lookalikes, including false chanterelles and jack o’lanterns. The mushrooms you want to pick will have a solid stem, an apricot aroma, and wrinkly false gills. I find that they grow well under forest cover in mossy areas near compacted sites, such as trails and roads. I find them in fir stands, as well as stands with a hardwood component. There are plenty of online resources for learning chanterelle identification, as well as finding recipe inspiration.

To give you a few ideas, since chanterelles have appeared up here, we’ve made a chanterelle + beef stew, a chanterelle omelette, chanterelle, onion + fresh tomato pizza, and what you see here, Chanterelle Duxelles Turnovers.

Duxelles. Have you been so lucky to have enjoyed this before?

Duxelles is perhaps my favorite recipe that my mum has passed along to me. A mushroom spread or paste, depending on what you add to the mixture (cream/no cream), duxelles is an absolute smash hit when spread on crackers, and creates just about the best dinner party appetizer ever. It was one of the first things that my boyfriend and I cooked together nearly three years ago. Awwww. And it is just so delicious, those of you who are mushroom-inclined will love it.

duxelles

I upped the duxelles a notch here by pairing it with creamy goat cheese, and wrapping it up in phyllo dough parcels. Once baked, these turnovers are crispy, crunchy, juicy, and overflowing with the goodness of wild mushrooms. If you don’t have access to chanterelles, whether foraged in the woods, at the farmer’s market, or the grocery store, use any kind of mushroom for duxelles. Oysters and shiitake work very nicely as well, as do everyday button mushrooms. I feel like when it comes to mushrooms, you can’t go wrong.

Chanterelle Duxelles Turnovers

For the duxelles:

Makes ~2 c.

6 c. chanterelles mushrooms, chopped fine or minced in a food processor
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter
1 large shallot (1/2 c.), finely chopped
5 scallions, finely chopped
Heavy cream, if desired
2 tbsp flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp chives, finely cut
Salt and pepper to taste

This could be called finelychoppedelles rather than duxelles, and it would make sense, no? Make sure to squeeze your mushrooms well before or after chopping, to extract as much juice as possible.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Before the foam subsides, stir in the shallots and scallions, and cook until soft. Add mushrooms, and cook for 10-15 minutes. When cooking wild-foraged mushrooms, make sure they are well cooked – any sickness you might feel from eating wild mushrooms is more often due to bacteria on the mushrooms than the mushrooms themselves. In my mum’s words, cook until the mixture is inspissated, and on the point of browning. If inspissated isn’t in your vocabulary, it means thickened or congealed.  Depending on how much liquid is left in your mushrooms, though, the chanterelles may not thicken as much as other mushroom varieties might. If you’d like, add a few splashes of heavy cream to work on that inspissation.

Remove from heat, and mix in parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

For the turnovers:

1 rolled sheath of phyllo dough, or phyllo cups if you’d prefer, thawed
1 recipe duxelles, above
1 package goat cheese (I used a mild, creamy cheese)

Unroll phyllo dough, and cut into whatever size you’d like to use. You have a few options: you can make rectangular-shaped parcels, as seen here, you can create large triangular turnovers (which I recommend because they are extra stuffed with goodness), or you can make/use phyllo cups and bake in muffin tins.

Using three or four sheets of dough, fill with 1-4 tbsp of filling, depending on the size of the parcel you’re making. Top with 1 tsp goat cheese per tbsp of filling. Wrap up as desired, whether rectangularly or triangularly, and set on a baking stone or other prepared baking sheet. Spray with baking spray to achieve a golden brown crisp once baked. Repeat with remaining filling and sheets of phyllo.

Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your turnovers. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly before serving.

chanterelle duxelles turnovers

This non-summer has been passing by much too quickly. Will my tomatoes ripen before we get a frost? Not sure. But I’ve been loving every minute that this season has to offer.

I’ve been overseeing road construction and a large harvesting operation, I’ve walked down sweet and quiet wooded trails, and I’ve done a fair amount of harvesting myself. Summer is beautiful. Bring on an equally lovely fall.

constructiondelimbertrailpile o mushrooms
A day’s harvest of many pounds of chanterelles, one pound of king boletes (porcini), and a solitary puffball.