ryan’s resurrection: a tale of lovage and a bloody mary worth your suffering

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What’s not to love about the unmistakable, vibrantly herbal blast of lovage?  It’s as if a posh designer got hold of celery and added psychedelic green flowers to the scent, and thinned out the stalks into slender hollow tubes, coiffed by fringed leaves. Growing perennially over six feet high in the garden, and in unimproved clay-dense soil in the shade yet, it’s one of the first plants up in the spring and a Willamette Valley gardener’s dream.  It can easily get out of hand once established, so you’ll have to plan well and use the leaves and stalks in many culinary preparations.  The tender shoots that emerge in the spring are particularly good, and lack the bitterness of the older leaves.

Lovage, with its aggressive parsley, celery seed, and lemon zest notes, marries well with egg, lemon, cucumber, potatoes, chicken, and beef.  Although it’s been a garden favorite for several thousands of years and considered an aphrodisiac, it was much more of a staple for the Romans who used the seeds and dried leaves, and the kitchen staff of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, who were directed to plant it in all his gardens.  Indeed, its dramatic stage presence and tendency to bulldoze other flavors in a recipe has frightened off the timid.

Read more about the ancient connections and do sample my own recipes for Roman stuffed eggs influenced by Apicius, or a potato salad with lovage and pine nuts.  You might also try a beef stroganoff with lovage, sunchokes and celery, a Romanian meatball and lovage soup called ciorba de perisoare, a mackerel and lovage tart from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for your boldest companions and a petits pois/lettuce/lovage soup for the others, or even lovage in a Scottish breakfast sandwich described by vegetarian culinarian Deborah Madison in her homage to the herb.

As pictured above, one can serve hollow lovage stalks as a straw in any suitable drink, even water, topped with a jaunty leaf hat.  It makes for a refreshing afternoon delight after weeding your back 40.

Or you might just enjoy lovage in a cocktail, a spicy Bloody Mary of epic proportions from my colleague and co-host on Food for Thought on KLCC, Ryan Stotz.  It’s a perfect drink for Easter brunch, surely a hell of a lot better than nasty jelly beans and low-quality chocolate hollow eggs made tinny by foil.  You might try it with a rabbit porcetta and salad of wild arugula and little Western bittercress with roasted beet.  Or just a liquid lunch?  In any case, if you’re as much of a fan of Ryan’s as I am, you’ll immediately recognize his almost freakishly honed wine professional nose and palate at work here, like a little devious bunny rabbit.  And don’t fret too much about the ingredient list — even Ryan admits it can be flexible with what you’ve got on hand.  But do try the original when you’re feeling the need for an extravagant and special sunny March morning with your own fine self.

Happy Easter!

Ryan’s Resurrection

Makes one pint.

In a metal tumbler, aggressively muddle the following into a coarse paste. This will take fucking forever and ruin your muddling hand for the day:

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (it’s worth getting Penzey’s Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Peppercorns for this)
  • 1 tablespoon Sarawak white peppercorns
  • 1 healthy dash celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Piquin chili peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish powder (again, it’s worth getting Penzey’s for this)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 4 or 5 large lovage leaves
  • 2″ length lemongrass, finely minced
  • Zest of 2 key limes (or just juice the limes, reserve the juice and toss in the peels)

Add the following and stir:

  • Juice of 2 key limes
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (at least; I usually add more)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 10 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes Red Boat fish sauce (I used and loved Three Crabs brand for years, but seriously, the difference between that and Red Boat is like the difference between Cook’s and vintage Krug)
  • 20 dashes Crystal Hot Sauce
  • 10 dashes Tabasco regular
  • 3 dashes Tabasco habanero sauce
  • 5 dashes Bittermens or Scrappy’s celery bitters
  • 2 tablespoons home-fermented pepper sauce (Culinaria Eugenius’ recipe) or Korean red pepper paste (ssamjang)
  • 1 teaspoon Pickapeppa sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Datu Puti spiced vinegar

Add ice, the following, and shake:

  • 3 oz. Tabasco Spicy Bloody Mary mix
  • 3 oz. Spicy V8 or Spicy Clamato
  • 3 oz. vodka (who cares what brand, it’s vodka)

Strain into an ice-filled pint glass. Sprinkle on some celery salt,
add a couple dashes more celery bitters, garnish the ever-loving shit
out of it, and drink.

(Recipe courtesy of Ryan Stotz.)

of cabbages and drag kings: a gay marriage salad

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Searching for the perfect reddish pink salad to serve your “gay-wedding” guests?  Seek no further.  With most of the blue states and every single rhetoric instructor ever chuckling over the Supreme Court transcripts for two cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, it’s clear we need to celebrate with something simple and sassy, something that waves the colors and is topped with a veil of crème fraîche.

I vow love for this early spring salad: love, love love.  It’s my take on downtown restaurant Belly‘s tangled beet salad.  I’ve loved her since the day I met her — only a week or two after the restaurant opened.  It was a little unusual, I’ll admit, for one so carnivorous to love, really, what amounted to a pile of leaves, but we weren’t committed to traditional and outdated definitions of marriage, only fearing the censure of the courts.  So we capered about, rejoicing in our newly minted promise to be true.  We occasionally faced tough times, sometimes united in furtive silence, sometimes daringly holding hands in front of our close friends.

And being progressive and the sharing type, I’m opening up this relationship to you.  You can thank me in your champagne toast.

Keep in mind that she’s a local girl.  You can pick her up in the markets this weekend.  Some tender, nubile cabbages are ready now, or you might have a wizened old specimen hanging out in your crisper — I don’t judge.  Beets are also a great storage crop, so I hope you have some left or can get some larger ones at the market.  You made some berry vinegar last year, right?  This salad cries out for the special combination of sweet berries with vinegar, and I even add more fruitiness with a splash of pickled cherry juice.  Spearmint and fennel fronds are up in gardens right now; you might skip the fennel but don’t omit the mint.

Crème fraîche, which is essential to serve on the side, is stupidly easy to make with some cream and buttermilk. Don’t you dare buy it.  Recipe below.

So if you think we shouldn’t legislate love and really want to move forward, this salad is really a perfect way to celebrate spring, when the world is mud-luscious, and the queer old balloonman whistles far and wee.

Beet and Cabbage Salad with Mint, Fennel, and Crème Fraîche

Serves 4.

  • 1/2 small head of red cabbage, or quarter head if larger (aim for 5-6 cups of shreds)
  • 1 medium dark red beet (3-4-inch diameter)
  • 3-4 shallots, sliced very thinly
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed (salt-cured are better than brined)
  • 2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons berry vinegar (substitute balsamic)
  • splash of pickled cherry juice or cranberry juice, if you have it
  • handful of spearmint, leaves rolled up and sliced finely in chiffonade
  • fennel frond tips, torn into little pieces
  • 1/2 cup or more crème fraîche

Shred the cabbage as finely as you can with a knife.  Do the same with the shallots, then soak shallot shreds in cold water for 5-10 minutes to remove some of the strong flavor.  Drain.  Using a box grater, grate the beet.  Toss vegetables with the salt and capers, and set aside for 15-30 minutes.  Whisk together the oil and vinegar, and add to shreds.  Just before serving, add the splash of juice, then top bowl with a chiffonade of spearmint and little fennel frond bits.  Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraîche for each serving.

Crème Fraîche

Makes 1.25 pints.

  • 1 pint freshest, most organic, lovely heavy cream you can find
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 quart-sized jar (pint is too small)

Plan ahead several days before serving, as it takes time to set up.  In the gloomy, rainy PNW, it often takes mine three days, but I like it thick and tangy.

Mix together cream and buttermilk in a sterilized jar.  Cover with cheesecloth and let sit on the counter for anywhere from 1-3 days, depending on how thick you want the final product.  The longer you wait, the stronger the flavor.  Don’t bother mixing it, as it will even out over time and get a uniform thickness.  Refrigerate and enjoy with soups, salads, or desserts.

drunken botanist on the radio 3/24/13

Drunken-Botanist-high-resJust in time to celebrate the beginning of spring planting, we are so excited to have Amy Stewart, bestselling author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, on our radio show today, Sunday, March 24, at noon.

Amy is a garden writer of renown, and her new book compiles a glossary of great herbs, plants, and trees that provide us with all the flavors that make up our liquors, cocktails, and other delicious drinks.  She promotes old-fashioned herbs like borage and new vegetables like the Mexican sour gherkin, discussing everything from suze-and-soda to roll-your-own cinnamon.  Expect some wonderful stories and a wicked charm!

We’re also pleased to host Cottage Grove grower Alice Doyle, whose Log House Plants are a continuing source of joy for so many of us in Lane County.  Alice opens her business, one of the foundations of our garden industry, to myriad local volunteer workshops; I visited her during my Master Gardener training a few years ago to practice grafting.  Little did I know she was hard at work creating the grafted tomatoes that became the nationwide stars of the 2011 garden season.  She’ll be discussing her grafted vegetables and the brand new Drunken Botanist starts collections that she developed with Amy, now available at places like Down to Earth, Gray’s, and Jerry’s.  You *must* check them out, and have a listen!  Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

german wine dinner joy

IMG_3034We had some scrumptious wines at Marché recently.  If you are someone who sticks safely to Oregon Pinot Gris or finds comfort in the red side of the wine rainbow, I understand; I really do.  But over the years, I’ve started hungering for more, and the odd poetry of some of the more interesting whites has grabbed me and won’t let go.  This is scary, of course, because a wine habit attaches to one’s pocketbook, and my purse always seems to have a hole at the bottom.*

Ewald Moseler, for those of you who don’t know, is a godsend.  He’s a distributor who has been importing German and Austrian wines and educating Americans from his base in Portland for almost thirty years.  Ryan managed to coax him to come down to Eugene for one of Chef Crystal Platt’s wonderful special tasting dinners.  This was an unusual move, as wine dinners usually feature a label or a type of wine.  But well worth it.

To welcome in spring, try a dry Riesling. I can’t emphasize this enough. The color is perfect for the season, a little neon-greenish, almost highlighter yellow.  The characteristic smell of fresh little flowers and honey and pear — wrapped in PVC — will shake you out of your complacency.  If the fetish appeal doesn’t grab you, then think of it this way: this wine is a sweet and obliging servant, kind of like a French maid. In PVC. Oops, I’m back in the fetish stuff again, sorry.  So let’s just put it like this: Riesling usually features a strong acid component that balances out the gentle sweetness, acting almost like a cleaning crew for sugars in the wine to enliven your palate.  Which is perfect for spring, no?

IMG_3019We tried three beautiful Rieslings at the tasting dinner:

(1) a bubbly one (!) called Wingut Diehl Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken Roschbacker Rosenkränzel from Pfalz (2009) with pork rillettes and roasted bone marrow toasts drizzled with rose hip jam (above);

(2) a dry (Trocken) Selbach “Blauschiefer” from Mosel (2011) with a perfectly browned sea bass chunk over bold green miner’s lettuce and little asparagus with a grassy swath of nettle purée (below — the picture doesn’t do it justice, sorry);  and

IMG_3025(3)  A deep, intense dessert Riesling:  Christoffel Jr. Riesling Ausles “Ürziger Würzgarten” from Mosel-Saar-Wuwer (1999), a wine that could have been only better with a longer finish so I could have it in my mouth for but a few more moments.  It was served with an apple crostata accompanied by a brilliantly paired unsugared buttermilk mousse.

IMG_3033O how I wish Crystal were able to integrate more experimental dishes into the rather conservative Marché menu, since her food is fabulous and the way she integrates seasonal ingredients, often foraged or PNW-oriented, could renew and envigorate many of the French bistro classics.  I think she’d soon gain a following of her own, not to mention we need to support talented, innovative women in the high-end restaurant biz.

And the pairings were so good.  The entrée of braised then fried boar over red cabbage and what seemed like a lardo and mustardseed mayonnaise special sauce to me, paired with another Wingut Diehl wine, this time a Gewürztraminer Kabinett from Pfalz (2011) might have just transformed me into a Gewürz drinker.  It certainly did nothing to quell my yearning for Central European food.

IMG_3032The only almost miss of the evening was the dish served with the only red, the only Pinot Noir (!) of the evening, an example of how climate change is allowing wine growers to put in grapes farther north than ever.  Morel mushrooms mired in a potatoey swamp of purée, with wild vegetation and flowers growing up around it gave off an Oregon rainy winter vibe, but it didn’t seem to be grounded in anything.  Still, it was an interesting pairing with a Mayschosser Spätburgunder Trocken (2011) that was unlike either our Oregon beloveds or the California pinots we spurn.  Pinot aficionados might want to take note that Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, and it is always Trocken.  The Ahr is the region in which you’ll find it now grown.

IMG_3029So all of this brings me to an unsatisfied conclusion.  Where can I get more of these delicious German wines?  Well, Ryan told me he’s bringing some in to Provisions, or you could visit one of the places Ewald services up in Portland by joining his email list.  Either way, they’re a must try.

Thanks, Ewald and Ryan, for making this happen!  Hope we can do it again soon.

*Note: I wasn’t paid a red cent for covering this dinner.  It was absolutely, totally, completely all my pleasure and I had to go home with a few extra bottles, too.  Growing hole in pocketbook.  Q.E.D.

queen of hungary water

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I love the idea of Queen of Hungary water, often credited as the world’s first alcohol-based perfume.  The original idea is lovely: a medieval distilled rosemary flower infusion made in the spring when the violet-colored little blossoms burst open and can be preserved in a strong spirit.  And that time, my friends, is now.

Jennifer Heise, a SCA educator and herbalist, provides a helpful history of Queen of Hungary water, including some court intrigue and speculation about which queen of Hungary may have been the first to use it, plus some good ol’ medieval advice about taking the water to heal your withered limbs.  I based my recipe off Heise’s research and experimentation with liquids and herbs, deciding that I would try only the flowers and flower buds of rosemary, since i have them.  I also added a few buds of my lemon-scented Greek bay flowers that are forming now, thinking “if it grows together, it goes together.”  It smells quite nice already, just 16 hours or so after I did my plucking.

498px-Titian_Venus_Mirror_(furs)And why did I make this?  Well, it’s the name, really.  Queen of Hungary.  There she is.  A queen swathed in auburn fur — fur collar and cuffs and a giant fur hat with a spring of rosemary for a flourish.  It’s probably too warm in Hungary for all that, but in my mind she’s the Sacher-Masoch tyrant in Titian red.  Black kidskin gloves and a little riding crop. Hot temper. Her lips are reddened by paprika and she pinches her cheeks to bring out the glow when she’s not out taming wild Magyar horses or shouting orders to the cavalry. Queen of Hungary, a hungry queen.  Not hungry in the way I’m hungry, which is for some lunch.  But hungry in a mad way, hungry for the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Sigh. I’ve written about her before.  I’ve turned her into a winter squash recipe, even, Squash Whip Queen of Hungary, and wrote about her for the Eugene Weekly.  I love that combination of rosemary, bourbon, and sweet dark orange squash.  I still see her in all those colors.

But now it’s spring, and now I’m thinking I might play up the green of it all. Heise notes one can use the Queen as a period-appropriate perfumes for SCA events and the like, but I wonder if the perfume will really linger.  I’ll likely use the concoction cut with a little water as a skin toner.  Or if things get much worse, I’ll just drink it with a little bubbly and lemon as a Hungarian 75.

UPDATE 4/29:  The queen has turned warm brown and sweet.  It wasn’t at all what I expected!  The flavors are like a soft brown bread, wholly unlike rosemary at all, and the tincture is the color of vanilla extract (so it would stain the skin if used as perfume.  Hm.  Am thinking I should have followed the advice of the recipe more closely to use dried herbs and not flowers.  More experimentation to come with the tincture!

Queen of Hungary Water

  • As many rosemary flowers and flowerbuds as you can pick, separated from the green resinous leaves
  • 100-proof vodka
  • optional, one or a few of the following: a swath of orange or lemon peel, a few bay buds, lemon balm

Pick flowers and buds, being careful to pick on a dry day in the morning for maximum scent.  Spread out on a tray to remove browned bits and let bugs reveal themselves.  Do not rinse, just shake a little and clear out detritus.  Add flowers and buds and optional add-ons to a jar, packing lightly, then top with vodka.  You want to aim for half flowers, half vodka, but it’s not a precise measurement.

I’ll revise the recipe once I know how mine turns out.

go green!

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I generally don’t much go for the St. Patrick’s Day boozefest and stay off the roads, but for those who do, I’ve shared a few ways on Facebook for locals to revel around town with great drink specials and corned beef and cabbage, Begorrah! Let me know if I’ve missed your favorite spot.

And while you’re there, be sure to “friend” or “like” me if you’re interested in local events and restaurant specials.  I often share them on Facebook, since it’s easier than writing long, infrequent event postings here.

If you get so excited by corned beef, you might want to try my very basic, simple annotated version of the MFP recipe for corning your own brisket or tongue.  Try it served with the wild greens colcannon recipe I shared last year:

What better time to experiment with a wild green colcannon that wild foods expert Hank Shaw posted on his blog the other day? Colcannon is fancy mashed potatoes, usually made with spring onions and kale or cabbage, that the Irish serve with a pat of melty butter.  Hank brilliantly realized this humble side dish would be enhanced with wild greens like cow parsnip or nettles.

As for me, I used the wild onions that spring up in the grass in March in Oregon, and some arugula that had gone feral in my garden.

If I were to change anything in his recipe, I’d blanch the greens first before sauteing them in butter alone, and I’d emphasize strongly that they should be chopped very finely.  No one wants a tough tongue of limp arugula in their mashed potatoes.  And I know from personal experience.

As for me, I’ll be celebrating the green by riding around on my bike this afternoon.  I just got a new lock and a new basket and I need the practice, so I’ve been going out to pick up a loaf of bread or to check out the progress on various neighborhood projects.  Pretty soon I’ll pluck up the nerve to go for a longer outing.  If you see me out in the wild with a flat tire or a broken chain or fighting off some snakes with a staff, help a sister out!

 

 

 

has it sprung?

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Did you get some gardening done during this sunny, gorgeously warm weekend?  I finally planted the peas (Green Arrow and Cascadia shellpeas and Oregon Sugar Pod II snowpea) at the end of last week, hedging my bets again this year by planting both seed and starts.  Getting smarter in my old age.  So I had some time to weed all the back beds, turn the compost, and do some pruning of the blackcaps, raspberries, grapes, and elderberries.

If you haven’t pulled out the Little Western Bittercress yet, do it very soon, as the little seeds are almost ready to shoot across the garden and into your eye.  True story, 2011.  It’s fine to leave it in until about now, because it does serve as a weedy cover crop if you have enough, but you want to move fast now as the flowers and seed heads form.  If you don’t know what it looks like, see former Food for Thought co-host and former Corvallis blogger Laura McCandlish’s post and images.

I also started chitting potatoes, German Butterball and a new variety called Island Sunshine (says a customer: “Developed by two organic farming brothers on Prince Edward Island. Most talked about yellow variety since Yukon Gold appeared in 1980. Most resistant to late blight. Thin smooth yellow skin, creamy yellow flesh.”).  Much smaller crop this year, but i’m going to try to get more yield.

I love this time of year, because I find the difficult transition of the sleeping plants into spring helps me celebrate the passage of time and the cyclical nature of life instead of just feeling morose, aging, damp, and cold.  Flowering quince (above) are my favorite of the flowering plants and bushes in Eugene, and we have many from which to choose.  What are yours?

Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed we don’t get snow.  Let’s not forget about the First Day of Spring Snowstorm last year:

IMG_0617That’s my flowering quince before I ran outside, dodging a downed powerline, to beat the snow off the branches and flowers with a broom.  Because no one, and I mean NO ONE, is going to ruin my damn quince flower quality time.