Foraging For Juneberries and Mulberries Close to Home

This morning I was perusing my Twitter feed and came across this tweet by Leda Meredith, a food preservation expert and forager here in NYC—she mentioned juneberries:

I followed the link to her blog post, where she talked more about juneberries. She mentioned that they were also called serviceberries, which triggered a memory of hearing about serviceberry trees not far from my apartment, and since it was still early enough in the morning, I headed out to find them.

When I arrived in the area I thought would be home to the serviceberry trees, I didn’t see them at first, and was a little bummed out… until I looked further down the hill and saw a tree full of berries—and there were a lot of them. [bctt tweet=”Juneberry jackpot!”]

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Continue reading “Foraging For Juneberries and Mulberries Close to Home”

CSA Season Starts Again – My 10th Year With the Hellgate CSA

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Our first share of the 2015 Hellgate CSA season, in a rad new space.

This week marks my tenth season with the Hellgate CSA, a community supported agriculture organization that I helped establish up in northwestern Queens. A little history: it was originally called the Ravenswood CSA, based in the Ravenswood Houses senior center, and as CSAs work in NYC it was passed on the following year from the Americorps member who staffed it, to an all-volunteer team. The members interested in forming the core group all lived above the GCP, so we brought it north.

I was a core member for eight seasons (2006-2013) and am happy to see the CSA still going, well-managed by the current core group. I left the core group for a variety of reasons, one being my desire to move on and make room for new experiences. But I wanted to remain a member, so here I am.

(The other day I realized I’ve been a member of a CSA on and off for about 24 years; my first CSA experience was with Full Belly Farm in CA, which started my love of CSAs and eating seasonally.)

We’re also in a nice new space, away from the elements, and with a lot more room than we’ve had in the past.

Continue reading “CSA Season Starts Again – My 10th Year With the Hellgate CSA”

The Joy of White Moustache Yogurt

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For a little while now, I’ve seen this fancy-looking yogurt in specialty shops in NYC—White Moustache brand. It comes in glass containers, has a hip look (moustaches are big in NYC these days), and is made Persian-style, which is a thick, strained-type yogurt (think FAGE). While shopping at Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street, I came across it and decided to take the plunge—and boy, am I glad I did.

This is the best yogurt I’ve ever tasted—even better than the strained raw yogurt I make at home. It has a wonderful texture—smooth and creamy, yet light, and was perfectly balanced in the sweet/tang department. You’d that that even with sweetened sour cherries, the yogurt would taste more sour than most, but this did not have any harshness to it whatsoever. The natural sweetness of the milk is clear in the taste of the yogurt.

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The yogurt itself takes three days to make, and is truly handcrafted. They fill each container by hand and make all the fruit/veg elements. A jar at Murray’s was priced at $5.99, and I think with all things taken into consideration, it’s worth it.  Continue reading “The Joy of White Moustache Yogurt”

Making Berbere and Melekesha, Two Traditional Ethiopian Spice Blends

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I’ve mentioned it before—both here and various other places over the years—that Ethiopian food is one of my favorite cuisines. I first tasted it when I lived in Berkeley, and fell in love immediately, in particular with the spiced red lentil dish called Yemesir Wot, also known as Mesir Wot. My first tastes were during my vegetarian years, and this dish was heaven for me.

I learned that one of the ways Ethiopian food tastes like it does is the use of berbere, a traditional spice blend made with a dozen or so spices, including chiles, ginger, and fenugreek, among others. The word berbere means “hot” in Amharic—and it is quite spicy, but so flavorful. You can buy it pre-made but I’ve decided to make it from scratch, combining the spices myself.

Starting out on this project, I thought berbere was an exact mix of spices, but in hindsight, I realize that was a bit naive. It certainly does vary, and I imagine so from town to town, kitchen to kitchen. There are recipes out there with more exotic (to this Westerner) ingredients like rue, which is bitter and apparently contributes to “gastric distress” but must be in there for some reason. I evaluated the following mixes:

  • Marcus Samuelsson—coriander, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, white cardamom pods, cloves, dried onion flakes, dried chiles de árbol, paprika, kosher salt, nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon.
  • Karl Lueck (Jabberwocky Stew)—Sweet Hungarian paprika, Spanish paprika, Indian chili power, ajwain, dried basil, cardamom seeds, fenugreek, dried ginger, nigella.
  • Celtnet—cumin seeds, cloves, Ethiopian cardamom (Aframomum corrorima) seeds (or black cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, allspice berries, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, piri-piri chillies, dried ginger, turmeric, sea salt, paprika, cinnamon, thyme leaves

There’s also the Wikipedia description of berbere that includes chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.

The big constant among the recipes is fenugreek, a spice I really have never used before. It has both sweet and bitter elements to it and I understand it plays well with other spices. Ginger and chiles of some sort are also constants in most berbere recipes.  Continue reading “Making Berbere and Melekesha, Two Traditional Ethiopian Spice Blends”

The Flavor Project

 

Meyer lemons from the Lemon Ladies

Meyer lemons, which are great for making preserved lemons.

Over the years, I’ve encountered ingredients that have intrigued, delighted, and/or piqued my interest and palate, but for some reason, I only just considered them or enjoyed them for a short time, usually at the time I’ve tasted them. I’ve decided that I’d like to spend a little more time with some of those ingredients, getting to know them, learning about each for month or so, and of course, cooking with them. Here’s the list:

  • Berbere
  • Pomegranate Molasses
  • Fresh Turmeric
  • Bergamot
  • Tamarind
  • Yuzu
  • Preserved Lemon
  • Kaffir Lime Leaf
  • Cilantro
  • Bitter Melon
  • Black Vinegar
  • Kimchi

Interestingly enough, many of these sit on the tart/tang side of the flavor spectrum, but this does not surprise me. Normally I don’t care for bitter things, but I’d love to learn to at least appreciate bitter melon, and see this more as a challenge with the hope that I’ll even learn to like it.

The first item on the list is berbere, which is, of course, a significant element in Ethiopian food, one of my favorite global cuisines. When I lived in Berkeley, I ate a lot of Ethiopian/Eritrean food; here in NYC, it’s not as prevalent, or so it seems. For years I’ve told myself I’d learn to make berbere, so why not start with that? I’ve also got a bag of teff that is calling to me to make injera, too. More on this in future posts.

Here’s to starting a new food project!

Intrigued by the 2014 Thaithentic Food and Culture Festival

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A Google alert brought me to the site for Thaitentic, a Thai food and culture festival, apparently the first of its kind in NYC. I love the flavors of Thai food, especially kaffir lime leaf, and have eaten a lot of American-style Thai food, but I’m curious to learn more about the cuisine, especially flavor profiles.

The culture is also something I’d welcome getting to know better, especially music and dance. For a year at CalArts I studied the music and dance of another southeast Asian culture, that of Bali, and just loved it. I’d be curious to see what similarities/dissimilarities there are between the cultures in their music and dance. Thai art and sport are also part of this event.

As for the food, it is nice to see some familiar Queens Thai restaurants participating—Sripraphai, Ayada, and Zabb Elee. I’m less familiar with Spice, which has a location in LIC. The featured chefs are Pichet Ong, Pastry Chef and Executive Chef at Chi (I have not been but would like to) and Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame.

Tickets are $45 but if you want to go an hour early for the VIP hour, it’s $70. The event is on Saturday, August 23 from 7 to 10 p.m. at espaceny (635 W 42nd Street, almost to the Hudson River). 21+ older only (Singha is one of the sponsors). If I go I will definitely write up my experience. Sounds like it could be an interesting and delicious time!

Mid-Summer Update

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Watermelon Salad at The Queens Kickshaw—one of the best things I’ve had all summer.

Well, it’s been a while since I gave my poor blog some attention. Perhaps this will be the beginning of its resurrection, maybe not; I won’t make any predictions.

Things are going well—I’m writing a lot on We Heart Astoria and We Heart LIC, which is the kind of fun times that don’t feel like work. I was on the radio again! Always a good time. I’m swimming a lot, too, so I’m SO HUNGRY. I’ve been eating a lot of egg-and-cheese-on-a-roll breakfast sandwiches post-swim workout—which, by the way, burns about 800 calories. I love these sandwiches at Zorba’s, a little neighborhood spot that also makes my current favorite frappe, an iced coffee beverage popular in places like Greece and Bulgaria.

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It’s a slightly sweet and milky coffee drink made from Nescafe coffee. I’m a big fan.

Other summer food activities include making sun tea (yes, I’m a child of the 80s), horchata, cold brew coffee, and eating a lot of vegetables from my CSA, which is in full swing now. Recent restaurant trips include The Queens Kickshaw, where I tried their new fabulous Summer menu (see the watermelon salad above); Spicy Lanka, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Jamaica that is awesome; Pye Boat Noodle, home to incredible noodle soups and tasty snacks; and Khao Kang, a new Thai steam table restaurant with some seriously good food. And cheap! I think 3 dishes were $7.50. More on all these later.

Guilty (not really, but you know what I mean) pleasures: Bounty Bars and Days of Our Lives.