Saturday, June 19, 2010

Foraged Mulberries and Fresh Strawberries with Tarragon or Mint Recipe

“No, no. We don’t spray pesticides on the mulberry trees. We don’t want to kill anything; there’s enough dead stuff around here,” said the cemetery guard in a singy Jamaican accent, smiling at his joke, and flashing a few gold teeth. Speaking with the background soundtrack of the squawking green parrots that nest in the neo-Gothic spires of the entrance to the historic Greenwood cemetery, the guard used the back of his hand to wave me toward the weeping branches, “eat them; go on; they’re sweet. I used to eat them. Now they stain my dentures.”

Mulberries do stain. In fact, if my head’s down, I recognize these trees by their fallen fruit, and what looks like spilled ink from tiny inkwells decorating the sidewalk. Remembering that it was in Turkey, and with my father, that I first learned about mulberries, I collected a couple of handfuls and ate most of them on the spot. They stained my fingers and hands, sure, but it’s surprising that these sweet berries, less seeded than raspberries or blackberries, and less acidic, too, aren’t more popular here than they are. A folk remedy in Turkey, and used to treat colds and flu and even constipation, mulberries possess all the powerful anti-oxidants found as anthocyanins of other berries, and are also high in resveratrol, the phytonutrient found in the skin of red grapes, and purported to prevent and fight cancer, and extend the life span in mice.

Delicious and healthy, I’m devouring the season’s prevalent berries, and in addition to my foraged mulberries, I’ve been enjoying locally grown, organic strawberries in bulk. With berries like this, all you need is a bowl and a spoon, but sometimes I like to enhance their natural flavor with fresh herbs. This week, I alternated adding some mint or tarragon to the strawberries, but eating them plain has been the preferred method. For breakfast, I finished off the last of my harvested mulberries, so I think a trip later today to the cemetery may be in order. But this time, I'll bring a bowl for the harvest that will, most likely, exceed what I can carry in my two hands. Free berries, can't beat it.

Fresh Strawberries with Tarragon or Mint Recipe

one carton fresh, organic strawberries (organic is important, as most non-organic berries contain pesticide residue)

2-3 tablespoons tarragon or mint leaves (or more or less, to taste)

Combine ingredients.

What could be simpler, healthier, or more delicious? Ah, summertime.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Holland Herring (Hollandse Nieuwe Haring)

Even before leaving New York for Amsterdam I craved herring. I spent a month in this city of canals three years ago, where herring, smoked mackerel, and nearly overflowing delicate glasses full of jenever, the ancient precursor to gin, were regular staples in my diet, and I missed them. Upon arrival, and all hazy jet-laggy, I made my way along peaceful canals to a herring cart for lunch, where I was thrilled to discover that the Hollandse nieuwe haring, the first catch of the season, were set to arrive on June 8th, two days before our departure. Oh, happy herring day, this June 8th.

The new herring arrives in late spring with fanfare. Many decorated ships come into port to deliver their catch; the most beautifully adorned ships win prizes; and later, the first batch of herring is auctioned off for charity, this year to a charity educating children about healthy eating and cooking. Before arriving at the fish stalls, the herring are cleaned of everything but their pancreatic glands, which are left intact to help the fish ripen and develop flavor, and then the fish are preserved in a little salt and flash frozen. At the fish stalls, the pancreatic glands are removed, the fish are thawed, and they are served raw, either whole and plain, or, cut up into bite sized pieces, and served with a little onion and pickle. To eat the herring, traditional Dutch tip their heads back, dangle the fish by their tails, lower them into their mouths, and enjoy the smooth silkiness in a few sumptuous bites. Nothing extra. No onion, no pickle.

I tasted the new herring three ways: plain, with small amounts of onion and pickle, and in a sandwich. To maximize the sensual texture and subtle flavor of this oily fish, I preferred the herring plain, but in a sandwich they made a filling lunch. These young herring have a fat content between 16 and 25 percent, and so are a valuable source of Omega-3 fatty acids. They are largely mercury free, sustainable, and with a small glass of corenwyn, a form a jenever, they make a heavenly meal. Free of the cloying sweetness of most herring, these fish taste purely and clearly like silky sensual herring fish silveriness.

I’m back in New York now, and so you may run into me at the Grand Central Oyster Bar where these North Sea herring are available until June 25th, or at Russ and Daughters, where you may see me at the counter, head tipped back, fish poised for consumption, where these lovelies are available until I eat them all. Nah, I’ll share. Come on over.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mizuna Salad with Cherries, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Hazelnuts Recipe

I made salad this week. Why? Well, to counteract the Voodoo Doughnuts that I ate from the revolving tray in the video below. And not to belabor the point, but I have to squeeze myself into a flesh colored unitard in a mere eight days. Yes, that means a nude colored unitard. Nude, as in, naked. For an audience. Me, naked looking, with a gimpy foot, in front of an audience. For an hour. Dancing around. Gimpily. So I did not want Froot Loop (TM) encrusted doughuts or Kool-Aid (TM) flavored doughnuts, or those doughnuts with chemically blue sparkly sprinkly toppings showing up on the outsides (or insides) of my thighs, really, and making matters worse, even if they were vegan, the ones I ate whole. And yes, I confess; I ate half (ok, maybe three-quarters) of a bacon maple doughnut log thing, too, not vegan at all that maple bacon log thing, so, yeah, after all that sugar, those vegan doughnuts, the bacon on the doughnuts (bacon on the doughnuts) well, I needed a salad, craved a salad.

Inspired by the strawberry and spinach combination I ate at Portland's Paley’s, I traveled to my food coop in search of heirloom strawberries with concentrated, vibrant flavor, and instead, because local ones aren’t yet available, I found giant, mealy strawberries that I predicted would have holes in the middle. And they did. But these weren’t magical holes like those Voodoo doughnuts with the real magic, so I substituted tasty cherries instead. Cherries, goat cheese, mizuna, and hazelnuts -- a perfect Portland tribute. And very flesh-colored unitard friendly.

Mizuna Salad with Cherries, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Hazelnuts Recipe

5 cherries per plate, halved, pits removed
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper
hazelnuts, toasted, about 7 nuts per plate
1 bunch mizuna (or similar tasting green, such as arugula), ripped into bite-sized pieces
goat cheese, crumbled, about 1 ounce per plate

Note from Banu: the above ingredient quantities are estimates, please use your own discretion about the amount of each ingredient you use.

Soak the cherries in balsamic vinegar for a few hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Remove the cherries, and add some olive oil (to taste; I like my salad dressing with more vinegar than the classical proportions of 3 to 1 oil to vinegar), salt and pepper.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium high heat, being careful not to burn them.

Toss the mizuna with the vinaigrette, and add the crumbled goat cheese for the final mix.

Serve the greens on salad plates garnished with the cherries and toasted hazelnuts.


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