July 28, 2014

Daylily Fritters

Shh, don't tell anyone, but there's a little song that goes off inside my head when I'm eating flowers. It's the flower eating song! I like this song… as you may have noticed from my posts on Rose Petal Coconut Semifreddo, Dandelion Marmalade, and Lilac Scones.

I think it's the same song I used to sing when I was little and building elf castles in the woods. It's the song of magical things.

The first time someone told me daylilies are edible, I had a mini epiphany. I remember carefully chewing on the petals, taking in their flavour and marvelling that this common flower can not only be admired for its majestic beauty, but also eaten. (Possibly imparting magical flower kingdom superpowers… just possibly.) 

The petals are delicious in salads and you can eat the young shoots of the plant, and even boil the tubers like potatoes! (I haven't tried those yet.)

But what I want to tell you about today are the buds… oh the buds. As delicious as asparagus, in my opinion. I love to sauté them in a little butter and garlic or make frittatas with them.

But dipped in an apple cider batter and deep-fried like this, they are a real treat. 

Daylilies are so-called because they bloom for only one day. Hence why I was able to easily capture the blooming time lapses in this recipe video (waking up with the sunrise in order to catch them unfurling their elegant petals). And also hence why I feel a little less guilty, stealing future flowers, and taking some of the bees' food away from them. They are a prolific flower. But as with most wild foraging, it's good practice to pick sparingly, and not leave too visible of a dent or sign of your passage. 

But if your backyard is bursting at the seams with daylilies, I'd say you can go to town. Have a daylily feast.

But before you go to town, a word of caution: daylilies are not actually "true lilies" and some true lilies (which grow from bulbs rather than a tuber) such as Easter lilies are toxic for humans (and animals too). So be sure you've properly identified the daylily. And as with any wild food you've never tasted before, it's a good idea to start with a tiny taste, and see if you have an adverse reaction such as an allergy or upset stomach.

I highly recommend eating these daylily fritters as a summertime campfire treat. You may even be able to forage for them around your camping site.

Whichever way you chose to prepare them, I hope you'll have a little taste and enjoy one of summertime's unusual culinary gifts.

To get my recipe for easy apple cider (or beer) battered daylily bud fritters, catch my post on PBS Food.

Bon appétit!

July 09, 2014

Strawberry Sorbet Brownie Sandwiches

Are you ready for pure summer decadence? I hope so, cuz here it comes.

As you may know, I'm a fan of frozen desserts that don't require an ice cream maker, as in this one, and this one. And I've been oggling homemade DIY ice cream sandwiches online for years but they just seemed like one of those Martha Stewart Pinterestey things that real people don't actually make.

But seeing as we've been swimming in strawberries lately, I've been racking my brain to make every strawberry recipe I can come up with. There's been strawberry scones, balsamic strawberry thyme jam (hell yeah!), strawberry cheesecake brownies, strawberry muffins, chocolate-dipped strawberries (a nod to my sis), and of course, strawberry shortcake (nod to my Grammy). Yes, seriously, it's been busy in this kitchen. And I'm almost sick of strawberries. Almost. But not quite.

And then in the middle of all that strawberry mayhem, I had an epiphany about strawberry sorbet and how dead easy it is to make it. And how if your berries are ever so sweet and ripe, you barely have to add anything at all to turn them into creamy frozen deliciousness. And after that, making chewy brownies to smush that sorbet into just seemed like the right thing to do. 

So without exactly intending to, I made an ice cream sandwich! And guess what? It didn't take long and there wasn't really much to it. And also, I should mention, now I'm an addict. This recipe seriously needs to come with a warning label. Though now that I've realized ice cream sandwiches are right up there with burgers as ridiculously obnoxious and difficult to photograph and make look good on camera, I probably won't be making anymore of these for the blog anytime soon, haha!

So this is the first year we've grown strawberries. We felt like proud parents. We grew 5 different varieties, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and it's been kind of a test run to see if we could have an organic strawberry 'pick-your-own' in coming years. We've got a lot to learn still about soil fertility, crop rotation, how to manage those pesky weevels and slugs, and how to prevent mold damage. But we're making progress and for a first year, it was quite a success.

Growing strawberries falls somewhere between utter delight (picture filling quarts for the market in the breezy evening sunset with the birds singing overhead and the midcoast Maine hills looking gloriously lush and green) and pure pain on those gruelling days of weeding in the hot sun, days when the blackflies are out with a vengeance and unless you've had your 8 full hours of beauty sleep (or 4 cups of coffee), weeding one more row or picking one more quart seems like an eternity of backache. We joked that it was an emotional roller coaster picking the berries because one moment we'd be in a patch where we'd Oooh and Aaah and pat ourselves on the back at how juicy and perfect our beloved berries were, and then a few feet later, we'd be cursing and almost in tears because every one of our largest, most beautiful berries were either devoured by slugs or mice or covered in mold.

But the bottom-line is that we already can't wait to do it all over again next year. And the biggest joy of all, was in knowing that we grew these babies without a single harmful chemical and that the critters that share this land and berry patch with us are all happy and well, no matter how angry it made us when they partook in our strawberry feasting.

For my strawberry sorbet brownie sandwich recipe, go to this week's PBS Food blogpost.

July 01, 2014

Tunisian Spinach Rice or Riz Djerbien

I will never forget the first time I ate this dish. 

I was visiting my dear friend Synda in Tunisia, and her downstairs neighbour who is from the island of Djerba had offered to make us a big bowl of this rice, prepared in the authentic Djerbian way. We had barely eaten anything that day in anticipation of this meal, so by the time Khalti Baya called us downstairs, we were two very, very hungry girls. We sat in her tiny dark living room and she ceremoniously emerged from her kitchen with the largest bowl I'd ever seen, filled with a deep red rice flecked with dark green. The steamy fragrance emanating from the magical rice was out of this world. We each grabbed a spoon and dove in, eating straight out of the same bowl in traditional Tunisian style. Well. Our mouths began to burn, our cheeks turned bright red, and we broke into a sweat. But we couldn't slow our voracious feasting down because it was one of the most delicious things we had ever tasted in our lives. So we just kept eating and eating, moaning and panting through the pain and laughing with pleasure, sweat pouring down our faces, mouths on fire. My whole head felt like the lid on a boiling kettle of water, whistling and ready to pop right off. The memory is seared into my brain forever as an oddly wonderful blend of agony and delight. I guess that's why people like spicy food so much, it gives you such a strange pleasure high. 

It's a challenge to exactly recreate the magic of Khalti Baya's "Rouz Djerbi" or "Riz Djerbien" as it's called in Tunisia, but Synda's version is equally delicious, though a bit less spicy, especially when she makes it for a western audience :-) But you can adapt this recipe to the level of heat you like, adding more hot peppers or cayenne if you wish. And of course, if you can get your hands on some real Tunisian harissa, throw in a couple tablespoonfuls as well!

One thing I love about this recipe is how you simply mix all the ingredients in one giant bowl. Then steam the whole thing for an hour. So aside from the rinsing and chopping of vegetables, it's really fairly quick and easy to prepare.

Be sure to use a long grain white rice such as basmati, and not the short sweet brown rice you see in the above video, I made the mistake of thinking I could use another kind of rice than what is used in Tunisia and it was too heavy and sticky in the final dish. 

You can sub other greens in lieu of the spinach, but try to use spinach if you can, it will yield the best results. The gorgeous spinach you see in the video is from the one and only Hatchet Cove Farm in Maine. A large leaf, freshly harvested local organic spinach is recommended, if available.

As they say in Tunisia, shehia taeeba (bon appétit)!

For the recipe, visit my post on PBS Food.