Sunday, June 9, 2013
Both at home abroad and abroad at home, I nest wherever I go, and I wander when I'm at home. It's all such an adventure, eggs and soldiers and country roads. Without fail, I decide I'm going to move to every place I travel. Ireland was no exception, and I harbor not so secret fantasies of him pursuing his masters in psychology at Trinity while I attend Ballymaloe Cookery School, of weekends getting lost in a labyrinth of stone walls built for stone walls sake, for the sake of too many stones. The way I see it, one day I won't wake up from one of my dreams. Some are bound to come true. I throw lots of pennies in the well. Maybe Ireland will be my waking dream.
I know for two verdant weeks of the devil beating his wife in May it was. When it rains and shines at the same time that's what we say, what southerner's say, that "the devil's beating his wife". At least that's what I heard this one time somewhere, once. I don't remember really. All I know is that whenever it rains and shines I think "the devil's beating his wife". I thought that a lot in Ireland. The weather's everything they say it is, a year of season's in a day. It makes the land feel fierce & ruled by hormonal deities, hot and cold and young. Sauvage! the French say. It's a land of ley lines & neoliths, sea cliffs & faerie rings. But also endless cups of tea, smoked fish, raw cheese, and elderflower cordial. And rainbows and rainbows and double rainbows. Our first day in Dublin the sun shone all day.
We flew into Dublin though we really had our eye on the west. I hear Shannon has a very nice airport, much overlooked. The locals went on about it, what a shame that it isn't used, that no one knows. We'll look into it next time as should anyone aiming for the west of Ireland. But I'm glad we spent a little time in Dublin, not sorry about that at all though it was really only one jet lagged day. Off the plane we hopped a bus to the Cliff Townhouse (opting to pick up our car the next morning to avoid the apparent terror of driving as a foreigner in Dublin), a pretty little B&B with an even prettier restaurant. Lots of oysters, so white. We didn't have dinner there but rather breakfast. We ate so much breakfast in Ireland that I could recount our trip in breakfasts alone.
After dropping our heavy bags (and I could have sworn I packed light) we wandered Stephen's Green and Dawson Street, took coffees with some of the most beautiful latté art (that's what we call it right?) I've seen (the trash talk I'd heard about Irish coffee proved to be unfounded) and ogled the pastries at Walter Mitty's before heading to Trinity to behold the library & ancient Book of Kells. You do feel something chilly & old and think strange things about the human mind when you look at it. We humans do such things. We couldn't not see it. He especially couldn't not, being forever in the company of books. One of the deepest expressions of affection he ever bestowed on me was telling me that if it were me or his books, he'd burn the books. So you see, we really couldn't not. He was, as they say, in heaven. I wished I could give him the whole damn thing. "Happy Birthday, love...here's the old Trinity College library!" I like to think he could live there, grow a long gray beard, and haunt it like a dead poet. But he's very much an alive poet & he can't bear to go more than a day or two at most without shaving. But I still like the idea of Patrick the Beared Poet Ghost of the Long Hall. He'd be in good company, as I'm pretty sure there are already some formidable poet ghosts in that hall.
For our first proper meal in Ireland, we went to a little bookstore come restaurant called (after the Yeats poem) The Winding Stair for what proved to be an excellent introduction to the food of Ireland. Which is remarkable. Really truly cannot speak highly enough of the food. Tuscany, Provence, the Basque country. Food destinations, right? Ireland, in our experience at least (we did have the benefit of some excellent advice from Imen of the blog Farmette), was right up there with them all. I wasn't able to eat enough. Local food, that things I'm always on about, is thriving there, it seemed. Salmon from the burren, cheeses from Cork, mollosks from Kilcolgan. As one of our hosts at the breathtaking Ballyvolane House (which I'll tell you all about in the next installment) put it "everyone in Ireland is at most only once removed from the farm".
So I digress. The Winding Stair, a gezellig little gem right on the liffy. We had smoked fish paté with a panko fried soft boiled egg & black pudding fritters, crispy chicken with plums & hake piled high with pickled shrimp and rocket. Afterwards we had more lacy, intricate coffees, chocolate mousse with pistachio & cream, and little biscuits. Patrick's enjoyment of food pales in comparison to my own. Sometimes I joke that we're Jack Spratt & his wife of Mother Goose fame. But he was just as enthusiastic about The Winding Stair as I was, which is saying something given his natural indifference to food (opposites attract & all that).
The next morning we picked up our tiny blue car as I repeated in my head "left, left, left" & quickly overcame my mortal terror at driving on the opposite side of the road and we headed southwest to our next destination, Ballyvolane House. The weather was manic that day & the hills rolled like so many lawns & nonchalant castles crumbled alongside the freeway. We were already in awe, even as I struggled to not list the tiny blue car into the hedges... next installment all about Ballyvolane & Ballymaloe! But before that will be a little bit of Honeysuckle Syrup & a bit about all this MasterChef business!
Saturday, May 25, 2013
stinging nettle & ricotta ravioli + lavender & cucumber soda + 3 seed crackers + a textile give away
Asparagus, Link41 bacon & 5-minute-egg Salad with Buttermilk Herb Dressing
Lavender Meyer Lemon & Cucumber Mint Sodas, recipe below
Fennel, Sesame, and Poppy Seed Rye Crackers
Sea Salt Roasted Ramps & Broccolini for dipping in homemade celery leaf & lovage aioli
A spring dinner party. There are few things that give me more joy in this world. Right before we left for Ireland we had four friends over to share in the wonderful bounty that is Tennessee produce in the spring time, and now I finally have the chance to share it with you. The week of I finally had a menu sketched out in my head & hoped desperately to find my ideal ingredients at the market which resulted in the aforementioned nightmares in my last post about some fiend snatching up the last of the asparagus before I could get any. My nightmares proved unfounded and not only did I get both purple and green asparagus, I walked away with lovage, lemon balm, two bags of nettles, and a mason jar full of vanilla scented lilacs. Spring, yeah.
Interestingly, the table cloth above was the impetus for this gathering. When local textile designer Margaret Pate of Inks & Thread casually mentioned maybe doing a giveaway of one of her scarves on the blog my response wasn't "but pies don't wear scarves...?" so much as it was to immediately start planning a spring dinner party around one of her textiles, a lovely terracotta scarf come table runner/cloth.
Brown Butter & Maple Waffles with Olive Oil Ice Cream
This was a triumphant menu, nearly everything we ate that night was procured right here in Chattanooga. Really livin' up to the name on this one. The ricotta was made from local milk, the dressing from local buttermilk (how wonderful to live near Cruze Farms!) & homemade aioli using local eggs & herbs, salad with the most amazing greens gifted to me by Lee & Gordon's when I went out there to shoot their greenhouse for the Time's Free Press magazine Chatter, Link41 bacon, and Dancing Fern cheese from Sequatchie Cove along with some of their Cumberland (my go to everyday cheese). Even the pasta was made with beautiful eggs from Alexanna Farms. And all of it served up on a table cloth designed by a local! So there.
The day of I told Margaret I'd love help when she offered. Come at one! No two! No...can you go
So here you have it the dinner party inspired by spring & a scarf that looks as nice on a human being as a table, as do the new chiffon scarves in her shoppe Inks & Threads.
The ins and outs of this eggs & bacon salad are this: mixed Lee & Gordon's greens (cress, bibb, some arugula, various and sundries...the cress is clutch), ribbons of asparagus, batons of Link41 bacon, 5 minutes eggs a la Dash & Bella (sprinkled w/ a bit of black truffle salt if you're feeling fancy, which I was), shavings of Sequatchie Cove Cumberland cheese (substitute whatever you like if you can't find that!), and a nice slathering of that buttermilk dressing (which is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I make using homemade aioli instead of mayo & use a variety of herbs in.. think chives, fennel, basil, tarragon, parsley... whatever combo strikes your fancy... but I never leave out the basil)
I've included my recipes for the two soda syrups below, but they're a bit "informal".
Stinging Nettle & Ricotta Ravioli with Proscuitto, Lemon Butter, & Greensyields about 48 raviolis, serves 6
9 oz AP flour
1 bunch stinging nettles (you want about 1 cup cooked, so about 4ish cups raw)
2 cups arugula, steamed with the nettles
1/2 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
1 cup homemade ricotta
4 oz herbed chevre or plain chevre & 2 Tbsp chopped assorted fresh herbs (think herbs de provence)
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts chopped fine (can sub pine nuts)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp fresh grated pepper
salt & lemon juice to taste
2/3 stick of unsalted butter
juice of a lemon
reserved pasta cooking water
1 cup baby greens (I used spinach & arugula)
6 slices proscuitto fried crispy (can sub bacon as I have in these photos)
finely grated cheese (I use Cumberland but parm would be just fine)
Make Pasta Dough:
Add the flour to a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and swirl them with your finger, slowly incorporating the flour. When all the flour is incorporated turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and the dough bounces back when pressed with your finger, about 5-10 minutes. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Steam the nettles for about 10 minutes, adding the arugula in the last 4. Squeeze the greens dry with paper towels. Reserve the steaming liquid! This is great to drink on it's own nutrition wise, very rich in iron. But I like to boil it and make sweet milky tea with it. It's absolutely full of nutrients.
Finely chop the greens and add them along with the parsley to the two cheeses in a mixing bowl. Mix well to combine and season to taste with salt. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice and salt if needed.
Assemble & Cook:
Bring a large pot of heartily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, make the ravioli.
Pinch off about a fourth of the dough at a time, knead it a bit, and then roll out the pasta sheets in a pasta roller. Keep the sheets floured and covered w/ a damp cloth while rolling out the others to prevent sticking and drying out. Alternately, you can use a rolling pin, but I find this difficult and very much love my hand crank pasta roller.
Either use a nifty ravioli mold as I have, or you can simply dollop your filling onto one sheet of pasta, about a heaping tsp of filling spaced about two inches apart, wet the spaces in between with a finger dipped in water, and then place another sheet on top, pressing to seal, getting out as much air as you possibly can. Cut the pasta and place on a flour dusted baking sheet while you continue to make the rest.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted slowly whisk in the lemon juice along with a two finger pinch of salt. Transfer pasta with a slotted spoon to the lemon butter along with about half a ladle of the cooking water. Cook, shaking the pan every now and again, about another 4 minutes to let the sauce thicken and coat the pasta. In the last two minutes add the greens to just wilt. Serve garnished with crumbled crispy proscuitto and grated cheese.
Lavender, Honey, & Meyer Lemon Soda
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp dried lavender buds
zest & juice of 1 meyer lemon
1 bottle sparkling water
Bring water, sugar, and honey to a boil, stirring to dissolve honey & sugar. Remove from heat, stir in lavender & lemon. Cover and let steep 10-30 minutes depending on how strong you want it. I like it strong! Either mix the soda & syrup in a clean bottle or pour about an inch of soda in a glass and top off with sparkling water. But you get the idea. Mix them!
Cucumber, Mint, & Lime Soda
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 a cucumber, diced
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
juice and zest of one small lime
1 bottle sparkling water
Boil sugar and water, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Let steep 10-30 minutes and mix with sparkling water as above!
3 Seed Rye Crackersslightly adapted from Lemons and Anchovies
6.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
2 oz (scant 1/2 cup) rye flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp black sesame seeds (or you can just use all white)
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Heat oven to 425° F.
Mix all ingredients for topping in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix flours and salt in a bowl. Stir in olive oil and water to form a dough. It will be crumbly but press it together. Divide the dough into three pieces, covering the ones you aren't using with a towel to prevent drying out. Roll out each piece on a floured work surface until very very thin. 1/8" or less. Sprinkle 1/3 of topping over and press into the crackers with a rolling pin.
Cut the crackers into your desired shapes, transfer crackers to a flour dusted baking sheet, and bake for about 7-12 minutes. Start checking at 7. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough.
Let crackers cool on a wire rack. They can be stored in an airtight container.
*Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days and frozen for 1 month.