Champagne, Sour Cherry & Rhubarb Preserves

There is nothing like a chilled bowl of perfectly ripe cherries on a hot summer day.

Last year was a bust for stone fruit in my area owing to a nasty and ill-timed hailstorm. I do confess to breaking down and purchasing some Washington State imports in a moment of weakness after a sweaty bike ride out to Brighton Beach. They were good, but nothing like the ones I picked myself up at Fishkill Farms a few summers back.

That day called to mind strawberry picking with my mom as a small child. Why anyone would choose to let me wear white for such an activity, now or then, is beyond me. Based on my empty bucket and the stains down the front of my shirt, the folks at the cash register would have done well to weigh me upon entering and exiting and simply charge my mom for the difference.

But I digress. Last week’s CSA share brought a quart of honest-to-goodness local cherries. Alas, they were more tart than I had hoped and so they sat in my fridge for a few days while I mulled what to do.

A lovely pork blade chop from Flying Pigs Farm founds its way into my bag at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. I’d stopped by with the intention of buying bacon to complement the first promising tomatoes I’d spotted this year. But one thing lead to another and, suddenly, I was tucking 12 ounces of beautifully striated pork into my bag. (It turns out I’m a sucker for a handsome man who speaks of pork the way most people talk about their first love.)

I had a small bundle of rhubarb that had been sitting in the back of the crisper for a couple of weeks. I imagined that the cherries and rhubarb would make a lovely sauce for my chop, but that would only make a dent in my fruit stockpile.

Then I remembered the previous night’s booze crime…

Louis and I had a date for a screening of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. We met up for dinner beforehand—mussels and frites for me, couscous with merguez for the gentleman. It was a lovely night, so lovely that I found myself declaring, “It’s such a lovely night!” as we swanned out of the café. Halfway down the block, with no awnings in sight on this lovely brownstone-lined side street, the skies opened. Within a matter of minutes, Louis and I looked as if we’d jumped in a pool fully clothed.

We took refuge in a nearby bar, ordering a round while we hatched a plan (and dripped all over the floor). Having determined that Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was available for streaming, we headed back to my apartment and traded our drenched clothing for sweatpants and T-shirts. The previous week’s cat sitter had left a nice bottle of bubbly, which seemed like just the thing for such a festive occasion.

Fifteen minutes after the pop of the cork, I was asleep on the couch, my head resting on my dear friend’s shoulder. While Louis managed to stay awake for the whole movie, he didn’t do much better than me at drinking the wine, which I guiltily shoved into the fridge, uncorked, on my way to bed.

And so I give you this delightfully decadent dish…

Champagne, Sour Cherry & Rhubarb Preserves

  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb, tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart sour cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup pink champagne (or whatever leftover bubbly you happen to have on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons calcium water (see instructions in the pectin box)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Bring the bubbly to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Combine the sugar and pectin powder in a separate bowl. Add fruit to your pot and bring back to a boil. Add sugar, cardamom, almond extract and vanilla, stirring vigorously for 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat. When the preserves are cool enough to handle, ladle into a couple of 1.5-cup mason jars (or whatever you have on hand). Let cool most of the way on the counter. Then screw the lids on and pop them in the fridge.

Cherry Rhubarb Champagne Preserves Hot

Don’t panic (as I did) if the preserves seem loose at first. This is what mine looked like after eight hours in fridge. The internet tells me it can take up to 48.

Cherry Rhubarb Champagne Preserves Set

Have it on toast. Serve alongside a soft, creamy cheese. I’ve been dropping a generous spoonful of these preserves into plain yogurt as an afternoon snack and can report that this is also a good strategy.

Anchovy, Ramp & Arugula Egg on a Roll

I missed the farmers’ market last Saturday. Instead, the morning found me traipsing around the city with a weekend bag full of sweatpants and vegetables, a backpack full of library books, and a giant platter from Murray’s Cheese. The schlep was well worth it, as it meant having the opportunity to attend a workshop with the luminous Sarah Owens, who just won a James Beard Award for her new book, Sourdough.

Sarah Owens Sourdough

(As should be evident, I did not make this.)

After class, I headed up to Grand Central to hop the train to Cold Spring. Beth was out of town for a few days and had graciously offered up her lovely home as a writer’s retreat. I was bound and determined to finish up my final paper of the semester.

Things got off to a slow start, owing to exhaustion and, possibly, the basil gin and tonic I whipped up with herbs from Beth’s kitchen garden.

Basil Gin and Tonic

Mercifully, Sunday was cold and drizzly, leaving me with nothing to do but plug away at my paper…

A Room with a View

…with occasional breaks to feed myself…

…and Oscar, who apparently likes cheese as much as I do.

Oscar the Hamster

By Monday afternoon I had a serviceable first draft and was headed back to the city. I spent Tuesday fine tuning my paper and was back at work Wednesday morning with a worrisome twinge in my lower back. By Friday the pain was hard to ignore. I knocked off early and headed to the acupuncturist.

Sixteen needles and seven small and rather tortuous cups later, my back was starting to release. Steve slapped a couple of giant stickers that smell like a combination of tea tree oil and Bengay on and sent me on my way with instructions for gentle stretching and heat.

Cups.jpg

And so last night was an uncharacteristically low-key one. I met Sari for a lovely and light early dinner and spent the remainder of the night getting intimate with my heating pad.

This morning found me back at the farmers’ market loading my bag with more goodies than someone with a bad back should reasonably carry. I returned home to a breakfast of ibuprofen and an egg sandwich.

I have written about the wonder that is the New York City egg and cheese on a roll. More than once, in fact. While there is a beauty in the simplicity of this sandwich, today’s haul called for something a little more upscale. (The fact that I capped last night’s cocktail consumption at two undoubtedly helped in this regard.)

Anchovy, Ramp & Arugula Egg on a Roll

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 6 ramps
  • 1 ciabatta or other soft roll
  • 1 egg
  • handful of arugula
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pepper

Bring a small cast iron (or nonstick) skillet up to medium-low heat with the butter. Add the anchovies and smash with the back of a spoon until they begin to dissolve into the butter. Add the red pepper flakes. Finely mince the bulbs of the ramps and add these. Sauté, stirring frequently, until soft. Roughly chop the ramp greens and add these plus some black pepper. After a minute or two, you should have a coarse paste. Take off the heat and fold in the lemon zest. Slather onto both sides of a halved and toasted roll. Fry an egg over easy in the lingering ramp butter and layer it onto your sandwich. Top with arugula and the other half of your roll.

Anchovy Ramp and Arugula Egg on a Roll

This sandwich is best enjoyed from the comfort of your heating pad.

Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

Full confession, last night’s dinner was (very not-Kosher-for Passover) beer with a Marcona almond chaser. I had stopped by my local beer bar with hopes of getting some school reading done. Alas, I quickly struck up a conversation with a charming neighbor seated on the adjacent stool. We spent the next few hours discussing beer, jazz and the upsides of midlife crises.

Beer for Dinner

While I do not regret my choices, they did leave me with a fair amount of reading to plow through before tomorrow evening’s class. I needed a quick dinner that would assuage my Jewish guilt and make use of the glorious spring vegetables I managed to score at Saturday’s farmers’ market.

Ramps

Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (or more) glasses Sancerre
  • 10 ramps
  • 10 stalks asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sheets matzah
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a small nonstick skillet up to medium-low heat with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Pour yourself a nice glass of Sancerre while the butter melts.
  2. Rinse the ramps and trim off the tips. Chop into 1/2″ pieces, keeping the stems and leaves separate and splitting any large stems longways. Rinse the asparagus and remove the twiggy ends by breaking with your hands. Chop into 3/4″ pieces.
  3. Add the ramp stems to your butter and sauté, stirring frequently, until they start to get limp. Add the asparagus, starting with the thickest ends and working up to the tips. Cook until the asparagus is al denté (3-5 minutes). Add the ramp leaves and continue to cook until fully wilted. Add a little salt and pepper.
  4. Break the matzah into small pieces in a small bowl and top with water. Crack the eggs into a cup and whisk with a little more salt and pepper. Drain the water out of the matzah, using your hand to hold it in place. Add the eggs as well as the ramps and asparagus, crumble the feta over the top, and stir gently until combined.
  5. Place the pan back on the heat and add 1/4 tablespoon of butter. Pour the matzah mixture into the pan and let sit undisturbed for 7 minutes or so until the bottom is browned and the whole thing has started to set. Flip onto a small plate. Add the remaining butter to the pan, slide your matzo brei back into the pan and let cook undisturbed for another 3-5 minutes until nicely browned.

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei

This may not look like much, but it is mad tasty, particularly with a second glass of Sancerre. Now about that reading…

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei Closeup

EAT THIS: Matzo Balls, Ramps, Shrooms & Eggs

Matzo Balls Ramps Mushrooms Poached Egg

Insomnia so bad that you arrive at the market while the farmers are still setting up? Console yourself in the knowledge that the early bird gets Wilklow Orchards‘s foraged ramps. Take them home and sauté them in butter along with a handful of mixed mushrooms from John D. Madura Farms. Fry up a few of your leftover matzo balls in a little more butter. Add a poached egg (thanks to Evolutionary Organics). Ponder a nap.

Desperately Seeking Spring: A Tartine

We are betwixt and between.

The daffodils are in full bloom, but only on the sunnier side of my block. At some point last week I nearly fainted on the train wearing my mid-weight jacket, but yesterday I froze waiting for the bus in a raincoat and scarf. Tax day is right around the corner, but the radio persists in claiming that we are getting snow flurries today. My Facebook feed is teeming with recipes for asparagus, nettles and ramps, but the farmers’ market is full of aged root vegetables and desultory dark greens.

I awoke early this morning to discover that I was out of milk for my morning coffee, providing extra motivation to get my ass out of the house. I swung by my local coffee shop and proceeded to the farmers’ market. My first stop was the compost collection station, where I chatted with a lovely woman about the shocking number of pineapples that people seem to consume. She informed me that next week there will be a compost giveback. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any outdoor space,” I replied. Turns out you can use compost in your houseplants. I suspect my tenacious snake plant and aloe will appreciate the gesture, provided they don’t die from the shock of it all.

I bid adieu to my new friend and set off gleefully in search of the ramps that I was sure would be mine all mine given the early hour. Alas, there were none to be found. I quickly regrouped, resolving to find the freshest, prettiest things at the market—and consume them all in a breakfast that would gird me for a day spent opening a year’s worth of mail in preparation to do my taxes.

Desperately Seeking Spring: A Tartine

  • 1/2 watermelon radish, thinly sliced (a mandolin or vegetable peeler is helpful here)
  • 1 tablespoon good quality white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fancy pants lemon-infused olive oil that you bought in a covetous moment (or some regular old extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon zest and juice)
  • pinch sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-inch section of baguette, split (or whatever bread you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 handfuls pea shoots (or whatever other fresh, springy greens you can get your hands on)

Combine the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and toss with the radish slices. Let sit 20 minutes or so, flipping every so often. Spread ricotta onto the baguette and top with your quick-pickled radish slices. Toss the pea shoots in the remaining liquid and pile next to your tartine. Drizzle whatever is left over the top and enjoy.

Watermelon Radish and Ricotta Tartine

 

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

I took today off of work to catch up on the rest of my life. So far I have researched and made a long overdue appointment with an orthopedist, done a sinkful of dishes, written a cranky letter about my expensive and poorly constructed phone case, and given the cat some much-needed love.

My afternoon will be devoted to a gendered analysis of Lucky Peach. But, before tucking into a pile of cooking magazines, I needed a little sustenance. Luckily, I still had some excellent ham on hand from last week’s Easter supper at Sara and Chris’s place. (If you don’t know Heritage Meats USA, you should.)

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces ham, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls kale, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a small nonstick skillet up to medium heat with the oil. Add the ham and cook for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the kale in batches and continue cooking until it’s wilted but still has a little bite. Stir in some salt and pepper, lower the heat and scoot everything to the side of the pan. Crack two eggs directly into the pan and add the butter. Stir continuously, scraping at the sides until the eggs become opaque but are still runny. Add some salt and pepper and, when the eggs are just about done, take off of the heat and mix in with the ham and kale.

Green(s) Eggs Ham