I gathered all my favorite late spring crops from both the Friday night market at The Red Barn and the Saturday morning Hudson Farmer's Market; strawberries, beets, shelling peas, and radishes and
turned them into food for various occasions - not to mention breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As you know from reading my last entry I've been concerned that my favorite strawberries are going to run out before I can get my fill. To wit I froze some last week and this week I made what I call "refrigerator jam". The jam is not processed to preserve. I just put it in a jar and it should last for weeks, perhaps months in the refrigerator- but it won't. Probably won't last 'til the 4th of July. It's that tasty, and its applications are numerous. I like it on toasted, and almond buttered quinoa bread from Loaf, with plain yogurt, and as you will see as I write on, with beets.
I add whole berries - if they're really huge, cut in half - to a non-reactive saucepan with fresh lemon juice and pure, unrefined cane sugar, like rapadura, and cook on low heat until the berries are soft and seemingly spreadable, about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove the berries with a slotted spoon to a glass or ceramic bowl and reserve. Reduce the remaining syrup until it's as dense as grade B maple syrup.
Pack the cooled strawberry jam in a glass jar and cover with some of the strawberry syrup. Refrigerate it, and the syrup in a separate container. The syrup itself will serve you well on ice cream or mixed with Prosecco to make a Tiepolo ,or with vodka to make a delightfully colored, and tasty warm weather cocktail. NB - the jam, sweetened with unrefined sugar , will turn deep burgundy in color. If you must have bright red jam use refined sugar - just not as good - to my palate.
Sweet, shelling peas have a fleeting season as well. I like nothing better than a dish of risi e bisi - the Venetian classic pea and rice dish. Technically this dish is not risotto. But it tastes like it could be. I cooked the shelled peas in salted water for about 15 minutes. If I had been paying attention I would have discarded the few over-ripe peas before cooking because they're too mealy and are annoying - in a way. I cooked the rice separately and used vialone nano - a short, chubby grain used for risotto - which gives the dish its risotto-like texture. When the rice was tender I drained and added it back into the pot with a knob of best quality unsalted butter, a fistful of grated Parmigiano, and the cooked peas. I stirred to combine all the ingredients. If you like the flavor of peas and mint - as I did and swirl some fresh mint sprigs through the still hot rice and then discard the sprigs. You want to add a soft scent of mint to the dish. Mint leaves turn black when added to heat and would be most unattractive in an otherwise pristine dish.
I was invited to a party down in Red Hook and asked to bring a dish - What's needed, I asked. Oh, something to nibble on before the main course. Hmmmm, radishes, radishes, RADISHES. Not just radishes, but radishes with butter. The sweet, creamy butter softens and tames the feisty radishes. Finely chop up radishes, tightly wrap them in paper towels and let them sweat for 1/2 hour or so then add them to room-temperature-softened, highest quality, unsalted butter along with chopped chives, chopped flat leaf parsley and some flaky sea salt. Serve with garlic toasts or as I did with black sesame crackers. Because, wow, what a contrast.
Beets - be still my Russian heart. I love their sweet, earthy flavor, and I love their vibrant color that turns to the most stunning shade of shocking pink when combined with sour cream or yogurt, or anything white. First remove the beetroots from their leaves - and reserve the leaves (later). Rinse them and pat them dry, and salt them - I used pink Hawaiian salt for pure visual pleasure - and wrap them up in parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees F. until a tester easily, very easily passes through them 1 - 2 hours (depending on their size). The skin comes off the cooled beets as simply as removing a glove from your hand. Start the process at the root end with the tip of a paring knife. You can make a tangy Russian-style salad by marinating chunks of peeled beet with whole cloves of smashed garlic, apple cider vinegar and pure honey. Marinate for at least a few hours and up to overnight. Drain and remove the garlic. Add a blob of sour cream and chopped flat leaf parsley. Eat with hard cooked eggs for a simple meal or use as a side dish with any grilled meat or fish. Would be sublime with caviar. Keep the beets around to add, chopped into a green salad. Or, eat, as I just did with plain yogurt and some of that aforementioned strawberry syrup. Weird? Maybe. But the combination of flavor and color were hard to beat. Pun absolutely intended.
NO NEED TO ADD SALT to anything where the beets are an ingredient. The cooking salt has adequately salted them.
Remove the beet leaves from their stems and saute in olive olive and garlic as you would do with spinach or chard. A wonderful cooked green with an ever-so-slight beet flavor.
And sweet cherries - just into the market for the first time this week. I like to eat them until my stomach hurts. They are divine.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: SATURDAY, JUNE 16th - YARD SALE at 112 Union Street in Hudson, NY - 9am - 3pm - NO earlybirds, please. Collectibles and lots of interesting household items. Buy them here first before they wind up in a shop on Warren Street