4.9.12 Eastover 2012: Part 1
Our annual combined celebration of Easter and Passover came and went in a frenzy of cooking and eating, as usual. I was in charge of the bulk of the menu this time but, as always, our 15 friends brought traditional treats and specialties that really pushed things over the top. I'm going to spread out the telling of this event over the week, posting a different recipe each day, or else it will be too overwhelming for both of us. As you can see from the photo, above, we gathered at Beaver Dam, the gorgeous upstate home of a very chic French gallerist I am lucky to call my bosom friend. Big dogwood branches, hyacinths and other spring blooms came from the city, as most plants are still dormant up here. The sun was shining, the air was cool and fresh, and we had a roaring fire going. Spirits were high as the advent of spring always brings a rush of renewed energy.
Earlier in the week I dyed a couple dozen eggs using only natural elements: purple cabbage, turmeric, beets and coffee. I love that the colors range from slightly muddy to very intense. If you're interested in the how-to, all the details are here
The eggs complemented my mismatched set of linen napkins. Many years ago, when I was working on a catalogue for the now-defunct Takashimaya, they wanted me to come up with names for each of the colors of linen napkins they sold, so they sent me one of each as inspiration. There are 20 and they have stood me in very good stead.
A couple of plants that are in full swing already are the nettles and wild garlic mustard, two invasive native plants that abound in fields. Both are rich in vitamins (especially A and C) and minerals and have the clean, rich taste of wild greens.
You must pick the nettles with gloves as they are covered with fine stinging needles. The tender leafy shoots are best, so early in the season is the right time to forage.
Inspired by a delicious kale marmalade I had at Stone Barns
, I decided to make my own version with the nettles and garlic mustard. I had an entire backpack full of greens and, after blanching, they reduced down to about the size of a medium head of cabbage. I sauteed these low and slow with some shallots and coriander seed, seasoned them with sea salt and lemon juice and stirred in olive oil once they were very tender. I served this with bacon-wrapped roasted halibut as the main course of our feast. If you'd like to make this marmalade and don't have foraged greens, you could substitute almost any toothy greens, like kale, spinach, dandelion or sorrel. Go wild.
Wild Greens Marmalade
— wild nettles
— wild garlic mustard
— shallots, minced
— lemon juice
— extra-virgin olive oil
— whole coriander, lightly crushed
— sea salt
Rinse the greens, discarding any roots, bugs, etc. Drain.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it generously. Add the greens and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander until cool. Then gather greens into a ball and squeeze out excess water. Finely chop greens.
Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat and add shallots and a couple of pinches of salt. Sautee until they begin to caramelize, then add the coriander and the greens. Keep the heat relatively low, cover with a lid and cook until very tender, checking occasionally to make sure they are not sticking. Add more olive oil or water as needed.
Remove from heat and cool. Season with lemon juice and more salt as needed. Add more olive oil as needed to achieve a pleasantly thick consistency. Serve at room temperature.