Friday, July 29, 2011

Milkweed Recipe - Stuffed Milkweed Pods

This dish makes a fantastic tray of appetizers, or can be baked in a sauce for more of a dinner dish. Robert does not eat meat, so I made half with bacon and half without. If you wanted, you could fill the milkweed pods with a pastry bag for neater results.

For best results, I use 1 1/2"-2" long pods from common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). I begin the recipe by boiling the washed milkweed pods for 5 minutes. As they boil, some will pop open, and that is fine. Shock the pods in ice water to stop the cooking process and cool them down quickly for easier handling. There is a natural seam running along the length of each pod where it will want to split. Split open the pod and pull out the immature seeds and silk. I spoon the filling in, until the pods are full. Finally, I roll the cream cheese filling exposed in the seam in panko bread crumbs. I serve these warm from the oven.

Stuffed Milkweed Pods              makes 36-40

1 8oz. block of cream cheese, softened
2 T diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
salt and pepper
36-40 milkweed pods, boiled and split
panko bread crumbs

optional: 3 T diced, cooked bacon

1. Heat oven to 375°F.
2. Place the softened cream cheese in a bowl and with a heavy wooden spoon, mix in the diced onion, jalapeno, optional bacon, and salt and pepper.
3. Remove the immature seeds and silk from the boiled milkweed pods, and spoon in about 2 tsp. of cream cheese filling, until the pod is full.
4. Roll the exposed seam of cream cheese in panko bread crumbs and place seam side up on a parchment lined sheetpan.
5. Bake the stuffed pods for 15-20 minutes, until the crumbs are browned. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mushrooms Identified - Scaly Vase Chanterelle, Berkeley's Polypore, Old Man of the Woods

Here are some mushrooms we have identified through many guidebooks and with the generous knowledge of Connecticut Valley Mycological Society. We see so many mushrooms that are difficult to identify on our own, so we joined the CVMS to learn techniques and proper ways to gather, identify, and possibly consume wild mushrooms. Robert has photographed several mushrooms, and we try to take spore prints for further confirmation.

Here is a partial list of the books we use:

Mushrooms of Northeast North America: Midwest to New England by George Barron
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field to Kitchen Guide by David W. Fischer
Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora

Scaly Vase Chanterelle cluster
Young scaly vase chanterelles
Gomphus floccosus is also known as Wooly Chanterelle, or Scaly Vase Chanterelle. We came across a small group of them at the Salmon River State Forest. It is a funnel-shaped mushroom that tends to grow on the ground in coniferous or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests throughout North America. It fruits from early summer through midfall, and we found it in mid-July. The top is 2"-6" wide, orange fading to yellow-orange, and depressed but soon becoming hollow and sunken like a funnel. The top also has cottony or woolly scales. The underside is creamy-colored and is wrinkled or veined all along the stalk. The flesh is white and fibrous. Spore print is ochre, but we did not gather or print this mushroom. It's edibility is questionable, with many reports of nausea and abdominal pain, so we will avoid eating it.

Gillian holding the Berkeley's polypore
Berkeley's underside and white spores
Bondarzewia berkeleyi is commonly known as Berkeley's polypore. We found this one growing from some tree roots in Salem, CT. It grows in the Northern US and Canada, to Louisiana and Texas from July to October. It has the appearance of several overlapping creamy-white to grey fans growing from a single base. When very young, it looks like white fingers, but specimens can get very large, up to 3 feet across. The undersides of the caps is white with circular to angular pores. The spore print we took was white. It toughens and becomes bitter with age, so we trimmed the outer 1/2" from the edges for a meal. Edibility is based upon the age of the mushroom.

Old Man of the Woods, underside

Cut, staining to red
Strobilomyces floccopus is known as Old Man of the Woods for it's shaggy, unkept appearance. We found a specimen in Groton, CT and saw several more that had been found at Salmon River SF. It grows on the ground in mixed hardwood and coniferous forests from July to October. The cushion-shaped cap is 1"-6" across and is covered with dry, shaggy scales. The underside of the cap is white or grey, becoming darker with age, with large pores and tubes. The flesh is white, but slowly stains red then black when cut. The spore print we took was black. Our mushroom was a bit old, so we did not try it. Younger specimens are edible, although not particularly desirable.
Old Man of the Woods topside and spore print

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Milkweed Recipe - Milkweed Pods and Chickpea Salad

Mid summer is the time to gather the small, soft seed pods of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in open fields. Milkweed tends to grow in large colonies, and is an important food source for many butterflies and their caterpillars, like the Monarch. Between July and the end of August, the flowers have all passed, and the seed pods are in various stages of growth, often many different sizes on each plant.

Very small pods, about a half inch long are good for pickling or boiling as a green vegetable. Larger pods between 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches long are good for stuffing and baking, or stir frying. Before cooking the pods with a final recipe, they are scrubbed and boiled for 5 minutes. Many will pop open while boiling, that is not a problem. There is a natural seam on each pod that makes it easy to open the pod and remove the immature seeds and silk. The pods are good for eating as long as the seeds and silk are pure white and very soft. Any signs of browning indicates the seed pod is too old and will be tough to eat. Robert likes to eat the boiled insides of the seed pods mixed into other grains, as it seems to melt into a cheese-like texture. I like the boiled pods stuffed with cream cheese and baked, or just plain with a bit of butter and salt.

Here's a recipe for a chilled salad, good for these hot days of summer using milkweed pods about an inch long. I boiled the pods for 5 minutes, then sliced off the stem end before removing the silk and seeds. I cut the pods in half and tossed them with the dressing and other ingredients.

This recipe is available in our book, available Spring 2016.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sumac Recipe - Sumac Meringue

We start this recipe by gathering the red, ripe berry clusters from staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) shrubs. The berries are actually very hard and inedible, and it is the acidic and tart malic, oxalic, and ascorbic acids that we will be harvesting from the outside of the berries to use. In about a half gallon of room temperature water, we add 12 clusters. I'll crush the clusters up under the water and swish them about, then allow the concoction to sit for a few hours. The now pink liquid is strained through a coffee filter to remove fine hairs and other debris, and tasted for tartness. To make a stronger concentrate, add some new sumac berry clusters to this same liquid and allow them to sit for another few hours, then strain again. This concentrate is ready to use, or can be frozen in ice cube trays to add to water or save for the winter. We also use this concentrate in the place of lemon juice in some jelly recipes.

Staghorn sumac berries
This dessert is more of a curd topped with baked meringue, rather than a pie, since Robert doesn't really like pie crust. The curd recipe is really easy, no tempering the eggs with the hot sugar, just keep a vigilant eye on the pot and keep scraping the bottom with a spatula. It works really well in individual portion dishes, or can be cooked in one 9" pie pan. You could serve it as a pie, if you use a pie crust. The color will depend on the strength of the sumac concentrate that you use. I ended up with a nice peachy color, but you could add a drop of red food color if you wanted to.

This recipe is availble in our book, available Spring 2016.

Smooth sumac berry clusters