Catching razor clams

I’ve dug/raked for my fair share of shellfish (oysters, steamers, littlenecks and mussels) but I’d never harvested razor clams. I’ve seen their shells all over the beaches, but until a few years ago never realized people ate them. Then I had them roasted with butter and garlic at St. John’s in London and fell in love! While reading my new Forgotten Skills of Cooking I learned a simple way to catch razor clams: pour salt in their hole and watch them wriggle out!

That’s crazy! I can’t wait to try it! Also if anyone knows a good source for buying razor clams in New York City, please let me know. I want to start eating them more regularly.

My copy of Forgotten Skills…

My copy of Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen arrived today and I’m very excited to get started with it. Foraging for seaweeds and shellfish looks especially up my alley. And as I read the introduction I puffed up a bit with pride. The author complains of so many young people who don’t know basic things (like butter comes from cream!) about where food comes from or what it looks like in its natural state. I realized that in his short life, Ollie’s picked asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, rhubarb and (not ripe) blackberries. Not bad for a just 3 years old New York City native.

An easy baby shower

IMG_6130.jpg

I threw a baby shower for a close friend over the weekend and I’m so pleased with how the recipes turned out, I thought I’d share. It was a “Ladies Tea” theme, without the tea and without much more theme than simply that. But here’s what we had:

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches (the taragon made these special)
Smoked Salmon and Endive Tea Sandwiches
Goat Cheese and Watercress Tea Sandwiches
Fruit Salad with Ginger Syrup

For drinks I made a sparkling pink lemonade (frozen concentrate and seltzer, voila!) and served a sparkling rose wine.

But the highlight was dessert: a Lavender Lemon Bundt Cake. This was actually suggested by my son Ollie (not the flavor, the bundt idea) because he pointed out we wouldn’t need to use the mixer for frosting (though we did need it for the cake, much to his disappointment…). He sure was prescient because Sunday morning as I was scrambling to get everything prepared, I sure wouldn’t have enjoyed making a layer cake and whipping buttercream. And I didn’t have the time.

For flowers I used baby food jars with the labels removed and tied with some twine around the top. I filled them with dusty pink roses from the deli around the corner. They looked fancy though! All in all it was a beautiful, delicious afternoon. And when I get a chance, I’ll try and share a photo.

Oh! And I almost forgot: I made half pints of strawberry jam for all the ladies to take home as presents.

Felled by the Pine Nut Mouth

I made Straw and Hay Fettuccine Tangle on Saturday night (btw Heidi's Super Natural Cooking is awesome, I love it!) for dinner. Monday for lunch I ate the leftovers, including a bunch of whole pine nuts that had fallen to the bottom of the dish. By Tuesday evening I had a weird taste in the back of my throat, so weird that when I when I woke up during the night, I couldn't get back to sleep. Was is the allergy pill I'd taken for the first time this year? The strong cheese and rind I ate for dinner? The strong wine that accompanied it?

By yesterday the strange taste hadn't abated, despite multiple teeth brushings and flossings, tongue scrapings, and mouthwash swirlings. I turned to Twitter for guidance. And almost immediately people replied asking if I'd eaten pine nuts recently. At first I ignored, but as more people mentioned, I was curious. Then someone said to Google "Chinese pine nuts" and lo a diagnosis: Pine Nut Mouth! (aka "Pine Mouth" or "Pine Nut Syndrome") Seems that there are a lot of pine nuts on the market these days imported from China and they're causing people to get a metallic taste in the back of the throat after ingesting, sometimes lasting up to two weeks!

I'm happy to report my case is resolving and I actually enjoyed my breakfast, but until today food's been so off-putting, I haven't wanted to eat. My pine nuts were from Whole Food's bulk bin, and I stored them in the fridge. They didn't taste rancid when I prepared them, so I'm not thinking it's rancidity-related. I'm going to go back and investigate where they're from to confirm China. And if I can bare to eat pine nuts again this summer, I'm splurging for Italian imports. Right now, that's a big if.

Lazy jam is a relative term

On Wednesday I began the 3-day journey that is making a Christine Ferber jam and by Friday afternoon had four pints of “Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices”. On Thursday I was able to bang out 7 1/2 pints of traditional strawberry jam like I make with my grandmother. I realized that this doesn’t sound very lazy, but if you know how to do something, it’s not hard. And somehow I equate not hard with lazy I guess. Regardless, it was lots of fun and I’m really looking forward to making many different jams and preserves this summer, “putting up” lots of the Greenmarket’s bounty for fall and winter.

A couple notes: I didn’t bother with Ferber’s Green Apple Jelly for pectin (I can’t be bothered to make jelly to make jam), I just used half a package of pectin (since Ferber’s recipe called for approximately half the berries and sugar of a Certo pectin recipe). Jam set fine so I think if I make more of Ferber’s jams (which I’d like to) I’ll just sub store-bought pectin instead.

I tried the “fancy” jam (as Ollie calls the Pinot and Spice) with my English muffin this morning. You know what? I like my plain old Grandma Pete’s traditional better.

I also made a rhubarb compote (1 cup chopped rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, juice of half an orange and its zest, I think…) that I’ve been putting on pancakes. So good!! And a little trick on the pancakes I pulled yesterday that no one seemed to notice: I sub’d 1 cup of AP flour for whole wheat pastry flour (inspired by an awesome banana muffin recipe I’ve been making that I’ll tell you about soon) and the pancakes were still delicious, and I like to think a tiny bit healthier.

So yeah, I’ve been busy. And I didn’t even tell you about everything I did in the garden today!

Some lazy jam making coming up

If you’ve read this site for a while, you know I’ve got a thing about strawberries and making jam. Today Ollie and I bought four quarts of berries at the Union Square Greenmarket so we could make some jam together. Looking perhaps to break with tradition, I opened Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber for some different recipes. Oooh, “Rhubarb and Whole Strawberries” seemed like just the thing! Until this:

The third day, bring this mixture to a boil 5 times. Do this sequence again four times at 8-hour intervals.

What?! Am I making jam or birthing a newborn jam baby?! Rhubarb’s going to be a simple compote for yogurt and ice cream, not even canned. For the strawberries I’m thinking it’s either “Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices”, adapted for my lazy one-day jam technique, or the basic Strawberry Jam I always make with my grandmother.

Cooking for Minna

I've been really getting into cooking again, which is a good thing for Minna because it means I've been making lots of yummy things for her to eat. As I type a big batch of Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and Apple is bubbling on the stove. This was one of my favorites for Ollie because it just tasted so yummy! I've also made roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli — just puree them together with butter and a little milk.

But I think the best I've made yet is my "New England Special" as I call it: baked squash and apples. I cut an acorn squash in half and put on a baking sheet. I took an apple, cored it, and filled the hole with raisins, cinnamon, and butter. Roasted both in oven until soft and tender, then ran through food mill. Very tasty!

At dinner she usually eats some of what we're having, but these foods, frozen in little cubes, are handy for lunch when she's out and about, or if we're not eating an easy dinner for sharing.