...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Bringing Nature Home

I love being outdoors and am constantly collecting bits of nature to bring inside.  I feel it helps bridge the gap between the two realms.  I've enjoyed discovering uses for the cherry branches we pruned from the tree last week.  I have some of them in one of my grandmother's vases in the dining room; they're blossoming and have made me quite cheerful at the breakfast table in the morning.  Today when Vera and I were out for an early morning walk, scoping out the lakefront path where we did so much wild foraging last year, I found an interesting piece of "driftwood" that I packed into the stroller and brought home.  It will make a cool centerpiece for our outdoor table this summer.  As I was studying it, I thought of other bits of nature in our home and have photographed them here.

Today was the first rhubarb harvest.  So far the stalks are fairly short, but from my experience the more I pull the sooner the rest will come in bigger and stronger.  These plants have really shot up in the last couple of weeks.  Looks like we'll have lots of "pie plant" to freeze for the winter.  This harvest will mostly likely be eaten fresh, perhaps in a quickbread this week.

I wanted to share a new recipe with which I experimented last night in preparing dinner for a weekend house guest.  Ben and I love smoked trout and are always looking for new ways to enjoy it.  This recipe was also a good way to use some of the spring goodies popping up in the garden.

Smoked Trout Pasta Cakes with Sorrel Mayonnaise
Makes about 8 cakes

This is a great way to use leftover pasta.  I had some cooked and frozen from an event I catered a few weeks ago.  This was a great way to use it because the texture after thawing didn't matter so much.

8 oz. smoked trout, skinned and flaked, finely chopped
1 c. cooked spaghetti or linguine
2 beaten eggs
2 oz. fresh chives, minced
1/4 c. fine dry breadcrumbs
2 T. chopped sorrel
1 t. dried hot pepper (optional)
2 t. olive oil
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 recipe Sorrel Mayonnaise
grapeseed oil for pan-frying

Cut the cooked spaghetti into 1-inch pieces and set aside with the smoked trout.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, chives, bread crumbs, sorrel, hot pepper, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add the smoked trout and pasta.  Shape into 1/2-inch thick patties by hand or with a round cutter and freeze briefly on a cookie sheet so they hold together better when frying.  Heat a large heavy skillet, add and heat 2-3 T. grapeseed oil. Over medium heat, cook the patties, a few at a time (do not crowd the pan), about 3 min. on each side or till golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Keep warm.  Serve with Sorrel Mayonnaise.

Homemade Sorrel Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 cup

You can substitute any herb for the sorrel--I would suggest trying cilantro if you're making this in the summer.  Usually mayonnaise is made with only yolks, but this recipe uses both yolk and white so you don't have to worry about using the white somehow.  You could make it without the whites as well.

1 organic, farm fresh egg at room temperature
2 T. red wine vinegar at room temperature
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 c. sunflower, olive, or grapeseed oil at room temperature

Place raw egg, vinegar, salt, and dry mustard in a food processor and add 1 T. oil.  Process, then add remaining oil via the feed tube (see note) in a slow steady stream.  Process until thick.  Add additional seasoning, if needed.

Note:  I recently learned, via the book Julie and Julia, that the tiny hole in the bottom of the piece that fits into the feed tube is specifically for making mayonnaise.  Pour all the oil into this part and it will gradually drip out in a perfectly slow stream.

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