Raising chicks isn’t something we ever thought we’d do, and yet here we are, in our basement with a half-dozen chirping chicks on our hands. Join us to watch the fun!
Hi, woodland chums!
No recipe this week as Emily is busy with photography work, so I thought I’d “entertain” you (rarely was a word used so incorrectly with such flagrant abandon) with a little video diary of us raising chicks. Last September, we got five new chicks, and like any proud parent, I Periscoped the hell out of them for about a month before promptly dropping the whole documentary process.
A few notes on our success in the garden this summer … as well as our failures.
Comrades! While Emily is entertaining you all indoors with delicious seasonal goodies, I thought I’d update you with news from the garden to show you what’s been going on outside the house this year. This is technically our third full spring/summer, but our first since we bought the house. We were loathe to install anything permanent during our rental period for fear we’d do irreparable damage to the property – now of course, we’re quite merrily doing plenty of irreparable damage and NOT GIVING A HOOT.
So: the garden. Over the last couple of seasons I’ve built two 8’x4′ raised beds. I’ve planted vegetables that we tend to use most in cooking – garlic, onions, dark greens and squash – with varying success. The first year, we had what seemed like two fresh zucchini every day. We’d eat them, go down to the garden the next day and pick off two more. The second year, we didn’t notice ANY squash growing until late in the season, I moved a leaf aside and found one enormous zucchini that must have been growing un-noticed for a month. [Emily: I wish we had taken a picture of it because it seriously would have needed an NSFW tag]. That was the first and last squash we had that year.
Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. We’ve adapted the recipe below to use only the ramp leaves, and you’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
“Ahem,” [Taps mic, looks around nervously]. “It all started around ’98. ’99. It was like they were giving it away, you know? We just thought, ‘hey, these are pretty good!’. We didn’t understand. We didn’t know what would happen.” [Squares shoulders, takes deep breath]. “My name is Emily, and I am addicted to ramps.”
This is me at the farmer’s market during ramp season:
I feel a tiny bit bad about evangelizing a vegetable that can be very hard to find but this was just too good not to share. Making ramp butter, along with pickling, is one of the best ways to preserve ramps so you can enjoy them all year round.
Your basic ramp, Allium tricoccum, is a North American species of wild onion that grow across eastern Canada and the eastern United States. (The European/Asian variety is allium ursinum.) I know that doesn’t sound very exciting but they have a unique oniony-garlicky flavor that, if you like that kind of thing, is really fantastic. They are also notoriously difficult to cultivate and their growing season is very short, so they are a true delicacy. That means crazy people (me), will travel far and wide to find them, so if you’re lucky enough to have them in your region, don’t expect to saunter over to the farmer’s market at noon and expect to find any left (because I got there at 7 and bought them all).
Pork chops marinated in a spice brine, cooked to perfection and served with garlic-sauteed broccoli rabe and an apple-onion sauce. Chops don’t get much better than this.
One of the things I love about living in Beacon is that it really feels like a community that is growing and changing in an interesting way. For a long time I felt this way about Brooklyn (where I had lived since the early 1990’s) but as wonderful as Brooklyn is, it’s just too damn expensive now for artists and creative people to do anything but hustle every day to make rent.
I know I’m the bazillionth person to complain about how amazing Brooklyn used to be, but I was incredibly lucky to be one of the crazy, hearty few who lived in East Williamsburg back when it was practically deserted. It was a startling, magical, bizarre, occasionally terrifying place back then, and my roommates and I had absolutely no idea what it would become.
In 1995, if you would have told me that one of the hippest restaurants in NYC was going to open two blocks away from my house, I would have laughed loudly enough to startle the poodle-sized rats that lived in the burned-out minivan abandoned outside my front door. All we knew at the time was that you could rent a 3,000 square foot loft for a few hundred dollars, but you had to install your own toilet and either evict or adopt any animals you found on the premises (I love you Special Ed).
So Beacon may not be able to boast quite the same level of grittiness (thankfully), but it does have a bit of that creatively experimental spirit. Case in point, on a rough-looking corner lot, quite a ways off Main Street, has opened one of the coolest new businesses in town, Barb’s Butchery. Run by a former math professor named Barbara Fisher, it’s exactly the kind of butcher shop you dream would open up in your neighborhood. She sources as much as possible directly from local farms and so far, everything we’ve cooked from there has been fantastic.