A Recipe for Capers From Dandelion Buds

by Anne Maxfield on May 21, 2015

Accidental Locavore BudsOne of the most interesting things the Accidental Locavore ate on the recent Croatian trip was the dandelion buds that the chef at Toklarija had pickled. At first, they looked like capers and tasted a bit like them, but with a more interesting, complex flavor. As we toured the kitchen, he told me how he makes them.

As it turns out, when I got back it was just the right time to look for the buds (and there were plenty!). They’re generally in the center of the plant, although some may have multiple buds. You want them small and tight, otherwise they’ll come apart in the pickling process. I picked about a cup of them over the course of several dog walks. Here’s the process:Accidental Locavore Dandelion Buds in Salt

  • Rinse and dry the buds
  • In a shallow container, put a generous layer of kosher salt. Add the buds and cover completely with another layer of salt. Leave them for 2 days.
  • After 2 days, put the buds and salt in a sieve and rinse throughly.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, put ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup water, and ½ cup kosher salt. Heat until the salt is dissolved and the brine is simmering.
  • Put washed buds in a small jar (I used a 1 pint Ball jar) and pour the hot brine over them until the jar is almost full (leave about 1” of space). Cover and let cool.
  • When the jar is cool, refrigerate. They’ll need a day or two to pickle.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Dandelion CapersMy verdict: Really good! Added bonus—possibly the yard will have a few less dandelions next year. It may be too late in the season to find buds, but as I was researching this, I learned that you can do this with a variety of buds, including chives and nasturtiums. As it turned out, my chives were just beginning to bud, so I clipped a few and added them to the jar. Where the dandelion buds were just slightly bitter, the chive buds had a hint of onion to them. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Another Pig, Another Lunch, Another Country

by Anne Maxfield on May 18, 2015

Accidental Locavore Billy Joe's RibsWhen the Accidental Locavore singled out Billy Joe’s Ribworks as being my favorite chili (as well as Frank’s) in the recent Chili Cook-off, Jonathan Gatsik, one of the owners, sent me an invitation to come and have lunch, so the other day Frank and I set off for the Newburgh waterfront.

Accidental Locavore Billy Joes DeckBilly Joe’s is a huge place perched on the edge of the Hudson. There’s a large patio with a stage for summer concerts and a beer garden for exploring their large selection of local craft beer. During the summer they serve over 3000 diners a week, which means their three smokers are going non-stop from May through the end of September. The smokers are immense, with a capacity of 13-1400 pounds of meat each.

And we sampled a good amount of that meat! Starting with some smoked chicken wings that they then toss on the grill to crisp up. They come to the table with your choice of dipping sauce and blue cheese dressing. Whether you choose “Devil’s Revenge” or their own barbecue sauce, everything is made in-house. Frank’s reaction (“the wings were a revelation”) pretty much sums it up—they were!

Accidental Locavore Billy Joe's WingsWe tried not to stuff ourselves solely on the wings (although they would have been a fine lunch) because we knew Jonathan had ordered a lot more food for us to taste. There were three types of ribs: baby backs, St. Louis and beef. All were great, but my favorites were the beef ribs. Huge and naked except for a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, they were smoky and beefy and delicious! The baby backs were cut with the tenderloin, which made them super tender and both types of pork ribs were dusted with their special rub before the trip to the smoker.

Accidental Locavore Billy Joes BrisketAlong with the ribs there were three types of smoked sausages, both sweet and hot Italian and some spicy andouille. Definitely one of Frank’s favorite foods, he was happily devouring all three types. Not to be overshadowed by the ribs and sausage – some really great pulled pork, wonderful brisket and smoked chicken! And if you’re not into meat but find yourself there, the “Good Ol’ Grilled Salmon” is perfectly prepared (I stole a bite of Jonathan’s) so you won’t be left out!

Side dishes included homemade corn bread, some wonderful smoked baked beans, very good coleslaw and exceptional mac & cheese! My favorite mac & cheese is always really cheesy and creamy and this fit the bill completely! From now on, if I’m craving it, I know a trip to Newburgh will be just what I need!

Accidental Locavore Billy Joes CrewJonathan calls Billy Joe’s a “very, very happy place” and it ‘s apparent the minute you walk in the door. His chef, Kevin, also deserves a shout-out for all the great food. Managing that kitchen has to be a herculean task and they both do it with a big smile! Jonathan says “I love it every single day of the week” and you can too!

 

Thanks to Jonathan and crew for a great lunch and to Frank for the photos!

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Magic Mushrooms

by Anne Maxfield on May 14, 2015

Accidental Locavore Magic MushroomsThe Accidental Locavore was reading a recipe on Pure Wow for crispy mushrooms and it sounded so simple and good that I had to give them a try. What better excuse than people coming for dinner, and it would be a nice change or addition to the usual cheese and charcuterie. They couldn’t be simpler, but you do have to give yourself about an hour for roasting them.Accidental Locavore Prepping Mushrooms

  • 1 ½ pounds cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and ends trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 large clove finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Flaky salt, like Maldon, for finishing

Accidental Locavore Roasting MushroomsPreheat the oven to 375°F (I used the convection setting). Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to combine.

Pour the mushrooms onto the baking sheet, then spread them out evenly (don’t overcrowd or they won’t get crispy). Roast until the mushrooms are very brown and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes.

Let the mushrooms cool slightly, then garnish with parsley and flaky salt, if using. You can serve the mushrooms warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Crispy MushroomsMy verdict: When we were cleaning and prepping the mushrooms, my friend Laura and I decided that a pound wasn’t going to be enough, so we went out and got another small container and ended up with about a pound and a half. I added the fresh garlic and thyme – any fresh herbs would work as well. So, we roasted them and roasted them, tossing them occasionally, and they got beautifully dark brown and smelled great! However, after about 70 minutes in the oven, they weren’t crispy (or anywhere near that) and our guests had arrived, so we pulled them out. They were fabulous—seriously roasted, with the garlic and thyme adding to the great mushroom flavor. I would definitely make them again, but wouldn’t expect them to be crispy. Maybe if you sliced them you could achieve crispiness (which might be an experiment for the next batch). We did end up with a few leftovers which were equally delicious chopped into an omelet and sliced into salads.

 

 

 

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A Presidential Dinner

by Anne Maxfield on May 11, 2015

Accidental Locavore Dinner in the White SuiteFollowing the tour of Golf Adriatic, the Accidental Locavore and company went on to explore the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic. Entering the recently built hotel, the lobby is a big open expanse with an inlaid floor and many chandeliers. Downstairs is a large and luxurious spa, with a host of top-notch services. After touring a standard room and junior suite (both lovely, with lots of high-end finishes and the latest in electronics), we went up to the top floor to the white Presidential Suite (the other one, at the opposite end of the hotel is the Black Suite). It’s massive and very white, with columns draped in Swarovski crystals, white couches, white marble everywhere–you get the idea. The floor-to-ceiling glass opens up to an almost equally gigantic terrace. Had it been clearer out, we would have been able to see across the Adriatic to Venice, but we happily settled for the coast of Slovenia.

When we turned around and went back inside, we found a large table set for dinner. It turned out to be the surprise we’d been hearing rumors about all afternoon.

Marko, our guide from the Istrian Tourist Bureau, had worked for the hotel and managed to get Istrian Master Chef Zoran Čobanov of the hotel to prepare one final feast for us. Chef took many of the local products we’d been eating all week and elevated them to the stratosphere!

Accidental Locavore Amuse of RicottaIt started with an amuse of fresh ricotta with three spears of wild asparagus and half a strawberry. The ricotta was creamy and delicious and the slight bitterness of the asparagus was tempered by the sweetness of the cream and strawberry.

Accidental Locavore Tuna CarpaccioFrom there we moved on to the “real” menu. First up was one of the most beautiful presentations of tuna carpaccio I’ve ever seen! Three bars of tuna were centered in a large white bowl surrounded by three drops of beet sauce on the left and three drops of carrot purée on the right. Topping the tuna were some micro greens, dehydrated olives and drops of lime jelly. I was hesitant at first; as you all know, beets are not on my hit parade, but I just ignored the drops on the left and focused on what turned out to be a dish that you just never wanted to finish!

Accidental Locavore Asparagus Soup With Ice CreamFollowing that was a light and refreshing asparagus soup. Making it unique was the Grana Padano ice cream, slowly melting into the soup. It was like the best combination of cheese and cream, but better, way better!

Accidental Locavore Istrian FritajaThat was followed by what was described as an “Istrian new fritaja with black truffle”. I guess that the easy way of describing it would be to call it a deconstructed version of scrambled eggs with black truffle, but that is really an injustice. You were presented with another large white plate with a small dark knob in the center of a creamy, pale yellow sauce, surrounded by truffle shavings. There was a sprinkling of local sea salt and off to the side, some caviar. The knob was actually a mushroom hiding the yolk of an egg. When you cut into the mushroom the yolk was broken and then you spooned the caviar in and mixed it all up. In a trip filled with amazing meals, this is the dish I’ll be dreaming about!

Accidental Locavore Sponge With FishWhen we got through swooning over the fritaja, there was a fish course with a piece of Adriatic fish, toasted and served on a “sepia ink sponge” with tiny clams. Although it doesn’t sound as divine as the rest of the menu and for some the idea of eating a black sponge seemed daunting, the sponge turned out to be an airy piece of bread dyed black with squid ink and topping a perfectly cooked fish filet and sweet clams. Adding a drizzle of the local olive oil made this seemingly simple dish as wonderful as the previous courses.

Accidental Locavore Lemon CreamTo cleanse our palates, the fish was followed by a smooth and refreshing frozen lemon cream. Palates cleansed, we moved on to dessert. What was simply described as “Chocolate cake with olive oil” was anything but!

Accidental Locavore Chocolate DessertRiding on a trail of cream sauce was a chocolate ball, dusted with cocoa. There was a single raspberry, a drop of blueberry sauce, a greenish disc of olive oil and a swirl of the thinnest chocolate cookie. The ball consisted of a chocolate cookie topped with mousse and surrounded by a hard chocolate shell. Taking a taste of each of the elements with the centerpiece, just gave new dimensions to this grand finale.

While this truly memorable evening was created just for us, I’ve been told that some of the dishes (including my favorite–the fritaja) are available in the hotel restaurant Kanova. Or, for an extraordinary evening, you can book the suite, have them recreate our amazing dinner and take your after-dinner drinks in the suite’s rooftop hot tub overlooking the lights of the Adriatic coast. Živjeli!

 

 

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