I’ve been making sage ice cream for a few years now, always to rave reviews. I like to put in just enough sage to taste some ethereal flavor dance across the tongue, but the exact nature eludes description. It’s definitely not the hit you over the head kind of flavor most people associate with sage, and I think that’s a big part of why I love it.
Saag paneer (or palak paneer) is one of my favorite Indian dishes. Saag paneer is pretty ubiquitous in Indian restaurants, but it can vary widely from one restaurant to the next. What they (almost) all have in common is a base of chopped or pureed greens in a creamy, spice-laden sauce studded with pieces of paneer. There’s considerable variation in what makes the sauce creamy (cream vs butter vs yogurt), what spices are used (anything from “nothing but garlic and ginger” to “garam masala” to “just about every spice in your cabinet”), how much heat it has and even which greens are used (although spinach is by far the most common.)
As soon as I publicly admitted that I’m not very good at making pie crusts and don’t have a recipe I really like, I knew I had to change that. (Truth be told, and bacon apple pie aside, I’ve avoided pies for years because of my crust-phobia.) Then I heard these cherries calling to me from across the farmer’s market. There were just two boxes of bright red Michigan sour cherries sitting among the bings, and I heard them calling just in time to watch one leave with someone else. My fate was sealed. I quickly swooped in to grab the last box. Afterall, what better way to end a pie drought than with cherry pie? Now I just needed a crust.
There’s a white mulberry tree a few blocks from my house. It’s in the yard in front of an apartment building and every year it drops tons of berries on the ground, but no one seems to pick any of them. I’ve been walking past it on my way to and from work every day for more than three years now. It took me while to think “Hey, those berries look edible. If no one else is using them, I should.” Then it took me a while longer to indentify the tree. (I may be foolish, but not so foolish to eat unknown berries from an unknown tree.) I finally got a positive ID on the tree last fall, just in time for the tree to stop growing berries for the year. So this spring when it started growing berries, I was determined to pick some.
I saw gooseberries at the farmer’s market. (Actually my wife pointed them out.) Neither of us had ever eaten gooseberry anything, so of course it was a challenge not to be passed up. They’re quite tart; almost as tart as rhubarb. They’re quite similar to rhubarb in flavor as well. Because of the acidity, I knew these would need to be cooked into something. I love curds, and these had enough acidity to make a curd without adding lemon juice. (The acidity in a curd helps it set up correctly.) A gooseberry curd tart sounds like a winner to me.
I saw anise hyssop at the farmers market and couldn’t resist it. I haven’t cooked with it before and it has a strong anise flavor. (I love all things anise. Yes, even licorice candy.) What more could I ask? Well, maybe I could ask for a way to use it…yeah, that would be nice. To be honest, it sat in my fridge for a week while I tried to think of ways to eat it. (Luckily it looked just as fresh on day 7 as on day 1.)
Last Saturday at the farmers market, I saw a new (to me) vegetable: purslane. I’d heard of it a few times before, but only vaguely. I sampled a leaf and really liked the flavor: raw purslane has a pleasant crunch, not unlike the pod of a sugar snap pea. Its flavor is mild and spinach-like, but with a tart, lemony note; almost a milder sorrel. It was tasty and I’m a sucker for anything new or unusual; I had to pick it up.