I first tasted wild onions many years ago at a Wild Onion Dinner in my rural hometown of Holdenville, Ok.  I loved them, all cooked in a country Creek Indian way with lots of bacon fat and a little bit of scrambled egg and salt. Their flavor is spicy and hearty and somewhere in between a chive and a green onion, but the best thing about them is: THEY ARE FREE AND ABUNDANT. This morning, after I dropped off my 12-year-old at her middle school, I went foraging.

I think the best place to find wild onions if you’re a city dweller in the Midwest is in abandoned or no longer operating public parks. You don’t have to worry about some old codger being all “Get off my lawn!” and you don’t have to worry about the city “maintaining” the property as anally. No chemicals, no mowing, all natural and wild. A quick drive around the less chemically sprayed parts of town means driving around the less affluent and less developed areas. In Tulsa, the northern, western, and eastern edges of town are all havens holding plots of these precious, delicious veggies. Take a spoon or some other digging device with you to help pull up the entire plant, root and all, cuz the bulb is worthy.

Then bring them home and clean them:

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Cut the flagellous roots off, fry, salt and enjoy.

Mmmmm.

Spring foraging.

Eat, Foreplay, Love

September 9, 2012

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf

It was back in late Spring or early Summer. The first time my boyfriend cooked for me in his apartment – the first time a man had cooked for me in his home – I play the memory like a silent film except in color and with emotions and smells. Firsts are always memorable, I guess. I don’t remember many lasts, like the last time I ate with my dad before he died or the last time I ate with my grandmother before she died. Anyway, people are always writing and painting and making photo essays and going on and on about last suppers. But we can all agree on one thing, surely: There is more to each meal than the food.

The inside of his refrigerator, he shared with two roommates. He had his own section, I remember, the lower right-hand drawer as well as the right side of the bottom shelf. I had never had an assigned section of a refrigerator, even when I shared a kitchen with 8 other girls in college. I was impressed that 3 young men, all in their 20s, had such organizational creativity and discipline.

His vegetables were loved. Some were from the Farmer’s Market which had recently opened, some were from the grocery store. Others were from his mother who had recently gone on vacation and jettisoned produce that wouldn’t last until her return. All were in their own place, none were spoiling. Some were recently used and those were the ones he set out on the cutting board to chop up first. There were also the jalapeños from my garden, looking like shiny little green prizes.

Once, I did a peck of research on jalapeños. I learned romantic facts like that pepper flowers are a perfect union; I mean, they contain both female and male sex organs. The male organ, the stamen. The female organ, the stigma. Each flower usually has one large stigma and several smaller stamens, ready to share pollen and proceed with reproduction. Reminds me of a harem of ready women and a lone, steady man.

After the pepper pollinates itself, a fruit begins. Pepper gardeners watch small pea-sized blips yawn and stretch to full-size within 3 months. The placenta holding the seeds and the veins lining the walls of the fruit contain large amounts of capsaicin. It’s what makes the pepper taste “hot” to humans, and contrary to popular belief, the seeds themselves do not produce any capsaicin.

In one of nature’s amusing displays of reproductive tension, the sexiest part of the plant (the fruit) that is often evolved to attract animals, in the pepper plant, is also evolved to keep certain animals from getting too close. Most mammals – say, bunnies – find the capsaicin to be an irritating repellant. On the other hand, birds and their digestive systems are not bothered at all. And so, the secretion of capsaicin protects the fruit from consumption by mammals while the bright colors attract birds that will happily eat and disperse the seeds and potentially spread the glory that is the pepper near and far. Such a spicy tease.

He had good knives, in a drawer just out of his roommates’ convenient grasp, somewhere between communal and private. I asked him if I could help with anything, but I really just wanted to watch him. He took out spices from the cabinet above the island stove. He didn’t even have to stretch to reach them, he’s so tall. Mixed spices like lemon garlic pepper and taco seasoning and single spices like paprika. Reds and yellows and browns. Sautéed onion, garlic, and peppers are almost always a must, like foreplay to sex. The smell of them cooking is so familiar, in kitchens all over the world, I’m sure of it. It’s a smell that can get you in the mood to eat, no matter if you were in the mood before. It’s a smell that can convince anyone that the meal to come will be great. He cooked, and I watched from the barstool drinking my coffee, if I remember correctly. I hadn’t had food yet so it is quite possible that this memory is somewhere between reality and fantasy.

One of the roommates walked in, maybe the smell in his territory attracted him. Ridiculous how I was thinking of animals in a den. I started feeling self-conscious, that I might say or do something that would interrupt them. The roommate started preparing to cook, chopping vegetables and such. Have you ever seen two men cooking and sharing the counter space, the stove, the cutting board? It’s a sight. It may even be the spark needed to ignite global peace and harmony: two men cooking brunch in households the world over.

Mostly, that day, I felt honored that this man would cook a meal for me in an expressive and practical kind gesture. We ate and were happy. No struggle, no figuring out, no stress, no bad news to discuss, no confusion, no anxiety, no egos. We ate, and it was delicious. It could have tasted like circus peanuts and canned spinach, though. The point was made before I took a bite: He cooked for me, and I felt well loved.

I picked up some lavender sugar at the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market today, and I immediately made nomnomnom Lavender Orange Sugar Cookies.

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Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup lavender sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp. juice from orange
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ t. almond extract
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. MIx up the sugar and orange zest until the sugar looks damp, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture.
  4. Scatter the butter pieces over and mix until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal.
  5. Beat together the orange juice, egg yolk and almond extract. Add the juice mixture in a slow stream (should take about 10 seconds) and continue mixing until the dough pulls together.
  6. Turn the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface and gently gather into a ball.
  7. Working quickly, roll the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and 1½” in diameter. Center the dough on a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and wrap tightly, twisting the ends together to seal. Chill the dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  9. Remove the dough log from its wrapper and use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 3/8″ thick rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1″ apart.
  10. Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, about 11-13 minutes.
  11. Cool.
The sugar zest mix, so pretty:

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People! These are so good and light and crisp and summery. You just must try them!
Some food love for your weekend,
Spring

Okie Stories

January 12, 2012

I haven’t been blogging very much lately, but I have been writing and busy in other ways. Recently, This Land Press published a story I wrote about the time me and 2 of my friends killed, dressed, skinned, and butchered a goat. Check it out HERE! It’s a reworking of the story I related here on Progress on the Prairie a while back. Also, a very talented journalist named Abby interviewed my friends and me about the killing experience and our personal views on eating meat.  She made a nice audio piece — like a mini This American Life episode — out of our interview, and you can listen to it here.

Here’s to Okie stories!

Spring

Squausage Soup

September 6, 2011

The 50 degree nights and 80 degree days we’ve been having here in Tulsa inspired the cook in me.  And, yes, I did invent a soup. Guess what’s in it? If you said SQUASH and SAUSAGE, you’re not as good at word play as you think you are. ‘Cuz, SURRRPRISE, it’s also got SAGE in it! At first, I was going to call it “Squausage Stew” but then I learned that stew is much thicker than soup. Soup = brothy. Stew = gravy-ish. Whatdyaknow?

But doesn’t it look delicious with the bubbles of pork fat floating on top?!

squash  and sausage soup

I used sausage that I bought at the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market from the lovely folks at Greenwood Farms (which is, sadly, downsizing considerably after this summer). The squash is from my boyfriend’s family, and the sage is from my garden. I browned all of these ingredients with a bit of olive oil to the point where the meat and squash were nearly blackened on one side. Then added the water. Also, I added plenty of mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, cayenne, fresh basil and hatch chilies. And salt and pepper – it almost goes without saying.

Don’t forget the fresh sage on the top for pretties!

Happy end of summer,

Spring

This may be the most delicious salad I have ever tasted:

blueberry arugula salad

Salad ingredients: arugula, blueberries, mozzarella, pine nuts. 

Dressing ingredients: red wine vinegar, mustard, honey, coriander, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

First, whisk the vinegar, mustard, honey, coriander, salt and pepper together. Then mix in the oil. Then toast the nuts in a small pan on a medium heat until lightly browned. Rinse the lettuce and berries. Place the arugula on a plate, or plates if you are sharing. I grew the arugula in my garden, and it has a hearty – almost nutty – flavor. AMAZING!

Okay, then slice the mozzarella and arrange it on the bed of lettuce. Then grab a handful of blueberries and the nuts (with care if HOT!) and sprinkle them on the growing salad.

Drizzle the dressing on as you like. You’re going to be getting tangy and sweet and salty flavors that are perfect with the berries and mild cheese and nuts. All of those tastes held up by a bunch of fresh arugula might make you want to kiss Mother Nature’s butthole. No hyperbole.

Summery, delicious happiness,

Spring

Apple Dandelion Fritters!

April 10, 2011

Don’t kill your dandelions, fry them! If you have sprayed chemicals all over your dandelions because you were brainwashed into thinking they are bad, bad weeds then you will have to miss out on these delicious Springtime delicacies. Ha! However, if your yard is wild and pollutant-free and ugly like mine, then you are in luck!

apple dandelion fritters

Ingredients:

diced apples, 1 handful

dandelions, 1 handful freshly foraged

egg, 1

flour, 1 cup

milk, 1/2 cup

applesauce, 1/2 cup

cinnamon, 1 dash

oil for frying

syrup or honey for dipping

powdered sugar for sprinkling

Step 1: Send kid to pick the flower parts off the dandelions while you cut up apples and measure out ingredients. Pull the yellow petals out of the rest of the green part of the flower for this recipe. The green can be kinda bitter, which I think is great for more savory recipes, but not so much for this sweeter one.

Step 2: Mix everything together. Batter should be thicker than pancake batter, but not as thick as biscuit dough. Ya hear me? Then drop it by the spoonful into hot oil. I use a medium-low heat.

Step 3: Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until beautiful and golden.

Step 4: Sprinkle with powdered sugar, dip in syrup or drizzle with honey.

Step 5: Now EAT!

Num num,

Spring