A Local & Wild Foods Feast
Last night I had six friends over for a local foods dinner that included a lot of wild edibles.
There were many reasons to celebrate. Two friends had recent birthdays and for a third it was his actual birthday. I was also showing off last month’s apartment renovations and saying thanks to Bill, who did a lot of them.
I was also introducing several people to my cat Ella, who moved in with me last fall. And it was Imbolc, give or take a day.
Imbolc is the pagan holiday halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is that time when the first promise of spring shows even though there are many weeks of winter ahead: the witch hazel is blooming, the leaf buds on trees are swelling, and the lengthening of the days is tangible (no more heading to the subway in the dark on my early teaching mornings!).
We started out with some pickles–carrots, cherries, bread ‘n’ butter cukes, as well as watermelon radishes, and hickory nuts. Then we moved on to a roasted butternut squash and apple soup with field garlic and Old Chatham blue cheese, served with acorn bread. The main course was freekah (sometimes spelled freekeh) grain from Cayuga Pure Organics with wild mushrooms I foraged last fall and lamb’s quarters (a wild green, Chenopodium album), and crepinettes. We finished up with strawberry sorbet made with local strawberries I’d stashed in the freezer and cookies made with wild ginger and spicebush. All washed down with plenty of wine, including a homemade pyment that Ellen brought.
Here are Ellen and Jenny catching up after not having seen each other since, well, I think the last time I threw an Imbolc bash:
You may be wondering what a crepinette is.
A crepinette is a sausage patty wrapped in caul fat. For the sausage part, I used a mix of ground pork and ground turkey seasoned with minced onions (cooked in oil until translucent), garlic, sage, nutmeg, cumin, salt and cayenne.
I got the caul fat from my CSA “extra product” order. It was cheap, and I was curious, and I had a crepinette recipe that called for it, so I bought some. I have to say, this is one of the weirdest (and, it turns out, tastiest) ingredients I’ve ever worked with.
Caul fat looks like a block of lard when you get it.
Then you soak it in water for ten to fifteen minutes and it falls apart into lacy layers of fat and membrane.
You wrap your meat mixture in those lacy layers, which act like sausage skins to hold the ground meat and other ingredients together, but also infuse the final dish with, well, pork fat.
Which, once cooked, is really, really tasty.
Here’s a pic of me, Jenny’s husband Sean, & Ellen at the party.
Good company and good food. Happy Imbolc, everyone!
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith