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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pennies on the dollar

At this time every year, the big-leaf maples (acer macrophylum) will bud, and produce their flowers. Most people I've talked to don't seem to know this, but the pendulous, lime-green bracts can make an edible and nutritious meal. Good tasting, even, if you don't have it every day. I'd describe it as broccoli with a hint of wood smoke.

We have a fairly large one over the driveway, just in front of the garage, which shades our annual orgy of firewood-splitting, and for about a week -- maybe two -- I'll climb a ladder daily and collect a colander full.

I give the bracts a thorough immersive washing, as they attract a small black beetle-y insect that's not as tasty (don't ask).

Here I'm making up my lunches for the next work week.

At right, maple blossoms. At left, kale, leeks, elephant garlic greens, walking-onion greens, chard, and a broccoli leaf, all from around the winter garden. In the steamer there is short-grain whole rice, which takes about forty minutes.

I'll mix all but the rice with home-dried Amish Paste tomatoes, local tofu, and hard-boiled duck eggs (left over from the annual egg hunt).

We'll steam the diced-up stems of the alliums with the tofu and eggs, for about ten minutes, then add everything else, shredded, with three minutes to go, seasoned to taste.

Refrigerate separately from the rice, combining in a container some half-veg mix, half rice to go, each day. Refrigerate at work, zap for lunch. The rice seems to go yucky faster if pre-mixed, so that's why I wait to add it each morning. If I want my rice even fresher, I'll make half as much and make another batch come Wednesday.

The leftover steamer water goes into a pitcher to dole out for soups, breads, dressings, gravies, hot drinks, souffles, pancakes, and lattkes. If too much of this veg-water accumulates to keep well, I pour off some into the compost.

People tell me I'm not a very good cook, and it's true; I don't have much of a knack and seem to resist learning to do better. But I'm fascinated with low-to-no-cost cuisine and feel that we're possibly coming to a time when we may, most of us, need to know how to eat for pennies on the dollar.
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