Forage, or bust.

       April showers bring May flowers; this old adage is on repeat within my head these days. I replay the mantra as I step through mud with green muck-boots, reluctantly lift wet cats caught in a rainstorm or spend a week’s income on a new rain jacket. When the hands are cold and the hair is wet, I repeat it with each stir of piping hot tea, “April showers, April showers, damn April showers”. With only two weeks left until our first market at Union Square Greenmarket, work is rain and shine. Emily has been creating new market signs, Jens has been sowing seeds nearly every day, Sarah has been making bread and cheese to keep our bellies happy and we have recently dubbed Meghan, Queen of Organizational Systems. We bustle about these nine-acres in any weather (April showers) with an ominous and omnipresent clock tick-tick-ticking down to the final hours of May 7th. As I wade in the water, I dream about those little May flowers. I envision them to be yellow, freakishly massive and blissfully hydrated.

        However, as it turns out, I don’t really care about those freaky May flowers. They are beautiful, smell fantastic and bring a bit of cheer to the place, but my interests are invested in other gifts of May. You see, April showers bring May morelsrampsfiddleheadsnettlesasparagusspringgarlic.

        Foragers are licking their chops and stretching their eyes with hopes of finding the morel mother load. Fetching nearly $60/#, there is a small fortune hiding in the woods of the Northeast. My foraging skills are pretty terrible and Marc is convinced that morels run when they see him, but we can’t wait to enter those fruitful woods. Starting around Mothers day, morels, ramps, fiddleheads, nettles, asparagus, spring garlic and many other goodies will be prolific. Word on the dirt-street is that ramps may be on a bit earlier than that.

        As luck would have it, there are great books available which will guide any novice to a patch of May goodies. I have attached a link at the bottom to help push the reluctant towards a delicious lunch of foraged bits. And to make it even more tempting, here is a recipe I make every spring – Pappardelle with Morels, Nettles and Ramps. As the rain comes down, I am asking it to bring up a few more morels instead of those pesky, water-loving flowers. Whether you have dreams of paying your way through Grad-school with your mushroom fortune, or just having a stellar lunch with a few friends, there is food in our back yards patiently waiting for us to discover it. April showers bring May devours…or something.

 Pappardelle with Morels, Nettles and Ramps

For the pasta:

1# All Purpose or “00” Flour
4 Large eggs
2 T freshly milked goat milk*
2 Large pinches of kosher salt
           In a bowl, make a well in the center of the flour. Whisk the eggs and goat milk together in a separate bowl. Pour the wet into the center of the dry and using the spoons that God gave you (your hands) mix the eggs slowly into the flour.
          It will look funky for a good while, but keep kneading it for 10 minutes (5 min in a mixer) or until it is a smooth, heavy, not-dry, not-sticky mass of deliciousness. Wrap in plastic and let sit on your kitchen table for 1 hour.
          Then, unwrap, cut the dough ball into quarters (keeping it wrapped as you go!) and utilize a pasta roller, rolling pin, a drinking glass, metal pipe – anything to roll it to a thin thickness. You should be able to see the shadow of your hand behind the pasta, but use your inner voice to know how thin to make it.
Cut the rolled pasta into 1” wide strips. Toss with flour and store on a floured tray. Save until you are ready to toss in a huge pot of boiling salted water to which you will cook it until al dente.
            *You don’t have to add milk, and any self-respecting Italian would tell you not to, but Marc tried this and I swear, it was some of the best pasta I have ever had in my pasta-loving life. In its place you can use nothing, olive oil or water. Play jazz with it and find your own favorite.

 For the sauce:

Slug of nice tasting olive oil
½ cup of the white and red portion of Ramps, finely chopped
3 heads of spring garlic, finely chopped
2 cups of Morels, quartered
Slug of left over white wine if you have it, or 4Tbsp. of Chicken stock
4 cups of Stinging Nettles, picked from their woody stems and roughly chopped
A bit of chopped tarragon, like 1Tbsp.
A bit of chopped chives, like 1Tbsp.
3 Tbsp of Butter
½ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano, grated on a Microplane
¼ cup of seasoned bread crumbs that you made with old bread…that you made.
             First, heat a sauté pan until you notice it to be a bit warm. Then toss in a slug of olive oil until you notice that to be a bit warm.
            Throw in the ramps and spring garlic. You want these to cook nice and slow with out burning – so watch that fire. Let cook for 2 minutes.
            Toss the morels into the pan and add the wine (away from the flame) or the stock. Add a pinch of salt at this point. Cook for 5 minutes or until the morels are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. *At this point, your pasta H2O should be boiling and the pasta should go in*
            Add the roughly chopped nettles and stir. The nettles will wilt and start to fill your kitchen with earthy aromas. This is a good sign. Cook until all the nettles are wilted – like your mamma’s Sunday spinach.
Turn off the heat and add in the butter, chopped tarragon and chopped chives.
          Using tongs, transfer your perfectly cooked Pappardelle to the sauté pan and toss. The butter should emulsify with the pasta water. Add half of the cheese and toss again. Letting it all sit for a second should yield a thicker sauce. Top with more cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. Yum.

 BOOKS: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=foraging&x=16&y=23


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Tweefontein is located at: 4 Jenkins Road New Paltz, NY 12561 United States of America