25 April 2010

hidden treasure

from our friends' house, you walk down past their garden, beyond the fire pit, through some high brush (stop to smell a may apple blossom), and turn right when you get to the clearing.

from there, you head down the hill, through the woods, where you'll find lots of wild edibles, in case you need a snack. sky is an expert forager, and he identified more plants than i can hope to name now.

cosmo and i especially enjoyed the trout lily leaves, and the lemony wood sorrel. in fact, cosmo abandoned his "cheesy crackers" for the tasty leafy greens, and that's saying a lot! at the creek, sky and cosmo turned over rocks to inspect salamanders, water lice, and some strange, gray water worm that only eyes as keen as sky's could spot.

after crossing the creek, we wound around another hill (stop to try on some velcro plant),

past a cow pasture, where (legend has it) one cranky cow hangs out, and she could decide to charge, so we had to be careful. we clung close to the tree line, passed through a wire gate, when suddenly, a small green building appeared--our destination: the children's library in the woods.

the door was unlocked, and we stepped into an utterly charming one room cabin, lined with old children's books. there were a couple of desks, some comfy chairs, and a wood stove. one wall was mostly windows, perfect light for reading. cosmo had selected a few books to donate, from his collection, so we wrote a note to that effect, and left it with our books on the checkout desk. cosmo cruised the shelves, found some familiar titles, and we nestled down to read some dr. suess that we hadn't seen before.

a rain shower made a lovely pattering sound on the tin roof, and we were happy to be sheltered in that magical space. when the rain let up, we checked out a few books, donned the paper rain hats that sky had crafted, and headed back down the trail. checking out books means we will for sure get to come back sometime.

cosmo rode in the back pack, for most of the walk back, but wanted to get down at the creek, and snacked on more sorrel on the hill. he also got to pick up a beautiful turtle in the meadow. by that point, the rain had picked up, and we needed to walk back quickly.

i'm still wondering if it was all just a dream.

one piece of evidence we brought home with us was this single morel specimen. i fried it up almost immediately, and we enjoyed it's wild and meaty flavor as an appetizer to this couscous dish, topped with freshly snipped pea shoots.

i can't share all my secrets, but i can offer this recipe:

Couscous with Raisins and Pine Nuts
from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

2 1/4 cups Vegetable Stock, store-bought vegetable broth, or water
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods (or more)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup raisins or minced dried fruit such as apricots or figs, or a combination (currants are nice)
1/3 cup hot water or stock
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups couscous (i like to use the israeli kind, or "fat couscous" as we call it)
Minced fresh parsley or cilantro leaves for garnish (or, barely cooked pea shoots, if ya got 'em)

1. In a small saucepan, warm the 2 1/4 cups stock with the cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and pepper while you prepare the other ingredients. Soak the raisins in the 1/3 cup hot water or stock.

2. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet and turn the heat to medium. When it melts, add the pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. Place 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. When it melts, add the couscous and cook, stirring, until it is coated with butter, about 1 minute. Strain the stock or water and add it all at once. Bring to a boil,then turn the heat down to its minimum. Cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the raisins and gently stir them in, along with the pine nuts and remaining butter. Fluff with a fork to break up any lumps. Garnish and serve.


The Empress said...

Beautiful day. I especially love the one of you sitting and reading to your little guy. That's just how he'll remember you, too. Reading to him.


Alex said...

Cool adventure. But the hats are definitely the best part.

Anonymous said...

How cool: I didn't know you can eat trout lily! Your adventures always seem so magical...but maybe it's just your personality shining through. :)

I gotta try the couscous recipe; shame on me for having the book and never trying that recipe.

cake said...

teresa, the trout lily leaves are so tasty! like a very yummy lettuce, sweet, no bitter taste. try them!
also, the couscous recipe is one that i have made over and over, i love it! i usually use figs or cranberries, but i had currants this time, and i liked them the best. i don't think it would be as good if you used regular couscous. the "fat" kind is the best. but it may need a bit more water, and may need to cook longer. you can add a sprinkle of garam masala at the end, if it doesn't have enough spice.

Malke said...

That recipe looks yummy! Do you think it would work with quinoa (which takes about twice as long to cook)?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the tips on how to cook the couscous! And we'll be sure to try some trout lily leaves. :)

Actchy said...

Holy. Cow.

mep said...

A little library in the woods? Truly a dream. Oh what a life.

Raisins and pine nuts together -- yes!!!!