Archive for June, 2018

Gifts from the Trees–Linden Tea, Elderflower Cordial

June 30, 2018

Elderflower cordial and Linden tea

When I moved to the North Shore ten years ago, I met the train at Linden station and and drove to Winnetka on Linden street. Who was Linden?  Only when the city allowed me to select a sapling for the parkway in front of our house did I study the trees in the local park. I chose an American Linden for its sturdiness and angel wing shade.  Now four years after planting, my Linden has reached rooftop height and this summer is laden with blossoms. I  see the Lindens all over town as their pale green bracts flutter in the breeze and their fragrance fills the air.

Linden flowers in tree

This ancient tree is sister to the great British limes or basswoods that regally dot the landscape of Hatfield House where Elizabeth I lived until she became queen. I remember the scent of the massive English limes, and now my American Linden is blooming with the same beckoning bouquet. Not only do the flowers make a tasty tea, they offer a calming and healing tincture, good for both the heart and soul.  Gather them now before they fall.

To make Linden tea, place several flower heads in a teapot. Fill with boiling water; steep five minutes and pour into cups. Sweeten with honey if desired.


Demanding equal time, wild Elderberry bushes along my back fence bend with white pillow-like heads in the sun. Their honeyed scent announces the onset of summer and of course summer means lemonade. The elder flowers and berries, Sambucus, long known for anti-viral and antibacterial properties are available in all pharmacies. Right now the wild flowers are offering themselves for free!

For generations elderflower cordial has

been a welcome summer cooler. The following recipe comes from Darina

picked elderflowers

Allen’s beautiful new book Grow, Cook, Nourish. Prepare the cordial base promptly while the flowers are briefly with us; hold the syrup in the fridge for several days or freeze to use through the coming weeks as a syrup with white wine, still or sparkling water.  You can party it up with springs of mint, slices of fruit or edible flowers.

The elderflower cordial recipe calls for ascorbic acid which is basic vitamin C. If you can’t find it in powder form, buy

inexpensive plain Vitamin C pills (no

additives such as calcium, etc.) and

Elderflower cordial ingredients

crush them in a mortar or with a rolling pin. For the following recipe, I used eight 1000mg tablets of Vitamin C.  (Ascorbic acid may also be used in tiny pinches in canning tomatoes and to strengthen the keeping qualities of homemade bread.)

Elderflower Cordial

10-12 elderflower heads

3 cups water

5 oz. sugar (scant ¾ cup)

1 lemon, grated zest and juice (3 ½

elderflowers in syrup


4 teaspoons ascorbic acid powder

Check the elder flowers for insects and rinse carefully in a bowl of cool water. Snipe off excess stem but keep the umbrella intact.

Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in elderflowers, lemon zest and juice and powdered ascorbic acid.

Cover and infuse 12 hours or overnight.

To strain place a cotton or linen (not

Elderflowers in linen towel

terry) tea towel in a strainer set over a bowl. Pour in the elderflower concoction. Allow the juice to drain freely.  For ultimate extraction, gather the tea towel above the flower mixture, tie with a string and hang from a cupboard doorknob. When fully drained, pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator or freeze. Makes 1 quart.  To serve dilute with 4-8 parts water or wine and add extra lemon to taste

Note: In place of the ascorbic acid, you may use an extra lemon; however, the syrup may not keep as long.

hanging extraction



Myrtle Allen–Remembrance

June 15, 2018

The Ballymaloe Cookbook

Just as I finished this last post, I learned of the passing at age 94 of my friend and mentor, Myrtle Allen, matriarch of the famed Ballymaloe House in East Cork. This brave and energetic farmer’s wife who blazed the trail literally changing the food culture of Ireland inspired many. Her passionate commitment to the simple, the best of local and seasonal produce turned the tide away from fussy, chefted up food, to pure and authentic flavor. She worked hard and walked humbly with her destiny. We will miss her and are deeply thankful for her rich life, legacy and generous good will.

Cookbook Inscription


June 15, 2018

O frabjous day!  At long last an abundance of fresh eggs in our farmers’ market. I’ve been waiting since November and really since last June when the tiny pullet eggs were available. These small gems are my favorite eggs of the year. Their yolks are richer, the whites firmer, and they’re a pleasure to handle and to eat. The first eggs from young hens are known to be the best of a hen’s laying life. Once I have these precious eggs back in my larder, I’m ready to indulge—there’ll be all the raw egg preparations first—Mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise, chocolate mousse, and more. Then the little poached eggs on toast or asparagus, barely set boiled eggs peeled and toping a paella, a runny yolk fried egg over hash browns and basically eggs everywhere. With these tiny eggs at hand, it’s only an extra 50 calories a pop

The other item both from the garden and the open market is green garlic, the first tender, young garlic of the season, often alongside their tasty, curly scapes.  With my hoard of pullet eggs, I pulled some garlic from my garden and couldn’t wait to stir up a batch of aioli. Popular now, most aioli is basically commercial mayonnaise flavored with grated garlic. On the other hand, real French or Spanish Aioli is simply egg yolk, mashed garlic, salt and olive oil.  It’s made quickly in a mortar and pestle since the heat from a blender or food processor causes olive oil to lose its best flavor.

Aioli’s fun to make, a five-minute meditation of sorts. It’s exciting chemistry before your eyes to watch the little egg yolk absorb the thread like stream of oil as it lifts into a pillowy emulsion.  Admittedly you can, however, drop the egg yolk into a blender jar or small food processor, grate the garlic in with a microplane, and pour in the oil as the motor whirrs. You’ll have it done in an instant, but then you’ll spend time getting the aioli out of the machine, cleaning the blades, washing up and in the long run you won’t save any time. A small mortar and pestle either ceramic or marble will be a kitchen treasure for years to come. If the flavors of fresh garlic and olive oil seem too strong, you may temper the mixture with a few drops of fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar and a dab of Dijon mustard.

Once your golden elixir is ready, you’ll find it the perfect complement for lightly blanched fresh asparagus or other crisp spring vegetables, a swooning glaze for a grilled burger, a soft boiled egg, steamed new potatoes or poached white fish. Find your farmers’ market tomorrow; it may be the last week for asparagus.  Eggs are in; time to bring back the true garlic mayo. Dine in Provence on a yolk, a lily and the olive.




3 cloves green garlic or 1 large clove regular garlic

pinch of coarse salt,

1 farm fresh large egg yolk or two pullet yolks

½ cup olive oil or (1/4 cup each olive oil and neutral vegetable oil)

few drops of water

(a little fresh lemon juice, optional)

In a ceramic or marble mortar, crush the peeled sliced garlic with the salt to form a smooth paste. Add egg yolk and mix well. If it seems very thick and pasty, add only ½ teaspoon water and combine.

Hold the oil in a measuring cup or small pitcher with a pouring lip. In the beginning just let a few drops of oil dribble in at a time and stir until it is well combined with the yolk before adding some more.

Lift the oil cup several inches above the yolk mixture and begin to pour in the oil in a tread-like stream, all the while turning the pestle with your other hand. Once the emulsion begins to “take” you can let the oil flow in a thread-like stream. Soon you may increase it to a string-like stream. All the while watch the emusion almost magically grow into a golden pillow.

Once all the oil has been added, taste for seasonings and add a few more drops of water if the mixture seems too thick. Lemon juice is optional if you must.  Makes a generous half cup