I read a lot of cookbooks. I mean a lot, a lot. I read them for fun, like novels, taking in the stories and beautiful photography, for research, looking at the science of how ingredients blend together and what I can create on my own, like poetry, how the components all marry together on a plate just so and for work, helping me pick the perfect book every month to review for the Just Food monthly column I write. I wouldn’t say I’m the authority, but I have some opinions.
It’s a little late in the night, I know. I’m here sipping on the last of my fizzy violet cocktail. Not so fizzy anymore. We hosted my family yesterday for my mom’s birthday, with a good deal of violets and some foraged field garlic. Dinner consisted of roast lamb stuffed with Swiss chard and Merguez sausage, smashed potatoes with field garlic and maple glazed carrots. And that cake with violet jam? Delicious! Don’t worry, photos and recipes coming soon. We’re not very good at stocking a bar. Sure, we have plenty of booze, but not too good with the mixers part. Instead we often have a signature cocktail, if you will, ready for guests to start the evening along with plenty of local wine and beer. I made fizzy violet cocktails by the pitcher, and always forgetting how large the pitcher really is (it looks average size but fits about 1.5 liters), had to manage with some leftover cocktails tonight. A bit flat by now, but still quite tasty. But that’s neither here or there. You’re here to figure out what else you can do with those beautiful violets you spent all weekend foraging for. You did really forage, didn’t you…?
How about some foraging projects this weekend? The weather is BEAUTIFUL here in Brooklyn, as was last weekend. With a little chilliness in between. But with the fantastic weather last weekend, I tested the foraging skills I learned on a tour with Leda Meredith. I came home with several quarts of violets, two quarts of dandelions and plans to turn these beautiful edibles into delectable treats. I felt a little bad because I was fairly certain I had cleared out all the violets in Owl’s Head Park, Brooklyn (don’t worry–I couldn’t even make a dent in the dandelion population. However, on my walk yesterday afternoon, I found probably three times the violets I had seen the previous weekend. They returned with a vengeance, a forager’s own utopia.
This weekend I challenge you to get outside and enjoy the weather, and most importantly forage for your own beautiful violets, before they’re gone for the year. As a reward, I’ll share a new violet recipe each day this weekend. And since it’s Friday night, and we’re all done with this hectic work week (let’s be honest, we were done on Tuesday), it’s only proper to start with a cocktail using homemade violet syrup.
My knowledge of foraging was pretty much nonexistent. Sure, I knew there were some types of wild mushrooms you could collect and eat. I also knew some types might kill you, so I never really tested the idea. I knew violets were edible and used to pick them in my backyard as a kid and dip them in sugar or honey. I knew dandelion leaves were tasty, but bitter, and mixed well with other lettuces in a salad. Okay, so maybe I did know a few things, but nothing like the world Leda Meredith, urban forager, opened up for me.