Arriving home after time away, without stopping by the grocery store, may seem overly optimistic, but I was rewarded by finding the freezer just as I had left it.
While the remnants of last year’s harvest are certainly dwindling, there is plenty to keep me going as the new crops begin to poke their heads into the sun — especially if I don’t mind getting creative with combinations. There is corn tortilla “pizza” with homemade pesto, oven-roasted tomatoes, and leftover Christmas turkey topped with prize-winning local goat cheese. That doesn’t sound too much like rationing to me.
One big change is leaving behind the ubiquitous and often excellent baguettes, croissants, and other such bready delights found across the French diaspora. Farewell pain au chocolat, adieu brioche, à la prochaine cannellais.
Anyway, I’m sure all that gluten – and butter – is best saved for special occasions.
I’m back to making sourdough rye and my ever-evolving series of fermented pancakes. In a happy coincidence, I recently chanced upon a ridiculously large package of organic nori, the kind of seaweed used to make sushi rolls and cones, which is currently serving to distract me from all the absent baking. I am rediscovering the delight of wrapping and rolling every meal, instead of sopping it up with a crusty loaf.
Starting with the simple pattern of rice, a little spicy sauce, and a few long thin vegetables, I then expanded into other nontraditional grains like buckwheat and quinoa. They don’t have quite the cohesion of sticky rice, but then again I’ve never had a problem with messy food. Nor am I one to shy away from that grey area where fusion cuisine slides into culture clash.
Curry in a roll? Not all of my experiments can be termed consummate triumphs, but that’s the point of experimenting — failure is a necessary backdrop to success.
My favorite creation of the moment, unsurprisingly, highlights the new growth of spring. Pairing the perennial chives, which are the first thing up in the garden, with early fireweed shoots, brings together the best of wild and cultivated in my books. Adding fresh mint or the gentlest pinch of fresh sage gives a clean bite that speaks of crisp mornings and cold, clean streams.
While the version below includes the traditional zing of wasabi, I also tried and enjoyed trying other sources of heat, some of which are local (Thai bird chili hot sauce and horseradish) and others that are not (dried aleppo chilies, Korean chili flakes, chipotle chili powder).
Perhaps it’s just my attention span, but I’ve almost forgotten the croissants aux amandes and the croques monsieurs. Almost.
Makes 4 rolls
4 sheets nori
1 Cup cooked rice (any kind is fi ne, but shorter grain will stick together better)
1 good handful very young fireweed shoots
½ handful slightly older, thicker, fi reweed shoots
½ Cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
Wasabi or horseradish, to taste
• Heat an inch of water in a saucepan to a simmer, and steam the thick fireweed shoots just to tender, only a minute or two. Lay out a sheet of nori, shiny side up, and spread ¼ cup rice over the surface, leaving an inch free at the top.
• Mix the wasabi or horseradish with the mayonnaise and spread a quarter in a horizontal line near the bottom of the sheet. Layer on fresh and steamed fireweed, 4 chives and mint leaves — don’t be afraid to use lots. With your hands or the help of a bamboo sushi mat, roll up the nori from the bottom, tucking the contents in tight before continuing up to where the bare nori comes back over the roll.
• Dip your fingers in water and dab along the edge to seal. Slice the roll with a very sharp knife, and repeat for the other three.
• Serve with tamari or soy sauce and extra wasabi for dipping.