Sunday, May 20, 2012

Potions, Saffron, and Wild Greens

On Saturday at noon I sampled a sauté of wild greens. The dish included leaves of tender dandelions, nettles, and wild carrot tops along with green garlic, chives, and thyme all from my sister's garden and yard. The chefs were my 9-year old niece and her friend, with a little help from my 7-year old niece. They added salt and sautéed the mix in olive oil on the stove. After tasting, my niece said it needed a little something more and I suggested some fresh squeezed lemon juice and red wine vinegar. It was truly delicious, all the more since my young niece and her friend created it on their own while playing outside and the ingredients were mostly what they found in the yard.

The sauté was the result of their earnest efforts to create powerful potions in their indoor and outdoor laboratories. When I arrived on Thursday my niece prepared a happy potion for me in her bedroom laboratory. Meanwhile my even younger niece worked on a sleeping potion and then a potion that "makes angels come to you." The latter included water, lavender, parsley, sunflower seed, sunlight, and a spell. The spell is placed on potions by waving their special wands that they created themselves. We gave them small branches of red maple and spicebush for Christmas. They carved and sanded the wands themselves (or perhaps with a bit of help) and added a gem at the hand end.

On Saturday the laboratory moved outdoors and the wild green sauté was the ultimate result. The girls were tremendously impressed with their sauté, as were we.

During my three day visit with my nieces we also made kulfi--an Indian ice cream--with ingredients that I brought along: one can condensed milk, 1/2 cup ground cashews, 1/4 tsp cardamon seeds ground in a mortar and pestle with 1 tsp sugar, a few more teaspoons of sugar, and 5-6 strands of saffrons, plus 3 cups of milk. Thanks to my sister-in-law in India for the recipe.

The delicate, thread-like, vibrant red saffron strands are considered the most expensive spice in the world, as they are hand-picked stigmas (flower part) of the saffron crocus. The kulfi was a big hit. I also helped my niece gather the stigmas of a plant growing in my sister's yard--the invasive gill-over-the-ground, also known as creeping charlie. We carefully pulled the pale, slender stigmas from the blue flowers and gathered them in a small tin. My niece now has her own supply of "saffron" as one more powerful ingredient for future potions.

Who knew potions could be such fun and lead to such delicious food and vice versa. Thanks to Lia, Rosie, and their friend (and my sister's yard) for great fun and food.

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