June 1, 2023
June 2023: Tastes of Summer
June 2023: Tastes of Summer
Berry Bounty

The local strawberry signs are up at our favorite farm trucks around the region and we are excited to add cobblers, strawberry shortcake and berry topped yogurt to our menus. But venture a little farther and there are many more flavors to experience. Red, purple, white and even lavender mulberries hang from our neighborhood trees and their vibrant hues will soon paint our streets and sidewalks. Native to the United States, the red mulberry has been enjoyed for centuries as a food source, while the white mulberry tree was imported in the 18th century as a failed endeavor to create a profitable silk industry. Mulberries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and even protein.  If interested in learning more, and you are not yet confident in harvesting this summer treat, check out the Baltimore Orchard Project and Mulberry Madness.
Another less well-known option, the juneberry, true to its name begins to ripen in mid-June all over our region. Most commonly known as the serviceberry, the fruit has many names including shadberry, saskatoonberry and sarvisberry. The small fruits turn dark red or purple and are a great source of iron.  In addition to eating them while harvesting, they can be great additions to baked goods, salads or cooked down into a simple syrup for beverages. The juneberry is also enjoyed by Baltimore Orioles (the flying kind), cedar waxwings, robins and bears (oh my!).
The non-native wineberry is another June foraging option.  The fruit is easily found in wooded areas, although some gardeners are vexed by its aggressive growth and consider it an invasive species. Originally from Japan, its prolific nature can crowd out other plants and hence where wild blackberries were once found, wineberries thrive. Like other wild harvests, wineberries have a quick shelf life and are best enjoyed the day they are gathered. They can be incorporated into most recipes that include raspberries or blackberries.

A few words of caution:  standard practice regarding food foraging recommend “never eat anything you are not 100% certain about” and if unsure, seek guidance.

Touching Taste

What is it that makes food taste good?  We might first think about the flavors, aromas and appearance as well as our mood, hunger, memories and the ambiance. Often our sense of touch is overlooked. Depending on where we live or our ancestry, texture or mouthfeel might play a larger role in our appreciation. The English language has less than 80 terms for food texture; Chinese 144, and French 227. The Japanese are the most precise in their texture language with over 400 words, 70 percent of which are onomatopoeic. For example: fuwa-fuwa: fluffy foods like white bread, puru-puru: wiggly gelatin and neba-neba: slimy, gooey like okra.  In fact, Japanese has 3 words just for mouthfeel, translated as texture felt by the teeth, feel on the tongue, and the sense passing down the throat.
In my personal experience, Toll House chocolate chip cookies was one of the first recipes I mastered as a child. In our house, we baked two separate batches because half the family preferred chewy and the other half crisp. Another example is the satisfying crunch from a perfectly shaped and fried slice of potato (it is truly difficult to eat only one of Classic’s house-made potato chips).  Americans tend to prefer crunchy and creamy while Japanese and Chinese culinary connoisseurs can happily choose from a myriad of slippery, gelatinous textures and their respective languages provide precise adjectives to distinguish these variations. Also, we are apt to notice texture when something is not quite right, such as tough meat, stale bread or tepid soup.
In the States, the extra chunky super premium ice cream that fills supermarket freezers is partially a result of entrepreneur Ben Cohen’s diminished ability to smell and taste, a condition called anosmia. Back in 1978, when Ben and Jerry were developing their much beloved recipes, mouthfeel was ever-present in their efforts.  The more butterfat, the creamier, more luxurious; and to further satisfy Ben’s missing olfactory input, they loaded their ice cream with more texture by including chunks of chocolate and plenty of nuts and fruit.
It is fascinating how our senses overlap and influence our perception. We expect a certain sound when we take a bite from an apple. Even before we sink our teeth into the skin, our senses are fired up. If we don’t hear and feel the crunch, the most flavorful apple might disappoint.  Or the scent of vanilla added to a whipped cream or custard can enhance the sensation of creaminess. Eliminating texture can confuse our perception of what we are tasting. Scientists have conducted experiments with a blind test of pureed foods and 60 to 70 percent of the people could not identify what they were eating by taste alone. In fact, in one experiment with jelly made out of cabbage only 5 percent of tasters were correct.
In 2006, the intricate ballet of the senses and the path connecting our brains to our mouths formally became a shared study among professionals of varied fields. Gordon M Shepard named it neuro-gastronomy.  The field continues to evolve as chefs, neuroscientists, psychologists, food technologists, biologists and medical professionals meet and discuss topics including improving the quality of life for patients and mastering the dining experience. To start your neuro-gastronomy journey, slow down to fully savor an apple using all of your senses or try expanding your palate by introducing novel flavors and adventuresome textures which will at the very least build your taste vocabulary and add enjoyment to your next meal.
Picnic Perfect

We may think of picnics as an American summer pasttime but we actually have the French to thank. The word picnic comes from the French word ‘pique-nique’, derived from the verb piquer meaning to peck or pick.  The practice became popular after the French revolution when the non-royals were allowed to gather in the country’s royal parks. However, picnicking goes back even further than that; Robin Hood and his merry men provided us with the first account, dining informally on bread, cheese & beer under the shade of trees. During medieval times, picnics were extravagant, and this continued into the eighteenth century when it became popular with the aristocracy, but they typically were held inside with fancy dishes and crystal. Much like modern day picnics, attendees often contributed dishes to share. In the late 1800’s picnics started to return back outdoors with the first table designed for picnicking making an initial appearance.
Throughout the world, countries have different times that they love to picnic. Easter Monday, known as Pasquetta, is Italy’s favorite time and they often leave the city to head to the countryside, beaches or mountains. France celebrates on Bastille Day in July. In the year 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new millennium. England dedicates a whole week in June to picnics. In the early nineteenth century, a group from London started a Picnic Society to share entertainment and refreshments. Americans are most likely to be found celebrating with a picnic on July 4th when they eat an estimated 150 million hot dogs collectively.
International Picnic Day is June 18th, so set your blanket! With both full service & Classic To Go options, there is something in our basket for everyone.

From Our Library, Harriet’s Pick (a double feature):Tasting History, Explore the Past Through 4,000 Years of Recipes by Max Miller and Ann Vokwein

History enthusiast, Max Miller, started his YouTube show, Tasting History with Max Miller, in early 2020, right before the Covid pandemic. Neither a professional historian nor a chef, Miller’s passion for history and his playful presentations quickly gained him fans from the legions stuck at home. He claims that the episode on garum, (for more information on garum see our Just a Taste, June 2022 edition), an ancient Roman fermented fish sauce, was responsible for the show’s quick accumulation of devotees. Tasting History, Explore the Past through 4,000 Years of Recipes, a cookbook written by Max Miller with Ann Vokwein is the entertaining and informative first derivative of his show.
Max Miller is clearly having fun.  He includes the original recipe, written on stone, shown in pictures and in books or manuscripts as well as his modern precise adaptations.  His objective is to bring history into the reader’s kitchen through intriguing, humorous tales of other times and places as well as through taste.  The brave may attempt the blood soup of Ancient Sparta. The thirsty, English mead and everlasting syllabub, a sweet and boozy creamy drink enjoyed by polite society. And the curious may explore tiger nut cake, Parmesan Cheese Ice Cream and Chinese Niangao, blocks of glutinous rice cakes shaped like bricks. Stunning food photography, photographic reproductions of works of art and notes on hard-to-find ingredients compliment the stories and recipes.  Miller’s book is a delicious way to consume history.

Language of Food by Annabel Abbs
The Language of Food, a novel by Annabel Abbs is another opportunity to tastefully devour history.  The book was gifted to me by Dulany Noble who accidentally discovered it in a Paris bookshop.  Abbs’ novel is based on the real life of Eliza Acton who revolutionized cookbook writing in 19th century England and her assistant, Ann Kirby, an impoverished townswoman.  The chapters alternate between Eliza’s voice and Ann’s voice.  Both women were bold, curious and gifted with an abundant appreciation for the sensory pleasures of the food. They were barrier breakers, confronting challenging obstacles and opting to follow difficult paths in order to achieve their goals. They tested the status quo by fighting for women’s freedom and had a strong friendship that transcended class differences.

Eliza was a poet. Her efforts to publish her poems were dismissed as improper business for a woman and she was bluntly advised to write a cookbook instead. Even that was a stretch for a “lady” in the Victorian era as they rarely entered a kitchen. Eliza researched the available cookbooks and found them poorly written and unhelpful to a home cook.  Concurrently, her father was bankrupted and Eliza learned to cook in their new home, a boarding house near spa waters.  She was a natural in the kitchen as was her assistant Ann.  Her repertoire expanded as she catered to the wide-ranging guests, utilizing the exotic imports from the Spice Route, curries, local products, and even learning about the rules to serve a kosher diner. She and Ann recorded precise measurements, improved from their failures and delighted in improvising and discovering novel combinations of ingredients. After ten years of testing recipes, Acton’s first cookbook, Modern Cookery for Private Families was published and became an international best seller. Eliza’s gift with words elevated the standard cookbook prose. In addition, she thoughtfully included a list of ingredients at the end of every recipe, a novelty for the time period.
At a time when English cooking was predictable and fine dining was eaten exclusively in private clubs prepared by French chefs, Acton opened up many new possibilities for the home kitchen. She found pleasure preparing meals with her own hands and joy in eating her artful dishes. Friendship, freedom, food and flavor fill the pages of The Language of Food, the aromas seeming to waft from the pages as the table is set for dinner.


From our Kitchen: Crab & Avocado Tower
Chef LeeAnne Khamsomphou

Through the years working in various restaurants, Chef LeeAnne had some practice in creating Tuna Tartare & Salmon Tartare recipes but with a fin fish allergy, she was unable to enjoy a taste. She enjoyed Beef Tartare occasionally but decided to develop a seafood option that she’d also be able to partake in. We’re glad she did!Ingredients:
1 lb. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
2 Tbl. Finely Diced Red Pepper
2 Tbl. Capers
1 Tbl. Chopped Fresh Dill
1 Tbl. Chopped Fresh Parsley
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise 
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire 
2 Ripe Avocados Diced
4 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice, divided 
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt, divided
1/4 tsp. Cracked Black Pepper,divided
Garnish: Fresh Micro Greens

1. In a small bowl, combine & mix avocado, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine crabmeat, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, Worcestershire, capers, red pepper, dill, parsley, remaining (3 tsp.) lemon juice, remaining (1 tsp.) salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Mix lightly to keep lumps of crab meat intact.

3. Place a ring mold on the center of a serving plate. Gently press enough avocado into ring mold to cover the bottom. Press crab mixture into ring mold, on top of avocado. Carefully remove ring mold. Repeat with remaining avocado, crab mixture. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh micro greens, if desired.Click here to print the recipe.