All photos/art by Erik Rank
Here’s a recipe for a good day: Take one lakeside home; add four friends and fresh local ingredients. Toss in laughter and good conversation.
The friends — Ravi Gongaju, Karen Doris, and Anna and Timothy Blanc — originally met while working at Eastern Mountain Sports in Peterborough, New Hampshire, a few years ago and now live spread out across the Monadnock region. The home, on loan from a friend, became the perfect place to take advantage of a warm afternoon’s reunion. Soon the group was enjoying glasses of bubbly by the sparkling water, catching up on each other’s lives and already planning their next get-together.
They knew this meal had to be easy — who wants to be stuck in the kitchen? — and include foods special to this region and this time of year. They opted for fresh, local springtime plants (ramps, asparagus, morel mushrooms, and fiddlehead ferns) and freshly caught trout, which are abundant in Laurel Lake — all enjoyed on a screened-in porch that looks out over the water. This fine feast began with a simple classic — deviled eggs — with flavorful twists that had everyone exclaiming “best ever” in between bites.
Does the offer of a method for cooking perfect hard-boiled eggs every time sound like someone trying to sell you snake oil? Fear not. This method will produce perfectly cooked eggs every time. Caveat: You may get an occasional cracked egg, but that may be due to a preexisting crack in the shell.
Place 6 to 8 large eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold tap water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 17 minutes, then place in a bowl of ice water until fully cooled. Peel eggs and proceed with recipe.
Note: Fresh eggs are more difficult to peel. For easier peeling, cook eggs that are at least 10 days old.
Walk in the Woods
Many of the ingredients used in this spring menu are readily available in local woods this time of year. Ramps, often called wild leeks, look a lot like scallions but with wider (about 2 inches) and flatter green tops. Closely related to leeks and onions, they have a distinct garlicky-onion taste. Their name is a derivative of “ram’s son,” perhaps a reference to the spring zodiac sign of Aries, the ram.
Fiddleheads are the unopened young fronds of certain ferns (especially the ostrich fern). The “unopened” distinction is important, as the plants become toxic and acrid tasting once they begin to unfurl. Look for them along rivers and streams, and check out umext.maine.edu to make sure you have a green appropriate for eating.
Finding fresh morels and other wild mushrooms is indeed a coup and definitely something to verify, as mushrooms are notorious for having not-so-friendly look-alikes. Go to americanmushrooms.com for more information. If you are lucky to find morels, it’s best to just brush or pick off any dirt; if washing is necessary, do so right away and let them dry before you store them.
What to Pour
Refreshing, a great match with food, and with all the charm of traditional Champagne, Prosecco is a less-expensive way to add a celebratory note sans a hefty price tag. We poured Mionetto Vineyards’ “Sergio” Prosecco ($18-$24), an extra-dry and well-balanced expression of the Prosecco grape from Italy’s Veneto region.
A 2004 Four Vines “Naked” Chardonnay was an easy choice for lovers of still whites. It gets its name by way of steel-tank fermentation rather than oak barrels, which tend to overpower the Chardonnay grape. It hails from Santa Barbara County in California ($10-$12).
Red wine with fish? Sure, especially a Pinot Noir, which ought to be soft and well rounded with light, cherry-berry notes. We opted for Jolivet “Attitude” Pinot Noir ($18-$20) because of its provenance — France’s Loire Valley, a place known for its love of trout.