Ground bison sautéed with red onion and spices, a salsa of more red onion, local tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, avocado, and baby cucumbers from the garden on nice spelt tortillas with a bit of rewarmed brown rice. A nice, chilly 2003 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube riesling auslese did nicely with the spices. Quick, easy, and damn yummy.
This arresting sculptural presence is in fact a hog cheek, cured for a week in salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme, and hung from a piece of 2 x 12 left from making the garden beds inside the metal mesh wastebasket from my office (which I washed.) Now it sits in the crawl space under the house for a week to dry a bit, and then it’s guanciale.
Next to it is a 5 liter crock full of carrots, beets, baby turnips, radishes, scallions, pak choy, fennel, green beans, horseradish, Swiss chard, dill, a still green cayenne pepper- all from the garden- and a 5% salt solution. The crock in question has a nifty trough around the lip for water, making a seal so bubbles can escape but contaminants can’t get in. It also has weights to keep the veggies submerged. I’m going to check on it in a week as well. It’s exciting and gratifying, this growing and preserving of food, and best of all it’s better tasting and better for you (and for the planet) than any other way of eating.
We went over to Liz’s house for a garden-clearing dinner; even though it was just the three of us it gave us an excuse to cut a ton of salad and kale. I smoked two more small chickens and slow-cooked a bunch of kale kraut style with a bit of smoked chicken broth and lots of vinegar, plus mustard, fenugreek, coriander, and cumin seeds for about two hours. I also chopped a head of radicchio really fine and added olive oil, truffle oil, salt, and pepper and let it marinate.
Liz made a couple of pizzas, a frittata, and an insane vegan chocolate raspberry torte with a hazelnut crust and chocolate mousse (enhanced with avocado, shoyu, and balsamic vinegar.) There was way too much food, but the happy result of that was eating fantastic leftovers for three meals today.
A quick one tonight, but with some good flavors. First, shiitake caramelized in a spoon of the smoked chicken fat, then I threw in green beans and let them green and soften a bit, followed by a glug of Shao Xing rice wine and a drop of sesame oil. Then, in the same wok, I crisped up some tofu, added some red onion to soften, and deglazed with rice vinegar. To finish, a dollop of tamarind paste and a splash of yuzu juice, and very last some peas, tossed just until they turned bright green. Pretty standard, but attentive use of various condiments gave the dishes rich and distinctive flavors, plus the peas and beans from the garden added their own magic.
Inspired jointly by many quality leftovers, the exploding garden, and a glorious cool day, I took best advantage of all three and made a salmon and smoked chicken pot pie. Unused salmon from the other night, plus frozen smoked chicken broth (and meat) plus fresh green beans and the last of the peas from the garden all combined with a roux I had made from the drippings last time we roasted a chicken to make a pretty fabulous dish. A few cubed potatoes (bought before I realized how big ours are already) and a topping of the Best Pie Crust In The World® completed it. On the side, an enormous sautéed costata romanesco zucchini- which really do grow to baseball bat size in 2 days- and a Mas de la Rouvière Bandol rosé to drink. The poor cat was bug-eyed and frantic as his walnut-sized brain tried to comprehend chicken AND salmon in the same dinner, as well as why he wasn’t getting any (don’t worry; I gave him some later.)
Our neighbors Susan and Stewart came for dinner, and I was working all day so I had to improvise. The smoked chicken carcass became a lovely broth, strained and reduced, while the salmon that Christine bought got a double treatment as both tartare and sashimi. Haricots and shiitakes, blanched and caramelized respectively, plus shaved chioggia beets and the remaining smoked chicken meat all went into a terrine that was glued together by the reduced broth.
Given the short time frame, it didn’t get quite cold enough to gel, but was really yummy. We drank, in order, a Château Roquefort Corail rosé, then a 2003 Millbrook Hudson Valley reserve chardonnay they brought which was quite yummy -if not quite living up to the Burgundian claims on the label- I will seek this out and see how it ages. It augurs well for us getting more of our wine locally. Then a Pleiades XV to introduce them to the wonders of Thackrey. For dessert, we had kind of a fluke: a gorgonzola that was improperly inoculated, so only the rind was blue; the interior was pure white and tangy. Delicious, though, and despite the lack of blueness still a good match for a half bottle of 2000 Château Theulet Montbazillac.
Super simple, yet super good: penne in a sauce of ground lamb, onion, garlic, lots of herbs, and fresh peas plus canned tomatoes with a gorgeous salad. To drink, a 1998 Franciscan Magnificat that did a good job with the lamb while still being quite young; it has a lot of reticent Bordelais complexity and should really open up over the next 10 years.
For a summer Sunday, I fired up the smoker and put in a salt & peppered chicken. One of the happy features of this house is a huge maple tree in back, which shades the patio and drops small dead branches in storms, so there’s always a nice supply of dry maple kindling to add to the apple wood in the firebox. After about an hour, I put on a few of Fleisher’s brats to smoke as well, and they were a revelation: instead of tightening up like they do over direct heat, they stayed soft and kept all their juice while getting a good smoky flavor too. I also cooked a big bunch of kale kraut style- slowly with onion and cider vinegar- made radicchio mash, and red potato salad with cornichons and herbs like my aunt Martha’s recipe (the key being to toss the still-hot potatoes in copious vinegar so they soak it up, then add the oil.) Given my Grandfather’s mastery of chicken-smoking, this meal is one I easily could have had 20 years ago (although without the mash.) We drank our very last Siduri pinot, a 2003 Sonatera.
The view yesterday
The many squash volunteers from the compost
Under the zucchini canopy
Lettuces still going strong
A three-part dinner tonight, inspired by the garden and a few things from fridge and pantry. First, crispy tofu tossed in Christine’s new favorite sauce, the hybrid tahini/guacamole with scallions and cilantro to finish. Next, a stir-fry of just-picked goodness including carrots, beans, peas, beet, and yellow squash (the only one not from the garden, but still local) and last pad thai noodles with beet greens and a sauce of dried shrimp, garlic, ume vinegar, sesame oil, truffle oil, ponzu, nama shoyu, nam pla, and agave syrup. A Mas de Gourgonnier rosé was not a perfect match; the riesling in the fridge would have been better, but I opened the rosé thinking aperitif while I cooked and it seemed silly to open another one.