The garden expansion is not 100% done yet, but it’s close enough to photograph. All of the light-colored beds (along the back and right sides) are new, and the metal fence posts show where I expanded outwards in two directions. There’s a new 4×12′ bed hidden behind the hydrangea in the near right corner, bringing the total to 20 beds (Milo gets a 3×6′ spot for himself, to plant, weed, and tend on his own). Another one (4×9′) is planted to scorzonera and salsify, which John wanted since he has no garden and they’re not easily found in stores. The others I’ve begun to seed with various things, though for most of them I’m going to wait until the end of July so all the brassicas don’t bolt.
Keep reading Growing…
I taught a class on meat-curing here on Saturday (we covered gravlax, guanciale, lardo, bresaola, duck prosciutto, and then had a tasting of everything, plus some bacon). It was well-attended, and I think people enjoyed it and took away some useful knowledge. And hoo boy is there a lot of salty meat in the fridge. I gave the curing salmon to some Boston friends to take home with them, but come dinner time there was an alarming lack of actual food ready to eat. So I took the big beef eye round (16″ or so) and cut 6″ off. This did two things: it meant that I could fit the remainder in a much smaller pyrex loaf pan to finish curing, and it gave me a pre-seasoned hunk o’ beef with which to make a quick and wondrous meal. The cure was salt, a bit of raw sugar, rosemary, garlic, thyme, juniper berries, and smoked paprika.
Keep reading Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time…
John’s birthday party was Friday, and it was to be an all-finger food potluck. I didn’t have a ton of time to plan or shop, so I made do with things around the house, centering on two forms of duck from the freezer. I defrosted a moulard breast and two pieces of foie gras–both local–and went outside to pick currants. The pink and white currant bushes I planted last fall have taken off, loving their new environs and fruiting prolifically. I got just shy of two pounds of fruit from them both, doing a not very thorough job so there will be more to enjoy in the coming days.
Keep reading Canapés…
I was at an extraordinary wine dinner recently, and in chatting with the very expert guests I sort of stumbled on an interesting consensus: almost everyone I talked to about the subject agreed that a well-made rosé was as good a choice as any to match with a wide variety of foods, especially in the warm weather we’re enjoying. One professional specifically told me that at a recent tasting of big-name juice, he returned to a simple rosé as one of his favorite wines of the night, refilling his glass with it rather than some over-hyped behemoth. Everyone nodded knowingly when I said that summer is my time to save some wine money by buying cases of affordable pink, keeping precious powder dry for bigger cold-weather reds to match with rich stews and braises later on. When it comes to the most basic ratio of pleasure per dollar, good rosé is about as rewarding as wine gets. So here’s a little primer for the novices among you.
I’m referring to the style I like best (and just about only): bone-dry and lightly colored, and almost invariably from the South of France. I’ll use Provence as shorthand, but that can be extended into several neighboring regions; what matters to me is the style and the irresistibly tasty garrigue (wild herbs) that perfectly balances the fruit and acidity in a well-made example. If you’re not familiar with it, or have only ever had white Zinfandel (oh, the horror. Seriously, end-of-Apocalypse-Now HORROR) then this post is for you.
Keep reading Rosé FAQ…
I haven’t really been feeling the cooking urge lately. I’m just too busy outside making space for and planting food to be bothered to make very much of it. That will change, though; we have a couple of potlucks coming up, and I’m teaching a class on meat-curing on Saturday, and as the garden gets up to full speed there will be much that needs freezing or otherwise eating. But for now, I’m getting busy with the shovel and such, and then looking around sort of bewildered when I come in at the end of the day, as if dinner is something that I haven’t really considered at all. Because I haven’t.
Keep reading Grueling…
I haven’t been hitting the blog with due dilligence of late, I know. First, I had an article due, but now it’s done. Second, I have been outside. A lot. The garden expansion is coming up on finished, and will result in a big increase in bed space. That post should be up next week. In related news, I have a major farmer’s tan, only with flip-flop lines on top of my feet. It’s been seriously hot. Now after last summer I am just about the last person you’ll find who will go on record complaining about this, the most perfect spring ever. But the raging heat has fucked up my salads in a big way. “How?” You may ask–and well you may–and here I am, helpfully, to share with you a heartbreaking tale of the ravages of climate change. (I’m not as fat as Al Gore, so you should listen to me).
Keep reading Ghost, Or Goat, Or Ghost Of Goat, Or Both…
The stock I used to make the pink soup (from the last post) was a mixture of roasted and stewed chicken bones plus raw T-bones and trimmings from two local, grass-fed steaks. Sometimes a big, juicy steak-on-a-plate is just what you need, while other times something a bit more refined is called for. In the latter case, I like to trim the meat off the bone, and then trim away anything that does not make for beautiful eating. I sliced the resulting steaks into thin slices and marinated them in sake and gochujang at room temperature for about an hour while I dealt with the other parts of the meal.
There were some bell pepper pieces left from a crudité sort of thing at Kindergarten, so I sliced them thin. I peeled and steamed some sweet potatoes, tossing the slices in yuzu juice and olive oil. I took a few bunches of frisée and spun them with cider vinegar, mustard, and garlic to make a sublimely gorgeous mash. And I took some leftover quinoa and tossed it with salt-kneaded cucumber, baby carrots sautéed with peas and guanciale, herbs, vinegar, and oil to make a pilaf type assembly.
We grilled the peppers and meat on the shichirin–charred and rare respectively– slathering it all with mash and mooing in appreciation at this amazing plate of food. When the spuds and peppers are our own, we’ll do this again; it was a big tortilla away from unbelievably high quality street food.
We’re very slowly getting to the place where more than greens are regular parts of the daily grazing–where what I bring in from the garden is sufficiently varied in color and texture that I can make almost anything I can think of entirely from our own produce. With the new expansion, this should be even better next year, but for now we’re off to a good start.
This is what came in the other day:
And this is what it became, with the help of some superlatively flavorful stock made from a mixture of stewed chicken bones and raw t-bone steak bones and trimmings simmered for hours, then strained. I added the vegetables and a shake of Lebanese couscous:
The beets turned everything an appealing hue and the taste was a wonderful mix of super-fresh and deeply savory. The garden makes dinner such an easy pleasure. Once the expansion is finished, there will be more hot amateur farmer porn. Watch this space.
I’ve been kind of on a gelling kick lately, due to the combined influences of hot weather and a clamorous child with a vivid culinary imagination. When made using judicious restraint with the proportion of gelatin and fresh, mostly local ingredients, the result is a world away from the ghastly neon cubes and quivering, striated, molded “salads” that have stigmatized the genre so thoroughly.
Keep reading Felonious Gelatinization…
This all began with a High School friend posting on Facebook that she was smoking a pork butt as a precursor to making pulled pork for dinner. “Hmmm,” I said, “I have some pulled pork in the freezer, already smoked, braised, de-fatted, and pulled–ready to go, in other words.” So I defroze it, and made corn muffins, using the very same local coarse polenta that I used to dredge the quail. This polenta is going places; I had the chance to chat wth Don, who mills it, yesterday at the farmers’ market, and he told me some exciting news that is going to bode well for this region and the farmers thereof.
Keep reading Variations On A Theme…