This time of year is so bountiful that it can easily become a full-time job just trying to wring every useful calorie out of all the food that’s exploding on our modest plot. I have the pickles under control, but there’s a ton of drying to do and I haven’t even gotten started on the fruit. The upside is that all I have to do is walk out into the garden to get all the inspiration I need for dinner every single evening. And the other regular kitchen activities like baking, curing, and making yogurt provide everything else one could need to round out the meal.
That pile of glory up there is what I brought in late this afternoon to wash and trim. I had grabbed a couple of lamb chops (tiny T-bones) and pulled them out to defrost, and so I started to think about maybe a curry type of a thing. From there, it was a short trip to turning the risen batch of bread dough into pitas and thus dinner was figured out.
To begin, I browned the half-thawed chops in a little butter so they rendered off some fat and got a good color on all sides after I was able to pull them apart. I removed them to a plate to come to room temperature. Then came the important part: adding all the various chopped vegetables in order so that they would arrive at a perfect tenderness at the same time. First, I threw in the onion, fennel, and carrot along with a seeded and minced jalapeño and let them soften and color nicely along with some coriander seeds from the cilantro tops hanging out on the porch. Next up came the turnip and chioggia beet, followed a bit later by the potatoes. Then the eggplant, tomatoes, and mustard greens, and a little bit of stock plus some ginger, a generous shake of yellow curry powder, and a blob of tamarind paste. I trimmed the lamb meat of bone and fat and cubed it, adding it to the stew shortly before serving so that the meat was still pink and very tender; lamb is best this way, and if cooked past pink needs to be cooked much longer so that it becomes tender again. The browning at the beginning had given lots of flavorful fat to the pan, so the meat did not need to cook in with the vegetables to add lambiness. After I took the stew off the heat I stirred in a generous dollop of homemade yogurt and tasted for seasonings.
As the curry rounded third, I divided and shaped the bread dough into balls, then rolled them out into flat circles. They went into the iron skillet until they puffed up nicely, then I flipped them for another minute to finish. Warm, soft, steamy, and fluffy, with the tang of sourdough and the depth of rye–these are so freaking good, especially for mopping up a curry as sublime as this one. The quality of the food made all the difference; this local lamb is so tender and so full of wonderfully rich character that it’s a revelation. The homemade yogurt added a perfect acidity and did that thing with lamb that yogurt does so well, and the produce was as good as it gets anywhere, and picked within an hour of eating. It’s most noticeable with salad, where à la minute picking makes a world of difference, but I think it’s true for all vegetables; nothing benefits from sitting in the fridge.
It’s hard for me to want to go away in the summer, when it’s all I can do to keep up with the food that’s bursting out of the ground here every day. Dinners like this only make it less appealing to venture away from home right now. So the challenge before me as I get ready for a little vacation is to pickle, freeze, and otherwise preserve as I much as I can so that the car will be as full as possible with the same sort of goodness we’d have here: produce, yogurt, cheese, sourdough starter, charcuterie, vinegar, and pickles. I might also bring the immersion circulator just to be safe.