This is not normally how I eat, but man is it enjoyable every now and then to tuck into an immaculately cooked hunk of grass-fed sirloin. A nearby market has begun carrying beef from a farm across the river, about 20 miles away, which is actually run by a vegetarian who cares so deeply for animals that she raises ones that carnivores can eat in good conscience. With the family out for the evening, I indulged.
I’ve been sick as a dog, so all the festive autumnal posts I had planned will have to wait until I catch up with articles and other stuff that I’m behind on. But rest assured: I have binders full of awesome posts just waiting to be unleashed upon you at a moment’s notice. Meantime, I’ll tell you about this wonderful soup we had the other night, which was made entirely from homemade and homegrown things. It had the deep and vivid flavor of food that you eat on vacation in another country, which imprints itself upon your memory forever as being both emblematic of the place and the definitive version of that dish; you are forever after disappointed by the pale imitations at the restaurants back home, and your own efforts always fall short. This humble bowl of soup was like an Italian vacation in a bowl. Nothing was missing. It was perfect, and it transported me back to the osteria in Florence where I first had white bean and escarole soup.
One of the things the garden forcefully teaches is the vivd difference in flavor between things we grow ourselves and even those things we pay the full yuppie markup for at the local health/organic emporium. For years I bought the herbes de Provence blend at the local Health Mart™ and used it, often liberally, in many dishes. The blend of thyme, rosemary, oregano (and/or marjoram) and lavender (and sometimes fennel, and more) is pretty much Mediterranean in a jar when it comes to giving your meats and sauces that certain fragrant, resinous quality that’s instantly recognizable. Add a few fat pinches to a pan of tomato purée, and it’s pizza sauce. Like that. Read MoreCut And Dried
Recently I was invited by the Charleston Wine and Food festival to participate in their Lambs and Clams contest. There will be four monthly entries, each featuring a splendid ingredient, and the winner gets a trip for two to the festival, which looks like an awfully good time. You can see all the other contestants at the link, and fans of a certain charcuterie contest will recognize more than a few of them. It’s like we’re getting the band back together.
The lamb came from Border Springs Farm, which provides superb pastured meat to restaurants up and down the coast. When the leg arrived—plump and lovely, I might add—I was excited to open it up and get started. The problem was the head full of ideas that were driving me insane; I could not for the life of me decide between them. I paced, stared at the meat, paced some more, and couldn’t settle on anything. At one point, I just wanted to stuff it with rosemary and garlic, rub some spices on it, and throw it on the grill for a bit, since it’s hard to beat that treatment for a whole leg. But realistically, for a family of three that was going to yield a massive amount of meat that we’d spend a week getting slowly sick of. And I wanted to do this gorgeous meat justice, especially given that it had been shipped from afar.
Ultimately, the notion that there were just three of us ended up being the solution. I decided to take the leg apart and do a bunch of things to it, each resulting in a manageable quantity that we could eat as they were ready over the course of a few days of normal life. Because I am a crazy person, however, I kind of jammed it all into this weekend, so it became kind of an epic endeavor.