Love-Ache

Lovage is a new favorite of mine in the garden. Apart from the fact that it’s a perennial, roaring back in early spring for some of the first new domestic greens, it has a beguiling aroma that’s like celery and citrus and fenugreek all rolled into one. As it’s peaking right now, ready to flower, I cut some stalks thinking that since they’re so fat they might take well to being treated like a vegetable. Cutting them released their perfume, which combined with the scintillating sunlight and the parch in my throat to unleash a savage hankering for an icy gin-based beverage featuring lovage.

I muddles a few slices of lovage stalks (leaves would work well, too) and then added gin and sake in about equal measure. This I shook hard with ice and strained into a glass. It was every bit as refreshing as it looks. A subsequent version involved the juice from a clementine, and it did not suck either. An absinthe rinse for the clear version would also be a welcome addition. Lovage would also work very well in a spicy bloody Mary, though it’s not a drink I like very much.

The herb also featured prominently in dinner, which I made for some friends who are moving away soon. With nettles and ramps at their peak, I decided to make colcannon, and to use the lovage in some braised cabbage so we’d have greens on both ends of the cooked spectrum: pale and yielding, vivid and fresh. Both of these preparations served as a verdant pedestal for some seared duck breast.

I steamed the nettles before mashing them into the spuds, though the heat from freshly-boiled potatoes is sufficient to destroy the stingers, because I was steaming the potatoes anyway and it was ever so easy to do the nettles first and then fill the basket with cubes of tuber. I didn’t cook the ramps, so they were nice and sharp and played beautifully off the earthy nettliciousness. Instead of the traditional butter or cream, I used olive oil, so they had a nice pommes écrasées vibe to them, and the result was simply wonderful eating.

The cabbage I just shredded thinly and cooked low and slow with slices of lovage stalk and copious lamb pho for about two hours. A little salt an vinegar at the end to brighten up the flavors, and we were good to go. Beverages included the above cocktail (clementine version) followed by a bottle of Gosset Champagne and then a 2007 Orion, which was peaking. A treat.

We ate it outside, while the kids did other things, and for a couple of hours it was just like the pre-child era, when we could hang out and stay up late and drink and enjoy our lives like normal people.

2 comments to Love-Ache

  • I actually have mine in a pot and kept it indoors over the winter. It got fairly leggy but got through and has roared back in the last few weeks outside. I love it and just picked a handful to use in my boar tomorrow… I agree with you, it’s a great herb that isn’t used nearly enough…. like rue!

    • Peter

      I bring the lemongrass in every winter and it’s always just about dead by spring, but I haven’t done that with lovage. It’s so happy where it is.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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