I do so love these late summer days: warm enough to frolic, cool enough to actually cook food in the evening. And the garden is banging right now, despite June’s woodchuck invasion and the powdery mildew and squirrels, which between them devastated all of the cucurbits. The mildew killed the cucumbers and zucchini, and the miserable rodents nibbled a little bit of each winter squash so they all rotted. Their thick, waxy skins make squash impervious to the wet ground, but once punctured they turn to much in no time. How dumb does an animal have to be to see a squash, say “I wonder if that’s good to eat?” and take a bite, decide that it is not in fact good to eat, and then see another, identical squash, say “I wonder if that’s good to eat?” and take a bite, decide that it is not in fact good to eat, then see another, identical squash, say “I wonder if that’s good to eat?” and take a bite, decide that it is not in fact good to eat, and so on until they’re all ruined. I’m getting an air rifle.
Despite these adversities, the rest of the food is huge. I dug a bunch of particularly fat red potatoes, and culled a variety of greens and roots, and thus was dinner assembled. Besides the ground lamb, the rest of it originated in the garden. I sautéed the lamb until it began to brown, then added mirepoix, Nardello peppers, and diced turnip to soften. I also threw in one chopped Espelette pepper, since they’re getting ripe. Thyme, rosemary, and parsley also went in, and a bunch of garlic at the end. Then a shake of flour, a generous glug of milk, and a stir until it thickened nicely. I adjusted seasoning with salt, vinegar, fish sauce, smoked paprika, 5-spice, and pepper, and then let it all simmer low while I steamed the potatoes then blended them with milk, butter, herbs, and a big dollop of radicchio-almond pesto that I made ages ago and which is still going strong.
I piped the potatoes over the lamb mixture and put them in the oven until they bubbled, then broiled the tops for some color. They got a five-minute rest before serving because the potatoes make excellent insulators and it is not impossible to burn one’s eager tongue if these get attacked too soon. So very easy and good; the provenance of the vegetables and a little care in the making lifted these way up into the realm of transportive eating. I wish it was fall all year.