Today—after what felt like at least a month of fetid, slug-covered, swelteringly humid torpor, interrupted by days of rain that only augmented the ambient moisture—dawned dry, clear, and breezy. I wasted no time, rushing out to attend to the neglected garden, mustering hours of energy despite a shitty, insomnia-dented night of inadequate sleep. There’s a lot going on, not least of which is the full arrival of what I like to call the “round food.” No longer are leaves the bulk of each day’s harvest; they’re shrinking into the minority as the roots and fruits gain girth by the day. Yesterday saw the first new potatoes of the year, roasted along with a spatchcocked chicken, taking advantage of a cooler evening to use the oven (and bake some much-needed bread). Today, thanks to a basket piled high with the various thinnings, cullings, and eager grabbings that attended my earnest horticultural ministrations, dinner comprised a perfect, seamless conclusion to the most pleasant summer day of the year so far.
Category: Always use a condiment
The Kid loves Caesar salads. He’s keen on salad in general, especially with lots of vinaigrette—heavy on the homemade vinegar, especially blackcurrant—and is an exemplary eater of vegetables in general, especially for an eight-year-old. But he will murder a bowl of romaine and croutons with the eggy, cheesy dressing. Of course most restaurant versions flat out suck, what with the inferior ingredients and all, so I planted extra romaine this spring in order to ensure a steady supply. Leading actor thus covered, the other components were easily secured: homemade apple/sumac vinegar, a duck egg from a nearby farm, the heel of a homemade sourdough boule, pecorino from Dancing Ewe Farm, good oil, and anchovies.
And not the computer, neither. I know it’s Sunday, but I just discovered a trove of pictures on the camera that I had completely forgot about, and I thought of you, poor readers, frantically anticipating my next post with the impatient fervor of Ree Drummond praying for Paula Deen to stroke out on national television. So I wrote this because I feel your pain.
There are plenty of arguments in favor of gardening, and they’re all important. Exercise, connecting with nature, saving money, controlling your food supply, eating food at the pinnacle of freshness, learning to ferment to handle the surplus, and so on. It’s not like I need to make the argument. But for me there is one overarching reason that trumps all the others combined: inspiration.
Among the many pleasures of spring are the season-straddling meals, which retain some of winter’s rich comfort quality while opening up to the verdant splendor of new growth. And morels. Lots of morels. Throw in a duck leg, some transformed leftovers, and kumquat/absinthe marmalade, and you’ve got yourself an exemplary dinner.
For the last entry in this here contest, I received a bag of clams (already cooked and eaten here) and some ground lamb. Half the ground lamb became the kofta from a few posts ago, and the rest was the basis for this extremely gratifying dinner: 100% homemade gyros.
Upon returning home from the store with a nice mahi-mahi fillet, I was greeted by a big box on the front porch. The last in the four-part deliveries of free food for the Lambs and Clams contest, which I am quite decisively not winning, this particular box contained two pounds of ground lamb and 25 clams. I’m going to use the lamb for the contest post, so I just incorporated the clams into the evening’s fish dinner, transforming it into a two-course delight.
This time every year I order lots of Blue Beech tomatoes for making purée and sauce to get us through until the beginning of the next tomato season. Blue Beech are a variety of paste tomato that can be cooked with skins and seeds and still remain wonderfully sweet, so processing them is dead easy: I trim the stem end, halve them , and throw them in the pot to cook down and disintegrate. Then I stick-blend the whole thing and run it in batches through the food mill to catch the skin fragments and seeds. It saves a lot of time, especially when dealing with a hundred pounds of them at a time as I did recently.