I’ve got a post brewing about early green things, but since it snowed that’s going to have to wait a bit. As winter begins to loosen its grip, there are all sorts of exciting developments to celebrate, most of them involving the garden, but this is also a time of year when fruit is revealed to be the great locavoracious challenge in this climate.
Keep reading Forbidden Fruit…
Last week I got a gift from my friends at Dorsch Gallery in Miami. They have a huge and prolific mango tree next to the gallery, and summer is their season. These three fat beauties arrived in three distinct stages of ripeness: firm, just shy of ripe, and ready to eat, so I got to admire them on the counter for a few days until they were all just where I wanted them. Then I used them to make a pretty terrific chutney. To celebrate their foreignness (and compensate for it), I used nothing but homegrown or homemade ingredients for the rest of it.
Keep reading Chut Your Mouth…
I reread my France posts recently, and it already feels sort of like if it happened to someone else, especially the early ones (since I was so jetlagged). And there are still so many photos and so much information left to process. Since the freshness of the experience fades in inverse proportion to said processing, future posts in the “Things What I Learned In France” department are likely to be less literal and more an organic assimilation of the information I absorbed while there. This post is about an homage to Gascony that popped into my head as I unwrapped the many goodies I had stashed in my luggage, including a sampler of the Chapolards’ charcuterie–saucisson sec, saucisse sèche, and noix de jambon–which Dominique graciously gave me and which somehow ended up swaddled in plastic bags and dirty laundry and buried deep in the recesses of my suitcase for the trip home.
I kid, of course; bringing those things home would have been illegal. Also, there was the Armagnac. And the prunes, and the Tarbais bean and Espelette pepper seeds, and pistachio oil and truffle salt and other items that would be at the top of your must-have list if your plane happened to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle and leave you stranded on some desert island somewhere like in a certain TV show that actually managed to be more annoying than Twin Peaks. I’m all about the pragmatism.
Keep reading Le Prince D’Aquitaine À La Tour Abolie…
We ended up owning a vast cooler full of fruit pursuant to an under-attended neighborhood function recently, and the poor fridge was jammed to the rafters with watermelon and bowls of grapes and such. This highly non-local windfall was begging to have its volume consolidated, since the arrival of fruit fly season meant that keeping any of it outside the fridge for any length of time was a non-starter. I figured that the quickest way to compact it all would be to purée it (juicing not being an option since we haven’t replaced the broken juicer yet). And then there was all that gelatin in the cupboard.
Keep reading “It sits as lightly on a heavy meal as it does on your conscience.”…
We were away for the weekend, blowing what was shaping up to be a pretty good posting streak, but the 25th high school reunion would not be denied. It’s always fun to go back to Massachusetts, and in this case seeing a wider variety of old friends than usual was an added bonus. Bringing the family made for an even better time; everyone got to see what a fuckup I didn’t turn out to be (probably a surprise) and my lovely wife made some new friends. Having said that, though, a few days of adequate but not homemade food meant that by the time we got home, I was seriously ready for some homegrown fare.
Keep reading Mother & Child Reunion…
There’s a perpetual struggle between the ideas one might have for a dish or a meal and the realities that impose themselves on the execution thereof. Time, ingredients, fatigue, kids home from school with a fever–life has a limitless array of obstacles that can undermine our vast ambitions and bring them right back down to everyday dimensions. The trick is to retain some shreds of the original glory of the ideas before they got all sullied by the laws of physics and still get the food on the table with a minimum of delay.
Keep reading Half Vast…
An inauguration, of sorts, for the new kitchen, in that I actually took a few minutes to plan and think through a whole meal for the first time in a month. I had been to the store to get a few things, and as I always do at this time of year I grabbed winter veggies: leeks, fennel, turnips, and kale. I knew we had a duck breast in the freezer, and there were some kumquats in the fridge that needed using. So it sort of took shape around those two ingredients. Like the Wonder Twins, only it was just dinner–as opposed, say, to an orca riding an ice surfboard.
I shredded the fennel fine, caramelized it with some shaved onion, and then deglazed the pan with sake. I let it simmer covered until soft, then added in a bit of pure mustard oil and minced fennel fronds to make a sort of mostarda. Pure mustard oil isn’t exactly legal for sale in this country, at least for culinary use, so it has to be marked “for external use only.” But as all good parents know, that’s just an invitation to open it up and see how it tastes. And it tastes good. Plus, it’s like having your very own chemical weapon in the pantry!
I sliced and simmered the kumquats with blackcurrant brandy, honey, cinnamon, and star anise until marmaladey. The duck I just scored, seared, flipped, and rested on low heat for a few minutes to heat through without cooking . . . → Read More: OK, Then
Funny how my prediction came true and today was completely- and I mean all the way- devoted to dealing with Fruit Mountain. 18 quarts of applesauce (ingredients: apples) and 21 pints of wicked hot spicy peach-habañero chutney that also included lime basil, red onion, and cider vinegar that I infused with cinnamon, pepper (pink & black,) cardamom, star anise, bay, fenugreek, and mustard seeds. I also added some honey to balance the vinegar and let the peaches be all peachy-like.
I could write a bunch of breathless paragraphs about how primal and satisfying it is to put fruit up, and funny lines about how peeling 200 peaches (even with a little blanch) is roughly as enjoyable as removing my own upper lip with a wire brush, or wax eloquent about the healthy purity of the applesauce and the kick-ass multi-purposeness of the chutney. But I won’t. Because I am TIRED. So tired that I ordered dinner from the vegan place in town (which is a 2-minute walk from here, and our best takeout option by far.) And I popped another Bret Bos. Pouilly-Fuissé to elevate the perfectly decent food to a richer gustatory stratum. And it was good.
I will say that we now have a winter’s worth of pleasure stored up, and all this fatigue and grouchiness will soon be replaced by months of pleasure as we steadily open little jars of sunshine. And you should see the kid put away this applesauce. I’m . . . → Read More: Yes We Can
Christine finally caught The Cold, so Milo and I let her sleep and went apple picking. It was another perfect, crystalline Fall day where the impending doom of Winter sharpens our appreciation of the bounty that still surrounds us- and makes us load a metric ton of fruit into the back of the car. And then we get home and realize that we have to do something, sharpish, with said fruit or it will rot, and tomorrow is Monday, after all, and rhapsodically bittersweet autumnal romanticism combined with the inherited obsession for stockpiling massive amounts of produce have once again collided with the realities of life in a most unfortunate way. I left it all in the car for the night, and so it’s looking like tomorrow will not be the studio day I have been waiting a week to jump into, but instead a day of applesauce, peach chutney, nasturtium-sorrel pesto, and sambal. Unless I put it off again. Damn. It’s a good thing the plums were finished, or hoisin would be on the list too.
also, there were cider donuts.
Upon return, I needed to find the sweet spot between sick, unhungry wife and ravenous menfolk back from the hunting and the gathering. Two courses did the job, with a minimum of effort: miso soup and fried rice. The soup was straightforward dashi and miso (added after the broth was strained and taken off the heat to keep all those beneficial . . . → Read More: Reality Check
I woke up this morning figuring that I should have planned something nice for Easter, but that since I hadn’t- bad parent/husband that I am- I should pretend that I had and figure out what I could bust out convincingly. To begin with, we had eggs. A good start, and lucky, because the wife she likes the eggs so we’re often low or out. And I had bought a big bar of organic super-dark chocolate last week, thinking to make the melty cakes again soon. So what I’m saying is I got a huge assist and came off looking pretty OK after all. I made crêpes.
When I make them, I like to have two kinds: a savory and then a sweet. It’s the win/win of breakfasts, like getting to have waffles AND an omelet without feeling like a giant hog. The first was pesto and feta, topped with the leftover pesto chicken gravy. The second was chocolate-cassis sauce and kumquat marmalade (we mercifully also had a handful of mostly still good kumquats at the bottom of a fridge drawer.) I melted the chocolate and some butter in a double boiler, then whisked in some Vermont cassis to finish it. The sliced kumquats simmered in honey, 5-spice, and pear juice.
Man, is it nice to shoot using the morning sun for a change. I never use the flash, so in the evenings I have resorted to some pretty silly setups to . . . → Read More: Oh, Right, Easter