As I wrote in the garden post—and countless times beforehand—spending time in the garden (or outside in general) every day inspires plentiful ideas for the evening meal. In any given week (once things get growing) one is confronted with an array of plants at different stages of their lives: sprouts that need thinning, bolting things that need eating, things that bolted and didn’t get eaten so now they have pretty flowers or pungent seeds to use, and always various plants at peak maturity that are ready for their closeup.
The beauty of having both a garden and way too much visual art training manifests itself in many subtle ways, most of them involving dinner. This iteration of inspiration began with the radicchio, arrayed as plump and shiny purple heads in the chicory bed. After a busy day loading frost-leveled detritus into the wheelbarrow for trips to the compost pile, I took stock of what remained: a lot.
When your kid loves yogurt, making it at home makes a lot of sense. When your kid loves Greek yogurt, straining it makes for a more or less inexhaustible supply of tangy whey; the yield is roughly 50/50 so our weekly gallon of yogurt makes a half of each. There’s always some stock around too, either in fridge or freezer, so between that and the whey I never want for rich liquids with or in which to cook dinner.
It has been hot as balls around here, which will not be news to you if you live on the East Coast. While outside, though hot, there has been a breeze and thus in the shade it is not too too bad, inside without air conditioning is a wretched sauna of hatred, trickling sweat, and fetid stench. Also, the other night a skunk got spooked right outside the front door and sprayed all over a corner of the house, so with no rain in sight for weeks the air is seductively perfumed with a sulfurous reek redolent of nothing so much as a smoldering corpse wrapped in plastic that you forgot about in the trunk of your ’79 Chevy in the Nevada desert while you attended Burning Man. Good times.
I made some pretty good chicken pho last night. Muggy heat notwithstanding, the Kid wanted chicken noodle soup because he wasn’t feeling well. So I dutifully trudged off to the weekly market, procured a bunch of chicken wings, and trudged home. Wings make good stock. Normally, I make, you know, wings with them, saving the tips, and then cook the cooked second and third segments with the raw tips to make a wonderfully flavored but still gelatinous stock later on. This time there was no time, so in the pot they went, whole and unjointed, with all the pho-requisite flavors.
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.
One of the vendors at our farmers’ market—which happily began this week—carries the sustainably farmed fish from across the river. (I wrote about it here). It’s a far cry from living near the ocean, but it works well in a pinch and is always super-fresh. And whole fish are inspiring in ways that cuts usually are not, especially when it comes to grand presentations. Don’t you just love that fried eye?