Monthly ArchiveJuly 2007
Guests 29 Jul 2007 07:50 pm
A guest post from my brother Joe — a veterinarian and fellow food lover who lives in Vermont. Thanks Joe!
One of the joys of living in a rural area is the ability to purchase food directly off the farm. As a farm animal veterinarian, I also love knowing that some of the food I eat comes from animals I know and from owners whom I trust about their animal’s care. It’s also nice to have room for a large kitchen garden. Summer is the time I can put all these things together on my plate.
My garlic goes into the ground in late October – it’s the last duty before the garden goes to sleep for the winter. The bulbs will be ready to pull in late July or August, but before that, in June, they produce an edible seed head or scape. The scapes are cut off so that more energy goes to the developing bulb, but what to do with all these garlicky greens? I hate to waste anything from my garden, but one can put only so many of these tangy buds on a salad.
Recently while visiting the Middlebury Farmer’s Market, I visited a vendor who had made a pesto from his scapes. He was generous with his recipe so I decided to give it a try. I placed my scapes (around a pound or so I would guess) into a food processor with olive oil, a little lemon juice and salt. The resulting paste was a little too garlicky so I added a handful of fresh basil from my garden and some walnuts. The finished product was excellent on a pizza with fresh tomatoes and roasted red peppers cooked on our backyard grill or just dipped out on a pita chip.
Tonight I decided to take the leftovers a step further. I butterflied some boneless chicken breasts from our local poultry farm and cooked them to near doneness on the grill. Next I filled the cut breast with a layer of the pesto and a slice of Orb Weaver cheese produced by two very good friends of ours. I then finished the chicken on the grill. I served the chicken with a salad made from fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil along with a red wine from a Quebec vineyard we visited in May and a whole wheat batard from a local bakery.
Seasonal Cooking 15 Jul 2007 08:05 pm
Just returned from a fantastic vacation to the Virgin Islands, where I lived for two weeks aboard my friend’s boat, and where I’d hoped to gather tales of local cuisine but ended up not doing much in the way of food investigation. This is largely because Patrick Shea, one of my shipmates on the adventure, proved to be far more energetic than I when it came to cooking in the hot and narrow ship’s galley, and he mostly took charge of picking which foods to provision with. But it also may be because the range of local cuisine in St. Thomas is actually fairly small. Certainly, we had some amazingly fresh seafood, and the mangoes and pineapples were out of this world, and conch fritters and coconut shrimp of course. But the Virgin Islands, and St. Thomas in particular, have limited agriculture due to their mountainous terrain and rocky soil. So, much of the produce is shipped in (sometimes from New York I’m told) and I was hard pressed to find much in the way of local food.
All of which made me happy when I returned home to Brooklyn, and strolled back into the local Borough Hall farmer’s market, now bursting with greenbeans, corn, tomatoes, peaches and other summer faves. When I got to the table full of berries, I couldn’t restrain myself from buying a couple of things I had no idea what to do with: gooseberries, just because I loved their name, and red currents, for their incredible red color. When I got home I consulted the Joy of Cooking, and found that “in northern Europe, tangy red currents are turned into… elegant sauces for meat.” But the Joy didn’t offer any further help than that – no recipes for these elegant sauces – so I turned to the internet. Querying Google with “red current sauce” turned up plenty of recipes, but nearly all of them called for jam or preserves, instead of the beautiful red berries I had in front of me. A couple of hits did show me recipes for sauces made from fresh berries though, so I’d at least found a starting point.
The recipes I found (here and here) both followed more or less the same pattern: put the currents in a saucepan & cook them down, with a little liquid and a lot of sugar. I wanted to keep mine as tangy and savory as possible, so I used dry sherry for the liquid (one recipe called for port) and kept the sugar to a minimum. I also added about a 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of orange zest, and started it all off with a minced shallot in cooked in olive oil.
I’d expected a thin, liquidy sauce, but after about 15 minutes of cooking it thickened up pretty nicely (helped perhaps by the addition of olive oil?). The flavor was quite strong and definitely tangy; I worried that it was too pungent, and wondered whether I should’ve used water in place of the sherry, or whether I needed to cut the finished sauce with some water or stock to back off the flavor. My worries were groundless though: a couple of restrained teaspoonfuls of this sauce atop a grilled pork chop was just right, and the bright pungency of the sauce made a great accent to the smokey chop. As far as I’m concerned you can toss the A-1 Sauce right in the can – this sauce was simple and quick, and beats the bottled sauce by a mile for freshness.
The full plate: a farm-raised pork-chop topped with a garden-fresh red-current sauce; new potatoes that were parboiled, then grilled & smashed; fresh green beans & the summer’s first corn on the cob, and a thick slice of grilled fresh tomato — a perfect summer dinner.
I’ll definitely make the current sauce again — maybe next time with a touch of ginger. Now, if I can only figure out what to do with the gooseberries.