Tuesday, June 22, 2010

green showers

What I would like to iterate this morning after reading the Sunday New York Times on-line is the phenomenal gustatory satisfaction one might take in showers of flavorful little green leaves of herbs over almost any main dish; and how food just keeps happening when you give over a portion of your brain and time and activity to it. Which, I realize now is not just iteration but re-iteration, since that’s what I’m always talking about, isn’t it?

The latest and greatest finger-food at Saturday’s Farmers’ Market in Depot Park is barbecued chicken made by Sunset Farm’s Jeff & Cathy McMurry. I think Jeff’s in it for the new equipment – the big metal tow-behind barbecue, and now a lovely little battery-powered hot water gizmo. Cathy’s own BBQ sauce, neither sweet nor gloppy but with just the right combination of herbs and spiciness, that seems, when done, more likely to’ve been a dry rub than a sauce, is the perfect partner for the pastured chickens.

I shared half the half-chicken at the Market, then took the rest home and made a little two-person chicken salad for supper.  

For the salad: To the diced chicken, I added coarsely chopped black Moroccan oil-cured olives; a dice of preserved lemon (you may use fresh lemon zest and a bit of juice), French Breakfast radish (from Right Mind Farm), cornichon, and onion; chopped tarragon and lovage, with maybe some dill; then mixed it all up with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. After the flavors had time to mingle I served it over hot rice. But wait! That’s not all: Over all, I sprinkled chopped cilantro and lemon balm and rings of Egyptian onion. The heat of the rice woke up the many tastes in this little dinner so that every bite was a study in contrasts and comfort.

I’d been aware that an enormous chicken resided in my freezer. But, big surprise – as it thawed it turned into an enormous bag of chicken backs. Only then did I remember that Singing Cedars had given me them last fall, and I’d put them in the freezer. Anyway, I’d made a wonderful toothsome broth of them, just roasting them for the meat, then found they were skillfully cut and, really, just bones, which I then simmered in lots of water, plain, no onions or other stuff, until they made a really nice broth.

I’d seethed them, really, which I always took as simmering very slowly, as though in a warmer than warm marinade. Curiously, there are two definitions of the word – one is just that very slow simmer and the other is a very fast boil. Talk about oxymorons!

Anyway, to that finished, strained broth I added lemon grass, contemplated cascobel peppers, consulted Diana Kennedy on that matter and, while continuing to think about those peppers, went to the garden in a soaking mist for garlic, cilantro, and scallion. On my way back, I spied the young collard greens, almost walked past, thought, “perfect”, jerked to a startled stop, and brought some of them in, too. What a treasure it is to remember that you had planted those delicious greens and find they are ready to eat!
Black beans would be the other half of this dish. Maybe some rice?

And chopped or torn leaves of lemon balm over the top. I’ve grown lemon balm for years and NEVER used it in a dish. It was so delicious in last night’s chicken salad that it’s now become a decided component of my little herb salad garnishes, my green showers.

Back to those cascobel peppers: They are challenging, thin skinned little orbs that rattle when you shake them. Charring them eats the flesh and flavor. So I crushed them in half, emptied out most of the seeds and just simmered them in plain water, then tore them into bits into the broth. Their flavor is rich, deep, slightly chocolate, almost intoxicating.

Then I added ribbons of collard greens, and chopped garlic, and warmed up the refried black beans I had in the fridge.

I made a pool of hot broth and collard greens in a soup plate, plopped in refried beans, topped that with Lakes’ Edge Farm’s Pepper Chevre, which is just a very fresh goat cheese rolled in ground peppers – a wonderful summer cheese, sprinkled that with a handful of chopped salad of  lemon balm, Egyptian onion, and radish, drizzled that with garlicky olive oil and a sprinkle of lime juice, and served it up with tortilla chips.

Another evening, a spring (now summer) shower of dill, cilantro, tarragon and flat-leafed parsley went over Red Houses’s spicy lamb sausages and Radical Roots cauliflower. Delish. That cauliflower? Steamed it al dente, then into a clay baking dish, dotted with butter, cream, cheese, baked until golden and tender, then showered with that little salad.

Next night was cool and I had ground lamb from Red Houses, and wonderful German Butterball potatoes from Heleba’s, so I made a Shepherd’s Pie, with the herbs both cooked in the meat filling and sprinkled fresh on top of the finished pie.

You know how to do this – brown the meat with garlic and onion, the herbs (especially lovage), maybe a little broth at the end. Put that into a casserole, top with mashed potatoes, maybe a sprinkle of cheese, and bake.

Grow some herbs and make some green showers of your own. Lovage, cilantro, arugula, dill, tarragon, lemon balm, sorrel, basil, parsley, mint, thyme... the list never ends. Mix and match. They’re lovely.
I know it seems impossible, but I erred when I called Erin at the Larson’s Farm stand at the Market the wrong last name. We can’t figure out how that happened, but when you stop by, please say hello to Erin Seward. My apologies.

A couple of other shout-outs to food ready-to-eat at the Saturday Market . The Domestic Diva doesn’t have a sign on her stand, but you will recognize her by the wide variety of lovely finger-foods. My favorite so far is the cupcake-sized fallen soufflĂ©. It was delightful. I couldn’t share!
Other treats this last week were little tarts topped with thin slices of heirloom tomatoes, teensy profiteroles and cream puffs filled with savory and sweet substances, crispy, buttery puff-pastries, baklava, and pea-pods filled with creamy essences as well as peas.

Nancy, at Tweed-Valley Farm is now offering smoked quail, as well as quail eggs, peanut brittle, and shiitakes.

And Morgan Over is offering her home-made REAL bagels (boiled and double-cooked) with the honest-to-bagel taste and texture of real bagels, at a stand called Good Morgan Bagels. She’s going to start toasting them on the spot so you can get your real bagel & cream cheese fix as you do the rest of your shopping.
This lady sells a little bit of everything, delectable soaps, as well as these coconut rolls that come from her native Trinidad. I love coconut, and these are excellent!

That’s it for now, Folks. Do plant some herbs. These little plants have flavors and textures that will enlighten your cuisine, whatever it is, with some perfectly refreshing green showers.