Note: I meant to post this last week, but got sidetracked by Chet’s medical situation. Many, many thanks to all of you who sent best wishes and cat prayers. I hope to give a positive progress report soon!
The box has returned, and with it my obsessive compulsion to use everything in it for delicious results. My challenge increases this summer, though, because I am emptying it solo. The Unit, you see, has carried himself off to Greece for five weeks in a futile noble attempt to educate the philhellenic youths of Boston, whilst concurrently avoiding increasingly-certain economic doom. So, while he is feasting on Greek salad, stuffed tomatoes, and French fries (washed down, no doubt, with a healthy amount of Assyrtiko, paid for with the last euros remaining in his pocket), I’ll be tending to the cats and foisting ugly but delicious vegetable creations on those friends and acquaintances of mine who are too polite to say no.
You’ve been duly warned.
The kick-off box contained rhubarb, strawberries, mixed greens, Napa cabbage, tatsoi, adorable tiny sweet potatoes, the parsnip that ate New York, and cilantro.
And here’s what I did:
I went strawberry picking last weekend with 10-year old Emma, the fantastically cool daughter of my equally cool friend Laura. Between the two of us, we picked almost six pounds of strawberries (full disclosure: Emma out-picked me by 1.14 pounds), some of which we turned into pie and many of which we ate, so I decided to take a more grown up route with the pint in the box: strawberry liqueur. I soaked the berries, along with a couple of sprigs of tarragon, in some Tito’s Vodka (we went to college with Tito! His name isn’t really Tito!) for several days, added some simple syrup and let everything mingle for another several days. I think it will be nice with some floral gin (Hendrick’s?) and club soda, or maybe added to sparkling wine.
I stewed the rhubarb in sugar and water, and saved the resulting pink syrup for cocktails. I added the cooked rhubarb to a couple of diced peaches and used this to fill a half dozen hand pies, the rich crust of which I made with my friend Lucy’s beautiful eggs. I followed the example of Hugh Acheson and tossed some rice wine vinegar and black pepper into the filling for an acidic, nose-tickling kick.
The arugula I separated from the rest of the greens (we used those in salads) and sautéed it in bacon fat with garlic and a little jalapeno pickle brine, for a riff on collards. I served these with sautéed soft shell crabs and buttered Anson Mills grits (by the way: when Sean Brock instructs you to soak the grits overnight before you cook them, SOAK THE DAMN GRITS…I cooked these in dashi and they were the best grits ever).
The cilantro went into guacamole. The tatsoi went, sautéed, onto some toast with fried eggs and loads of hot sauce.
And, the sweet potatoes and parsnips joined broccoli, cauliflower, soy/ginger marinated chicken thighs, and quinoa in a somewhat healthy version of a grain bowl. I roasted the hell out of those vegetables until they got crispy and brown on the edges, and bathed everything in a lick-the-bowl worthy sauce of miso, tahini, ginger, garlic, and other goodness, stolen directly from Smitten Kitchen.
We drank this lip smacker from Southwest France: bone dry, with flavors of Golden Delicious apple, pineapple, and lemon rind. We also detected some salinity. The wine is made primarily with biodynamically-grown Gros Manseng, a grape I know nothing about. Fermentation occurs in 90% neutral oak (10% new French oak) until bottling. I only bought four bottles of this, an oversight for which I now kick myself. It’s that good.
The napa cabbage fermented into two tiny jars of pungent kimchi, luckily avoiding the horrific outcome of the Great Kimchi Explosion of 2012.
I listened to the entire back catalog of Nada Surf during these cooking adventures: what an aurally delightful band. I particularly enjoyed their covers album, If I Had a Wi-Fi. I think the Kate Bush cover may have been my favorite, although Depeche Mode came in a close second.
Do you like vegetables? Do you want some of mine? Let me know!