The weather has been abysmal here for the last couple of weeks, not that this is unusual for Western Washington in springtime. There have been a few sunbreaks, where it actually gets brilliant and warm and you can feel the grass growing under your feet…but then it clouds over, plummets back down to 48° and starts raining again. Despite this, we decided we just couldn’t wait any longer to get started on grilling season (it’s spring, dammit!) so last week Jon went out in raincoat, hat and gloves and cleaned the rust off the grill.
I had gotten a pack of lamb chops out of the freezer several days before, and started tabouli that morning, so we were committed to this particular dinner. We could have pan-seared the chops, but it wouldn’t have been the same – lamb is really at its best when grilled. I also picked up a bunch of not-very-local asparagus and I sorely wanted them grilled instead of roasted. We had hoped the rain would ease off, but nope! Fortunately our grill is under the deck, so although it’s drippy under there it’s not torrential. And both the chops and the asparagus cooked quickly. It was not a lovely evening for sitting in the garden, but the food all had that wonderful smoky edge to it. We brought it all inside, opened some wine, closed our eyes and pretended it was summer.
In the annals of putting fried eggs on top of things, this breakfast came very close to perfection. Here’s how to make it.
Take one Dungeness crab, cooked and cleaned.
Pick the meat out and set aside. Put the shell into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain and keep warm.
It was the asparagus’ fault. Last weekend Jon went to the farmer’s market by himself (it was my Saturday to work) and picked up some unusually beautiful Eastern Washington asparagus. Then he found some really attractive sockeye steaks. It all looked so good, but it needed a little something extra…I decided it was about time I made another attempt at homemade mayonnaise.
I’d been scared of making mayonnaise for a while. The one time I tried, I used the large food processor for too little sauce and it didn’t emulsify properly. But I’ve watched chefs make aioli at cooking classes, and it didn’t look hard – then there was John Thorne’s essay about learning to make mayonnaise with nothing but a plate, a fork, one egg yolk, a little vinegar and some oil. If making it by hand was really that easy, it seemed like I had no reason not to try. Besides, I know I can make a very good hollandaise, so what was I afraid of? I checked proportions in a few cookbooks and gave it a whirl.
While I am, in principle, a big fan of the locavore, 100-mile diet movement, I really don’t think I’m ever going to manage to eat one hundred percent local. I’m very fond of olive oil, for instance. And mangoes. But it does give me a thrill when I realize that everything on my plate was produced within a fifty mile radius of my house. This was a recent dinner of grilled lamb chops, Japanese eggplant and asparagus, all purchased at the downtown farmer’s market.
The weather has been amazing (apart from the fun little storm that whipped through on Saturday), and the asparagus has been gorgeous. How many reasons do you need to fire up the grill? This was a fabulous dinner that Jon cooked up last week: an entire bunch of grilled asparagus, grilled shrimp bathed in a lemon and garlic butter sauce, and good local bread. It’s very fast to prepare, apart from getting the coals going, and really, really good.
You could, of course, make traditional Parsi kebabs. If you’re feeling more casual, you can simplify the technique and make Parsiburgers. More casual yet is Parsi meatloaf. I recommend it.
The flavors of this meatloaf are bold and sparkling: fresh ginger, green chiles (seeds and all), cilantro and mint, all jumping out of a simple meat-and-potatoes framework. It’s spicy enough to make you want some salad or a beer, and complex enough to eat without any condiments or sauce (if you want).
One of my various jobs at work is managing the library’s collection of periodicals. This keeps me splendidly up to date on all kinds of important stuff, like Britney’s latest debacle or who’s crushing on who this week. It also lets me peek at all the food magazines I don’t bother to subscribe to, like Gourmet and Bon Appetit (full disclosure: I do get Gastronomica, Saveur, Cook’s Illustrated, Simple Cooking and Food & Wine (hey, F&W was cheap)). When the latest issue of B.A. crossed my desk I picked it up and flipped through it to get rid of the subscription cards, and was immediately caught by an article on things to do with all the vegetables in your CSA box, by Molly Stevens of All About Braising fame. Not that we get a CSA box (nearly all the farms around here only produce May through October). Sigh. But anyway – the very first recipe was a tart made with asparagus, whole-milk ricotta and comte cheese, and I instantly knew I had to try it.
After some careful searching at the co-op, we were able to come up with whole-milk ricotta, a small chunk of comte cheese, nitrate-free soppressata salami and a bunch of fresh, fat asparagus from California. I had a leftover sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry in the freezer, so that was taken care of. We also picked up a small pack of pork chops to give us some protein with our puff pastry.
Local asparagus still isn’t here, but when I stopped by the co-op yesterday to pick up something for dinner they had the most beautiful bundles of organic Mexican asparagus – I couldn’t resist. We were feeling a little hankering for Indian food, so I roasted a pork tenderloin that I had rubbed with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika, and cooked the asparagus with ajwain, fresh ginger and amchoor (green mango) powder, like the green bean recipe from Madhur Jaffrey.
In case you were wondering, this is what ajwain looks like, piled up next to some (larger) cumin seed. We bought our current supply at a small Indian grocery in the Pike Place Market. Continue reading