Another dinner inspired by my culinary hero David Tanis and his book Heart of the Artichoke. In the past I haven’t much gone for prunes in savory dishes (I was traumatized by a pork-prune empanada at an impressionable age), but since David was pushing it I finally decided it was time to give it another try. This lamb shank tagine converted us, completely.
We still had all four shanks from the lamb we bought from Martiny Suffolks last summer, and I wanted to be sure we ate them while the weather was still good for braising. My biggest error in the past with lamb shank has been not cooking it long enough, so I started early in the day to make sure it reached the fall-off-the-bone stage. The dish starts (as most tagines do) with onion cooked in butter, then adds garlic, fresh ginger, powdered ginger, coriander seed, cumin seed, saffron, and rather a lot of cayenne. Lamb shanks, prunes and sultanas nestle into the flavorings with a topping of chicken broth and tomato puree, then braise gently in the oven for over two hours. A final handful of prunes go in near the end, before taking the lid off the pot and simmering it at higher heat for a few minutes.
The house smelled incredible. The tagine was both savory and sweet, with a cayenne kick that was never quite too much. The lamb collapsed with a mere touch of a knife. The prunes melted into the gravy, giving it an incredible silken mouthfeel. To go with it, I cooked couscous with chicken broth, sauteed chard and spinach, and made a platter of borani: pan-fried eggplant slices topped with yogurt-garlic sauce. We licked our plates.
My parents often buy persimmons in the winter, which for some reason we never do. I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot a few images of this one. I love both the color of the fruit and the texture of the sepals, making it hard to decide whether I like it better in color or black and white. Which do you prefer?
A few nights ago some dinner guests arrived supplied with ice wine, goat cheese and four of the biggest Asian pears I’d ever seen. We managed to eat two pears between the six of us, but there were still two left. On Friday I was mucking around with the camera, fruit and various backdrops for an assignment, so I decided to do some fruit portraits.
Admittedly those apples are a bit small, but look at the size of that pear! And I adore the texture of its skin.
[Last year for NaBloPoMo I ran food-related comics on Sundays, but I haven’t been able to find many good new ones, so instead I thought I might show some of my food photography projects that don’t otherwise fit into food posts – JT]
Eons ago, on our honeymoon, Jon and I stayed at a wonderful place in the San Juan Islands called the Inn at Swifts Bay. It was a charming little B&B with a hot tub tucked back in the woods and a movie library of great quality – and the breakfasts were amazing. It was fifteen years ago and I still remember some of the food (I told you I had food on the brain, didn’t I?). One thing that made a huge impression on us both was the smoothie that kicked off each morning’s dining. Served in a large goblet, it was a puree of peach, a whole lime, banana, and pineapple. It was divine, and as soon as we were settled in our new (married student housing) apartment and owned a blender, we started making them for ourselves.
These days I can’t eat peaches (and pineapple makes my mouth feel a little odd, too), and I usually prefer a glass of orange juice with a hot breakfast than a full-on smoothie, but we still make smoothies on weekdays, especially if we’re feeling a little frail and dehydrated. Every summer I buy flats of local berries and freeze them, so all winter we can mix berries with mangoes, oranges or bananas for a variety of flavors. My usual smoothie formula for the two of us is something like: 1-2 cups fruit, half a cup of full-fat yogurt, half a cup of orange juice, two scoops of vanilla-flavored whey protein powder, and water to dilute and top up.
It’s easy, tasty and restorative. Always a good backup during the holidays, when one sometimes needs a bit of restoring.
At last, we have local strawberries! J went out to Sakuma Brothers last week and bought our first Skagit Valley strawberries of the season. They were huge, juicy and sweet – a totally different animal from the California berries for sale in the grocery store. I know that there are great strawberries in California – we used to buy them at the Santa Barbara farmer’s market every week – but they never make it up here.
What did we do with our fresh berries? Apart from eating one every time I walked by the box, that is? Strawberry shortcake, naturally.