It’s artichoke season and we’ve been getting them in our CSA. For the most part I’m pretty lost when it comes to what to do with artichokes. Jesse usually steams them with garlic and lemon and then we dip them in melted butter but this week we got some little babies and I wanted to figure out how to prepare them. This video wasn’t particularly helpful in that regard but Jacques Pepin might be a kitchen god who was sent to earth to use the TV to teach us all how to be better cooks.
I’m just going to throw it out there. I miss tomatoes. I miss them so much. Also, I miss stone fruit but Isis says they’re popping up at the farmers market due to the hot weather we’ve had the past two weeks. I can hardly believe it.
Despite what you may have imagined I am still here. I’m still butchering and slinging meat and occasionally stuffing sausages. What hasn’t been happening as much, and what is most relevant to this blog, is home cooking. Apparently this is because it’s “show season” and every band is coming through San Francisco and that is why 5 out of 7 nights a week I find myself coming home, dumping my work clothes on the floor and then heading back out again. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s also baseball season and so the remaning two nights I have are often occupied by attending games, drinking $9 Miller Genuine Draft (or Budweiser) and screaming my head off every time Sergio Romo gets to pitch. Oh! And I joined a bowling league so there’s another thing.
I’m not complaining. Ok, ok, sometimes I am complaining about feeling over scheduled but that is just when I’m tired and grumpy and allergic to whatever sort of devil pollen is floating around this horrible city (see, that was tired and grumpy and allergic Ren talking). Going to shows and baseball games and bowling league with your friends is actually a really great way to live and I’m having a lot of fun. With that said, I miss cooking. I miss it a lot. I also miss eating what I cook. What have I been eating the last three weeks? I don’t even know. Pizza probably.
Steak is definitely not a favorite food of mine. Obviously, it’s delicious but it doesn’t usual produce an emotional reaction like a lot of other food does. I don’t eat steak and think, “wow, this is something really special and everything around me feels special and I’m so glad to be alive.” Ice cream makes me feel that way, ramen makes me feel that way, these meatballs that Colin made the other day makes me feel that way but not steak. Or at least not usually. Yesterday at work though, we cooked up some pieces of bavette and skirt steak to slice for customers and I ate a piece and suddenly my whole body was like, “STEAK!!!!!!” It was like something had been missing from my life and it was finally being filled by each bite of steak I took.
Last Monday was the first day of Passover and after a lot of talk from my friend Aaron about wanting to host a Seder but not having the space, I offered my rooftop for the occasion. Since it was Sunday night when we decided to host and the Seder was going to happen Monday, Aaron and I agreed that we would make the big proteins and guests could bring side dishes. He roasted four beautiful chickens, simply seasoned with thyme and rosemary and tons of onions and I braised 6 pound of brisket. Guests brought all kinds of awesome dishes like noodle kugel, vegetable kugel, kale salad, the biggest mixed green salad ever, charoset, matzo and lots and lots of wine.
We made our Seder plate complete with an orange to represet the fruitfulness of all Jews including women and gays and Aaron led us through a shortened Seder because we all have terrible attention spans, ask too many questions, drink too much wine between sanctioned cups and generally laugh too much. Despite all this, I think the Seder gave us a moment to pause and contemplate what actions we take that make us compassionate and moral people. We thought about the choices we are confronted with everyday and were reminded to always choose justice over repression and love over hate. Even though I am not Jewish and am barely spiritual, I was really grateful that Aaron shared this tradition with us and welcomed us to all celebrate Passover with him. My friends are people who love to celebrate pretty much anything with food and alcohol but this was something different. Passover asked us to be a little more introspective as we sat down and shared a meal together. To give meaning to each of the five glasses of wine we drank and to be thoughtful about the food we ate.
After the ceremony it was time to eat and we all packed into my tiny kitchen in order to fill our plates high with food. I quickly carved the four chickens as the thought of someone chopping off the tip of their finger after five glasses of wine loomed in my head and then we all dug in. In addition to the brisket I made some chopped chicken liver which was delicious on matzo and spiced quinoa. As usual a silence fell over the table as everyone dug into their food back on the roof. We were 16 people in all and we did a great job of eating, eating, eating and then picking at the leftovers. When there were only a couple of us left we went back downstairs and I popped the little piece of meat above the chicken legs along the spine, the oysters, out of the back of each chicken and passed them around to whoever remained. It’s the best most tender piece of meat on the chicken but it’s tiny and there are only two per chicken. The chicken oysters were my small contribution to the celebration, my way of showing my friends how much I love and care for them and that I will always be there for them, even if it just means sharing the oysters.
It might be Spring. I’m not sure yet, but it might be. The Farmers Market is still flushed with citrus but I think it may be a final crescendo to end the season. I heard rumor of some asparagus but who knows, it could just be a rumor. What I do know is that at work we’ve started getting green garlic and we just brought back a rosé that we only have in the spring and summer. To me, those are some pretty good signs and pretty good is good enough for me. Anyway, as a result of being caught up in this willfull drive toward Spring I started craving rabbit.
The other day I somehow managed to acquire a copy of Lucky Peach issue 1 for under $100…under $20 actually, which was surprising because the going rate on Amazon for a used copy is about $150. Getting my hands on that issue reignited a passion that never really goes out (unlike my oven, the pilot light is always on) for all things David Chang. It’s a fun read especially right after pouring through the newest issue. They’ve come a long way since that first issue, they seem to work a lot harder and have way less typos. Anyway, while reading the issue I was reminded of a recipe in the Momofuku book about for clams steamed in bacon dashi and decided to try it out.
Lately at work I’ve been telling a lot of people how to roast a leg of lamb (or portion of a leg). I always start out by saying, “well, this is how I would do it…” little do they know that until a few days ago I actually had never done it. I really love lamb but tend to not cook with it much because it is so damn expensive and also because Jesse is convinced he’s not a huge lamb fan. With Easter around the corner though, I decided it was time to put my theories to the test. Here are my discoveries:
For some reason when people are prepping for romantic times they always turn to red meat. The apparent sensuality of red meat is a little unclear to me. Is it because it’s more expensive? Is it because the flavor is more robust? Maybe it’s just because it’s red and hearts and valentines are red? I don’t understand it but don’t think that I didn’t jump right in line with everyone else and cook fish, no it was red meat all the way for my Valentine’s Day. While my first inclination was to do a lamb leg roast or a rack of lamb I ended up going WAY more traditional. Yes, for Valentine’s Day I made filet mignon topped with a little horseradish creme fraiche.
For me meat is comfortable. Roasts, chops, braises, they all hold a very familiar and loved place in my heart. I’ve always loved meat and now that I work with it all the time its place in my life has grown even greater. Vegetables on the other hand are tricky for me. When I’m faced with a fridge full of veggies I usually don’t have the first clue what to do with them so I go ahead and cook myself a pork chop. Every time though, there’s a voice in the back of my head (let’s be honest it’s the voice of my dad) that is freaking out about how much meat I’m consuming and how few vegetables are being consumed along with it. Normally I can tell this voice to be quiet because I’m young and I love meat and I’m pretty convinced that I’m anemic so I need the iron. Lately though, just the thought of meat has made me feel sick to my stomach. Actually, pretty much anything that isn’t a vegetable makes me feel not so hot. I have intense fantasies about eating almost exclusively vegetables- amazing salads, the most perfect roast vegetable entrees, beautiful middle eastern inspired beet dishes…I don’t know.