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It started, innocently enough, when our regular CSA (Eating With the Seasons) offered some grass-fed beef. The results were extraordinary and we kept an eye out for future offerings.
Then they mentioned that Morris Grassfed Beef was offering “split halves”. That’s half a side of beef, delivered all at once or in 4 equal packages CSA-style. We opted for the whole thing — about 100 pounds — and stashed it in a freezer in the garage.
It’s fantastic. Now I know that some people find grass-fed beef to be too “gamey”, but that appears to be a problem when it’s left to age too long. (All those wonderful Omega-3 fats go rancid quickly.) The Morris people age it for 14 days which is the optimum age.
(By the way, the hamburgers are made with about a pound of ground beef, 1t of Penzey’s BBQ 3000, and a little salt and pepper. Make 1/3lb patties, grill to medium rare, and don’t forget a napkin.)
My first taste of this reminded me of beef from my childhood (in the 1970’s) before factory farming had become a big thing. It’s also shifted our household cooking to be more like the cooking when I was growing up — meat was an accent to the meal, with a meat-centric meal being a special “Sunday dinner” occasion. We’re not really buying outside beef, but choosing when to pull another package of something from the freezer — mindful that once the single brisket is used for onion roast, it’s gone.
Ambar, being the silly sweetie that she is, started looking at other options via Craigslist — whole pigs, pasture-raised lamb, etc. She finally proposed we buy lamb from a fellow who raises them on his walnut orchard (as weed control) then finishes them on organic almonds. We took delivery yesterday.
Her first bite of Parmesan-crusted Lamb Chops was a Tex Avery moment — her eyes grew huge and I bet they would have popped right out of their sockets if they could. The flavor on these is amazingly mild and sweet; we both noticed a hint of almond.
Parmesan-Crusted Lamb Chops
Take 8 lamb-chops, ideally pounded thin. Grate about 1/2C of good parmesan into a bowl. In another dish, beat 2 eggs. Take a plate and spread about 1C of fine bread crumbs on it. Heat about 1/4″ of vegetable oil in a fry pan on the stove.
Sprinkle the chops with the parmesan, pressing the cheese into the chop. Then dip into the egg, drain off the excess, and dredge in the bread crumbs. Fry in the hot oil — thin chops until golden, thicker chops until a rich golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper before serving.
Lamb chops are best served medium rare.
(I served these with some zucchini steamed with Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning and tossed with butter, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and a good glass of Pinot Noir.)
P.S. I’m off to cook at Witchlets in the Woods in the morning. Watch for new posts when I get back!
P.P.S. To give you an idea of cost, we’re averaging $6/lb for the beef and $5/lb for the lamb. With factory-farmed lean ground beef at $3.50/lb, offset by our shift in consumption, we’re paying somewhat less for groceries these days and definitely eating better.
The cooler summer weather means we’re getting stone fruit far later in the season than usual. The peaches are more tart than sweet, but the nectarines have been perfect! It was time to show them some love.
I had an abundance of nectarines, and with Witchlets in the Woods coming up (where I help cook), it was the perfect time to begin experimenting with sorbet and ice cream recipes for this year. This recipe calls for cooking the fruit briefly, which activates the pectin and makes the result surprisingly creamy.
(Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
Yield: About 1 quart
There are a couple of unusual things about this recipe: One is the use of agave nectar: this is a fabulous low glycemic index sweetener (which means it won’t affect your blood sugar as strongly as refined sugar.) I find the result to be a bit cloying, so I increased the lemon juice a bit and added some ceylon cinnamon to offset the sweetness. This is a mild, sweet cinnamon and used sparingly enough that it doesn’t call attention to itself but makes the nectarines stand out more.
The other unusual aspect is this has relatively little water, which makes it much more difficult to freeze properly. Many sorbets begin with a 50/50 mixture of simple syrup and fruit puree. In those, there’s plenty of water available throughout the freezing cycle. In this sorbet, you run the risk of most of the water freezing into tiny ice crystals at the start and pushing the freezing point so low that it won’t set up fully. Adding a bit more water early on can prevent this and/or you can freeze this to the consistency of soft-serve ice cream then pack it into a shallow pan and stick into an especially cold freezer to finish hardening
(I served this, soft and creamy, right from the machine last night and it was a big hit.)
When Ambar brought home a Zucchini plant from the nursery (“we’re only planting one this year”), it turned out to be three plants all intertwined. So, we’re getting about a zucchini a day. I’ve been sautéing it, adding it to frittata, and baking it but it’s still the green Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Then I ran across this lovely post from Michael Ruhlman:
That inspired me to try grating and salting zucchini for a salad and wow — it’s wonderful.
This is essentially a bread salad without the bread. The zucchini picks up all of the flavors and brings them together harmoniously.
If the zucchini is fresh from your yard or the farmer’s market, soak for about 10 minutes in a bowl of water to remove the dirt from the skin. Grate using the large holes on a box grater, toss with some salt, and let rest about 10 minutes. Pour into a colander and squeeze out the excess liquid (zucchini should be relatively dry.)
Return the zucchini to a bowl, add tomatoes, basil, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, dress with oil and vinegar (and lime juice, if you have it.) Let sit for about an hour to give the flavors a chance to blend.
This salad would be wonderful with some fresh mozzarella or ricotta salata.
I was thinking about how the kitchen is such a metaphor for life:
We interrupt your regularly scheduled salads to bring you a bit of food science. The Maillard reaction is the one of the ways foods turn brown when you roast them (along with caramelization.) Oh, as in roasted garlic (done in a hot, dry pan)…
…or when you let Zucchini sauté until brown spots appear (here aided and abetted by a touch of balsamic vinegar added at the end.)
Both of these pick up sweetness and a depth of flavor that’s hard to get in any other way.
The garlic, by the way, went into a batch of crushed Yukon Gold potatoes (boil potatoes whole, with skins on. Remove from water, crush with a fork, and mix in good olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted garlic, and a bit of mild cheese. Top with a bit of shredded basil if desired.)
Simple, easy, and delicious.
With the temperature climbing over 100°F daily, we’ve turned to cooling summer salads here at Sagehenge*. The first salad I have to share is the incredibly tasty, cooling, and simple “Mediterranean salad”:
Combine the first three ingredients, dress with oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour before serving (or up to 3 days, refrigerated; may need a touch more salt after sitting that long.)
Serve with crumbled cheese (optional).
* “Sagehenge” is the new name for our house.