Friday, October 16, 2009

The Musical Fruit

Aren't beans the greatest thing?

Dry, they sit on the shelf forever, a half dozen jars of Technicolor lovelies that need only an hour to soak and then an hour's attentionless cooking. Whatever bean dish you're making, there's enough left for something else, only imagination required. All they need is a complementary starch, and a little something for interest, and you're well on your way to dinner. They're even good without augmentation of any kind: they're rich and creamy and distinctive all by themselves, and with a little nice fresh bread, you're eating just fine.

Tonight, we had the second round (ever better) of a bean soup that just materialized a couple of days ago. The white beans were ready, the kale was in the freezer, and we had a little bacon from our neighbor Uwe. The bacon was a bit hard, and a bit bitter from smoking with oak, but it was a fine substitute for ham hock. Beans, bacon, kale, onions, carrots, a little hot pepper flakes, resisting the urge to gild the lilly with garlic, a little simmering time, and there you are. Oh yeah, the frozen beef stock, artifact of the dead cow and its lavish carcass, didn't hurt.

Tonight, re-heating and plating (bowling?) with some more of that local Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil was enough of an anchor for dinner. A few more asparagus spears, steamed and drizzled with lemon juice for a supporting vegetable, and the light salad with early greens and half an avocado sliced for the two of us. And today's bread with butter, of course.

(Speaking of avocados, I invite you to think of them as the moral fruit. To begin with, you have a choice (and what's more moral than that? The Pope would be pleased): you can go for the instant gratification of buying them ripe, overpaying for the privilege of virtually jostling with the ghosts of prior competition and desperately picking through their bruised leftovers for something edible (would this be, like, the 17th circle of hell?). But if you think ahead, and bring a little patience to the situation? Buy them green and hard as a golf ball--no kidding, that's the exact criterion--with no discrimination whatsoever, and with a few days wait, you're rewarded by seeing them magically morph into a flawless dark fruit that's exactly as ripe as you want it to be. Aah, the fruits of forbearance.)

That salad: in Motueka there's a "Sunday market" that's part flea market, part farmer's market, part grazing ground with lots of little food stalls (including the German lady proffering a panoply of sausages and other small goods, which don't get me started), and general hang out for the Churchless masses. One of the places we always check is a stand of organic, or rather spray free, vegetables, run by a character who, well, let's just say it's a good thing he has a solitary occupation. But he's a sweet guy, his prices are reasonable, he loves to talk about his product, and he has the odd interesting item, like spring garlic. We got a generous bag of very nice light lettuce for a buck. With a little avocado, perfect.

Overdid it on the desert, though. I succumbed to the last piece of chocolate cake, nuked up for a few seconds. And a bowl of fresh yogurt with the last of the 2007 jam, apricot, my favorite. And who can resist half a scoop of Krys's granola? Finally, there was the square of Trader Joe's chocolate with almonds, sitting in a dish on the table just daring me not to eat it. Fat chance. Oh well, I did spend two hours grubbing thistles today.

That's right, another feast.

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