Sunday, January 17, 2010

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with

There comes a time in the cook's year when cooking goes from...I almost said "inductive to deductive," but I'm not that obnoxious. I mean that you live much of the time in a world in which you decide what to cook, then assemble the ingredients. But eventually the garden takes over, and you respond to what's in the basket. We seem to be at that changeover point right now.

We went to dinner a few days ago with Eamon and Wendy and their kids, and as we're leaving, good old Eamon reaches into a fridge and comes out with what must have been 20 pounds of wild pork that he'd shot a couple of days before. And not just scraggly chunks of gnawed flesh, either, but BIG hunks of roastable, stewable, meaty goodness. A fair bit of it wound up in a Tinga Poblana, a Mexican stew with chorizo, onions, tomatoes, chipotle and potatoes. But the central role was of course the pork, and it just sang. No special treatment, just started off with large chunks cut from the shoulder and "casserole" (a mystery cut that, well, I haven't asked) and proceeded per normal pork but with stellar results on the table for Movie Night. Martin is partial to wild pork, but, living in town, he doesn't get much of it, and he was over the moon.

Anyway, this dish entails cooking the browned pork into a stock, and then using only a small part of it in the finished dish. So Krys cooked up some pinto beans in the remaining stock, and that was dinner tonight: sort of a blank stew, nothing but plain, creamy pinto beans (again, WHY don't we pay more attention to beans? They're so damn good), the stock, and some leftover bits of pork, garnished with chopped tomato and avocado, cilantro and chipotle puree.

But wait! One of the zucchini plants is producing these little ribbed zucchini that are supposed to be eaten in an almost fetal state with blossoms still attached. They're a little past that stage, but still wanted to be experienced as essence of zucchini. So I cut them into thickish diagonal slices, threw them into shimmering hot olive oil in a huge non-stick pan, and tossed them often enough to get them to brown before they turned to mush. A little salt and pepper was all she needed: no onion, no garlic, no thyme. Nothing in here but zucchini. Yum.

Salad? Just put a bowl of peapods on the table and munched down on them.

In this state, you not only let the food drive the menu, but you let the food be itself. It's fantastic when the food steps up and delivers, and it's amazing and wonderful how simple cooking gets when the food really shines.

It's looking like a great summer.

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