I read once that the French start talking about dinner while they are enjoying breakfast. Lunch is a two hour affair; school lunchrooms serve multi-course meals; the menu du jour is going to set you back about $12 but it is going to include a starter, main course and dessert (and if you are lucky wine and coffee). I may be an American but when it comes to meals, I am French. My obsession is getting worse. Practically every meal now has to make a statement; it has to nourish my soul as well as my body. Luckily, I think my family feels the same way. In Belgium, Dear Daughter was asked by her History teacher what she did over a certain school holiday. Her response did indicate her vacation location but mainly centered on the food she had experienced on the trip. "Your parents are really raising a foodie," was her retort. She was right.
I was petrified that once returning to the States, my options for finding wonderful ingredients would be limited to expensive mail order catalogs. How wrong I was. We are dining like kings and my obsession is only increasing. In little over two months, we have been able to establish links to local farmers and most of our food is locally sourced. The first major purchase for our new house: a stand-alone freezer which sits in our garage. My next project: To paint the wall next to the freezer with chalkboard paint so I can keep a list of items that are in the freezer. I do not want anything to go to waste! Once a week, I have my own menu planning session. I attempt creative uses of leftovers that sometimes work and sometimes...completely bomb. While a large part of this endeavor is occurring because I do not have gainful employment, a larger part is because I really like doing this. It is more than a hobby.
Let me give you the rundown on our ingredients. Our milk and cream are now being delivered each Friday and comes from a dairy that is 20 miles away. Our beautiful brown eggs come from a lady who raises free range chickens about a mile down the road. Our freezer is stocked with 1/4 of a cow and a lamb, which were free range, grass fed and raised about 45 minutes away. This week, our CSA starts and we will begin receiving our vegetables from a cooperative of Amish farmers, who live less than an hour away. Regular deliveries of pork and chicken will also start soon. I have learned how to make my own mozzarella cheese and hope to experiment making ricotta cheese this week. I have not found a local source for butter, but I will. While all of our food needs cannot be sourced locally; if I need my fix of French cheese, Spanish ham or Greek olive oil, I do not need to go online. I only need to head to the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh to experience food shopping heaven. I even know the best places to get fresh fish and now we can dine on some fantastic sashimi while sitting at our own kitchen table.
Having 1/4 of a cow and a lamb is challenging; however. There are cuts of meat in the freezer that I have never cooked or eaten and struggle to understand what to do with them. But researching the cut and experimenting with different recipes is becoming a lot of fun. I suspect that when the vegetables start arriving, I will have a lot of research to do as well. I am great with a salad but how do you cook broccoli when you can't stand broccoli - when the aroma of cooked cauliflower brings a wave of nausea? Dear readers, that will be a challenge and are you ready to experience it with me?
I am hoping that each week, I can give you a vegetable or two plus a cut of meat and perhaps you can give me recipes. I will also let you know what I ended up creating.
I have cooked several lamb dishes over the past two months starting with rack of lamb (fantastic), boneless leg of lamb (which my family enjoyed but our guests did not) and braised lamb shanks (the sauce alone was decadent). This past weekend, the pull from the freezer was lamb shoulder steaks. I had never heard of this cut. I wasn't sure if I could grill the steaks or if they were designed to be roasted or braised. But the packaging did indicate "steaks" so I went with grilling. I marinated them overnight and Dear Husband grilled them for about 10 minutes total and WOW!!! They were so, so yummy!
Combine in a jar, the juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper. Slowly stream in 1/2 cup olive oil.
Place lamb steaks in a ziplock bag and pour in the marinade. Seal and place in the refrigerator for up to eight hours. One hour before cooking, take lamb out of bag and using a paper towel, dry each steak. Grill for approximately 10 minutes total.
Meat assignment for the week: Boneless Rump Roast