As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.
Photo by Judith Hausman
This is getting ridiculous.
It’s June. There’s chard and bok choy in the markets. Yum! Uh oh, (blush) there’s also chard and bok choy still lurking in my freezer. There it is behind slices of the Thanksgiving turkey and a hunk of Tennessee ham. Time for a quick sorrel pesto, arugula pesto and parsley pesto, with basil pesto not far behind. But just how many foil packets of the ’09 crop are still rattling around in there? Berries are in season. I saw an $8 quart of strawberries in the farmers market a few weeks ago already. But hey, what’s this? There’s a big bag of the red beauties still in suspended animation.
Sformato: Rich Italian vegetable custard, somewhere between a soufflé and the filling of a quiche
Quinoa: Easy-to-cook grain with exceptionally high protein content
Clafouti: French dessert with warmed fruit under simple, puffy custard
I hate when that happens. Like the woman said in Sideways: “You know, the day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc … that’s the special occasion.”
I swear I don’t save. It’s just that the palate changes in winter and the bright summer berries don’t present themselves in my dessert fantasies as much. You can make an OK cobbler from frozen fruit, but when the leaves turn and the snow flies, I’m thinking pumpkin, apples and oranges. You know what I mean.
All this means that in June, it’s hurry up and eat the frozen treasures, already, before the new ones take their place. And now, I don’t feel like eating those hearty soups with beans or barley that I use in cool weather. My taste has lightened again.
The good news is a seamless jump on the season. Haul out those berries: I’m eating strawberry shortcake before July 4 and throwing raspberries into spinach salad before they are pickable from the bushes around here. I’m making chard sformato and quiche or tossing the defrosted greens with pasta. Easiest of all is to mix the greens with cooked brown rice, couscous or steamed quinoa. Serve warm or at room temp.
Photo by Judith Hausman
For the gratin pictured left, I defrosted the greens, the goat cheese and the ham. I sliced and boiled two large potatoes. When the drained potato slices had cooled a little, I chopped up the ham and alternated rows of greens, potato and ham in the greased baking dish. I plopped on the goat cheese, dampened the whole thing with a little half and half I had, and baked it at 350 for 40 minutes or so. For variety, use another cheese or none, use broth instead of cream, add onions, leave out the ham or sprinkle the assembled gratin with chopped chives and breadcrumbs, which you dot with a little butter.
I never do learn. It’s a control thing — an attempt to stop the inexorable march of the seasons and to hold the harvest in plastic. When I’m picking raspberries or I find some local cherries in the market or even when the New Jersey blueberries hit the Super Stop ’n’ Shop at two pints for $5, I need to squirrel them away, even if it means I’m now rushing to use them up. The season for local cherries is about two minutes here so I make a wonderful clafouti and poach the rest for the freezer with a little cognac and sugar. It’s so easy to wash and pat berries dry, spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze and then tumble them off into a ziplock bag.
Granola with sliced (frozen, local) peaches for breakfast anyone?