It’s hard, once the days warm and the farm season starts in earnest, to keep on cookin’–and I do mean literally.
Last week tested my ability to pull together home-cooked meals when I spent the mornings working on classes, paperwork, and errands–and from early afternoon until seven or eight in the evening out in the field.
But thanks to a stocked pantry and a few tried-and-true recipes and meals strategies, I manage to feed us remarkably well, I think. My partner certainly didn’t complain–though it’s really not his way to grumble about food.
The first night, I relied on the extra carton of local eggs I’d stocked up on (but hadn’t hard-boiled or dyed) right before Easter, along with the reliably hardy and early sorel that grows in my home garden.
Coupled with some homemade goat cheese and the very last of my winter-stored red onions, it made a nice fritatta served with some ten-grain bread from a local bakery.
Fritattas are one of my go-to fast dinner recipes because of the ease of prep: toss in the veggies to sauté or wilt, then pour on the eggs and let cook on low ’til set (tossing the cheese on top). Then move to the oven on low broil until set–easy!
The second night, I’d been doing more planting and cleaning up of gardens, and walked in the door dusty and exhausted, but with a gallon back of stinging nettles and a bunch of what I call “mutt onions”–volunteers and divisions of unknown allium parentage that taste great anyhow.
While I was doing the lunch and dinner dishes from the night before, I thawed a pound of antelope sausage given to us by a central South Dakota friend (just tossed it in cold water) to go along with the nettles and onions.
Once about half of the antelope was thawed, I set some small patties on to fry (in a little olive oil–antelope is very lean). When the patties were browned on both sides, I removed them from the pan and tossed in the white parts of the onions, then the nettles and the green onion tops, and a splash or two of Worchestershire sauce, then clapped on a lid to help the nettles wilt.
The third night’s dinner was a little more complex. I spent a little less time out on the farm that day, as I had a number of errands and projects at home and in town, but the schedule was still cram-packed.
In cleaning out my refrigerator in order to thaw a frozen evaporator line, I took stock of what I had that needed using up (a little leftover antelope sausage, some of that homemade goat cheese, a few more garden onions, and a half-bottle of dark Leinenkugel’s beer) and decided on a homemade pizza.
The beer was the liquid in the crust along with Wheat Montana flour and local honey (and not-so-local sea salt and olive oil) ; the sausage and onion were browned, then simmered down with a jar of home-canned tomato sauce, fennel seed, sweet basil and hot pepper flakes from last year’s garden, and a little pepper.
The pizza was topped, of course, with crumbles of the goat cheese before going into the oven to bake.
On the second evening, while the antelope was thawing and the dishes were soaking, I stepped outside to savor the night air with a bottle of that same Leinie’s 1888 Bock (maybe not the same one I ended up using in the pizza dough–I tend to have beer eyes bigger than my beer belly).
I got to talking with my neighbor across the street–an amazing baker and vendor at our local farmers market. The subject (among others) was dishes: he claimed he’d washed five or six loads of dishes that day, and I allowed that the dishes were never-ending at my house as well.
The thing is, if you love to cook, and you eat at home a lot, that’s your fate. But I guess it’s a pretty decent fate to have considering the quality of the food prepared in our kitchens.
Local Ingredients: Night One: eggs, cow’s milk, goat’s milk (cheese), sorrel, onion, a few cabbage sprout thinnings.
Night Two: antelope sausage (central South Dakota), stinging nettles, onions.
Night Three: antelope sausage, onions, basil, red pepper, tomato sauce, honey, goat cheese.