Long hours at work over the last month have kept me out of the kitchen and away from my rewarding exercise schedule. Whilst the contents of my Mariquita mystery farm box have been idly languishing in the fridge my mealtimes have, sadly, descended to a sorry catalog of unhealthy options I am almost afraid to admit to. Nature's Valley Oat & Honey bars from the vending machine and sandwiches with butter, salt and vinegar crisps and Marmite have been the highlights of my dietary calendar for the past few weeks.
A few days ago, I managed to find a few minutes to flick through the pages of the Saveur magazine I get delivered to my home. The October 2009 issue is all about lamb and when it comes to lamb, I am a huge fan. 'Lamb Rules', Saveur declares, and I agree. As a child who grew up in a household where every week 'Sunday Roast' lunch was a given, I was always happiest when the rotation through the traditional center pieces for this signature meal - pig, cow, chicken - settled on a cut from a baby sheep. Oh yes, I do love lamb.
The minute my greedy eyeballs scanned the ingredients for the Lamb Salad on page 66, I knew it was something I needed to make as soon as possible, albeit with a substitute for the anchovies my dining partner is loathe to enjoy. For that I decided upon a few black olives and set about a late trip to the Farmers' Market with the sole purpose of gathering the ingredients for this dish.
To my mind, a recipe such as this does not need to be followed to the letter. What does it matter if my potatoes have brown skins instead of red? Will the recipe start screaming heresy at me if I favour maitake over oyster or shiitake? No, I don't think so. And so, with my tweakages justified, at least in my own mind, I set to work.
And work it was: A collection of mini-recipes strung together, one-by-one, before finally being introduced to each other just before serving. Roast a whole head of garlic for an hour then use it to make a strong, pungent vinaigrette with salty capers and sherry vinegar. Roast some potatoes. Fry up some mushrooms. Cook a piece of lamb. Chop some toasted nuts. Toss some salad greens. Compose on a plate. [See picture above.]
As I finally sat down to eat a proper home-cooked meal with Fred, for the first time in far too long, my level of expectation could hardly have been higher. Which is probably why it felt like a balloon had just been popped with a pin and the resulting shreds of rubber were whistling around the room laughing and taunting me with their heckles. I am sure, less would have been more. Too many flavours were fighting against each other for recognition and the poor little lamb was getting lost in the fray.
Should I beat myself up for substituting 10 anchovy fillets with 6 black olives? Did I break the recipe - or was it already broken before I even started?
PPS - *"This Must Be a Luxury Salad" was Fred's comment on sitting down to eat. Fred perhaps preferred this dish more than I did. He is not as keen on lamb as I am and the fact the strong vinaigrette masked its flavour probably meant it worked more in his favour.
Rocambole Stiff Neck Garlic from Hunter Orchards
Sherry Vinegar from O Olive Oil
Shallots from Dirty Girl
Olive Oil from Bariani
Boneless Grass-fed lamb loin chop from Marin Sun Farms
Potatoes from Mariquita
Maitake from Far West Fungi
Butter from Straus
Thyme from White Crane Spring Ranch
Frisee from Star Route Farms
Pistachios from Alfieri Farms
2008 | Eat Local Challenge Day 4
2007 | Fifteen Watergate Bay
2006 | Amanda Berne
� 2009 Sam Breach