April 17, 2011

There’s just not a whole lot in this world that’s better than a weekend of good food and good friends, a gorgeous spring day at Oaklawn Park, and a ticket on the 25-1 longshot winner of the Arkansas Derby.

"Aaaaaannnnnddddd, they're off!" Archarcharch, the long-shot, is breaking out of the six box.

And I had all that, plus a kick-ass dinner of grilled rib-eye steaks, English pea salad, caprese salad with God-bless-the-Mennonites greenhouse tomatos from the farmers’ market, and freshly baked multigrain bread.

Words just don't do it justice.

Sweet Baby Jesus. If a Saturday got any more perfect than this, I don’t believe I could stand it.

I started the day out at the farmers’ market, where I scored the awesome tomatos, picked up a dozen eggs, and got the paperwork for my CSA. And the Stutzmans are offering their tomatos as part of the CSA! Will I plunk down $150 for two pounds a week of ripe tomatos from next Saturday through the end of December? You bet your sweet ass I will.  Just because I was having a tomato binge, I got three pounds yesterday morning. Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, they’re wonderful. I had one for dinner last night, and another one for breakfast this morning, and I suspect I’ll have one for lunch today in a BLT.

The CSA is going to involve four farms — my PJF people who do the beef, lamb and pork; the Stutzmans, who do the tomatos; a farm that does a lot of heirloom veggies, as well as eggs, chicken and pork, which will get you a weekly box of whatever’s ripe this week; and the Jersey Girls herd-share program for milk and dairy products. I suspect I’ll join three of the four, skipping out only on the weekly veggie box; some weeks I’ll want more veggies, some weeks less, and I’m not going to want all the greens I’d be getting. So I’ll just buy my veggies along at the market. Looks like I’m going to want about a half-share of meat, which should handle my ground beef, the occasional steak and/or roast, and some pork sausage and ground lamb from time to time. I just know I’m ready to get back to PJF beef!

Although last night’s steaks were no slouch. I’d picked them up at Weldon’s Meat Market, the place to get really good steaks in Hot Springs, while I was out and about yesterday. I overbought — got three for the three of us, when two would have been a gracious plenty. I sprinkled them with a bit of unflavored meat tenderizer before we left for the track, and then set them out and sprinkled them down with a dry rub after we got in, before I started the fire.

Another before-and-after adventure was the week’s bread-baking, which involved mixing up the bread and putting it out for its first rise before I went to the market; coming back and shaping it into a loaf and sticking it in the fridge for a longer second rise before we went to the track; and baking it when we got home. Kate had requested something with “little chewy seeds and stuff in it,” so I did a multi-grain bread that’s in Peter Reinhart’s The Breadmaker’s Apprentice book.  Here’s a link to another blog that included it, because I am lazy and don’t want to retype it all. For my grains, I used millet, wheatberries and spelt, and it’s possible I may have used a bit more than called for. And I think I probably used about 1/2 cup more flour than called for, to get it to pull away from the sides of the bowl. And I forgot to put poppy seeds and the sesame seeds I’d planned on top.

But it was damn fine bread. Either the wheatberries or the spelt could have benefitted from a little parboiling; they’re pretty chewy. But the bread is really moist, and has a great flavor. I’ll be making it again.

The English pea salad is one I’ve detailed before, and one I dearly love. It’s from Tom Hirschfield, one of the premier cooks on the Food52 site. Here’s a link to his recipe; make it. It’s marvelous. It tastes like spring.

And because it feels like spring as well, I’m going to get out and enjoy it. You and y’mama ‘n ’em have a pleasant Sunday.


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