Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Going back to that idea of honing a finer sense of the seasons , I can report that it's the season of setting fruit out at Bide-A-Wee. Last year was a dismal one for our apples, as well as for most of the wild fruits, except for the wild plums, which seem to come through every year. This year the hawthorns, black cherries, chokecherries, and serviceberries are all setting up nice crops. In spite of a cool pollinating season, the apples look good--the largest are already an inch-and-a-half across, and reddening. We have one more gallon of sweet cider in the freezer--maybe barely enough to get us through to a first pressing of this year's fruit if we ration it carefully. A couple swallows in the morning is enough to start the day off on a happy note.
It's haying time, too--our friend Renee Bartz told us this weekend that they'd cut their second crop of hay, and now hoped for a few dry days to get it baled (not looking like that wish will come true). You see this age-old practice taking place all across the Dairy State countryside. Where one day there was a field of tall grass, the next there's a shorn landscape looking something like a very rustic golf course, except dotted across it are the cylindrical bales of hay, a lovely sort of order brought out of the unruly growth, entropy reversed.
With the cows out on new grass, the raw milk we get from the Bartz's Bolen-Vale farm is the richest of the year. Last weekend we skimmed the cream from the top of the jar and spooned it over the first strawberries of the summer, and we swooned.
And at the market, the season is that of the first summer vegetables. The leafy things were pleasant enough, asparagus delightful, but it's greatly heartening--and appetizing--to see the next wave coming in, in this case young beets, snap peas, and most gloriously, the first green garlic. That market haul, and a successful outing on the trout stream (oh, really, they're all successful, whether I catch fish or not), set the scene for an aioli dinner to mark the summer solstice. (For the mayo/aioli how-to click here.)
Please note that no adjective accompanies aioli here, nor ever will, unless to make the derisive point that none ever should. Aioli is aioli is aioli. Chipotle aioli? Nah. Lemongrass aioli? Skip it. Garlic, oil, egg yolk, a bit of mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, that's what's in aioli. Oh, now I've read that in Provence some local variations omit the egg yolk, using cooked potato or bread as the binder. I've never tried it that way. You could call it garlic mayonnaise and not be far off, except that aioli deserves a more prominent place at the table than is commonly accorded mayonnaise. It needs to be seen and appreciated, inhaled, dolloped out in copious portions for dipping and dabbing--a clandestine schmear on a sandwich or burger doesn't do it justice.
See the two unctuous globs on the plate above? The yellow one on the left is aioli, of course, and the green one is sorrel-tarragon mayo, which only had some garlicky undertones because I chopped the herbs in the same place on the cutting board where I puréed the garlic for the aioli. I did that on purpose. To half a cup of mayo I added four smallish sorrel leaves and just a sprig of tarragon, the most assertive of herbs, to my taste. A dandy combination--but not aioli, mais non.
As for the trout, it was poached in a court bouillon flavored with green onion tops, carrot, thyme, tarragon, cutting celery, black pepper, and some Breton bouillon flavoring containing sea salt, algae, fennel, and some other spices. We picked it up at a small market in Brittany a good while back. It seems to keep.
The beets (Menomonie farmers market) and potatoes (not local, I'm afraid), I roasted with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, fleur de sel, black pepper, and chopped green garlic, at 375, for 40 minutes covered, another
15 uncovered. I peeled the beets first. And then the asparagus and snap peas (stringed) were blanched in salted boiling water for two minutes.
An aioli plate is the ideal sort of meal for long summer evenings, and this was the longest of all. We sipped a petit chablis, our glasses
appealingly misted in the humid evening. The monsoon rains came and went, a downpour, a sunburst. I guess you could say it's summer.