Our first Community Sustainable Agriculture pick up from Erehwon Farm took place Wednesday. As I mentioned before, we are sharing with another couple, Laura and Jim. The quantity the first week was a little light. Not too surprising, since the month of July began with drought and 90+ heat, followed by torrential rain and flooding. Anyway, John and I had our groceries picked up by another friend, Marcia, and delivered to us by Jim. (We have four couples involved in this entire pick up and delivery operation.) We got large kale leaves, a couple of yellow squash, a cucumber, about a dozen small oblong tomatoes, and a bundle of spicy, peppery greens. We got tender scallions and a big head of garlic. There is also a bag of red and green lettuces, which I will save for tomorrow or Sunday. Perfect world, there would be more. On the other hand, I was pleased with the variety. I began to think about what I wanted to do with these veggies, since there were not many and I wanted to be sure we didn’t waste anything. It came to me in the car on the way to work this morning. A cassoulet!
I looked up a few cassoulet recipes on line, read through a about 5, and then I shopped. I picked up 5 chicken thighs, and 2 garlicky Polish sausages made just an hour earlier. I got dry cannellini beans, organic vegetable broth, and vino. I had some purple onion and zucchini from our trip to Wiltse’s farm last weekend. I picked parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (for real) from my patio pots. I poured a glass of chardonnay. First things first…
I pitted a couple of cups of sweet, dark, cherries for dessert. I confess, I performed several quality assurance tests and found the cherries to be excellent. When I finished pitting cherries, I had dark, sweet cherry juice under my nails, dripping down my arm, ruby drops between the colander and my wine glass. It looked as though I had murdered someone with my bare hands.
Next I put cannellini beans in vegetable broth and brought them to a boil, then set them aside to absorb their broth. John was kind enough to fire up the grill and brown the chicken and sausage in bacon drippings. That may sound unhealthy, but after reading several recipes that called for duck, a half a cup of duck fat, AND bacon, a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease seemed reasonable. (In our kitchen, vegetables neutralize calories from bacon, so I don’t really worry about how much of it I consume.) When the meat was browned, John brought it in and took it off the heat, drained the grease, and put it on a plate.
Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 350 F. and chopped 1 purple bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 2 thick slabs of purple onion, a head of garlic (yes a a whole head), the kale and peppery greens, 3 large carrots, and 2 celery stalks. I diced two medium tomatoes. Once chopped, I put it all in a large, wide frying pan and doused it liberally with white truffle infused olive oil. I threw in a bay leaf, the herbs I picked from my patio pots, and a splash of white wine. I turned up the gas and got it all hot, then put the chicken and sausage in. I cracked black pepper into it and slung a handful of sea salt across the whole deal. (My sister was kind enough to give us a quart jar from the 50 pound bag of sea salt she ordered from Italy – it’s strong, fabulous, and does not contain iodine.) I stirred the mixture around enough to heat it up, and then unceremoniously dumped it into a deep pottery casserole. I added my southern touch with a can of black-eyed peas. I poured about 3/4 of a cup of water in, covered the pot and put it in the oven for 60-90 minutes. My pottery crock must have weighed 25 pounds all loaded up this way. Time to put my footsies up and have a glass of wine.
After an hour and fifteen minutes, I cold not wait any longer. I took the crock out of the oven and topped it with buttery, garlicy bread crumbs and cranked the heat for a couple of minutes until it turned golden brown. One recipe I read today say to divide bread crumbs, put half in plain (because they’ll sink into the broth), then add the other half drenched in butter and garlic, to rest on top of the first bread crumbs. I did that, but the second layer soaked in as well. They were extra tasty from the butter and garlic, despite not crisping up the way I had hoped they would. We had a good bottle of merlot and crusty bread at the ready. John found a French Cafe station on Pandora Radio, so we were sereneded by sexy, cheerful, French vocalists as we ate and sipped our merlot.
It was outstanding! One of those dishes that will be even better tomorrow, as the flavors mingle in the refrigerator. We followed dinner with black cherries and whipped cream. I slept 10 hours and did not dream.
I can hardly wait for next week’s CSA delivery!