Friday, March 10, 2006

The Flavor of Sunshine

I like winter food. Stews, soups, braises. Slow cooking, fragrant steam, warmth from the oven. Hurry up and wait food.
You do a little planning ahead, some chopping, some searing, some combining, and then you lean back and let the gentle heat and moisture do most of the magic to your meal.
I added some of my own magic to my braised lamb shanks with white beans the other day. A little bit of summer.
I wanted to use some of the tomato sauce I froze last summer, made from nothing but fresh, sweet tomatoes and a little olive oil. Perfect for bathing the kind of bone-rich cheap cuts that need long simmering to get tender and release a bit of gelatin (and when did cheap cuts stop being cheap — have you noticed?). A good glug of red wine. Handful of diced carrots and a minced spring onion. A bay leaf from the tree on the patio, tied up in some cheesecloth with a short sprig of rosemary and two little cloves.
To those flavors I added a few pinches of dried fennel powder that I had collected last summer and put up in a little jar. It was like instant sunshine.
The pollen has mellowed since last year, its sharp anise edginess softened now to an almost caramel flavor, much milder than fennel seeds. It still tastes weedy, wild, even a touch illicit (why, because I picked it from the parking lot behind the Mormon church?).
It was kinda THERE, but barely.
Nice touch.


Jennifer said...

Sunshine! Yum! It sure does sound tasty right about now. I don't know if I've ever tasted fennel pollen, but I am continually impressed with your foraging efforts. The Mormons would be proud of you, too, what with their ethic of storing up food for eventual calamities.

cookiecrumb said...

Well, Jennifer, I know you'll be able to find wild fennel up your way in a few months. Do you know what to look for? Once the flower heads are covered in yellow powder, pinch a few of them and let them dry. Then break off the powdery parts.
Yeah, the Mormons look out for their own. My dad is an ex-Mormon; must be where I got the bug for foraging.

vanessa said...

ha! a mormon wardhouse (what they call a church building) shouldn't harbor such sexy things :) the lamb sounds delicious—man, i am ready for some sunshine, too.

Shauna said...

Yum. I'll take some.

Man, it just won't stop being winter up here either. I've had it. Do you think that if we started a revolution we could force spring to emerge?

Probably not. Oh well.

cookiecrumb said...

Shauna, I'm all for revolution, but let's aim higher. I'll forgo spring this year if we can get you-know-who out of office. You in?

mrs d said...

CC: I'm in, but only if we can lose the whole lot of 'em. The succession list is a pretty damned scary thing, y'know.

BTW, is that your homemade label? It's very nice!

cookiecrumb said...

Mrs. D: I know. They'd all have to go, right on down to dog catcher. Maybe even mouse catcher too. Then we could start all over. Sigh.

Erm, why, yes. I did make that label. I had fun, on my amateur-level Broderbund PrintShop program. I have Adobe Illustrator, but two problems: 1) I don't know how to use it, and; 2) see #1. Any recommendations for a mid-cheapish, mid-skill design program? (Macintosh)

mrs d said...

Oh geez. I'm not a Mac person. I used to be, but then I inherited a bunch of free PC stuff when a friend upgraded, and, well, free is always good. I use Photoshop, but that's only because my copy was also ::cough:: free.

Illustrator is a great program, but it's not very intuitive and has somewhat of a steep learning curve. I've done a lot with it, but it took me ages just to learn the basics.

cookiecrumb said...

Well, yeah. Free is good. My copy of Illustrator was ::belch:: free too. I have ::cough:: free Photoshop as well, but it seems to be corrupted; I might have to reinstall.
So maybe instead of frittering away my hours hatin' on the Resident, I'll just tackle that learning curve.
(Yeah, right, like I was going to teach myself the ukulele. And if you tell anyone I have more than one ukulele, uh... I uh... Why I oughta...)

b'gina said...

Adobe used to put out a very low end graphics program(~$40) that did all kinds of fun stuff with fonts, like making them curve and morph colors and stuff. I don't remember the name right off hand, but I was on a Mac when I had it. Might still be available.