Some of the world’s most delicious culinary inventions were born of necessity. Too much, too little, too fresh, too hard to transport? Taste nirvana. Bacon, smoked salmon, duck confit, wine, whiskey, cheese, hominy, sauerkraut . . . all of these were an inventive solution to the problem of how to make the harvest last longer. Grain was nearly impossible to get across the mountains to population centers, but whiskey wasn’t; milk spoils in a few days, but cheese ages for months and months; bacon and salt pork could see people through from hog butchering time in November until the crops came up in the spring.
Modern refrigeration and global food transport mean we don’t really need such techniques any longer, but it doesn’t mean we have lost our collective taste for them. Life on a farm, even a small one, means we sometimes have much more of a delicate food than we can handle at once. We love for the chickens to eat well, but we can’t stand the thought of throwing anything out, much less growing food just for the chickens, so Mondays are often “pickling” days. Stephanie, Theresa and Donna, picklers extraordinaire, and sometimes a few other folks, gather in the kitchen to put up endless jars of dilly beans, pepper jelly, bread and butters, pickled fennel, cucumber dills, blackberry compote, marmalade, sweet & spicy carrots . . . and all year long we eat well, thankful for the cool, sweet crunch of a carrot in the hottest days of summer, or the tongue-tingling heat of a pepper when we most need warming in winter and peppers are a distant memory. Perhaps the loveliest part of the process is that it’s not a solitary enterprise. All hands are busy and efficient, but not rushed, and conversations unfold in the warm, steamy vinegar and spice-perfumed air at a lazy, old-fashioned pace. There’s plenty of time for everyone to talk, about everything and nothing in particular–recipes, like this one, or children, partners, politics, good books–our pantries, hearts, and minds filled to overflowing with abundance from the summer garden. -adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender vol. 1
- 2-3 zucchini or summer squash (a mix of varieties is fine), washed and cut into thick slices
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch mint, chopped
- 1 bunch of dill, chopped
- 1 small handful parsley, chopped
- 1 sweet pepper or 1 spicy pepper, sliced thin
- 1 pound ground pork
- juice of 1 lemon
- olive oil
Place squash with minced garlic and red pepper flakes or sliced jalapeno in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat squash with oil. Heat a large skillet over med-high heat and saute squash quickly until just tender. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add more olive oil to skillet, then add pork. Season with salt and pepper and let brown without stirring too much, so that meat gets caramelized. When cooked, return squash to skillet, add herbs and combine all gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve with steamed brown rice.