Monday, September 30, 2013

Not so lucky

We eat the same meats again and again: pork, salmon, chicken, beef, and shrimp repeat.

I fall victim to the easy, familiar and accessible though I have cooked and eaten: frog legs (does not taste like chicken), alligator (does not taste like chicken), kangaroo (definitely does not taste like chicken) and guinea pig (most definitely does not taste like chicken). However, I cannot claim that any of these alternatives occurs with any regularity on my dinner table even with my desire to less the burden on the genetic and environmental stress by consuming a mere fraction of the animals available to us.

I am trying to expand the repertoire of our nightly meals incorporating duck, goat, and buffalo. And, most recently rabbit. I remember the first time I was served rabbit. I was eighteen and on a solo trip to Paris, right out of High School. I accepted an invitation to dinner at a friend of a friend’s apartment. I bought a bottle of vin de table feeling all French and sophisticated, and climbed the four flights of stairs to the tiny apartment.

We chatted awhile and not once did I feel the sting of disdain due to my lack of any native language skills. Then dinner was served – Lapin au Moutard. Sounds delicious. Then I was offered the translation, and all I could think is that is a bunny’s foot is not all that lucky. I eat the meal, being a polite guest and not wanting to tip my hand as being a culinary Neanderthal. It was good; reminded me of chicken.

I have cooked rabbit since then on numerous occasions in kitchens from San Francisco to New York to Nice. Though be warned the rabbit in France comes with the head and feet still attached so you better be ready for it. It is not a meat that takes to the grill, and is definitely best braised, making this time of year the prefect time to put it on my shopping list. If you are fortunate your butcher will break it down for you though don’t go looking for the wings.

Braised Rabbit – yeilds 4 servings

Appox. 2-1/2 pound rabbit -cut into 6 pieces
2-tablespoons all-purpose flour
3-tablespoons coconut butter
1-large onion – sliced thinly
1 fennel bulb – sliced thinly
4-small carrots – sliced julienne
¼-cup freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
2-tablespoons roughly chopped loveage
½-teaspoon lavender
2-heaping tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss the rabbit with the flour and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over a high heat, and add the coconut butter. Brown the rabbit on both sides – doing this in two batches. Remove the rabbit from the pan to a bowl and hold.

Add the onions, fennel and carrot into the skillet, and cook until the vegetables start to wilt. Then mix in the parsley, thyme, loveage, lavender and mustard. Return the rabbit to the pan, and pour over a ½-cup of water. Reduce the heat to low, and cover with a lid.

Braise the rabbit for 75 to 90 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot over polenta. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


And so it happens, Labor Day comes and goes and Mother Nature seems to know we are finished with our beach rentals; pool memberships are being considered again for next year, and everyone is back to work in earnest. Even my garden has gotten the note – cucumbers are petering out and the tomato branches are showing signs of exhaustion. However, it is the crimson display of my pineapple sage that signals the seasonal shift for me. All summer long this abundantly, aromatic garden sentinel perfumes my iced teas, and offers a bit of magic to my husk tomato pie. I have been seen just nuzzling up against it for a sweet smelling hit.

The profusion of flowers that erupts from it this time of year is a siren’s call to hummingbirds as well as myself. I guiltily snip the flower heads knowing I am stealing a beak full of nectar from a creature that is fueling up in order to successfully make it back to its winter home. But those darn flowers are so seductive –

I have tossed them into an evening’s salad along with nasturtiums, rose petals and Johnny Jump-ups for an ethereal first course and buried them in layers of sugar in an effort to preserve them.  Since I cut the plant back before the first frost hits, and have it winter under an insulation of hay I have no need to allow the flowers to go to seed. It is tragic that summer must end for I would gladly live in a world where tomatoes are always ripening and cantaloupes engorge on their vine, but alas, life has it cycle, and what a beautiful way to signal a change.

Pineapple Sage Vinegar

2-cups pineapple sage flowers and leaves (you cannot use too much)
1-part white distilled vinegar
1-part rice vinegar
1-part coconut vinegar

In a clean glass jar place the pineapple sage, and pour over the vinegars. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and place in a cool, dark place for 6 to 8 weeks. Strain into a clean glass bottle with a tight fitting lid.