To Tamar, Tarmar’d, Needing to Tamar Again

August 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

This is the post I can be writing nearly the entire summer.  I’ve either Tamar’d or need to Tamar again.  In fact, this post started a few weeks ago when I had a refrigerator full of CSA food, including a big bag of the herb, thyme.  Then, it was to be called, “Thyme to get Tamaring.”  Well, I finally got around to tamaring, and now I’m in need, I’m not sure which is more vital, to tamar or to post on tamar-ing.

Those not so familiar with potential 2012 Oxford English Dictionary word of the year, tamar, var. tamaring, – v. the act of taking raw fruits, vegetables, meats or grain from purchase to a state ready for consumption.  Named after author Tamar Adler whose recent book, Everlasting Meal, provides a wholesome guide for household food consumption.  Ms. Adler teaches that is not recipes one needs to be well fed; rather it is engagement.  You tamar.  You wash your lettuces, pick off your leaves of herb; you roast batches of this and saute batches of that.  Or you simply boil.  Much can be left to chance.  If you do the work.  You tamar.

I recently spent a weekend working on foods in the Bungalow.  Over 2 busy days, I created many dishes, some pictured below.  To tamar is not just to apply heat, but to me at least, to apply basic food or flavor combinations.  Tamar Adler talks about this too, the success of a good vinaigrette.  The advantage of selective dousing in herb.  Rob Leavitt, when he had Mado, used to be great at this, simple, fantastic combinations of vegetables.  There’s always a good way to use up what’s in the CSA box; what you bought at the market, or even what you found at your neighborhood grocery store.

The first thing Tamar Adler advises when setting out to tamar is to get a pot of water a-boilin’. I did. For small summer squash, I like to boil, which I think tames some of their harshness while allowing a fresh, sweet flavor to come out. You get much tenderness this way. Oil, vinegar and basil accent real well, and cherry tomatoes add color and acidity.

Waiting for the water to boil, and even thereafter, I did crucial prep work on my large collection of Swiss chard. I needed, firstly, to separate the stems from the leaves, because the latter needs longer cooling, and I needed to snip off the gnarly stem ends from where the plant is cut upon harvest. Chard also needs a good washing as it collects dirt.

I think boiling tames chard too. It also stores well like this. I only add oil and a squirt of lemon when ready to serve. Otherwise the condiments start to breakdown, even pickle the chard.

A principle of tamaring is that the water used to boil carries wonderful flavors to its next use. A related rule of thumb is to boil delicate vegetables first, saving heartier, cabbage family vegetables for last, as they’ll add, perhaps, too much to the water. So, from squash to chard, went broccoli. Finally, with a soft tomato, fennel fronds, an onion, carrot, garlic clove, parsley stems and about an hour more of boiling, there was also stock.

With the pot was boiling, I also got out a big fry pan. Some of that chard I trimmed and cleaned, I did saute. Moving on, I added a bit more oil to my pan. I quickly sliced into chunks, several long eggplants. Over medium heat, with about a half-inch of oil, I cooked the eggplants until soft, flipping as needed. I then placed them in a dish, sprinkled balsamic vinegar and basil, and added some (not very spicy) serrano chile.

My youngest daughter does not really like mayonnaise based cole slaws. She does like my “world famous lemon-y cabbage salad,” which comes about by combining lemon juice, parsley, salt and olive oil, with shredded cabbage until it tastes right. Often I add garlic. I also like to add one or two other vegetables for contrast, here I used sweet banana peppers.

This was another easy salad I made, having as its dressing only salt and rice vinegar. This salad takes advantage of the sweetness of summer onions and the affinity of onions to cucumbers. A little hot pepper only drew out the flavors.

Once I had a burner cleared, I went for another “dish”. I’m known for three things in the kitchen: green sauces (salsa verde), cabbage salads, and roasted peppers. Of the three, roasted peppers are the most work. They exist on the far edge of the cusp between how much I like having them vs how much I don’t like making them. Put it this way, any more difficulty, and they’re off the repertoire. Actually, this round of hot bananas went about as easy as ever. After blasting, sweating in a plastic wrapped bowl, and skinning, I pour a generous amount of olive oil and a miser’s amount of vinegar. I portion my garlic somewhere in between.

Luckily some peppers can be fried, whole, so much less work. The one key element to fried peppers, here shishitos, a healthy hand with the salt shaker.

The last thing I did in the house was marinate some chickens with Aleppo pepper, salt, garlic, lemon and olive oil. The rest of the work was on the grill and it included zukes, corn and that chicken. Needless to say this amount of food lasted at least ten days, with some still around.

And needless to say, it’s time to get tamar-ing again. Because we have in the house, local celery, I’m trying to off-load, a bit of tamaring to my wife. What I am to peppers, she is to caponata, a dish of celery, eggplant and other summer vegetables. For a change, we don’t have greens to process. We do have plenty of carrots, some beets, much onions, and a whole lot o’ purslane. Make your meals everlasting meals with some good tamaring.