Finding Our Everlasting Meal

August 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Despite the paucity of posts this summer, myself and my family remains committed to being a Local Family. Each week we get a box from Tomato Mountain Farm*. I add to that with trips to area farmer’s markets. For instance, we get a lot of our fruit from Hardin Farms who sell at the Oak Park Market. I like the Asian variety cucumbers sold by Lucky Duck at Elmwood Park. I’m more than happy finding local food at my neighborhood Caputo’s grocery. And, guiding me all the time, Tamar Adler and her recent book, Everlasting Meal. If I did I blog at all, I blogged about “Tamar-ing.” What I did not tell you that for a good part of the summer, we Tamar’d without Tamar. We lost our Everlasting Meal.

We found our Tamar last week. Fittingly, we found our Tamar as we were finally getting back to Tamar-ing. We lost our Tamar like we lose a lot of things in the Bungalow. We are a Local Family of slobs. We are a Local Family of clutter. We are a Local Family of books, and lots of them. We do, after all, call one of the Family, the Cook Book Addict. The Addict thought she lost the book, but given where a daughter found it, it seems that someone younger than the Addict mis-placed it. See, as the picture shows, we found it packed away with some of the kid’s books. As I’ve said so often, it’s a great book to have, and a great book to refer to often. It really helps you lead a local life.

I said we remained committed to being a Local Family this summer, but you probably guessed also that the paucity of posts had something to do with a lack of actually being a Local Family this summer. At least as the summer wound down. We planned a trip to Memphis and Nashville (of which I plan a post), and before traveling we could not make the usual piles of food. Once back, we moved almost immediately to the process of getting one member of the Local Family off to University, which meant many trips to Target before finally getting her there. Reduced by twenty-five percent, we are getting back in our Local Family stride.

Stride means Tamar-ing. Tamar-ing means tacking large swathes of produce to create tasty, nutritious bases for many meals to come.

To Tamar means to strip leaves of kale from their stems. To Tamar means to then wash those leaves well because kale, like all cooking greens, maintain much grit. To Tamar means melting a few anchovy fillets in olive oil, and adding the we leaves to a nice high side pan. Include a hot pepper, sliced. This bowl of greens makes a fine side or can be used, as Tamar notes, as a base for later dishes like pasta. It goes well scrambled with eggs.

To Tamar means topping and tailing a few quarts of green beans, something necessary even with our modern string-less beans. Ready, I have many ways to go. I like making a green bean salad with local blue cheese and walnuts. I like cooking them in bacon grease, crumbling the crisp bits on the finished dish. I especially like making them as above, suffocated. That is saute an onion, add the beans and several fresh tomatoes, squished (a good use for tomatoes we had gone very soft).  Cover the pan and then let them stew with just this little bit of liquid.  Suffocated.  On top of rice or with some potatoes, this could stand as meal on its own.

When ever I Tamar, I always make a few salads. One of my favorite easy salads is to marinate cucumbers and onions. All it takes is a glob of rice vinegar, a good pinch of salt and my beloved chili’s.

This is what a bunch of Tamar-ing looks like at dinner. Tamar would tell you besides making those cukes, make a point of getting your lettuces washed and ready. She might also lead you to grill a bunch of eggplants, an onion, a few plum tomatoes, and a jalapeno. Peel the tomato and chop all the other stuff. Season, mix with olive oil and lemon juice.

Also on the plate, “kefta”, which is what we call it when I add minced onions and spices to ground meat and a salsa crudo or pico de gallo kinda relish. Not pictured, a potato salad made.

The real purpose of Tamar-ing, however, is not just to have dinner.  It is to have an everlasting meal.  All of the items above have worked their way into other family meals.  It is easy to sit to a delicious meal of local food when you’ve already Tamar’d.

Subsequent to this bout of Tamar-ing, my wife did caponata. She amazed me by whipping up this mix of eggplant, celery, olives, and tomatoes in between a round of shopping and getting out to her job. I also converted yogurt, other cucumbers and garlic into tzediki. Later today, I plan on cooking down a bunch of peppers into peppernata or will it be lecso. Now that we found our book, you should hear a lot more from me again.

*My wife works for Tomato Mountain.