Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Art and Sexy Food

One of our roving bloggers, Bruce Starr has a love of food and creating wonderful meals and memories that equal his talent in his painting.  He's based in Boston, but if you're in the Providence RI area next Saturday (8/13), check him out at their Open Market in Lippet Park.  Bruce and I share a passion for good food, and having lived in several cities at the same time, we've had many wonderful times playing and creating in the kitchen.  As he says on his blog, where this post also shows, "...distance has kept us from making a meal together for a long time. This posting is a delicious and plausible substitute, however, for sharing food in person."  I agree!  And now the rest, from Bruce:
This summer I've been selling my paintings at a couple juried artisan markets sponsored by New England Open Markets. The artisan markets compliment the same group's farmers markets as sources for great locally made products. Farm market vendors may sell only foods they grow or harvest themselves, and this time of year the stalls are bursting with fantastic local produce. Boston's SoWa Open Market in the downtown gallery district is on of the most popular. Here's a picture of me with my paintings in SoWa's artisan section a few weeks ago.

Saturday August 13, I'll be at another wonderful artisan market in Rhode Island, the Providence Open Market
in Lippit Park. The farmer's market is open from 9 am till noon, and the artists market from 10 am til 3.  Click the link for more info and directions, and please come see me!

Two pictures at the right are from a previous trip to Providence, with some painting shoppers on a sunny day, and the produce tents in the farmers market.

My Sexy Food Story

This week, To my great surprise I found a vendor with fresh sour cherries from Maine. I’ve loved sour cherries since my mom picked them for pies from the tree in our back yard while I was growing up. The season is very short, and the fruit very fragile, so they are seldom if ever seen in grocery store produce sections! However the luscious little red orbs are well worth the effort to obtain. Lori Theriault and I used to pick them together at Maryland and Virginia orchards when we both lived in Washington DC, but there the season is over and done by mid July. 
Ok, so pitting cherries is the pits,
 but always the first step
Not so many Americans know how uniquely delicious fresh sour cherries can be. Certain other cultures are more clued in to the secret. Over the years, I got used to hearing Russian, Polish, and Persian spoken when I picked sour cherries--they are beloved in both Eastern Europe and Iran. Lori and I were picking at a sleepy green orchard in Purcelville Virginia several years ago when we struck up a conversation and traded recipes with two fellow cherry lovers, an Iranian mother and daughter. The mother clued us into a recipe I’ve now made and shared many times. Sour cherries are cooked down with some brown sugar to a fresh soft jam, then baked with rice and nuts. This is a wonderful dish on its own, but also fantastic as an accompaniment to chicken or other meats.  In the Middle East, our new Iranian friend told us, a wonderful traditional pairing would be cherries with rice, and goat.

Goat, lean and spicy
My first plan was to pick up a small amount of chicken, and cook the cherries, rice, and meat together as a one-pot meal. But another find surprised me again. Beautiful goat shanks, purple-red and meaty, too tempting to pass up. So I set out on a cooking adventure inspired by a fast friendship in an orchard years ago. 

To prepare the goat, I cut the meat from the bone and minced it. Then I heated olive oil with brown sugar and used that for a fast initial sear of the goat.
Juicy cherries provide enough liquid
to simmer the goat till tender

After browning the meat I removed it, then sauteed a couple yellow onions with some garlic in the meat-flavored oil/sugar mixture. Then the cherries and meat all went back into the pot with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, and some seasonings of coriander nutmeg. and salt. The uber-juicy cherries provided much of the cooking liquid required. Goat is a spicy and firm fibered meat that requires longer cooking to become tender. I simmered this down for over an hour, till the mixture had thickened nicely and the meat was chewy tender. Tangy tart cherries proved an excellent compliment to richly flavored goat. To make the dish go farther, I then added a couple diced sweet potatoes, three small chopped jalepenos for some heat, and some lightly ground walnuts.
Adding veggies and wine
A cup of red wine (I chose a Malbec, but a Pinot Noir would have worked as well) and a little water provided enough additional liquid to cook the sweet potatoes. Now the goat wast definitely tipsy, and happy! It took another 15 or so minutes of simmering for the veggies to get tender and the stew to thicken again.
The rice, I cooked separately, a nice blend of brown and wild. All the leftovers got mixed together in a wonderful melange that will provide a few more delicious meals. But for this dinner, a nice presentation was in order.  Our entree featured a bed of brown and wild rice, topped with slow cooked sour cherries, goat, sweet potatoes and walnuts--and of course some fresh veggie garnish with a cherry on top! A glass of the Malbec to wash it down and a backdrop of a recently completed painting. Perfect!
Slow cooked goat with sour cherries sweet poatoes and walnuts
on a bed of brown and wild rice

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