Yesterday, my first Saturday in years that I didn’t have to go to work at night, I decided to get up early and meet a few friends and former co-workers at the East Van Farmer’s Market. Ashamedly, my first visit, as many of the farmers there had been supplying me for years, forgoing my need to go down myself on a Saturday. The sun was shining, a beautiful warm September morning, and as I stopped in and took a look around I spotted Gabriel and Katie from Sapo Bravo, said a quick hello and promised to return shortly. After meeting up with my pastry crew, we made the rounds. First stop: Milan; picked up some tomatoes large and small, Walla Walla onions, beans, grapes. Next: Susan from Glorious Organics and the Organic Farm Connection; a bag of assorted coloured carrots. Back to Gabriel; the last of the peaches for the year, some green and purple basil, some plums. Over to Stein Mountain: peppers, mixed colours. By this time, my bags were heavy and after a nice visit with the girls I made my way home, arms bursting with produce.
Once home, a full assessment of the lot: the carrots were delicious and sweet, a shame to cook them; the bag of Sungolds bursting with sugar as well. Sounding like a salad, I thought, with some of the peppers, fantastic! The basil was amazingly fragrant, the perfume filling the kitchen. Definitely for the dressing. Peaches were perfectly ripe, something for dessert, maybe a Tarte Tatin, I figured I’d ponder it for a while.
A trip to the butcher with my 13 year old provided some conversation and planning.
Foccacia: (Great, I can put Walla Walla onion and basil on top, and I won’t have to make a starch)
Crumble: using the peaches. Tarte tatin maybe, I suggest, but am convinced the crumble will be less work.
Main Course: let’s see, pork perhaps, the suggestion being mustard and bread crumbs on top.
A look at the counter and a beautiful rack of pork was spied, about 5 pounds. Perfect for the barbecue. Meat in hand, back home we went to peruse the cupboards for some inspiration.
Deciding to barbecue put the bread crumbs out the window, so I looked on my shelf of condiments to see what was there to make a marinade. Raspberry vinegar and hazelnut oil sounded like a good start. I needed some sweetness and spied a bottle of agave syrup a friend had given me. Made from the cactus that is used to make tequila, it has an interesting flavour and is quite sweet. I needed a bit of spice, and saw the tin of Old Bay Seasoning I had brought back from Baltimore. (For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a combination of celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, clove, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika). Just a shot to give it a kick. a bit of Dijon was added to the mix, all was whisked together and rubbed into the pork rack, then off to exile in the fridge.
I set about to prepare the foccacia dough, assembled it in the Kitchen Aid and set it aside to proof. I turned to the carrots (who had been fooling around unsupervised) and peppers, peeled and cut them for the salad, and gave the sungolds a rinse. I popped outside and spotted some small ripe cherry tomatoes in the garden and picked them to add to the salad. A few more windfall apples under the tree were gathered and decided upon for a sauce to go with the pork, along with some very ripe Italian Prune plums.
Then for the barbecue: When it comes to cooking over flame, I am decidedly still in the stone age. There is really only one piece of equipment that does a joint of meat over 5 pounds justice, and that is a very well conditioned Weber kettle barbecue. Loaded with real lump charcoal, (about 6 pounds for a pork rack this size), the coals were lit in anticipation. Once white hot, I arranged the coals on either side, providing a trench in the middle for the pork to drip without flaring up and bursting into flame, as well as heating the sides of the kettle, creating an oven environment once the lid was down.
Back into the kitchen, where the pork was removed from the marinade, seasoned well with coarse salt and steak spice and carried out to its new home on the grill. I reserved the marinade, put it in a small bowl with a brush for basting, and returned to attend to the bread. I punched the dough down for the first time, after which I sliced thinly one of the onions, and sauteed it in olive oil until golden, and set it aside to top the foccacia later.
Bread well looked after, I turned my attention to dessert. A pot of water was put on the stove to blanch the peaches, and while it heated I prepared the topping. Butter, brown sugar, flour and almonds were quickly combined to make a crumbly mixture, and then peaches were blanched, pitted, diced, tossed with sugar, spices and a touch of cornstarch to absorb the liquid, and placed in a casserole dish. A scattering of the topping was administered and the oven turned on to preheat. A quick trip outside to baste the pork, by which time the oven was ready, the crumble safely inside, and my efforts turned to shaping the foccacia.
I lightly floured my large cutting board, punched down the dough, and rolled it out into a rectangle the same size as my baking sheet. A quick burst of nonstick spray and a scatter of cornmeal to provide a nice crust, the dough was laid out, tucked into the corners, and lightly covered for its final rise. I chopped some of the basil, set some aside for the bread, and turned the rest into a vinaigrette for the salad with some red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, and garlic.
One more trip outside to check the pork, another baste, and at this point I checked the temperature. It was only registering 120 degrees, so I figured I had 20 minutes or so more before it should come off. Back inside, the crumble was ready, so out it came, and the foccacia was risen nicely. A top dressing of the caramelized onion, including the olive oil it was sauteed in, plus a scatter of basil and coarse salt, and into the oven she went. My final task completed, I grabbed a cold beer and headed outside to keep the pork company on its final lap. Once it reached its correct temperature (140 F before resting, it comes out nice and juicy and just a touch pink) I removed it form the Weber, set it on a rack to rest and relaxed for 15 minutes.
We both made our way back in to the house, took the foccacia out of the oven, and all that was left to do was a toss of the salad with the dressing and to slice the meat and bread. That accomplished, we tucked in for a terrific summer meal, full of flavour, texture, and satisfaction.
I wonder what I’ll do next weekend?