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TND – On a Mission

April 4, 2012

Last week (about Dinner three weeks ago) I expounded on my difficulty in finding rabbit or wild boar to make any of the tasty recipes featured in Food & Wine’s March 2012 issue.  This past weekend I ended up doing a little more rabbit hunting because I’d talked and thought about it so much that (a) I was really craving rabbit, and (b) it had become a quest.

I tried my go to source – Wilson Farms – they were charming and helpful and called their meat supplier who came back with a $9/lb price.  As far as I can tell, for rabbit this is apparently a good price, but when you consider that you need at least 3 lb of rabbit to feed four people, that’s $27 + tax before you buy any other ingredients or start thinking about side dishes, and that’s a little pricey for me.

I also happened to be at Whole Foods this weekend picking up barley from their bulk grain bins and stopped by their meat counter to ask if they ever carried rabbit.  I was categorically and condescendingly told that not only did they not carry rabbit, they wouldn’t ever carry rabbit because it’s not a sustainable meat source.  I’m a little dubious about this assertion – the phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ leaps to mind – however, the guy at the meat counter was most unanimous on this point.  And let me tell you, there’s just nothing I love more than being silently judged by the assembled weekend crowd at a Whole Foods.

Anyway, having searched, thought and been mildly annoyed at myself and Food & Wine for going to all this effort for no result I wrote a letter to the editors of Food & Wine explaining my problem.

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed your feature on alternative proteins in the March 2012 issue. The recipe for Green Curry of Rabbit with Butternut Squash and Dill manages to combine three things I love all in one place, and the Braised Wild Boar Shanks with Sweet Soy and Star Anise sounds amazing.

However, I ran into significant difficulties when I tried to source rabbit and wild boar to make these recipes at home. At Whole Foods, I was emphatically (and condescendingly) told that they did not and would not carry rabbit because it was not a sustainable meat source. I’ve called three specialty groceries in my area and they can special order $9-$15/lb frozen rabbit for me but do not carry it as a matter of course. Ditto on the wild boat, for which the cheapest cut (stew meat) is pricing out at $10/lb. With the amounts necessary to feed four people that’s a lot for me to spend on any meat.

I live in the Boston suburbs; within five miles of my house there are three different Whole Foods, two Trader Joes, and countless gourmet specialty stores. Boston isn’t New York or LA, but these days it’s running a close third in terms of foodie culture. I can’t find these ingredients, how does anyone who lives anywhere less food obsessed do so?

In conclusion, while I appreciate the expansion of my culinary horizons, perhaps you can offer alternatives to such proteins until these ingredients are more widely available and less expensive. Sincerely,

Petra S. Beunderman
Arlington, MA

In response I got a lovely email from Tina Ujlaki, Executive Food Editor (and let’s compare that to the response I got from Saveur for an object lesson in good customer relations).

Hi Petra,

Thanks for writing, and I hear you loud and clear!

I’m sorry you had to go through so much trouble trying to pull together the main ingredients for these dishes. In 90 percent of our recipes, we use hugely accessible ingredients, even to people who live in far less food-obsessed parts of the country than the Boston area. And shame on Whole Foods for being condescending primarily, and arrogant about the rabbit issue as well. And I believe they’re wrong to boot. In any event, you could very well make that dish with chicken. And if you are still looking for rabbit and not tainted by the WF experience, any Italian butcher will carry rabbit, and rabbit should be available at your local farmers’ market as well. As far as the pork is concerned, you could also do the dish with meaty country style ribs on the bone, or pork shoulder—you just would have to adjust cooking times and the cooking vessel.

I hope this helps!

All the best,
Tina

The email response was quick and thoughtful and much appreciated.  I don’t know if she’s right that I’ll be able to find rabbit at farmer’s markets since they won’t start up again until around Memorial Day.  A quick product search on the Mass Farmer’s Market website isn’t encouraging, but I’ll keep an eye out nonetheless.

On the other hand, her suggestion of trying an Italian butcher yielded results.  The North End is about a 10 minute walk from my office and I took myself up there at lunch and found not one, but two, butchers who carried fresh rabbit, one of whom was offering it at $7.50/lb.  This firmly puts it in the ‘not for Dinner, but as a nice meal every so often for my roommate & I’ price bracket, and the next time my roommate is actually home on a weekend we’re having rabbit for Sunday dinner.

Picnic Chicken
Buttermilk Barley (or Farro) Salad
Roasted Beet Salad
Boston Lettuce Salad with Avocado & Ginger-Carrot Dressing
Tequila-Lime Roasted Pineapple

Picnic Chicken

Recipe previously given:  Masquerading as SND

Buttermilk Barley (or Farro) Salad
(serves 8)

Last summer I drizzled buttermilk dressing over August sun-ripened tomatoes and talked about how I was mildly obsessed with this dressing.  We’re still a solid 6-8 weeks from even early Spring produce, but that’s okay because this dressing (with which I have whole-heartedly renewed my obsession) was originally designed to dress a hearty grain salad studded with an assortment of finely sliced vegetables.

This is a recipe which is endlessly flexible. I’ve made it with both farro and barley.  The farro version is a little more ethereal, the barley version is heartier.  I’ve thrown in fresh summer corn, and suspect you could add in any fruit or vegetable that’s sturdy enough to be finely sliced on a mandoline (carrots, sweet peppers, spring onions, kumquats all come to mind).

In the summer I’ve hollowed out huge beef steak tomatoes, filled them with the salad and transported them outside for a picnic.  If you had the patience you could do the same thing with large cherry tomatoes and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.

I’ve used parsley instead of dill, and scallions in place of chives in the dressing if that’s what I had in the fridge that needed to be used.  I always add more thyme, because I like thyme.  I’ve added in basil, and imagine that a little fresh rosemary would also be lovely.

Any extra dressing that you have leftover is excellent drizzled over just about anything you can think of – tomatoes, grilled vegetables, as a dressing for a simple green salad, instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich . . . .

Dressing
2 cloves garlic, crushed & chopped
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped dill
1/3 cup chopped chives
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
(optional) zest of a lemon/to taste

Mash the garlic and salt into a paste on your cutting board using the flat of your knife.  Whisk together the garlic paste, buttermilk and vinegar.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk in the olive oil, herbs, and lemon zest (if using).  Season to taste.

Salad
4 cups cooked barley or farro*
2 smallish zucchini, sliced thinly (1/16”) (I used both yellow & green to be extra colorful)
7-8 radishes, sliced thinly (1/16”)
½ apple, sliced whisper fine (1/32”)
1 small head of fennel, sliced whisper fine (1/32”)
Juice of 1 lemon/to taste
Salt/pepper

Using a mandolin slice the zucchini, radishes, apple and fennel.

Toss 1 cup of the dressing with the barley (or farro) and vegetables.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes (or overnight).  Add more dressing if needed (you will definitely need more dressing if you let it sit over night).  Adjust seasoning to taste with salt/pepper and lemon juice.

* 2 cups uncooked semi-pearled farro = 4 cups cooked
1.5 cups uncooked semi-pearled barley = 4+ cups cooked

To cook:  Soak the farro or barley overnight using a 2 parts water : 1 part grain ratio.  The next day bring the grain and soaking liquid to a simmer in a large pot and cook for 20-30 minutes until tender, but still toothsome (you want it to have a little bit of chew left to stand up in the salad).  Drain any excess liquid (although most of it will have been absorbed) and cool on a towel (I suggest a real kitchen towel not paper towels for this).

Roasted Beet Salad
(serves 8)

12 medium beets
4 oranges
Zest of 1 orange
Juice/pulp from 2-3 oranges
Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Honey
Salt/pepper

Trim and wash the beets.  Tightly wrap them in a double layer of foil and roast in a 375 oven for 60-90 minutes until tender (this will depend on the size of your beets – if you’re using different colored beets be sure to wrap them in separate packets or the colors will bleed).  Allow to cool and then peel the beets by rubbing the skins off with a paper towel.  Chop into rough chunks.

Zest one of your oranges and reserve.  Peel and section the oranges.  Squeeze the juice from the core of 2-3 of the oranges after you section them and add it to the orange zest.

Make a dressing of 1 part olive oil : 2 parts vinegar : 1 part orange juice.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and honey.

Toss the beets, oranges and dressing together and adjust seasoning to taste.

* The beets can be roasted, peeled and chopped the night before.  Toss with half the dressing and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Wait until you’re going to serve the salad before adding the oranges to the beets (mostly for aesthetic reasons – the beets will stain the oranges, and the color difference is pretty).

Boston Lettuce Salad with Avocado & Ginger-Carrot Dressing
(serves 4)

The upside to this is that the Ginger-Carrot Dressing is amazing.  The downside is that you have to buy miso paste to make it, and then you have to try and figure out what to do with the rest of the container when you’ve used the 2 Tbsp the dressing needs.  If anyone has genius suggestions, I’m all ears.

Salad
1 head of Boston or Butter Lettuce, washed & separated into leaves
1 avocado, chopped into rough chunks

Ginger-Carrot Dressing
1 large carrot, peeled & cut into rough chunks
1 small shallot, cut into rough chunks
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, cut into rough chunks
2 Tbsp white miso
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 Tbsp water

Whiz the carrot, shallot and ginger in a food processer until very finely chopped (think confetti sized), scraping down the sides at least once.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend until thick, but pourable.  Season to taste with salt/pepper.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a broad platter.  Top with chunks of avocado.  Dollop with dressing (this is not a dressing that will drizzle).

Tequila-Lime Roasted Pineapple
This entire week’s menu was built around having this pineapple.  We have a friend who has decided that her goal (or one of them) for the summer is to learn to like tequila, because she feels that it is a lacuna in her appreciation of fine liquors.  To start her summer off right I promised her that the next time she came to Dinner I’d make this tequila infused roasted pineapple.

Recipe previously given:  Your Logic is Not Like Our Earth Logic

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6 comments

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