Hello, butter beans! I missed you. It feels like I’ve been away a week, when it’s actually only been 7 days.
This is Martha’s ‘Welcome, spring’ menu, featuring “fresh foods that require little cooking and seasoning.” Ruh roh.
The menu: Baby Lamb Chops with Lemon Strips, Asparagus with Aioli, Quinoa, Pea & Mint Salad, Vanilla Poached Rhubarb (Meal #14)
I feel like I complain a lot, but Martha has an uncanny ability to select ingredients that I don’t like. There are tons of things in this world that I actually like to eat, but she seems to hone in on all the yucky ones. This week’s hit list includes: lamb, aioli, mint in savories, and rhubarb.
It is a curious tradition to slaughter baby animals to celebrate spring in these modern times, but there you have it. The recipe calls for baby lamb chops, which I was unable to find. Instead I ordered about half a pound of regular lamb chops from a farm in my co-op. I like to picture them spending their early days frolicking around the pasture with their parents, and maybe having an early Easter egg hunt in the grass.
The recipe is fairly simple: sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper, then saute them in a pan. After they’re removed, lemon juice and thinly sliced peel are thrown in the pan, and then it’s all combined. The Husband, who served as taster, said that the meat itself was good, and that it “didn’t taste like turpentine.” Evidently lamb tastes like turpentine to him sometimes. I don’t even know.
Quinoa, Pea and Mint Salad:
I am pretty meh about mint in savory things; I prefer it in gum, tea or Mojitos. I soldiered on, and boiled the quinoa in some chicken stock, then added frozen peas (couldn’t find fresh) and cooked it for a while longer. Then the mint, salt and pepper, and some olive oil were stirred in.
This was SO boring. Instead of boring you with how boring it was, I will relate an exciting story that happened to me this week! (Apologies to anyone who heard this already).
I had a 40% off coupon to use at the Gap, good only for Wednesday. I went to the mall, and I couldn’t find the Gap, even though I had been there before, and it was listed on the directory. I decided to go down the other arm of the mall, even though I knew it wasn’t that direction. While in front of a new bookstore that didn’t even have a name yet, and only a few shelves put up, I heard a woman calling for help. I thought at first it was someone goofing around, but I kept listening, and she yelled again, crying and screaming, “Help me please! I’m in the back!” I hesitated for a moment–what if someone had a weapon back there or something? But, since I didn’t see the security guard who had just passed by, I ran in. She was in the back, and a big stack of huge wooden boards had fallen on her, knocking her into a sitting position on a low rack of a shelf, and pinning her underneath.
The boards were too heavy for me to lift by myself in a stack, but I got them up one by one, standing them on end, while trying to keep her calm. She was in shock, and I think her wrists were hurt, because she didn’t help push them off of her. When I got them all off, I told her she was going to have to move out of the way, because I couldn’t hold them for long. She eventually scooted out of the way and I let the lumber fall. She was still crying and hysterical, and we needed to get her medical help. She didn’t know the number to security but said it was in her phone, so I had to get her calmed down enough to remember where her phone was. We figured that out, security came, then she passed out briefly when the EMT arrived. She thanked me profusely; evidently she’d been calling for help for a while. I hope she’s ok. By the way, I never did find the Gap, as it had closed.
Asparagus with Aioli:
Martha spells aioli with an umlaut over the first ‘i.’ Does anyone know what this is about?
I am opposed to aioli on principle. I don’t see the point in adding extra fat to something just for the hell of it, a la mayonnaise. The only time I use mayonnaise is to bind together a chicken or tuna salad, and then I only use the bare minimum to make it all stick together. Like a nano portion. So, why add raw egg and fat to perfectly healthy asparagus?
This was a simple recipe: blanch asparagus, then serve with an aioli consisting of an egg, garlic clove, salt, pepper, a neutral-tasting oil and some olive oil. The photo in the cookbook shows a perfectly beige sauce, while mine has flecks of pepper in it. I should have used white pepper, and I’m surprised the recipe didn’t call for it, since it’s not like Martha’s beyond asking for specialty ingredients. I added more garlic because recipes never have enough garlic for our taste.
The asparagus tasted like any other asparagus you would boil. The Husband thought the aioli was pretty pathetic, possibly gross, and that it paled in comparison to Julia Child’s mayo recipe he made last year. He thought this one tasted like store-bought mayonnaise, but I disagree since this has garlic and pepper in it. He blames the use of the other oil, instead of using all olive oil. I thought eating it with the asparagus made the aioli’s garlic flavor stand out more, while he thought the aioli made the asparagus bitter.
Ok, y’all, in this recipe she finally manages to merge boozy fruit with creamy old people desserts! I’m surprised it’s taken her this long, frankly.
I made the rhubarb one morning before work. I boiled dry white wine with some sugar, half a vanilla bean and some water for about 6 minutes, then added the rhubarb. It’s surprising how fast that stuff cooks! In two minutes it was falling apart. I tasted a bit of it hot, and to be honest, it actually made me gag. I tried it again that night, after it had chilled, and it still made me gag a bit, but not as violently. A lady-like gag. The Husband, who likes rhubarb, thought it tasted fine, so I guess it was just me.
The creamy bit calls for heavy cream, whipped with some vanilla bean seeds, sugar, and fromage blanc. I checked Fresh Market, and they didn’t have any of the fromage blanc, so I doubled the cream, per Martha’s suggestion. (BTW, the produce guy at FM cut me some fresh rhubarb when I asked if they had any. I thought that was pretty nifty). So, we made the cream, and I still didn’t like it, then The Husband baked a sponge cake to accompany the rhubarb. The End.
(No photo. It looked like a blob of soggy red celery on some white stuff).
In theory, having a simple meal made with fresh ingredients sounds fine, but when those ingredients involve plain asparagus, mint and rhubarb, that’s not a very exciting (or tasty) meal. It’s just too early in the season for this to work. I think in summer, when the farmer’s markets are bursting with produce, it would be different, because at that point you really can just salt and pepper a tomato and have it be delectable.
This was a totally uninspired meal, overall. The only excuse for it would be if you were using up all your leftover ingredients to clean out the refrigerator. It’s important to note that the cookbook starts in spring, so this is the first meal in the book. Way to make a first impression.
Lamb: C The lamb flavor was ok, but it needed more seasoning.
Quinoa: C- Quinoa doesn’t have much flavor on its own, and adding some peas and mint isn’t enough to perk it up.The Husband resented the big mint leaves, saying they made the dish taste woody. We will be adding some lemon and Bulgarian feta to this mess, since of course it made a ton and we have a lot left over.
Asparagus & aioli: C-