Sunday, August 2, 2009
My grandparents were farmers. Their place was in the Animas Valley, in southwestern Colorado. They had dairy cows, and corn, and veggies, and sheep. It was a tough life, I think, but they had a lot of kids -- seven -- around to help out. My mom was one of them. So, as a child, she was a farmer, too, by default. Folks from the valley remember her and her sisters picking raspberries and selling them to passersby.
That pretty much did it. My mom swore she'd never be a farmer, that's for sure. And for about 50 years she succeeded in keeping that vow. Until now. Not long after Wendy and the girls and I moved to the North Fork Valley, my mom, Jan, and stepdad, Gary, moved to a little place on Hanson Mesa, outside of Hotchkiss. At first, they just had a pretty big garden. Then, last fall, they planted 600 garlic plants. They harvested them this summer, and have been selling the Cobblestone Farm varieties (a bunch of them) to the local outlets and a couple farmers' markets. Now, they are farmers.
Which leaves them exhausted. But it can be really great for us, because we can pick stuff right out of the field, and pretty much have a meal. Last weekend, on a scorching Saturday afternoon, we got: basil, garlic, fennel, squash, squash blossoms, chard, new potatoes, and eggs from "The Farm" (which is exactly how we referred to my grandmother's house when I was a kid). We then stopped at Delicious Orchards for some Avalanche chevre and a bottle of Plum Creek sauvignon blanc.
Back home, after I started swilling the sauv blanc, Wendy stuffed the squash blossoms with the chevre and lightly sauteed them in butter. I made pesto and some pasta and marinated the squash for grilling and we got the potatoes roasting. Then, my favorite: the aioli. In case you don't know, aioli is essentially homemade garlic mayonaise. It's also divine, when prepared correctly and with good ingredients, and, like bacon and butter, it makes any food taste good. But where bacon and butter are imbued with a sort of loose lasciviousness, aioli is more erotic; or perhaps that's just me thinking about the look on Wendy's face when she eats aioli.
I stole the idea of using roasted garlic rather than fresh garlic from the brilliant cookbook: Artichoke to Za'atar, by Greg and Lucy Malouf. It mellows out the garlicky edge. In fact, this whole recipe is an adaptation of the Malouf's.
• 2 very fresh egg yolks
• 1 head of Cobblestone Farm garlic
• A dollop of Dijon mustard
• A dollop of honey
• 1/2 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (if it's very strong oil you might want to substitute a bit of canola oil for 1/4 cup of the olive oil)
• Some fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Start off by roasting the garlic until it's nice and soft, then squeeze all the garlic meat out of it's skin and into a blender (yes, a blender, with my apologies to the mortal & pestle purists out there). Add egg yolks and vinegar and mustard and honey to the blender and fire it up. As it whirs, drizzle the oil in one drop at a time. This is important -- drip it too fast, and your aioli "breaks," a condition that can be repaired only by drinking large quantities of wine and going hungry for the night. When the aioli emulsifies, you can go more quickly with the oil. Stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Spread it generously on everything, as there's nothing worse than being stingy with the aioli. Eat it sooner rather than later.
For another lovely aioli recipe, check out david lebovitz's blog.