Monday, May 17, 2010
Steak with Ramp Pesto
Our family eats well and we are mindful about what exactly we are buying. We eat modest amounts and we waste nothing. Meat protein is an occasional, deeply enjoyed treat. Onion husks, parsley stems and chicken carcasses are saved for broths. Leftover scraps of pork fat are folded into quesadillas to get a little more calorie into Colby. Stale baguette ends become bread crumbs. What cannot be used or reused as food is composted.
As we enter the bountiful glory days of spring and summer, the range of ingredients and creativity for use and reuse expands. Ramps are the first wild crop of spring to arrive at the market. Having lived on cabbage, carrots and potatoes for so many months of winter, the ramps' tender white bulbs and soft green leaves feel so precious. In order to use the entire plant, bulbs and leaves, Craig made a pesto. Such verdant smells! Such a deep green! He spread the pesto, gleaming like tiny emeralds, over a quickly seared piece of hanger steak.
The hanger, most tender when cooked rare, is a lean muscle. The inner core of the meat is a deep red, the moisture is sealed with a quick sear. I had a hard time at first with the level of rare that hanger is at its best. Then I cooked one to medium and it was so tough that it was difficult to eat. So, I gave the rare another try. The difficult thing about rare meat is that it is very apparent you are eating an animal, a creature. The texture, the obviousness of blood and life, is something to accept.
In the local market for food we know the people who raise the animals we eat. When we get a hanger steak from Sabol at the farmers market, we know the land the animal grazed, the husband and wife team who nurtured and cared for the calf, we know they decided when to "lay the animal down" not based on a market schedule, but an optimal life cycle for the animal and the ecosystem of their "moreganic" farm. When we eat their meat, we acknowledge the animal's life, and we also acknowledge the labor and intelligence of Richard and Sue Sabol. McDonald Farm also has strong, vibrantly healthy meat and the much coveted hanger. We have these farmers to thank for meat that is raised with love and dignity, and respect for the environment.
Wasting nothing does not just mean not throwing things away. Wasting nothing, or wasting little, means eating what your body actually needs, not too much or too little. Everyone knows by now that eating a lot of meat is not a very sustainable way to go. Eating more than you need in order not to throw something away is still waste. Depth of knowledge about a food system helps in thinking about waste.
In lean times it is simple to figure out how little you need to live. In bountiful times it is a privileged meditation to sort out needs and wants and limit waste. It feels like how it is in a relationship: in easy times you can coast, smile and enjoy each other; in hard times you get to know who you really are, what your bottom line is, what you require, what is essential to survive so that when a happy, easy time, like spring, arrives again, you may thrive.
Steak with Ramp Pesto
Clean two bunches of ramps. Thinly slice the white parts. Cut the green parts into thin strips and then finely chop. Add finely chopped parsley to taste. I like slightly more ramps than parsley. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and a tiny bit of preserved lemon (Canal House recipe) if you like. Chop lemon and blend together in a bowl and add a generous splash of olive oil. Let rest for at least half-hour. Bathe your favorite steak in it! Great with (rare, of course) hanger steak.