Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Market Love and Rabbit In a Pan

Market Love: a gratitude for the farmers, the customers, the relationship between producer and consumer, the participation in a viable, vibrant economy; a feeling of hope and of connection to place.

Walking through the market today, filled with Market Love, I was thinking about an article I'd read in the New York Times about an episode of provincialism turned violent - between two chefs - in Portland Oregon.  The chef who threw the first punch was angry because another chef had not used local meat in a cooking competition. It made me wonder about the extent of my attitudes. Do I share the adamant views of this chef, local being absolutely better? Or was my Market Love pure?

We as a family eat mostly local meat, produce, dairy and grain.  Olive oil, salt, pepper and wine are consistently from afar.  We are of these consumption habits becasue we like the discipline of it, and because it makes sense to us both physiologically and environmentally. But is it that simple? Do I really keep it that personal? Or, did I secretly want to sock people buying asparagus from Argentina in May at Wegmans, when the fields a few miles away were filled with that very crop? Apples from New Zealand in September? Thinking honestly about it, that does make me clench my jaw. Not throw a punch, but there is some emotion there, I'll admit it.

Here in Ithaca, the Farmers Market is glorious.  I love arriving, anticipating what will be fresh from the earth, filling the stalls.  I love to know, to thank and acknowledge the people who have raised the food, who have ordered the seed in January, thought out their season's flow of produce from field to market, who work long hours in the elements, raise their families and earn their living in the arduous path of independent farming. 

It has been several weeks and many markets of examining my attitudes - how alike this chef was I? - and I keep coming up with the same answer. When I invite a friend to meet us at the market and they say they did their shopping already, at the chain grocery store, I am surprised that they aren't also riveted and curious about the landscape. But rather than yelling into the phone, I invite them to dinner.

My conclusion, I do share some of the ego of this pugalistic chef. Only our touch is different.  My love and curiosity of place is genuine, and I want to share that, sweetly.  I am motivated not by a feeling of market and local being better than, but by my experience that it tastes, and feels, so, so good. Here, a complete market meal:

Rabbit In a Pan (from the great Ed Giobbi)

a rabbit 3-4 lbs
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup or so olive oil
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
any combination of vegetables, pictured here is escarole, potatoes, lima beans

Cut the rabbit into serving pieces (legs, thighs, saddle...) and put the pieces in a cast iron skillet in one layer. Do not add oil! Start the rabbit on low heat, turning, until the external moisture on them evaporates. Increase heat as moisture is drawn out.

Add the other ingredients and simmer, covered, over medium heat until rabbit is tender, about 45 minutes to an hour. add more wine if pan becomes dry.
NOTE: this process seem truly bizarre, but have faith! there is a magical moment when the rabbit goes from looking dull and grey to a lovely shade of brown very near the end. it is delicious. Try to find a great source for the rabbit (or raise them your self!) Markets are a great place to find well raised rabbits.

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