Saturday, April 23, 2005

Le weekend

I thought this day would never come: I planted the sweet corn. Now we'll see if I got to it in time. I also started preparing the bean hills. The garden, whose appearance has so far been marred by the untamed beds in its middle, is starting to look as good as it actually is.

Last night we had a series of brief, energetic thunderstorms, which were just what we needed to re-saturate the ground and get my new crops going. Today it's bright and windy, with clouds that scuttle along quickly.

I have already been in the kitchen today, working on the beginning stages of tonight's cassoulet. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a recipe for it in his Meat Book, and of course Julia Child included one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1. For all intents and purposes, the recipes are the same: Cook white beans with herbs and garlic. Brown several kinds of meat. Make tomato sauce. Bake them all together with a bread-crumb crust on top. Both authors recommend lamb as one of the meats, but I'm saving my one and only meager little cut of lamb shoulder for a braise I'll be making tomorrow (with lots of escarole...mmm...). The cassoulet will survive, I expect, with "only" pork, sausage, and preserved goose leg.

This all sounds kind of over-the-top, but it's a thrifty way to use odds and ends from the freezer. A chunk of this, a scrap of that, and pretty soon you've got something completely new.

I made zabaglione a couple of nights ago, by way of using up some excess egg yolks. But then when I ate a serving of it, it gave me a headache--too much liquor and sugar at once, I suspect. (I wonder why it didn't it do that to me last time?) So today I'm once again finding a new use for an overly rich custard. I think I'm going to make little cups of crispy phyllo dough, then fill them with a layer of zabaglione, a layer of saucy sugared fruit, and a layer of whipped cream. That should distribute the marsala thinly enough so it doesn't knock me out.

My main task this weekend, though, is sanding and painting the living room fireplace. It's one of the last holdouts of non-doneness in the downstairs. Wish me luck. I'm dreading every moment of it.