Memorial Day could not have come at a better time. A busy period on both the professional and social front had left my apartment, and perhaps more importantly, my refrigerator and pantry, in a deteriorated state. I needed some time to recharge myself, and one of the best ways that I know of to do so is, after a quick trip to the Greenmarket, to spend a few hours puttering about the kitchen while Paul spends some well deserved time on the couch, lifting his head only occasionally to ask after the origins of the aromas wafting towards him.
I was feeling a bit down after a week without flowers in my living space, so my first order of business yesterday was to pick up a couple of bunches from James Durr in Union Square.
As summer approaches, Mr. Durr's stand is quickly becoming my favorite. His selection of flowers is almost never the same week to week (although thankfully peonies have been a constant over the past month), and he is bringing an increasing variety of vegetables and fruits to market these days. With choices ranging from rhododendron boughs to bearded iris to asparagus (the best in the market in my opinion) to rhubarb to strawberries, it's hard not to feel inspired by the bounty of the season.
After picking up my usual milk, eggs and cheese, my last stop at the market was Paffenroth Farms, my root vegetable stand-by, where I picked up a bunch of mellow french breakfast radishes. Once home, I indulged in the wonderful french children's snack (I suppose adults indulge on occasion as well) of radishes with butter and salt, which I consider to be the perfect warm weather weekend snack (or meal, depending on your mood and how heavily you indulged the night before)
Now, I must insist on being a bit of a salt snob here. Maldon salt, in my opinion, is utterly necessary in this dish. As is extremely good butter. I always use Ronnybrook's butter, which I consider to be among the best available here in New York, but brands like Plugra also make a good product with a high butterfat content.
Once my hunger had been sated, I got to work on my kitchen puttering. My first order of business was the Zuni Cafe's pickled red onions.
I hewed fairly closely to David Lebovitz's adaptation, although Molly over at Orangette has a nice one as well. As they both mention, the methodology that is recommended by the Zuni Cake Cookbook is sort of a pain, but look at what a brilliant pink my onions gained as a result! I'll reserve judgement on the taste until they've marinated for a day or two but I have to say, based on a couple of sneaky tastes, my hopes are high.
And lastly, I got to work making my rhubarb compote. After making a rhubarb custard a couple of weeks back, I've been somewhat obsessed with this very odd vegetable, and have picked up a bunch of the stuff at every chance I've had.
I rather loosely followed Deborah Madison's recipe for rhubarb compote and the result was utterly delicious (she suggests adding strawberries and mango which I'm sure would be delicious but I took the purist route). The end product provided the perfect accompaniment to my yogurt for breakfast this morning.
Now I'm feeling sufficiently recharged to venture out of my kitchen to spend time with some long neglected friends. And tonight I'm thinking traditional Sunday roast. Yum.
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
1 bunch of rhubarb (mine weighed about 1 lb 12 oz.)
scant 1 cup of sugar (this is a matter of personal taste, increase or decrease depending on your preference)
juice and zest of one orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of vanilla extract or a bean, scraped (optional: the vanilla will mellow the rhubarb out, if you prefer a more bracing taste, omit it)
In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, combine all ingredients and simmer over medium heat until rhubarb is tender. At the ideal point, some pieces will have disintegrated, some will still be relatively whole. This should take about twenty minutes. Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator to serve at a later date. Keeps for approximately one week.