Now that the sexier items in the farmers market like asparagus and peonies have been around for a few weeks, my infatuation with them has abated slightly and I am able to turn my attention to the uglier duckings...dark leafy greens.
There is an abundance of greenery coming to market these days, much of which I welcome back like an old friend (hello young sweet Swiss Chard!), and some of which I have to confess is unfamiliar.
For instance, last Saturday my bag contained not only the above-mentioned chard (stunningly good, so much better than the ancient specimens in the grocery store), but also lovage and puntarelle, neither of which I knew a thing about.
I was compelled to shell out $1.50 for the lovage due I think to some romantic notion regarding old English gardens. I have no idea whether lovage is English or not, but I feel like the fact that I've heard of it at all I owe to either Nigella Lawson or Nigel Slater lamenting the lack of it today and reminiscing about their grandmother's famous lovage consomme.
What is it you may ask? Basically it is a bitter version of celery, with leaves rather than stalks. I'll admit that I tried a few fresh leaves and was underwhelmed. I may even have grimaced. Apparently Deborah Madison's suggestion to try a few leaves in a salad is not for me.
So I opted to cook it. I boiled a few of the miniature Yukon Gold potatoes I had sitting around in heavily salted water. Once cooked through, I sliced them up and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil. And once browned, I threw in a half teaspoon or so of smoked paprika, showered a bit of Maldon salt over the spiced potatoes and added a tablespoon or so of chopped lovage to the mix. Oh, and some frozen peas.
It was, somewhat surprisingly, quite delicious. The lovage added an unusual dimension...a flavor I would not have been able to identify had I not cooked the dish myself but that added a lot of interest. So my conclusion is that lovage is a wonderful background flavor, and is meant to be layered with other components. In this case the paprika was the dominant note, with the lovage adding a nice fresh counterpoint and it worked quite well.
So in order to use up the rest of my bunch I fully intend to use it in chicken stock (I have a frozen chicken carcass in the freezer anyway), to stuff a roast bird, and in place of celery in a mire poix for the likes of a bolognese sauce, meat stew or soup. I predict great success. Or at least moderate success. This is a lot to make before the leaves wilt beyond reason after all.