Thursday, March 6, 2008

A season in the life

We are coming up on the moment when The Brisket will have to be addressed. More than a week has passed since this side of beef first entered my world and I am less hungry now for the cover girl of a sandwich which started this briney chapter. However, one needs to learn how a great corned beef comes to life. One needs to have sure hands in the name of preventing any future famine by making previously disrespected cuts of beef sing with all the interest garnered by some prom-queen of a cut, like standing roast, or that floozie, the crown roast; thus preventing one from ever starving through fear of being reduced to consuming tough ugly old cuts. No, in this house, we believe brisket should be the glory hound of great smoking que, corned beefs, and treated with the respect it would have had had it run a different road, such as the one that leads it to pastrami at Ben's Deli. Right. One needs to stop parading about the living room with the brisket flag, pipe down, and just cook the meat.

But not now. Later. Are you hungry? I would love a last dive into the wintery produce bounty. The clocks will turn back this weekend and when they do, those of use who have observed Southern springs through the "On The Farm" section of the newspaper are waiting with the measured breath of the once-again-a-year-older maturity that anticipates with such glee the news that the arrival of asparagus have proved out our surviving one more winter. Long, willowy stalks next week. Today, one last visit to the winter that was. Linger with me for a moment. We'll have a warm salad, perhaps? Let's say, a bit of roasted golden squash, some baby spinach, a little sauteed chorizo for some Spanish zing? Shall we? And how about a Pinot Noir, I'd say French, but there are some guys out there in Oregon, close to my heart, making a spirited Pinot Noir that you should hunt for, if you have a minute before we eat. We'll have a warm loaf of crusty french bread and just break it up into wild chunks, okay?

I've set the table with a gypsy of an old placesetting I found hanging around, and those salad forks were my Grandmothers. We'll wait out these last angry moments of winter together. One year wiser, one squash less lean. And we will be better for having taken this fleeting moment to delay over a season which treated us harshly, as winters are prone to do, but through which we lived richly. A season, any season, deserves celebrating with you.

Warm Spinach and Squash Salad with Chorizo
North Salem, 2008

1 acorn squash, about 1 1/4 lbs or so
4 tbls. olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup mexican chorizo, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tbls. sherry vinegar

Preheat over to 400. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Cut acorn squash in half and scrape out seeds. Place squash on the foil-lined dish cut side up. Using about a tablespoon of the olive oil brush the cut surface of the squash all over. Dust lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes or until a fork inserted into the middle of squash enters easily. Holding the squash with a hand in in an oven mitt, scrape out the cooked flesh onto a cutting board and cut this up, as well as you can, into bite sized chunks. Place into your salad bowl and add spinach. Toss. Spinach will wilt slightly from the heat of the squash, all the better. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chorizo and saute for 5 minutes, until edges become golden. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes (do not burn the garlic, it will become bitter). Take the skillet from the heat and add the sherry vinegar, stir quickly with the chorizo and garlic. Drizzle all over the acorn spinach mixture in the salad bowl. Toss to coat all evenly with the dressing. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a small plate.

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