This past weekend I did a little shopping at a couple of local farmers’ markets, and pairing some of my purchases with pantry staples and fresh herbs from our square-foot garden, I cobbled together the meal I am about to share with you.
At the market I bought early cherry tomatoes (not so great yet), green and yellow summer beans, spring onions, and fresh-picked cherries. From the pantry I used rabbit hindquarters, a mix of dried wild mushrooms, preserved lemon, fresh chèvre, and a few other staples to bring the meal together.
Wild Mushroom Stew
Long-Cooked Summer Beans
Cherries in Vermouth Syrup with Fresh Chèvre
4 rabbit hindquarters
2 medium carrots, rough chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, rough chopped
1 spring onion, white bulb only, rough chopped
4 large whole garlic cloves
1-1/2 cups water plus 1/2 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
4 tablespoons butter
Herb bundle plus parsley stems (in this recipe the herbs were parsley, lemon balm, and oregano, wrapped in shiso leaves)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, ovenproof roasting pan with a lid. Once the oil is hot, salt and pepper and sear the rabbit quarters until browned on both sides, tending and turning so as not to burn or allow to stick, approximately 15 minutes. Remove rabbit to a plate and tent to keep warm.
Add the soffritto (vegetable mix) to the same pan, more olive oil, salt and pepper and sauté, turning to coat and combine until the they begin to soften and lightly color.
Once the soffritto is ready, add the rabbit back to the pan, pour the water and wine or vermouth around, add the herb bouquet and the butter. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Check to determine if the sauce has become too thick, add another 1/2 cup liquid if required, otherwise cover and braise another 25 minutes.
Once braising is done, remove the pan from the oven and keep warm, while assembling the rest of the meal.
Mixed Wild Mushroom Stew
This dish can be prepared with all fresh wild mushrooms if available, or a mix of fresh and dried. The dried mushrooms will first have to be refreshed by soaking in warm water or stock until they are softened, then the soaking liquid is strained to remove any dirt or grit accumulated; it then can be used as the base for the stew broth.
The finished dish makes a fine side vegetable, as it was in this meal, however any leftovers can be pulsed in a food processor and used to prepare a robust pasta sauce, or a hearty addition to risotto, or even added to a stuffing mix for either a roast chicken or a roulade of pork tenderloin tied and finished on the grill.
With this recipe I used all dried mushrooms which I always have on hand. The mix I included was a small sampling of each of the following mushrooms to yield 2-1/2 cups of dried: Black Trumpet, Chanterelle, Lobster, Matsutake, Morel, Oyster, Porcini, Shiitake, and Woodear. The recipe is very flexible in that you can mix and match to make your own mushroom combination to satisfy your personal taste. Part of what makes cooking fun!
2 lbs fresh mushrooms or 2-1/2 cups dried
2 cups water or stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 onion (with this recipe I used the large green end of the spring onion), chopped fine
2 to 3 garlic cloves, sliced fine
1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (with this recipe I quartered the cherry tomatoes from the farm market)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 preserved lemon rind, chopped fine
1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons butter melted
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (in this recipe I made a bouquet of lemon balm, oregano, dill flowers, and parsley stems, wrapped in shiso leaves, plus minced parsley to finish)
Truffle puree or truffle oil (optional)
Clean, prep, and slice the mushrooms if using fresh, saving the stems to poach in the water or stock to make the stew broth. Or if using dried, soak in 2 cups of water or stock until softened. Squeeze out all the liquid and set aside, while straining the soaking liquid as previously described and set aside.
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot with a lid. Once the oil is warmed, add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Next add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, salt and pepper, and one cup of the broth, stirring to combine and continue the sauté until the tomatoes soften and blend into the broth. Next add the mushroom mix, preserved lemon, herb bundle, and remaining broth, again stirring to combine and continue to sauté.
In a small sauté pan melt the butter and whisk with the flour or cornstarch to form a light roux. Add the roux to the mushrooms along with the minced parsley. Mix to combine, check the seasoning and if using, add a small amount of truffle puree or drizzle a small amount of truffle oil over. Cover the pot and allow to simmer over very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and then keep warm while assembling the rest of the meal.
Long-Cooked Summer Beans
Summer green beans, also known as string beans, are available at the markets starting in the early summer season right through the fall. They can also be found in both yellow and purple varieties, which can yield a very festive and colorful dish when using all three.
This variety of seasonal beans is different from the slender French haricots vert, which lend themselves to quick cooking, best served cold in salads or as a warm side or underlay in other dishes. The beans in this recipe are generally thicker and fatter than the haricots vert variety and are enhanced by the long slow cooking.
Different liquids can be used for the braise: water, stock, wine, a combination of those or even tomato sauce. The proportions can be easily scaled up depending upon how many will be served. This recipe works well for 2 people.
12 green beans plus 12 yellow beans
1 medium sweet onion or white bulb from a spring onion, thinly sliced
1 cup (approximately 12) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (in this recipe I used parsley, basil, lemon balm, and thyme)
Clean and trim the stem ends from the beans.
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot with a lid. Once the oil is warmed, add the onion and tomatoes, sauté until they begin to soften and the onions lightly color.
Next add the beans, wine or vermouth, and salt and pepper to the sauté, cover, and allow the beans and tomatoes to soften.
Finally, once the beans and the tomatoes are fork tender and softened, sprinkle the fresh herbs, cover again, and reduce the heat, allowing the vegetable mix to gently simmer until ready to plate.
Cherries in Vermouth Syrup over Fresh Chèvre
1 to 1-1/2 cups sweet cherries (depending upon size), stemmed but not pitted
1 cup sweet vermouth
3 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Plain fresh chèvre cheese
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Continue to simmer until the cherries are soft. Remove the cherries to cool and continue to reduce the remaining liquid until reaching a syrup consistency. Pour the syrup over the cherries and allow to cool completely.
Slice a round of fresh chèvre and spoon the cherries and syrup around. That’s it—couldn’t be simpler!
You can choose to prepare these recipes as a complete meal, or try the recipes individually and prepare your own version. I’d enjoy hearing from you, so let me know what you finally decide. Here is a look at the complete meal plated and ready to serve.