What started as a few rabbits for dinner became, over time, a reduced, softened and taste-enhanced mess of flavor, a fragrant and humble end to a long set of meals.
Here we are with warm days and evenings filled with soccer and baseball and sometimes weeding in the garden. Fancy meals are a rarity now; what we eat instead is fresh, simple, and easy to prepare. My youngest sister recently visited from Sitka, Alaska with her family, and I wanted to give them a taste of Minnesota in the summer. Admittedly, I’m envious of the range of fish they catch and regularly eat, but I love the food that we pull from our garden daily.
We started them with wide-cut pasta, an egg-rich dough we rested for hours before rolling it out, soft, pliable and generous. A simple tomato sauce and a garden-fresh green salad made for a meal within easy reach.
As the weekend started I cut up a few rabbits and made a nice stock with the bony parts, the base for Saturday night’s rabbit risotto with fresh snap peas. The rabbit pieces marinated for a few days with a rub of garlic, bay leaves, crushed juniper berries, black pepper, and salt. Visiting family members make great kitchen helpers, and I was happy to turn the risotto stirring over to my brother-in-law. As Randy stirred, I cut a tenderloin into thin pieces that cooked in minutes. With a last minute addition of both shelled and in-the-pod snap peas, the creamy risotto was flecked with bites of green freshness.
And finally this evening, just me and my daughter on a soccer night. A few thin leeks from the garden, sauteed in a little olive oil and fat. A big spoonful of whole wheat flour to darken and thicken the juices. And finally, the remains of the day, old slow cooked pieces of rabbit, now dissolved like pulled pork. And tender, meltingly so. A scoop and the brown jelly bits dissolve and splatter, thickening in the heat and almost-roux. Tarragon, a little milk, salt and pepper.
And off to the side in the shallow bowl, the bits of green? Oh, a little savoy cabbage from a friend's CSA share that he couldn't use this week because they were on vacation. So I cut thick slices of ginger, soaked dried shrimp in hot water, and crushed a few cloves of just-pulled Inchelium Red garlic, pungent and juicy. A few minutes in the pan and then we ate, my daughter and I, in the time before soccer with time to spare. She liked the cabbage and the rabbit, but didn't like the bits of bone that remained.
I watched soccer, sitting in my folding chair, the summer light so just, content, satisfied.