Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Holy Goat: Salad For One

My father’s mother was a consummate gardener. A terrible cook, mind, but blessed with more than a mere thumb of green. Occasionally I catch sight of her in my own reflection when passing the windows, grey hair pulled back, cheeks flushed from weeding. It’s a likeness I’d not imagined before I let my hair ‘go’. Nana grew things in her Sydney garden that other gardeners could only dream about. The ‘drought’, ever-present at the edges of my adult life, seemingly only affected farmers in hers. Her sprinkler system, like many in my 1970’s suburban childhood, would often run all day.

It’s easy to forget, standing at the supermarket dairy cabinet, that farmers make extraordinary daily sacrifices to bring food to our tables. To do so organically, in a country of dry grass and almost non-existent rainfall is very nearly a miracle. Seldom do I mention a product by name – thanks, Naomi Klein - but some things demand attention. Holy Goat organic cheeses, hand-crafted from paddock to plate by Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda in country Victoria, are divine. One episode of Love’s Harvest, a series of half-hour documentaries exploring the pleasures and perils of farming organically, followed their fortunes. Watching them struggle through drought, grain shortages, births and deaths, all the while lovingly tending their herd of charming, cheeky goats, added, for me, extra sparkle to their already stellar range. Organic food has always been more costly – the unpredictable nature of the act itself determines that – but I like to give a little back to the farmer making a red-hot go of it, whenever, financially, I can.

Lately, I’d sensed an air of exclusivity about Organics; the tiniest whiff of snobbery that seemed out of kilter with its grass roots, hands-in-the-dirt philosophy. Not the farmer, mind you, but the (usually chain) retailer. The fusty, earth-worshipping image, much like the vegetarian eating it encompassed, is slowly being replaced by slick styling and clever marketing. But I miss the fustiness; I like the earth-worshipping. Enter a trip, with a friend, to the Queen Vic Market. There, poking around stalls with spankingly fresh organic produce, I sensed the spirit of community that I had imagined gone. A fragment of fustiness, delivered with a sense of style and warmth. Faith, resolutely, restored.

Nana didn’t get to eat at my table, and I was too young to learn any real, concrete gardening skills during her lifetime. Her cooking was a rushed affair because for her, the garden itself held the key to happiness. A simple, honest salad such as this makes an ideal lunch for one. If that lettuce just happens to come fresh from your garden, well, all the better.

Organic leaves dressed with goat’s cheese – for one

The quality of your cheese lies at the heart of success or failure here – choose accordingly. The fromage frais is apparently low in fat. Imagine that? I couldn’t help myself and added some sour cream…

1 hard-boiled (hard-cooked) free-range egg
1 small, organic Cos (Romaine) lettuce
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon of sugar or honey
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
Small piece of garlic, peeled
Sea salt
1/3 cup (80ml) of Holy Goat fromage frais (or soft goat’s curd)
1 very heaped tablespoon of sour cream
Black pepper

Carefully separate the egg white from the yolk. Finely chop both separately. Wash the lettuce leaves well and dry meticulously. Tear as artfully (or not) as you like.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, sugar and vinegar. Crush the scrap of garlic to a paste with a little salt using the flat of your knife. Whisk this paste into the bowl next, followed by the finely chopped egg yolk, the fromage frais and the cream. Thin with a little water, bearing in mind you’re aiming for a pourable/dollop-able consistency.

Arrange the leaves on a plate, in a bowl, whatever you like, pour over the dressing and top with the finely chopped egg white and a good grinding of pepper.

In the northern hemisphere warmer weather is taking a firm foothold but that doesn't stop southern cooks from salad-making. Holler requests your cheesy, salad-y best for this month’s edition of No Croutons Required, an event co-hosted with Lisa.

Entries close on the 20th of May.


Christina said...

Ah, you know my love affair with small-scale farmers. Someday, I will be one myself! Anyway, your description of your local goat farm reminds me of Cowgirl Creamery, a CA collection of small farms north of the Bay Area that churns out some pretty damn remarkable cheese. In a setting such as that, where the herds are small enough for individual animals to receive individual attention, a fantastic product will emerge. Thanks for the reminder of great, organic food and its roots.

Johanna said...

I think I am wary of organic groceries sometimes because they just seem a way for big business to squeeze more money out of us - but I feel much happier about buying organic at, say, a farmers market when I can get there. I think organics should be about connecting with the source of food - so your program sounds interesting

and I love your story of remembering your grandmother in the garden - I have sometimes caught glimpses of other family members in my reflection and it is indeed an odd experience

kathryn said...

Beautiful simple recipe that lets the ingredients shine. Good one Lucy. Haven't tried Holy Goat cheese before, but love the name. Will keep my eyes peeled.

Ricki said...

Not as brave as you with letting the hair go, but I still see reflections of my mother all-too-often when passing the mirror!

The cheese sounds lovely; the salad looks divine. And it truly is a miracle how those farmers manage!

Lisa said...

Thanks for this Lucy. Simple, yet so appealing. Just the thing I would want when dining alone.

Simona said...

Very nice, Lucy. I will get some goat fromage frais and try to replicate your lovely salad. What you say about Nana reminds me of a Chinese saying my friend and gardener Rachel told me. The punch line is something like: if you want to be happy forever, plant a garden.

Callipygia said...

Holy heifer this post touches upon similar thoughts that I have: the strange translation from deeply committed small scale farmer/food artisans to food as fashion commodity.

Salad for one serves not only to highlight the farmers and their craft, but connect us as we can to our senses, our body, and that bigger body.

Carson said...

I've been gripped by 'Love's Harvest' every episode that goes by I think to myself ah, there goes another pipedream (the one of escaping the ratrace and growing organic something-or-others).
I'm running out of pipedreams at this rate!
Now...as for goat's cheese...Nature's Perfect Food I tell you. Manna from Heaven.

winedeb said...

While in Ohio for the summer last year, I made friends with a gal at the farmers market who raises goats and makes cheese. I even went to her house to photo the goats, but they decided they did not want to be blog material and headed off into the woods. So I had to settle going in for some fresh cheese and berries! Now that is as local as I could get! I am a true fan of buying local as you can just feel the love that these folks put into their crops. No matter what the cost, I do not mind paying for their hard work.

Wendy said...

I adore goats cheese. D does not. I eat it anyway. He refuses to kiss me for the rest of the night.
Won't stop me trying this out soon. Beautiful.

maybelles parents said...

I think that thing about the snobbery of organics is right on. We had a thing about Organics on the radio this morning and it was basically cool people talking about how cool they were. Frankly, if I didn't have a greater belief in the environment, I would have gone out and eaten at McDonalds. Alright, so this comment is as long as a post--Point here, great post.

michelle @ TNS said...

i've never had that style of goats' cheese. i'll need to find some, because my lettuce will be ready to pick in a few weeks.

i buy organic and or/local almost exclusively, and i hate hate hate that some of it is expensive even for my dual-income household. i also dislike this "more local than thou" thing that's going on.

Suse said...

I am incredibly impressed that you have managed to take a photo of lettuce topped with goats cheese and make it look attractive. If I did that and posted it on my blog I'm sure it would look like something the cat sicked up.



Susan said...

That lettuce is shockingly, gloriously green! You can just *tell* it is so much healthier than the insipid produce we are sometimes faced with. Once we get out of this condo, I can turn my thumbs back to that bright green. You can't get any more local than your own backyard.

kale for sale said...

I liked your line about giving a little back to the farmer making a red hot go of it. I actually picture the cash I hand to them as a contribution for the maintenance of the open space where they farm. That it may be here for the next generation and still in good shape. But I grew up in the place where I still eat. The landscape, the open spaces feel like they're part of the family.

And yes, I agree with everyone - the salad looks delicious.

Rosa said...

That's funny, I was looking at beautiful romaine lettuce at the market today and felt short of inspiration. This is exactly the recipe I need! Thank you.

Lina said...

I love goats cheese. That looks like a fresh and delicious salad!

neil said...

We love Holy Goat cheeses, they manage to make cheese without that overt goaty character. Sadly you are right about organic snobbery which can even be encounterd at farmer's markets.

Lucy said...

Gosh, I was a little worried that I'd come across as too harsh...obviously, I'm not alone in my thinking!

Thank you, all of you, for your comments. You make a young-ish grey-haired lady that much happier!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

OMG, goat's milk fromage frais!?! LEKKER (meaning delicious in Dutch)!!! I'm feeling just a tad green with envy...x

Chef E said...

I love goat cheese...