About three years ago I received a text from a friend of a friend asking if I’d be interested in helping her butcher a lamb. I hardly knew Kelley at that time, but I think my text back read something like; “Hell yea!” Aside from some minor butchering in cooking school, my experience was limited to deboning pork shoulders or legs of lamb, and I was interesting in learning more. Plus, anybody who was willing to tackle a whole animal was definitely worth meeting. I wanted to hang out with this chick.
Kelley and I picked up the lamb from a local farm, and we used a combination of books and You Tube videos to guide us through the butchering process (in other words, we winged it). While the cuts were in no way perfect, we successfully broke down the lamb into everything from chops to belly to shanks, and we even finished the evening by cooking up a feast for our families and friends. It was an incredibly empowering experience.
Since then Kelley has become one of my dearest friends, and we’ve butchered another lamb with our friend Jeff, followed by a pig last December. Butchering whole animals is surprisingly gratifying and not at all gross, as some of you might be thinking. There’s no blood or gore, just fresh smelling meat that happens to be assembled in an animal form. As an omnivore, knowing exactly where my meat comes from—these animals led healthy, pastured lives—has given me a much deeper appreciation for the food on my plate. And let’s not forget about taste. Nothing can compare to the flavor—we’re left with freezers full of the best lamb and pork you’ve ever tasted. A few weeks ago I pulled out my last two pork chops, which I wanted to dress up simply and quickly. I rummaged together a quick pantry relish of roasted red peppers, black olives, shallots and garlic. It was the perfect sweet and salty complement to the seared chops.
Since then I’ve become somewhat addicted to the relish, slathering it on burgers, tucking it into sandwiches and spooning it over roasted vegetables. This past Sunday I draped the relish over grilled fish, which I served atop a bed of creamy cauliflower puree. We ate outside in shorts and flip-flops, feeling as though we had jumped straight into August even though this is a dish that could easily be made in January.
I have a feeling that this meal is going to become a summertime staple. It’s quick and simple, but bursting with flavor. The cauliflower puree is a breeze to whip up, and it tastes heavenly with the relish (I included the recipe below). You can swap out grilled fish for steak, pork chops, or even lamb. Hmm, I think it’s time to restock the freezer..
Roasted Red Pepper & Black Olive Relish
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 1 small shallot , minced
- 1 large garlic clove , minced
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup finely chopped jarred roasted red pepper (about 1 ½ big peppers)
- ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives , finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet and add the minced shallot, garlic and thyme. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and garlic are softened, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the chopped roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, capers, parsley, lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and add a bit of salt and pepper, if needed. Do Ahead: The relish can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- 1 2- pound head of cauliflower , core and leaves trimmed and discarded
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1-2 garlic cloves , peeled and smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
- Fresh lemon wedge
- Cut the cauliflower into florets. Place the florets in a medium saucepan and add the milk, garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover the pot and cook until the florets are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the florets and garlic to a food processor (discard the bay leaf). Reserve the cooking liquid. Process the florets until mostly smooth. Add the butter and 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid (more if you want a looser puree). Process until smooth and creamy. Season with salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice to taste (you won’t taste the lemon, but it will brighten the flavor). Serve warm. Do Ahead: The puree can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat gently before serving (if needed, add a splash or two of water to loosen).