After a grueling 28 hours of travel back home from Sicily, some of which (I’ll be honest) I spent crying, we arrived weary and worn back on our own doorstep. Praise God, all was well. The chickens were busy scratching through the scrubby brush and a rogue hen had even hatched a clutch of a dozen chicks in our absence. The sheep were actively nibbling down the very last bit of green grass, most of the pasture having been turned brown by the late summer heat. Besides the WIFI being down (a mouse had climbed into the power box and chewed the cables, wouldn’t you have guessed) all was in order.
But one never arrives back from travels unchanged.
I know myself well enough to know that it takes time to process such an experience and the various ways in which a few weeks spent eating your way through a foreign country changes ones perspective. For me, in order to process such thoughts and emotions, I have to go to the kitchen.
My mother-in-law took wonderful care of my children and my kitchen in my absence, but I found myself being pulled to the kitchen almost immediately upon my arrival back home – after a shower and some jet-lagged sleep, of course. The morning after our arrival back home, we had to hurry and get the kids off to homeschool coop, I needed to take my mother-in-law and her husband to the airport, and I also (stupidly) had scheduled a dentist appointment. But after all that, I came back home to my kitchen and decided to properly get reacquainted.
First I unloaded the dishwasher, washed up the remnants of breakfast, and wiped off counters. I hung freshly ironed hand towels on the stove and cleaned off the front of the refrigerator.
I stood back and took inventory of how the kitchen felt. It’s hard to have perspective over such a space when you’re so deeply engrossed in it each day. But being away for a few weeks affords one perspective. So I decided to take my liberty on the space before my eyes and heart acclimated. I noticed the espresso machine and how large it felt in such a small space. I also took note of the dish cabinet and how the mismatched, chipped, hodge-dodge plates were stacked in a grossly inconvenient way – the tower of plates looked like it would topple over at any moment. The curtains needed to be washed – late summer seems to be the time when cobwebs begin to appear rapidly.
On the whole, taking it all it, the kitchen felt a bit worn and a bit scruffy on the edges.
So, being severely jet-lagged and disorganized in various other parts of my life, I did what I always do, and decided to “reacquaint” myself with the kitchen by freshening it up for the season.
And my “freshening it up” I mean ripping it apart, moving large pieces of furniture, gathering up boxes of items to donate, scrubbing the floor, and doing a general overhaul of the space. It was messy.
The old thrifted chairs were moved down to our bedroom and they were replaced by a couple of newer versions. The espresso machine was moved out (for the time being). The dish cabinet was swapped out for one that had been living in our dining room. And anything extra was taken out, shifted, or organized to my liking.
I came back from my trip to Sicily ready to cook and now that the kitchen has been tended to, I feel ready to deep dive in. I started with preparing four gallons of homemade fermented hot sauce, sixteen quarts of homemade fermented salsa, and twenty quarts of homemade tomato passata. The garden, obviously, was very busy in my absence.
All of this is work. It is challenging, but it is good. I encouraged my Cooking Community members to challenge themselves this month as well – creating and sharing a recipe for Beef Carpaccio – a dish I enjoyed a few times while in Sicily. While it may challenge you a bit as a homecook, I encourage you to sink your teeth in regardless.
We tend to have the wrong perception about raw meat. We’re comfortable with raw fish (sushi is one of America’s favorite foods!) but aren’t sure how to apply that principle to other forms of meat. Carpaccio is one of the ways to do that. Source only the very best sirloin you can, from a reputable butcher or rancher (this is not the time to hit the bargain bin). The meat should be very fresh, ideally never having been frozen. Steak is safe to eat raw (unlike ground beef) because the entire inside of the steak is an oxygen-free environment. Handle the meat with care, ensuring your hands and utensils are clean, and enjoy. This is an absolute treat.
For the carpaccio
2 pounds beef sirloin steak
For the dressing
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice from ½ lemon
¾ cup olive oil
3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Slice the sirloin steak into very thin slices. Do this by placing your hand flat on the top of the steak and using a very sharp knife to cut the thinnest slice you can along the steak, slicing parallel to the counter. Place the steak slice on a clean work surface and use a meat tenderizer (or heavy kitchen utensil) to pound the meat into a very thin sheet. If there are any traces of cartilage or fat, remove them by simply pulling them out with your fingers or the tip of the knife.
- Salt the beef with a sprinkling of sea salt, place on a clean plate, and set in the refrigerator. Repeat this with the remaining meat, spreading the carpaccio in a single layer on a plate. You can use multiple pieces of the carpaccio to fill the plate – don’t worry about if it’s one piece or not. Small pieces can certainly be placed together to form a serving.
- Once all the carpaccio is salted, spread on plates, and chilling, you can make the dressing. In a high powered blender (or a strong arm with a whisk), combine the egg yolk, dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Turn onto medium speed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a very thin, steady stream. This should take about 3 minutes in total before all of the olive oil is added – blend (or whisk) this entire time. Add in the Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste. Blend once again until the mixture is very well combined and seasoned to your liking.
- Transfer the dressing into a squeeze bottle (an old mustard bottle works great for this). Remove the carpaccio from the refrigerator and drizzle the dressing over top – this can be done with a spoon if you don’t have a squeeze bottle handy.
- Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
Can’t wait to share more delicious pieces of our travels with you.