Archive for the ‘Eat More!’ Category

Eat More Ham!

I am a big fan of cured meats and sausages of all types.  That is, good cured meats and sausages of all types.  In my opinion, what comes in a  “Lunchable” is neither meat nor food.  But the rich flavor of a good sausage or ham makes a great flavoring agent for all kinds of dishes even when the meat itself isn’t the star of the dish.

I bought a big bone-in ham about a week ago–“big” as in several pounds, but still the smallest one I could get.  So far, I’ve made four meals with it–one featuring actual steaks sliced off the big hunk, two as soups, and one with eggs.

I carved most of the meat off the bone and then used the bone-with-residual-meat in a split pea soup.  Then, last night, I made a potato, ham, and onion soup.  Tonight was a frittata with onion, sweet red pepper (I still have a few left from the gardens),  loads of chopped garden parsley, and a little diced ham.

But I’ve still got a pretty sizable quantity of ham to use up, and I’m running out of ideas that don’t involve pasta or potatoes.  I do have some home-canned apple-fennel chutney that might be good with ham and brown rice.  Or maybe something with sweet potatoes could be arranged?

It’s not that I’m trying to avoid starches altogether, but it’s just too easy to make a pasta or potato dish every night. Since that’s what my son typically wants, I try to avoid it when he’s not here so we’re not eating it every single day.

Maybe I could do something uber-Better Homes & Gardens or Ladies’ Home Companion and have some sort of pineapple and ham and maybe tomato sauce involved–some sort of 1950s housewife Hawaiian casserole.

It’s always hard for me to pull off those dishes, though, because I want to spice them up in some weird way that doesn’t quite work.  I think those dishes are supposed to be bland, but then when you eat them thirty years later, your adult tastebuds don’t think the bland is really that great anymore.

I guess I’m just fishing for some ideas here–what would you do with a goodly quantity of ham?  Got any recipes or tips?

Produce Insanity

Here’s how it is–I shelled beans last night while watching a movie, but I haven’t quite got the shells out to the compost, so they’re sitting in a big basket by the couch.  There is a bin of peppers and cucumbers and eggplant on the floor, two winter squash sitting on my rack below two boxes of not-quite-ripe tomatoes.

There’s a couple of shallots in a basket, too, and another too-big zucchini sitting on the floor next to two cases of various high-acid (that is, “safe”) canned goods for market. There’s a forty pound bag of yellow onions sitting over near the front door.

Then there’s baskets and boxes and flyers and signs and paper goods in a huge box from our last event, and–you get the picture.  That’s just the living room.

The kitchen is a mass of boxes, too–the pressure canner and tomato strainer boxes, plus more buckets of produce, two big pots of tomato sauce, a bin of more eggplant and cucumbers, and a basket of sweet peppers turning red, plus a few other assorted veggies that were dinged up and should be eaten right away.  Two bowls of shelled beans.

All this, and the yellow beans really need picking in the garden–should have picked them today, but what the heck was I going to do with them?  Tomorrow, maybe, I can get back out there and bring those in for blanching and freezing along with about a bazillion little Red Pear tomatoes that should go in the dehydrator.

Right now I’m pressure canning the smaller pot of tomato sauce along with some yellow squash and okra.  I only ended up with about 4 quarts of it–might’ve had five, but I couldn’t remember if I’d eaten today, so I guessed that meant I hadn’t, and I should eat some of what I was making.

Next is the bigger pot of tomato sauce, which will be dressed up with a whole freakload of eggplant and sweet peppers and probably some more squash to make ratatouille.  That is usually pressure-canned in pints, but I’m just about out of pint jars even though I bought another case of them two days ago.  Quarts it is!

I still have plenty of empty quart jars (maybe three or four cases), but at the rate I’m going, I’m going to have every jar around this place chock-full by the end of another week.

The produce inundation will stop soon–I know it will–and I may even miss it this winter when there’s nary a fresh tomato in sight.  But things will get worse before they get better.  In another week or two we’ll be getting a frost–and where do you think all that produce will go that’s still in the field?

I’d better get those bean shells out to the compost pile…and start eating more veggies.

Fresh Shell Beans

bingo shell beansMy big bean trial this year is doing pole beans for fresh and dry shelling.  I know that dried beans are incredibly cheap in the bulk bins, but it’s very difficult (impossible?) to get fresh shellers here.

The variety I’m growing on two 45′ trellises is an Italian Borlotto type from Territorial Seed Company.  While advertised as a light green pod streaked with red, only about half the pods show the red streaking.  The beans are big and creamy greenish-white when fresh with about 7-9 beans per pod.

I’ve tried growing shell beans before–several years ago I tried doing the Dragon Tongue bush beans, but they got simultaneously flooded and hailed out and were a complete loss.  I don’t grow bush beans anymore, which tends to limit my selection of varieties for shellers pretty dramatically, so this pole Borlotto seemed a great find.

This is my first harvest, and I’ve got a few recipes in mind, but because M is here with his finicky palate, I’ll settle (if you can call it settling) for some Italian sausages and beans in the crockpot with tomato sauce. He probably won’t eat the tomato sauce or the beans, but he will at least eat a sausage.

Then I can make him a few raw carrots for his veggie, and I’ll gorge on my fresh-picked shell beans!

Mushroom Mania

I have spent the entire morning and early afternoon going back and forth from my computer to my kitchen, where the morels still sit in piles and piles that don’t seem to diminish no matter how many batches I wash, saute, dry, even sell. Five pounds went to R-Pizza this afternoon, so watch for that morel pie!

They are sandy, sandy buggers, so I am rinsing in a couple changes of water and spinning them in the salad spinner.  Still I’m finding a bit of grit in the bottom of the saute pan when I sizzle them up in butter and let them render their tasty juices.

Four racks of morels in the dehydrator and another rack on top of the fridge.  I’m thinking of stringing some up and hanging them in festive fungi wreaths all over the house.

Two big yogurt containers of sauteed ones in the freezer so far, and I have a bunch more containers for that preparation when I get a second, or third, or fourth wind. I have to be careful though, as the basement freezer is unplugged, and I can only fit so many tubs in the upstairs fridge.

I made a mushroom-barley soup with one spinner-full of morels–thyme and sage in that plus a little beef stock and a dollop of yogurt.  I’m also thinking of mushrooms in puff pastry, calzones, spanikopita with morels–if you have any good ideas, be sure to let me know!

Four Lovely Lemons (an Eat More! post)

Lovely Lemons

Lovely Lemons

H scored these beauties last night at Raziel’s.  The owner had been in California and brought a bunch back from her friend’s tree.  They are fragrant, thin-skinned, unwaxed–nothing like the gnarly, sour, slightly greenish relatives they sell at the local supermarket.

As of right now, I have no idea what I’m going to do with them.  OK–that’s not true–I have too many ideas of what I could do with them.

I’m imagining slicing a couple of them very thin and preserving them in a light sugar syrup.  I’m imagining some sort of lemon chicken dish.  I’m imagining custard and/or ice cream.  But there are only four, and they’re fresh, so I’d better figure out something within the next day or so.  Something that utilizes not just the pulp, but the thin, tender rind as well.

I’m open for suggestions, readers.  Here in South Dakota, we don’t get a chance at four fresh lemons every day (or almost any day), so I want to make something as special as the occasion.  What would you do with four lovely fresh lemons to capture all their sweet, lemony goodness?

Eat More: Home Canning

I’m thinking “Eat More:” could be a series–starting with the parsnips I posted on the other day….

Now that H. has constructed new shelves in my pantry (well, he did it awhile ago), I decided to bring all the rest of my canning upstairs, see what I have and if it all fits on the shelves, and figure out what we need to eat more of.

Turns out we need to eat more of just about everything–pickles, fruits butters and jellies, tomato sauce, ratatouille, you name it.  We haven’t even cracked one jar of those exploded spiced whole crab apples.  I think I need to have a toast and tea brunch sometime soon just to get through some of the pear butter, spiced peach butter, and crab apple jelly.

That might be a good way to use that goat butter we found at Jones’, too, though I’m not sure how well toast and tea goes with Bloody Marys, which is what I planned on using those quarts of pickled asparagus spears for.  Maybe that’s another brunch, a little closer to spring (but before the new asparagus starts coming up).

I had worried, as I always do, that I wouldn’t have enough tomato sauce canned.  Turned out I had more than a case in the basement plus what I already had in the pantry–I haven’t been using it as much this winter as I usually do what with the big yogurt containers full of tomatoes still in the freezer.

Salsa is plentiful, too, but I canned it in wide-mouth half pints, so those will likely go fast once we start digging into it.  I canned so much salsa in 2007 that we’re still on our last jar from that batch.  Because I use lemon juice instead of vinegar, my salsa doesn’t keep as long in the fridge once it’s opened, but I think the flavor is better and fresher-tasting.

Anyhow, the canning did all fit on the shelves (barely) until I remembered that a friend had dropped off three pints of preserved grapefruit segments and a quart of Asian pears the other day as a belated Christmas gift.  I guess we really do need to start eating more to make room!

Eat More: Parsnips!

It’s winter, so there’s really no excuse for not eating more parsnips.

They’re white, carrot shaped, and they have a sweet flavor with maybe just a hint of celery-like bitterness.  You find them covered in wax in your grocery store, and when you bring them up to the register, the checker asks you what they are.

They’re usually pretty cheap, too, not that that is a must in my book–I’m all about spending all my disposable income on good food even after having canned and frozen and dried everything I grew myself.  And I will most definitely be growing parsnips this year.

Tonight I cut my parnsips into little bite-sized hunks and spread them in a roasting pan.  I dusted them with a blend of spices and herbs to capture that “Tsardust Memories” Penzey’s Spice blend I keep hearing about in different blogs: salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, marjoram.  Then I sprinkled a little brown sugar over my parsnip hunks and drizzled them with melted butter, then tossed and roasted at 350 until they started to caramelize.

Served them with some Bluebird Locker German sausage and local apple sauce plus a good mustard on the side.  The combination of flavors was fantastical–parsnips and apples seem made for each other.