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Last night, with all the greens cleared away I found a quart of strawberries, 1/2 a quart of raspberries, two pears and an apple hiding in my fridge. They still looked pretty good; but I knew if I didn’t do something with them soon they’d go the way of the rotter (other wise known as the crisper drawer — where vegetables go to rot).
So I made jam. Without pectin (I never have pectin, not even sugar-free pectin around; and this was not exactly a planned event … then again who spontaneously decides to make jam … I mean, other than me).
It took some looking, but I found a good (and simple) recipe online to make Strawberry and Banana jam without pectin. And I set to work.
I rinsed the berries in the sink and set them atop a towel to drip dry.
I peeled, quartered & cored the pears and the apple … and then went looking for bananas.
I found two in the freezer (still in their peels), and two fresh on the kitchen table. I took three (two frozen, one fresh); peeled ’em, and cut them into slices.
I diced the strawberries, apples, and pears into a pretty rough chop.
All of this went into one large pan along with 2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
And then the fun began. I stirred.
Walked away, prepared dinner, coming back from time to time and stirred some more.
You’re making a sticky mess here — so stirring is important. In the end (after 2 hours on the stove top) it never quite made it to temperature. Since I wasn’t ready to can it, I left it on the stove to cool after dinner.
It gelled nicely. I had some for breakfast this morning in fact. Yum.
So tonight I get to can the stuff. Now, were’s my canning rack…
Strawberry, Rasberry, Pear, Apple, and Banana jam
- 4 cups combined Strawberries, Rasberries, Pears and apples, Diced To Preference
- 2 cups Bananas, Mashed To Preference
- 2 cups Sugar
- ¼ cups Lemon Juice
- Dice the fruit so that it is roughly consistent in size. Slice your bananas.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C).
- Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch head space, and seal. Process any unsealed jars in a water bath. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, just refrigerate it.
9PM last night saw me stuffing my food processor with basil and parsley, almonds and garlic. It seemed, even at the time, a rather odd thing to do. But time and tide had led me to it. Fortunately for me pesto is easy to make (once you’ve done all the washing) and the food processor doesn’t actually run that long.
My CSA has been terrific. Each week I get a wonderful selection of vegetables that two people should be able to finish inside 7 days. Except, that hasn’t quite happened. So there I was on Monday, at risk of seeing my basil and salad greens spoil. I washed, I sorted, I plucked, and I spun dry lots and lots of salad greens: dandelion greens, watercress, baby bok-choy (or was that chard…), and argulara, along with bib, red and green lettuce. I sorted the greens from the herbs, chopped some of the lettuce, wrapped the excess in a towel and made a big salad for dinner with the rest.
So far, I’ve gotten sage, dill, parsley, and basil as herbs. The sage and dill that I’ve not yet used, I’ve hung to dry in my laundry room; but the basil and parsley had a completely different fate.
I washed the parsley and basil a second time, spun it dry, and then laid it out on a towel atop a hot cookie sheet (fresh from the oven) to dry. I’ve never had the patience to get my salad completely dry using a salad spinner, but the one time it really counts to have dry greens is when making pesto. So rather than get bored pumping my salad spinner (… that really does sound more entertaining than it ever could be you know…), I lay the greens out to air dry while I have dinner.
I love the taste of pesto. Surprisingly, I use it sparingly and almost never on noodles alone. Instead, I add it to stuffings, coat roasts in the stuff and throw teaspoons liberally into soups and stews. I could eat it on crackers (it would probably make an amazing dip or butter); but I don’t. I never quite think of it that way. Instead I think of it as an ingredient; something to add a depth of flavor to a slow-cooking dish.
I’m not a fan of pine nuts. I don’t know if it’s because of their expense, or the fact that it’s just as easy to get bad pine nuts as good. Walnuts are a good replacement for pine nuts – but I go … hehe… nuts. I’ll use whatever I’ve got: almonds, cashews, pistashio’s … you name it. Each provides its own subtle flavor to the pesto and they all work.
Basil pesto is the most common, but I’m slowly learning that a lot of home cooks supplement their small basil supply with other herbs. In the past, I’ve made pesto from a wide smattering of herbs — depending on what is fresh and abundant at the time. Oregano or rosemary pesto are as yummy to me as the traditional basil. This time around basil and parsley I had aplenty – so that’s what I used.
A note on washing: since these herbs were fresh-picked and clean, I was probably being a bit paranoid to wash them twice in cold water. But with pesto – if there’s grit on the leaves, I’ll taste it. So I wash twice. No matter how clean it looks. Regardless how you wash it, or how many times you wash it–just make sure the leaves have no standing-water on them before you start. My hot-pan and towel trick works pretty well, given an hour or so to let them sit.
So, now I have three-days of fresh-washed salad in the fridge (maybe four if I skimp) and a whole 1/4 litre (jam jar worth) of pesto in my fridge. … I think I’ll cook a roast.
Pesto for the freezer
- 3 cups basil and parsley, picked over, stems plucked and well washed & dried.
- 1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds this time, but pine nuts are traditional and walnuts are good too)
- 1/3 – 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
- 1/4 cup lemon juice.
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced.
- Toast the nuts in a dry pan. Be careful not to let them burn. Shake the pan often to keep them moving. If they start to smoke, or shatter easily when you bite into one — they’re done. About 5 minutes on a hot pan. In my case, I always toast more than I need for the … uh … testing.
- Add the dried herb leaves to your food processor fitted with the mincing blade. Top with the nuts.
- Pulse a few times until everything is well minced.
- Add some of the garlic and pulse again.
- Open the lid, scrape down the sides, and turn the machine back on.
- Add a slow drizzle of olive oil until a thick paste forms.
- Add the lemon juice and pulse a few more times just to mix.
- Scrape everything into a mason jar.
- Cover with a layer of olive oil. Seal and refrigerate.
- The next day, transfer from fridge to freezer.
- Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated peccorino-romano to 1 cup of pesto. Stir well to incorporate.
Tuesdays. The week has just begun, and the chores are only just starting to pile up.
I came home with something new. It was velvety and luscious. A real sauce of a tomato. I set it on the counter and it glowed in the afternoon light. In the fridge, five sausage links were chilling. I took them out and stripped them bare; tossing their casings away, to hang off the garbage bowl haphazardly.
Three shallots were peeled and fell under my knife. I left them in a fine dice. Then did the same with two cloves of garlic.
I pinched the sausage links into bite sized pieces, and the sausage fell apart. The cold meat slowly warmed in my hands as I rounded off each piece between my palms; turning it from turgid strips of meat into soft little balls.
I put my favorite pan on the stove, and gave it a nice glaze of olive oil. I used a sausage ball to spread the oil over the surface of the pan until it glistened. Then I turned up the heat until the olive oil was hot and the pan radiated heat so that I could feel just above the pan’s surface. I nestled each of the sausage balls into the olive oil on the pan; and left them to sizzle.
I flipped my sausage balls and tried to sear each side, or at least get a relatively even coloring on the balls. I then added my shallot, sage, and garlic to the mixture and stirred gently; allowing them to melt into the heat. When the mix was mostly dry, and just starting to get lazy and stick to the pan; I added the new tomato sauce. I had to stir vigorously to convince the shallots and garlic to allow the newcomer access to the pan; but in the end they yielded and melded together like old friends.
I set the timer for 20 mintues.
In a medium pan, I easily brought 4 cups of salted water to a boil. To calm the argument, I whisked in 2 cups of coarse-ground cornmeal. The cornmeal always wants to clump together and not mix, like all good party-goers should. The water, already madly bubbling, calms a bit when the newcomers arrive, but never for long. I kept whisking, and eventually the cornmeal got thick with the water, and the boiling water convinced the cornmeal to get angry and start popping. I reduced the heat and changed from my light-hearted whisk to a solid, flat-bottomed spatula–with which I beat that poor cornmeal until it stopped popping — pulling it up off the bottom of the hot pan and destroying its reason to stay mad. I then covered it and put it back on the reduced heat, repeating the process every time I heard it objectionably pop.
When the timer went off, I popped off the lid to the sausage mixture, and added a can of freshly showered navy beans. They were clean and white, and almost dry. I stirred them in and then added the oregano, and black pepper; tasting as I went.
I took the polenta off the heat entirely and poured it onto a plate. It was putty in my hands. I molded it into a round cake-shape, and left it there to get a grip on itself.
I stirred the sausage mixture one more time and left it to sit on the cold stove for 5 minutes.
Then I cut the polenta into slices, layered them on the plate and added 2 heaping ladle-fulls of Martedi on top.
Dinner was served.
Inspired by FayeFood‘s dinner on a Tuesday. Modified a bit. This makes enough for 2 hungry people and a lunch. The recipe doubles and triples well, so long as you have a big enough pan. Stores for up to a week in the fridge, 6 months in the freezer. Feel free to use your favorite type of beans, and any type of sausage. Seasoning should always be to taste.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 5 sausages, casings removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cups pureed tomatoes
- 1 tin beans, well rinsed (any type of beans will do)
- 2 teaspoon dried sage, or to taste.
- 3 teaspoons dried greek oregano, or to taste.
- black pepper, to taste.
- Add the olive oil to the pan, spread it evenly, and turn on the heat.
- When the pan feels hot about 1/2 an inch above the surface, add the sausages.
- Sear off the sausages in a hot pan. Drain any excess oil.
- Add the garlic, onion, and sage. Stir to incorporate.
- Add a can of pureed tomatoes and deglaze the pan.
- When this has cooked for a good twenty minutes, add the beans, and other seasonings.
- Allow to boil down for another 20 minutes. Serve hot over bread, rice, or polenta.
The simplest of recipes for twice as much polenta as 2 people need. Takes about 20 minutes to make, most of it unattended. Best served with a meal that has a good sauce. Leftovers can be baked (polenta croutons) & topped (polenta pizza), or used below another dish that has a good sauce. Stores for up to 2 days on the counter, a week in the fridge, and in the freezer for 6 month.
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups coarse-grain cornmeal
- Salt, to taste
- Salt the water. It should just barely taste salty, like a kiss on the tongue.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Whisk in the polenta, break up any clumps that form. Keep whisking until the mixture looks evenly spread out through the water.
- Allow to thicken, stirring occasionally to pull it off the bottom and sides. Reduce the heat as you go so that its boiling (popping) doesn’t burn.
- Cook for about 20 minutes.
- If it is always sticking (and you are forever adjusting the heat to get it to stop popping), add 1/2 a cup of water to the mix and pull it off the heat. Stir well to incorporate the water, and keep it covered.
- Pour it onto a plate and shape it into the desired form. Careful – it’s sticky; so use either saran wrap to shape it or a wet spatula.
- Let sit for 10 minutes to come together.
- Slice and serve.
Read part 2 here.
After a rough day at work, and forgetting to take out the hamburger in time for it to thaw, I skipped a night.
The next day I cooked up a batch of All-day boston baked beans and then made up homemade pizza using 1/2 the hamburger meat that I had initially taken out for the previous night’s dinner. When I came home, the beans were still invisible beneath a sheen of water & spices. In the end, I ended up ladeling out the beans into a bowl for storage and throwing out 1/2 the liquid that remained. In retrospect, I probably should have boiled down the liquid and added it to the beans; to create that oh-so-wonderful sauce that always accompanies boston-baked beans. I know I should have cooked the bacon before throwing it in the crock-pot, regardless of what the recipe claims. It would have better brought out the flavour of the bacon in the beans.
So both recipes now reside in my fridge. All I have to do is put the chili together and let it bake for a day in the crock-pot.
Dinner tonight, the homemade pizza, was pretty good. The dough wasn’t quite to my liking; but that could be as much practice as it is the recipe. I shall have to try another recipe for pizza dough next time.
The ingredients for the chili sat in my fridge for the weekend. Each day that I opened my fridge, I saw them. And yet there they remained.
Friday I was running late for work. And that night I went out with a friend.
Saturday, there were more chores to be done than hours in the day.
Sunday, I had guests over — and so had to clean the house before they arrived, and collapsed after they left.
Monday, I had the dentist in the morning, more chores (stuff we didn’t get done on Saturday), and then … I played Mass Effect until past my bedtime.
Today, up on time and didn’t think about the chili until I was going over my menu for the week… and remembered that I’d not made it yet.
So, tonight — I shall make chili.
Maybe I should re-title this set of posts to “It takes me a long time to make chili”.
Strange, but true.
I decided I missed having my chili, even though it is the season of hot-summer weather. I’ve tried several varieties and I enjoy my concoction of beef, sausage, beans and vegetables. Everyone seems to have their own version of chili–mine is affectionately called Protein poisoning chili. Each step in the recipe is a meal for a night. I’ve never tried to make all the ingredients for the chili at once and then make the chili on the same day. Everything in my chili recipe can be bought (bottled or canned), but it never tastes the same when I skimp on all the ingredients. Due to the season (summer), I have to skimp on some (using tinned tomatoes and store bought salsa, for example) if I’m to make the chili in a budget-conscious way.
Over on Salt & Fat this week there’s a post about biscuits. I love home-made biscuits. Corn, yeasted, baking soda, you name ’em – I love ’em. I don’t make them often, and rarely plan it when I do.
These come together very quickly. Sometimes I roll and cut them, other times I just make little balls of dough, placing multiple balls in each cup of a muffin tin. The latter makes the dough easier to pull apart.
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ teaspoon soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ tablespoon shortening, oil, or butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Mix all ingredients together to form a soft dough.
- Roll out on floured pastry board to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut with biscuit cutter.
- Place biscuits on greased baking pan.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
Cooking shouldn’t be hard. Motivation to get started may be lacking (especially when the TV is playing all manner of movies all day long), but cooking should be easy and recipes adaptable.
My recipe for tacos is pretty simple; but best of all — it’s versatile.
Tonight, intending to make enough for lunches, I thought I’d make a batch of beef tacos and a batch of refried been and tomato tacos.
The former is simple: dice your vegetables. Add a drizzle of oil to a hot pan and throw in your spices. Once they become fragrant, add your vegetables. When they’re cooked, remove them from the heat and cook the beef in the same pan. Drain well. Then – add everything back into the pot. When it’s good and hot; remove the mixture and set aside. Add about a cup of beef broth and scrape the pan well. When the mixture is reduced by 1/2, add a pat of butter. If you want it thicker — add about 1/2 a cup of beans and mash them well. Add everything back in and reheat.
For the bean version – just replace the meat with the beans and add a diced tomato (juice and all). Use the pan gravy from the beef mixture (or start over with vegetable stock) and remember to mash the beans well.
Either wrap it in a tortilla or sever it over salad. I like to top it with sour cream and cheese, but anything goes.
It’s too hot to make mexican rice; but I am going to make a lentil, hazelnut and cheese salad for tomorrow’s lunch. That, combined with the re-fried beans and some lettuce will make for a filling meal.
Update: The lentil, hazelnut and cheese salad was amazing; I’m definitely going to have it again. The vegetarian version of the tacos needed to be reheated–which I didn’t want to do. I’ll save the filling for either making chili or a rainy day. Dinner last night (the meat version of the tacos) was really good – but needed more kick than the poblano peppers provided. Fortunately we had salsa on hand to deal with the problem.