Saturday, November 29, 2008

Leftovers: Ham Salad

In leftover news, since I still don't have the pictures of the actual foods, I have this to offer: ham salad. Like turkey or chicken salad, but with ham.

We had a huge and lovely home-smoked ham, so that's what we started with, and the fact that it got a little dry in the fridge only helped it not be slushy. Chop up said ham and drop it in a food processor. Add mayo or, in this case, miracle whip. Add sweet relish, or, in this case, some dill relish and a few chopped sweet gherkins. Blenderize until it's a nice chunky spread for a sandwich, and eat it as such. You can add lettuce and tomato, maybe some onion if you have it, and I think a nice smoky cheese like gouda might be nice. Best on thick crusty wheat bread, which stands up to bold flavors and thicker consistencies better than white.

Usually, H makes this with regular deli ham, and it's good like that, too, but the smoked-ness of it being made from the leftovers added alot of depth of flavor and a really neat saltiness that's different from the pre-packaged saltiness of deli meats.

If you try this out, lemme know how you do it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coming Soon: Thanksgiving

Can't type. Hands too fat from twelve hours of eating. More later.

Above, clockwise: dressing, waldorf salad, bacony cream corn, home-smoked ham, candied yams, mac and cheese with Long Macaroni, and spinach caserole. Off to the side and not in this picture: brined turkey, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, southern green beans, yeast rolls, seasoned crackers, and four desserts.

EDIT: and deviled eggs, and toasted-walnut-and-creamcheese stuffed celery, and fire-roased chestnuts, and red and white wine, and sweet tea, a relish tray, and the four desserts were chocolate-peanut-butter cake, pumpkin cheesecake, peacan pie and troll pudding.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rice And Protein And Chese

I've been sick all this week, and on top of that, it's my first full week back at work, and I'm kinda busted, so when I got hungry the other night, I made an old stand-by meal: Rice + Protein + Cheese. It really should have a better name then that, but it's so mutable that it'd sound like a dozen different meals. So this one is made with basmati rice cooked in veggie broth for extra flavor and nutrients (and because I sort of wanted soup, but not really), topped with a Black Bean Veggie Burger from Morning Star Farms that I crisped up in the toaster oven and then chopped into bike-sized pieces, then with sharp cheddar cheese and mild salsa. On the side is steamed veggies-- broccoli, mostly, and greenbeans, corn and peas, cooked with some random seasonings and adobo and topped with more chese.

Ta da! A perfect meal for one: about 2/3 cup of rice, one burger, maybe an ounce of cheese and 2/3 cup veggies. And basically healthy. When made with water, it's only about 450 calories-- we ate alot of variations of this when H and I were on a diet two years ago. And the fact that any rice, any protein and any cheese can be combined makes it almost as versatile as pasta.


Roasted Chestnuts!

Yesterday, while shopping for the many small things for the Festival of Starchy Side Dishes (I'm in charge of pie and pudding and canberry and pickles), I came upon these little gems: Sweet Chestnuts! I vaguely remember eating them when I was small and living in the UK, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what they tasted like, nor could I recall having had them in anything but, like, one Godiva fall truffle since I came back oh these many and many a year ago. And, being well under ten the last time I had them, I certainly hadn't made them before. Still, they stayed in my head as something that I should be eating this time of year, and I sort of remembered reading something about a winter fair in Italy (probably in Extra Virgin or maybe it was France and A Year In Provence, but I think it was Italy), and it seemed like a fine harvesty thing to do. So when I saw these at both WinnDixie and Wal-Mart, I was all over them, despite the 6$ a pound price tag.

I started with the Wal-Mart ones to see if I knew what I was doing, and after a quick skitter around the internets, I took ten of them, made little Xs in the flat sides, and dropped them into the big skillet with a little water and a lid. Our lid doesn't really fit the skillet, so instead of shaking them up like JiffyPuff, I got out the old metal cooking spoon and kept them moving. None of them popped, so the lack of the lid was moot, and they were ready around the time as the tea I put on to boil at the same time and brewed while they finished off.

Once they were all black and the Xs had peeled back like the tops of pomegranites, I dumped them out into a clean towel and scrunched them all up with the heel of my hand to crack the shells real good before they could cool and seal themselves in again.

The biggest ones were the ones that cooked the best, coming out soft and meaty and sweet, while the smaller ones (some of which didn't even open up right, even though they were blacker then the rest, so I think it was the nuts and not me to blame), came out harder and denser, but generally still edible. The taste is pretty unique. At first, they taste almost like cooked meat of some sort-- I don't want to say 'like chicken', because it's not really like that, but I can see why they're put with chicken and turkey; the meatyness of them is complimentary to that sort of a flesh-flavor. Anyway, after that first bite, they taste sort of like grill-roased corn, sweet and tasty and nutty the way things that aren't nuts are nutty. And they remind me of cooked hazelnuts, with a similar texture and look. And they're best when they're steaming hot, which is the best sort of food for winter.

I have so many more of these. I'm going to but up all of them and eat them in small handfulls all winter, and I'm going to see if I can get a few of the fresher-looking WinnDixie ones to grow so I can add them to my baby orchard. Dutch Elm Blight be damned!

ps: This whole handling of chestnuts also reminded me of playing Conkers when I was in school, but the ones used for that are the horse chestnuts that can't be eaten, and I always thought that was a shame.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Long time, no blog!

I apologize, my one reader, for forsaking you. I started working again and have cooked a lot less. But I offer you this one consolation: the holiday season is coming, and that means lots and lots of food, and then after that, I start my Year of Eating Seasonally, and that'll be millions of new food choices and recipe tests.

I know for sure that I'll be making Troll Salad and Waldorf Salad for Thanksgiving, and I'll be doing my best to document everyone else's side-dishes and main dishes all through the winter, not to mention what we do with the leftovers. Then I'll be making All Purpose Holiday Cake and Mom's Sugar Cookies for Christmas (and probably also Tollhouse Cookie Variations and Soft Ginger Cookies and Peanutbutter Cookies, if not other classic and decadent cookies. Christmas isn't about Santa anymore; it's about how many small cake-like baked goods I can cram into one week.)

So bear with me, okay?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scarburough Faire Fall Soup

This picture doesn't nearly look as good as it does in the bowl.

So C and I were cooking down the raw pumpkin scraps that were taking up too much space in the fridge to make pie, and realized we didn't have enough ingredients, so we decided to just drain it off and put it away till later. That left us with several cups of pumpkin juice after all the puree was squeezed like so much orange cheese. We were going to toss it, but C said 'I bet this'd make a nice base for soup'-- and buy did it ever!

Here's what we did:
In the soup pot, we sauteed an onion, a miscelaneous shallot and about six cloves of garlic in butter and oil with maybe a teaspoon of sugar and some salt until they carmelized all over the bottom of the pot.

We added one-ish carrot (it's the leftover other half of that giant carrot, that I'd chopped for a previous meal and then didn't need), and two stalks of celery, and sauteed that for a bit to get them softening a little.

In goes the pumpkin juice and an equal amount of chicken stock from the ever-present chicken boiling we do almost weekly.

Then a massive sweet potato, six redskin potatoes, one stalk of broccoli and it's stem, four or five sliced mushrooms, a handful of frozen veggie mix (the kind with greenbeans, limas, peas, corn and a little carrot). Seasoned it with more salt and alot alot alot of pepper, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (hence the name!), and cooked it until the potatoes were soft; every thing else was done just before, and had reached that perfect level of soup-softness.

It thickened up some as the potatoes cooked, and all the spooning broke up the sweet potatoes and thickened it a little more. It came out just a little sweet, a little roasty (I'm assuming from the carmelizing), and the first sip reminded me of a corn chowder but lighter as there's no cream at all. After that, it was a nice balance of salt and sweet and peppery and herbal, and the veggies were all perfect.

This one's definitely a keeper.

Forelle Pears

This right here is a Forelle Pear. In a shopping trip where I managed to only buy one pre-made item-- a bag of cookies-- I came across this little cutie next to the Seckel Pears I was looking for. It looks like a little baby d'Anjou, as you can see. Curious, I looked them up on the interwebs and found this little snippet: "Forelles are a very old variety, and are thought to have originated sometime in the 1600's in northern Saxony, Germany. The name Forelle translates to mean "trout" in the German language. It is believed that the variety earned this name because of the similarity between the pear's brilliant red lenticles and the colors of a Rainbow trout. Forelles were introduced to the United States by German immigrants in the 1800's, and they are now produced in the Northwestern states of Oregon and Washington."

Yay! An old variety! I'm not sure what makes a vintage variety, but this seems old enough to count.

The interwebs don't say anything about a relationship with d'Anjou Pears, but to me, it seemed very similar, but sweeter. The skin has the same texture and the flesh is the same juicy-but-not-drippy. I got about five bites out of it, but I have a small mouth; normal sized people with jaw hinges that function properly will likely get, like, three. There's about four to a pound, as opposed to seven a pound of the Seckels I also bought (though they aren't yet ripe enough to eat). It's tasty, a little floral, sweet, not tangy at all. I think it would be good carmelized.

In fact, I think so strongly that it would be good carmelized that I bought more and have plans to try doing just that, and eating them with plain yogurt. Or maybe in a pear upside-down cake. Mmmm, cake...