Category Archives: Vegetables

Making green hot sauce

A followup to the  post.

Since I got a new blender*, and the peppers were well pickled, I decided to whiz them into hot sauce today.

The pickled peppers, with the brine bags out of the top and any scum and dried salt wiped off the neck of the jar.

I held the peppers in the jar with a fork, and drained the brine off into a cup. It’s not as hot as I was expecting, but it should still be useful in cooking.

The peppers were barely covered by the brine, and it picked up a lot of color and flavor. Yes, those mugs are super-cutesy, but I couldn’t resist. 😉 There are cows and sheep, too. They feel good in my hand.

Not really related, but I had to move this leftover fresh homegrown tomato salsa I made yesterday (with a green chile off the same plant 🙂 ) out of the blender cup before I could use it for this sauce. (The storage lids are very handy.) The color mostly turned out light because I accidentally totally puréed the onion in there, and I had to finely hand-chop some more tomato to add for chunkiness. But it turned out delicious!

Appropriately, it went into a salsa jar. 🙂 And it is pretty hot.

Time to purée!

I wasn’t sure how much vinegar it would need, so I started off with about 1/4 cup/65mL. It took another tablespoon/15 mL or so, judging by repeated taste testing. I used white wine vinegar, because I thought cider might overwhelm the flavor. It did also end up needing a pinch of salt (on top of what it picked up in the brine) and about half a teaspoon/2.5 mL of sugar, to round the flavor out with the green chiles not having developed the ripe hint of sweetness yet. Just that little bit really helped bring out the flavor of the peppers.

Whizzed!

It didn’t look nearly that green in reality, but very yellow. I guess I need more practice in adjusting color levels so that the end result doesn’t just turn out looking weirder, but I didn’t even try with these photos. All of them look much greener than they really were. But, besides the phone camera factor, the lighting in our kitchen is really freaking bad; not only is it all overhead fluorescent, one of the two tubes needs replaced.

I didn’t much like the yellow color, so I added a little bit of totally optional green food coloring.(The only kind we have! I have yet to see one of the boxes with small bottles of different colors here, but for some reason I picked up a bigger bottle of green several years ago, for one use.)

I took the container to natural light to try to get a better view of the actual color after adding a bit of green. It still looks too vibrant, but you can get a little better idea of the consistency after blending.

The texture looked OK, so I went ahead and put it in a jar to heat process. It probably wouldn’t mold or anything, stored in the fridge, with that amount of added vinegar, but better safe than sorry. We don’t have any suitable empty bottles right now, so I just poured it into a jar so we can put it into a bottle later.

I started out putting it in a “closed up tightly right after it dried from the dishwasher” peanut butter jar, but that would have meant using our biggest pot to make sure it was totally covered for the water bath. (And me still without jar tongs…) Plus, it had more headroom than it needed, so I moved it into another jar the same as the salsa one above.

Adjusted so it’s overexposed, still lurid green…

Yes, we can still get glass peanut butter jars** here, with metal lids. I prefer that to plastic, especially for something as fatty as peanut butter, which might get more crud leached into it from the plastic container.

I wasn’t sure how long to give it in the water bath, but I figured 20 minutes at the boil would probably be good. Especially with it starting out room temperature; otherwise, maybe 15. Again, better safe!

Just tighten the lid, and put the jar in a pot of water to bring it up to the boil, then time from then. You’d probably have to turn the burner down some to keep the jar from dancing around as wildly, and keep a kettle of hot water in case you need to top it up to make sure the water level stays over top of the  jar(s). In the interests of safety, here is a more complete description from Virginia Cooperative Extension (based at my old university 🙂 ): Boiling Water Bath Canning – Including Jams, Jellies, and Pickled Products.

Note: They say not to use other than jars with two-piece lids. You may want to follow that, to be safe. As long as I inspect the lids to make sure the seal is good, I don’t worry about reusing pickle, mayonnaise, etc. jars, especially for higher-acid things like pickled items and jams which are less likely to grow really dangerous stuff. (Yes, I am semi-paranoid, and water bath process jams instead of using an open kettle method. I did grow up eating a lot of pickles and jams/jellies done that way, and nobody ever got hurt, but yeah.) If they seal properly as they cool down, it’s OK by my standards. That also goes for reusing some two-part lids, if they’re not bent at the rim from prying off and the seal rubber still looks good. I’ve also never had a jar break while being heated or anything like that. But, it’s your choice.

A while back, I ran across a tip to add a splash of vinegar to the water if it’s hard enough to leave mineral residue on your jars. We have liquid chalk, so it seemed worth a try. And it worked! 🙂 (I grew up on limestone karst, and seriously never saw any water as hard as what comes out of the spigot from the London Chalk basin. And I’m used to seeing spring and well water that will have actual flakes of lime floating around in it when it’s cold. Our toilet tried to grow stalactites around the rim here.)

At this point, about halfway through, I’d usually expect a white scum of lime on top of the water in the pot. The water is that hard. Bad photo with all the steam, but you can at least see that there’s no scum at all.

I still need to get a taller pot than our biggest one, for canning bigger than pint/500mL jars. But, this is a pretty good illustration of one of my points in the  post: you don’t have to do the kind of overwhelmingly big batches at a time that I grew up seeing. You can stick something in a single small jar and use any pot tall enough that the lid is safely covered by an inch/2.5cm or so of water, without it threatening to overflow the pot.

The sauce did a weird separation thing from the boiling. I’m guessing that shaking will take care of that. The color here is particularly weird, though the watery stuff at the bottom really is showing more of the added color.

And, that’s my first try at making a hot sauce. 🙂 Like other pickled items, we’ll probably let it sit for at least a couple of weeks for the flavors to meld and mellow before trying it.

But, with the taste tests while making it, removing most of the seeds and membranes did seem to take the heat down a lot. I was half-expecting super-super-hot results from the little Thai peppers, even so, but it came out milder. Still with a pretty good bite, of course. 😉

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* I’d been wanting a new blender for a while, since the stick blender we were using got some kind of short and started shocking me. 😐 That one went away, but it took a while to remember to get a replacement; I also put it off, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring a blender/food processor combo in to take up space in the cabinets. Not long ago, I was watching some excellent, mostly Punjabi food cooking videos, and was impressed at how well the Magic Bullet blender seemed to be working for him. Pureeing onions, garlic and ginger for a smooth sauce? Very quick and easy-looking. Cooking for two, in a small kitchen, I also liked the idea of its having small blending containers and a small enough footprint that I can just leave the base unit on the counter, instead of wrestling the whole thing in and out of a cabinet every time I want to use it. (Bending down is still a problem for me, with the celiac osteomalacia. If we had other storage space for pots and pans, I wouldn’t even keep them in the bottom cabinets.) It does also have a full-sized blender container, which I haven’t even washed to use yet.

So, I decided to try it, and ordered one (not from JML). After several days’ use, I really like it. The mugs with handles are particularly handy for making icy smoothies–often banana and some ice cubes, with a splash of orange juice–which I had missed with lunch or for a quick snack. (The stick blender wasn’t up to that, either.) We’ll have to see how it holds up. But, so far, I would definitely recommend this model.  I usually avoid “as seen on TV” products, but this one actually seems to be a good one.

** This really didn’t fit in the post at all, but I just had to throw in a shot of the house brand we’ve been getting at LIDL:

Screamingly “American”, all right. 😀 I guess you can’t just call it “McDonald’s” or “Kennedy”, but the weird mashup probably sounds great if you are making “American” food in Germany. It’s not quite as funny as some of the “American” packaging on the Japanese market, but… (Shame I couldn’t track down one post with photos of some of that which had me laughing, a couple of years ago.) At some point, I should probably do a post with some of the “American” stuff  here in the UK. Unlike with the peanut butter, I usually would not have figured that out without all the stars and stripes, I tell you what.

I can’t resist laughing, but it’s really good peanut butter of the 96% actual peanut kind. And cheap. I haven’t actually seen any for sale in the UK which is so heavily bulked out with shortening and sugar as most of the stuff back in the US, which is fine by me. (Other than imported Skippy, etc.)

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Brine pickled green chiles

In the last post, I talked some about pickling in general. Now I’m finally getting around to what I had intended to write about then: putting up a jar of pickled green Thai bird peppers off our heavily producing plant, with a batch of hot sauce in mind.

What you need:

Peppers, a clean jar, a knife, something to put the discarded stem ends and seeds in, some salt, a measuring cup for making the brine, and last but not least: rubber gloves for handling the peppers! I forgot to put the garlic out for this photo, and the cherry tomatoes were just sitting there. 🙂 Salsa making will probably come later, though.

I already mixed up the brine there, using about 2 tablespoons/30 mL of coarse sea salt per US pint/little under 500 mL of water. If you’re using finer salt, you may want to use 1.5 tablespoons for that amount of water, as suggested here. You can use any salt that’s not iodized (things will keep fine with iodized, but it may taste odd), but I like to use sea salt now, for the extra flavor. The brine concentration isn’t that critical, as long as it tastes saltier than something you would want to drink–even if you like salty flavors as much as I do. 😉

Since I’ve been making small batches of pickles, I have just been mixing up the brine in a Pyrex measuring cup, either by microwaving it until it boils or by topping it up from the electric kettle, then stirring to make sure the salt is dissolved. You can heat it in a pan on the stove, if you want to. I’ve also been using filtered water, though ours doesn’t smell or taste strongly of chlorine. (Unlike back home, where the stuff coming out of the spigot smells and tastes like swimming pool water most of the summer, when it’s dry and the rivers are down.) Still, better safe than sorry, to avoid maybe killing off the bacteria we want. Boiling should also help drive off some of the chlorine, though you’d want to let it boil at least 5 minutes.

I haven’t been sterilizing the jars in a pot of water, but just running them through the dishwasher. You can also add some bleach to the load if you like, but the detergent we’ve been using already has plenty of oxidizers in there, judging from the bleachy smell when the machine empties.

While the brine was cooling to lukewarm at hottest, I got the peppers ready. Since it was a nice day, I took them outside to sit on the patio and get a little evening sun.

The first one.

These small peppers are very fiddly to work with, but it’s worth it. Larger ones should be less trouble to deal with. This variety is so hot and thin-walled that, besides cutting the stem end off, I also cored most of the seeds and membrane out with the paring knife. For something like jalapeños, this isn’t really necessary. You will be very, very sorry later if you don’t wear gloves for this!

Don’t worry if you split some of them down the side with the knife, especially since these are going to get blended up for sauce anyway.

A handful down, most of the tray to go!

I just put them into the colander I was planning to rinse them off in. Better to do that after the prep (at least if they don’t have pesticides), rather than try to handle a bunch of slippery wet tiny peppers!

Finally done, and ready to go into the jar after a good rinse.

A few small cloves of garlic in the bottom of the jar, for extra flavor. This is a good way to use up those teensy little ones at the middle of the bulb.
This is just a saved mayonnaise jar. It doesn’t really matter what kind of jar you use for this, as long as it’s clean and has a lid.

Peppers packed into the jar. It’s a little big, but this was the smallest one I had ready.

Brine poured in, with some reserved to double-bag and put in the top to hold the peppers under the brine, and keep air from getting to the top of it. (Mold prevention, in other words.) Make sure the brine is lukewarm at most before you pour it in.

Double-bagging the extra brine in sandwich-sized zipper bags, for extra leak protection. You’ll want to squeeze most of the air out of them. I ended up having to make a little more brine, but that is no problem if you use the same proportions and let it cool down before pouring it in.

The photo of the finished jar seems to have disappeared, but here it is days later, with a cut up yellow sweet pepper added. (The colors should blend well when it’s whizzed into sauce, and that should have a mellower flavor to help balance out the slightly bitter greenness.)

You’ll notice that the brine has gone cloudy, and the peppers are taking on a pickled (or cooked) color. Sediment and cloudiness are what you’re looking for, there’s nothing wrong. 🙂 It will also get a little fizzy, from the lactofermentation.
Please ignore the counter clutter, BTW; that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

It wasn’t on the drip tray right then, but you will want to use some kind of container under it to catch the brine that bubbles out over the top. (Note the wet paper towel underneath…)

If you have another jar of something pickly going, you can use a spoonful of that brine as a starter. This jar definitely got going faster than I was expecting. Here’s the jar of dilly cucumbers I used for a starter with this (there shouldn’t be enough spice/herb flavor in a spoonful to make any difference), on the same day I put the chiles up:

This is in a plastic takeaway container, and you can see a little better how the brine bag approach should work. Also the color difference between what I just added there, and the ones that have been pickling for a little while. As you can tell from the reddish brine color, maybe I went a little overboard with the little dried peppers. 😉 (I have since fished some of them out.)

BTW, that was one thing I wouldn’t have thought of before reading Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: it works perfectly fine to incrementally add things to the jar, just as long as you stay clean about handling it and don’t go poking dirty fingers down in the brine, or something. (Ewww…)

The one I added to the jar that day, actually. The blossom end hung up on the trellis, so it grew curved. My hand looks very, very purple there in contrast to all the green.

We only have three cucumber plants going, and they’re just really starting to produce over the last couple of weeks. It’s been working fine to add cucumbers as they get big enough, periodically topping up some fresh brine if necessary and pouring some out of the baggies to make up for the rising level in the jar. Just as long as they stay covered in brine, it’s cool. You don’t need to fill the whole jar at once, just wait a little longer for the newer additions to pickle.

That jar was actually finished today. (I added one more I spotted on the vine after taking this photo.) I wedged in the last couple of cucumbers so they were well below the top of the brine, fished out any floating spices with a spoon to make sure that wouldn’t mold, wiped the brine off the jar threads with a paper towel, and put the lid on it loosely. I’ll probably let it continue to work for a week or so–still in the drip tray–before tightening down the lid and putting it in the fridge. Then comes the fun of trying to pull out the older ones first, from the bottom of the jar. 😉

Another thing I put together, which I hope to post about soon: some green beans and carrots. But, you can use this basic technique, plus whatever seasonings you like, for pretty much any vegetable or combo of vegetables.

For one: Broccoli and feta pasta with vaguely jerk pork loin

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve kept taking photos, but then been too tired to write things up after cooking. 🙂 If I don’t do it immediately afterward, it just doesn’t get done.

But, Mr. Sweden is on another business trip, and I thought trying to get some food blogging done might encourage me to actually cook something decent before I’m hungry enough that I just have to scrounge for something quickly. That keeps being a problem when there are no other humans here wanting food.

Today I’ll mix it up a bit, and go with the photos under desperately bad kitchen fluorescents, without the separate recipe list.

Tonight’s “what needs used up?” fare hardly warrants posting a recipe, but it did turn out tasty. I had considered making a bit of salad too, but probably couldn’t have held it after eating that plate full.

Earlier this evening, I sprinkled some dry jerk rub on a few pieces of pork loin, and let it sit a few hours in the refrigerator. That is purposely more than I needed for supper, so there would be some left over tomorrow. If I had been using the usual Rajah (yes, very Jamaican-sounding 😉 ), that would have been enough seasoning, but we have some fill-in TRS. The flavor turned out good, but not very strong with the amount used. The TRS is also not nearly as heavy on the allspice notes.

It’s not just meat; every kind of food I have put in those bowls looks weird. Bit of a shame, since I like the color on its own. Mr. Sweden usually ends up eating out of them, because it doesn’t bother him.

Once I was getting hungry, I did a little vegetable prep. First: about half a medium heading broccoli’s worth of purple sprouting broccoli, which needed cleared out to make room for the contents of a new vegbox today. (One of the best food decisions I have ever made, getting someone to bring super-fresh veggies to the door most weeks!)

It’s almost a shame to cook the purple sprouting broccoli, and muddy the colors up.

Because we got some decent-looking cherry tomatoes today, I quartered half a dozen of them too.

After that was done, I put some salted pasta water on, planning just to throw the broccoli in during the last couple of minutes’ cooking time.

While that was heating, I put a couple of cloves of garlic through the press, and mixed in a couple of pinches of smoked sea salt (mostly because it was sitting on the counter), to let it sit a while for extra flavor complexity.

Yes, Sainsbury’s is now putting out store brand versions of the little tubs of flavored Cornish Sea Salt–and Mr. Sweden keeps picking up different flavors. 😉 I assumed it was exactly the same, but the Sainsbury’s Chilli flavor is GF, unlike the name brand we picked up before in an assortment pack. (That was full of breadcrumb filler. Yuck.)

The Kitchen Supervisor supervised from the edge of a drawer I’d left open, whether I wanted him to or not. Good thing he’s so cute. 😉

Please ignore the counter clutter. That’s what I’ve been doing. Mirrors really doesn’t care.

I also took the feta out of the fridge to come up closer to room temperature, before the pasta went in, and crumbled it. That is probably a third of a 250g/about 8 oz. pack–i.e., what was left in the fridge. 😉

Once the water was boiling, I threw in about a third of a 500g bag of gluten-free spaghetti, broken in half so it didn’t break itself into even smaller pieces while cooking. (Don’t like the necessity, but every GF spaghetti I have tried has broken itself to bits if you didn’t break it first.) Penne would have been better for this dish, but we were out.

Time to put the skillet, with a very thin coating of olive oil on the bottom,  over a medium-high flame to pan-broil the meat.

Yay cast iron! This shot is blurry from the sizzling, and I had to wipe oil droplets off the lens. 🙂

When the pasta had two or three minutes left to go by taste-testing, I threw in the chopped broccoli.

After about a minute in there, it was already changing color.

While that was draining in a colander, I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil  (medium-low) for the garlic and spices.

The extent of the seasoning tonight. Looks like almost time to refill both bottles from bigger containers. 🙂 I’d have preferred a pepper blend in here, but black was what we had.

The garlic and spices only need to fry for 30 seconds or a minute. Then I threw in the tomatoes, just long enough to get them heated through and barely starting to soften–maybe a minute?

Looks ready to me.

When that was done, I just dumped the pasta and broccoli into that pan to get it all gently mixed up. Once it was coated in oil, I mixed in the cheese.

Pork chops waiting on a plate. Still nice and juicy; they should only need a couple of minutes on each side to get them well-cooked without drying them out.

Once the pasta is well-mixed, things should be ready to go.  This amount would probably serve two with a salad, but I’m not very good at scaling things down. 🙂

Quick veggie and tofu pasta with miso sauce, for one

Bowl of pasta

There’s a backlog of dishes I’ve been meaning to post here, since the photos finally got transferred off Mr. Sweden’s DSLR. Now, if I can remember what went in them… 😉 I haven’t been online much lately anyway, with my health acting up, but with any luck I’ll be posting more.

Right now, I’m a reluctant omnivore in spite of ethical problems* with pretty much all of the meat that’s readily available here other than wild fish and maybe lamb/mutton, but you can expect more vegetarian dishes to show up here. On the basis that eating fewer meat meals and seeing how my system responds to it is better than an all-or-nothing approach, I’ve been cooking more explicitly veggie stuff lately–especially when I’m on my own, like most lunchtimes and tonight.

This is another of those thrown-together meals for one that turned out better than I was expecting. 🙂 Frozen veggies and pasta were about my speed tonight, being frequent go-to ingredients for a quick meal, soup or otherwise. All fresh would probably be better, but convenience wins out a lot around here! I hadn’t actually intended to post this, but the vegetable colors were pretty enough that I had to grab my camera. And then it was tasty, to boot.

Ingredient note: I used the Mori-Nu firm silken tofu in a Tetra Pak, because that’s what I had. The only local source of fresh tofu I know of is Hoo Hing, which is hard to get to by public transport. (Cycling there? Much easier, before the knotted-up thigh muscles really started ganging up on me.) So, I’ve been using the readily available Mori-Nu stuff in dishes where the refrigerated “cotton” kind would really work better. But, I kind of like the smoother silken mouthfeel, and it just about works as long as you just throw it in at the end to heat up and don’t stir enough to make it disintegrate. An excellent post from Maki at Just Hungry: Looking at tofu.

This would work OK with other vegetables, but again, this is what I had that looked good tonight. 🙂

Ingredients laid out on the counter

Ingredients, on a messy counter. No, you couldn't tell we have an Iceland just up the street, with the number of their brand products showing up. 😉

Quick veggie and tofu pasta with miso sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • About a cup (250mL) of frozen veggies, or whatever is left in the package 😉 — in this case, Iceland Mediterranean Vegetables (“A selection of grilled courgette, onion, cherry tomato, grilled aubergine, grilled red and yellow peppers with a basil and garlic olive oil dressing”#–barely noticeable seasoning, but surprisingly good for frozen zucchini and eggplant.) I set the halved cherry tomatoes aside, so they wouldn’t turn to mush.
  • Small zucchini, cut into little cubes
  • Four or five cherry tomatoes, halved, if not in the frozen veg mix — I wasn’t sure how well the flavor would work with the miso, but the answer was very well indeed! They added a lot of brightness.
  • About 1 Tbsp. gluten free soy sauce (Tiger Tiger Thai shoyu-alike made with jasmine rice, which I was glad our local Sainsbury’s started carrying)
  • Crushed red pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (particularly good with the slight eggplant bitterness)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced, or half a handy frozen cube
  • 1/4 c. (50mL) or so water, depending on how much liquid your veggies release — I sloshed in a little pasta water
  • About 1 Tbsp. miso — I used red
  • A couple of sliced green onions
  • About 4 oz. (125g) tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 of a pound or 500g bag of GF pasta of your choice — Sainsbury’s corn and rice fusilli, in this case

Set a pot of lightly salted pasta water to boil. When it’s about time to throw the pasta in, start the veggies cooking.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet, and steam-fry the veggies with the red pepper and soy sauce until they just start getting translucent. Add the garlic and fry a little longer. Throw in the halved cherry tomatoes.

Steam-fried vegetables in the pan

Time to get saucy!

Add the water, if needed, and the miso and sugar to make a little bit of sauce. Then throw in the cubed tofu and green onion, stir gently, and let it simmer a couple more minutes.

Cubed tofu, crushed garlic, and sliced green onion waiting to go in the pan.

The tofu is getting lonely.

All sauced-up and ready to fold in the pasta.

Fold in the cooked pasta, which should be done at about the same time as the veggies and tofu. Enjoy!

This made two fairly big pasta bowls full, which was about right for me tonight. (Practice makes perfect with estimating these things, I guess–though I still tend to cook too much by default. 🙂 ) If you’re not as hungry and/or are eating it with a salad, this quantity would make lunch for two.

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* More on this, for the curious, from my main blog: Reconsidering some choices and “Wild animals”, ethics, and veg*anism. Back.

Country Pie

A slice of cheesy meat-and-rice pie on a plate

I have no idea why this dish is called “country pie”, but that’s what my mom always called it. And, from a quick search, she wasn’t alone. Since most of the versions I’m running across call for instant rice, I’d guess it’s one of those ubiquitous ’70s casserole recipes.

We got a lot of one-dish meat and rice dishes when I was growing up, since it’s fairly quick and easy–and filling on a tight budget. This is a slight twist, involving a rice mixture cooked in a meat crust.

It’s also a great way of using up leftover rice. The one time I tried jasmine rice in this, it turned into an unpleasant-textured solid lump, so I wouldn’t suggest that. Leftover basmati tends to disintegrate when used like this (including brown basmati). Plain long grain rice or medium/long grain brown rice works pretty well. For this batch, I cooked some converted and wild rice we had lurking in the cupboard; sort of like with a red jambalaya, cooking with a tomato sauce like this is what converted rice is good for. 🙂 It keeps a good texture, and there’s enough seasoning that the rather bland taste doesn’t matter.

For a vegetarian version, I have used various veggie loaf mixtures for the crust; my favorite is a lentil loaf similar to this gluten-free one.  As long as you pre-bake the crust until it starts to brown and let it cool to set up a bit before you add the rice filling, it works really well. You can also make up a double batch of the loaf mixture and refrigerate or freeze half of it for later use, to save time.

Country Pie

Meat crust mixture:

  • 1.5 lb. (700g) ground meat — for this, I used the 400g of lean beef we had, bulked out with half a coffee mug of TVP reconstituted with 3/4 of the same cup full of veggie broth with a slug of GF soy sauce thrown in for extra flavor>
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 – 1/2 a sweet pepper, also chopped fine
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. mixed herbs / Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika (optional, but nice flavor)
  • 1/3 c. (75-100 mL) rolled oats — if you can’t tolerate oats, use about 1/2 c. (125 mL) GF breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • A little water if the mixture is dry when you try to mix the oats in

Basically, you’re making a fairly plain meatloaf mixture.

Chopped veggies, largely because they struck me as pretty. 🙂

The reconstituted TVP, mixed up in the baking dish.

All the crust ingredients in the baking dish

Ready to mix!

Mix it all together, spread it evenly in the dish, and let it sit 20 minutes or so for the oats to rehydrate while you mix up the rice filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Meat mixture spread into a crust in the baking dish

Rice filling

  • 3 c. (750 mL) cooked rice — I cooked a cup (250 mL) of dry for this, with a beef stock cube and some onion (very optional, but nice extra flavor)
  • The other half of the onion, sautéed — That was in the rice here
  • About 1.5- 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) herbed tomato sauce — Spaghetti sauce from a jar is pretty good, but I mixed up my own quick version in a bowl
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • Extra mixed herbs/Italian seasoning if required
  • Extra salt, if your rice wasn’t salted
  • About 1.5 – 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) grated cheese — I used a mix of medium Cheddar and Red Leicester

The bowl of tomato sauce and grated cheese on a plate

Mix the sauce into the rice, with the extra seasonings as required. Then stir in the cheese, and try to get it distributed fairly evenly.

Assembly

Bake the meat crust for about 10 minutes, to make sure it gets thoroughly cooked in the middle.

Prebaked meat crust

Fill it with the rice mixture.

Rice filling is now in the meat crust

Cover the dish and let it bake for 25 minutes (35 if your rice was cold starting out). Then, remove the lid, spread an additional 1.5 c. (350mL) of grated cheese on the top, and bake it uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese starts browning. When it’s done, let it sit and cool for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy with a salad!

Finished casserole

Bacony tomato-stewed green beans

Tomato-stewed green beans, still in the  pot

Photo by Ingvar Mattsson. I was pretty tired after cooking most of the day, so it got served out of the pot!

This is another of the vegetable dishes I made for our slightly reworked Thanksgiving dinner. Between the chaos of cooking a festive dinner and dead batteries in my camera, I didn’t get process shots for any of these dishes.

From Sidney Saylor Farr’s My Appalachia: A Memoir:

The Cherokee Indians cultivated beans long before the European settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Like maize, beans were nutritious and fairly easy to grow, particularly in the rich valley bottomlands in the mountains. For most Appalachian families, green beans, served from the garden, canned, pickled [originally like sauerkraut – GFSC], or dried, became a staple food.

Yep. While the British have their Brussels sprouts as the “quintessential Christmas dinner veg”, we Hillbillies have green beans as the obligatory any large dinner (and a lot of smaller ones) vegetable. 😉 Growing up, I knew a girl whose mother served boiled green beans with every evening meal, every single night, regardless of the other foods! (The daughter’s description of her cooking: “It’s very nutritious, but…”) That’s pretty extreme, but I do love my green beans.

Tagging this post, I was more than a little surprised that I hadn’t posted anything involving green beans yet.

This is a fairly basic (and classic) tomato-stewed dish, a lot like the previous stewed okra, but I decided to jazz it up a little with bacon and a little fresh chile. This provided a pretty nice contrast to the milder-flavored coconut milk “creamed” succotash It would have been a shame not to have served any tomatoes at a “New World”-themed dinner, now wouldn’t it? 🙂

Bacony tomato-stewed green beans

  • 4 slices streaky bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Half a sweet pepper (orange, in this case), chopped
  • A green chile, halved with most seeds and ribs removed, then sliced — I had mildish Jalapeño
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 lb. (400-500g) frozen green beans
  • 14 oz. (400g) can chopped tomatoes
  • About half a tomato can of water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar, to balance the greenness of the beans
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper — the fresh chile was really mild!
  • 3/4-1 tsp. Herbes de Provence (I wanted the rosemary) or Italian seasoning

Fry the bacon crispy in a skillet, and set aside on paper towels. Fry the onion in the same pan over medium-low heat (our bacon was pretty lean, so I added about a tablespoon of fairly neutral sunflower oil) until it’s translucent and starting to brown; add the garlic the last couple of minutes.

Put the chopped sweet pepper and chile in the bottom of a medium-sized pan. (It will float on the top and take longer to cook if you don’t put it under the beans.) Add the fried onion and garlic, then the beans. Pour the tomatoes over the top, and add the seasonings.

With frozen green beans, it’s probably best to bring the pan to a boil and let them thaw out and release some moisture, so you can tell better how much water to add.  You want them just covered in liquid.

Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, checking occasionally to see if there is still enough liquid and poking the vegetables down with a spoon. Frozen green beans will start falling apart and get a weird texture if you cook them much longer than it takes them to get tender. When everything has reached the level of tenderness you want, add the crumbled bacon and let it cook another 5 or 10 minutes. Stir, and enjoy!

You could also use this as a way to jazz up canned green beans, substituting a couple of cans for the frozen. It’s not bad, but I wanted a little fresher green bean taste.

Leftovers are really, really good served over rice or short pasta shapes, even better with a little Parmegiano or Romano on the top. 🙂

Coconut milk “creamed” succotash

A Pyrex dish full of succotash

Photo by Ingvar Mattsson.

This is one of the vegetable dishes I made for our slightly reworked Thanksgiving dinner. I had originally intended to make some pecan (which is a hickory, after all) nut cream for this, but ran out of steam. Coconut milk is not quite the same, but it turned out delicious anyway.

Between the chaos of cooking a festive dinner and dead batteries in my camera, I didn’t get process shots for any of these dishes.

Coconut milk “creamed” succotash

  • 14 oz. (400mL) can coconut milk
  • Red and green chiles, halved with most seeds and ribs removed, then sliced — I had mildish Jalapeño, so used a red one and a green one
  • Half a large colored sweet pepper, chopped into roughly kidney bean sized pieces
  • A largish leek, sliced thinly
  • 3 or 4 green onions, again cut into roughly kidney bean sized pieces
  • 14 oz. (400g) can corn — I actually used a 326g/11.5 oz. one, weird size but enough
  • 14 oz. (400g) can kidney beans
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • Some crushed red pepper, because those Jalapeños were really mild!

This was purposely easy to put together. The coconut milk I used was pretty thin, so I simmered it a while in a deep skillet to reduce it a bit, stirring and scraping the sides down occasionally. When it was about the consistency of light cream, I added the sweet peppers and chile, and let that simmer for about 5 minutes. Then I added the salt, corn, crushed red pepper, and sliced leek, and let it go another 5 minutes or so. When the leek was starting to soften but not falling apart, I threw in the can of kidney beans and green onion.  (I saved the vibrant-colored beans for last, hoping they wouldn’t turn the coconut milk too red that way; otherwise, they’d have gone in with the corn.) Let it simmer and thicken a few minutes longer, and it’s done.

On the whole, I probably should have let the coconut milk thicken a bit more before putting the veggies in, for a thicker sauce. But, it was still delicious.

ETA: The term “succotash” is Anglicized from Narragansett.  Looking into it, the Tsalagi equivalent would be selu asuyi tuya (corn mixed with beans)–also very likely to be cooked with winter squash, becoming iya tuya disuyi selu.

Thanks to WCU’s Cherokee Studies Podcast Blog and 25 Cherokee Recipes for the language lesson. 🙂

Quick GF vaguely Asian pasta with pork and cabbage

A bowl of fusilli tossed with steam-fried veggies and pork, topped with toasted black sesame seeds and nori strips

This is another in the recent series of thrown-together quick meals, which will probably be a continuing trend here. 😉

With what we had on hand, I decided to put together a quick one-dish vaguely Asian pasta meal last week. Normally, I would use longer noodles, but GF fusilli looked like a good texture option to go with the diced cooked pork I wanted to use. It would be good with pretty much any meat or some tofu pieces, but I got a bag of frozen already-cooked pork half-price at our local Iceland. 🙂 I’ve bought it before, and it’s not bad stuff. I put some out on a plate to thaw beforehand.

A bag of frozen diced pork, behind a plate with half the contents set out to thaw

Quick GF vaguely Asian pasta with pork and cabbage

  • 1/2 – 1 lb. (200-500g) meat of your choice, quickly stir-fried (or pre-cooked)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • About a quart/litre of shredded cabbage
  • A couple of julienned carrots
  • A medium onion, halved and sliced
  • A couple of dried shiitake/Chinese black mushrooms (same thing), soaked for about half an hour in hot water, stem side down — or a few fresh mushrooms of some type
  • 1/2 lb. (250g) GF pasta, cooked with a little salt in the water
  • Seasonings: listed below

Shred and slice the veggies, and put the pasta water on. Squeeze out the soaked dried mushrooms, if you’re using them, before slicing them; save the liquid.

Prepared veggies

If you’re starting out with raw meat, cut it into bite-sized strips and let it sit with a little salt and pepper for a few minutes, then stir-fry it in the oil and set it aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if you need to, and steam-fry the cabbage and carrots. Use the mushroom soaking liquid for extra flavor if you’ve got it; if not, water will do.

A pan of cabbage, onion, and carrot, just starting to turn translucent

It's starting to turn translucent, so time to add the seasonings!

When the cabbage and onion start to wilt and turn translucent, add the seasonings and sliced dried mushroom.

  • About a tbsp. each of minced ginger and garlic
  • 3 tbsp. GF soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (optional) — if not, use 1/2 – 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sake, Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce (optional — I had a little in a bottle to use up!)
  • For later: About 2 tsp. sesame oil, and a little chili oil (I used S&B La-Yu, which also has sesame flavor)

Continue to steam-fry for a few minutes, until the veggies are the texture you want them. If you’re using fresh mushroom, add them the last few minutes, while the lid is off to let most of the liquid evaporate. White cabbage is pretty forgiving with cooking time, so it probably won’t go too soft with a couple extra minutes.

The pan of veggies, almost done, with a little liquid still to evaporate off

This needs a little more of the liquid evaporated off, or the GF pasta will get soggy

At this point, add the meat back in to heat through for a couple of minutes. Adjust seasoning, as required.  When the meat and veggies are done, stir in the hot pasta and the sesame and chili oils.

A sprinkle of chopped cilantro would be great to garnish, but I didn’t have any. So, I used some scissored-into-strips toasted nori for flavor and color, along with the toasted black sesame seeds. It turned out really tasty.

Basics: Greens

A bowl of cooked collard greens

Cooked greens are a staple I don’t eat as much as I used to. People just don’t eat nearly as many non-cabbage greens here in the UK, and the selection is somewhat limited compared to what I’m used to seeing in Southwest Virginia. You can easily get spinach in various forms, along with fresh collards, kale, and rape–but not turnip, mustard, or beet greens. (A seller at the local market gave me several bunches of free beet greens along with the beet roots I was buying, since they were just ripping them off and throwing them away! But, I’m usually too shy to ask about that kind of thing.) The only readily available non-spinach canned option is callaloo from Jamaica, and I’ve yet to see any frozen greens besides spinach. I should probably plant me some more mustard and chard!

For this small mess of greens, I bought a 250g bag of  already sliced what appeared to be collards.  It’s more expensive that way, but very convenient–and still pretty cheap. 🙂

A plastic bag of sliced greens

First thing, I gave them a good wash in several changes of water in a pot (or you can use the sink, like for whole leaves). These were not gritty with sandy soil; if yours are, first let them soak in lukewarm water for about 5 minutes to let it loosen and fall off. If you’re starting out with whole leaves, you’ll want to wash them before cutting them up.

A pot of water with sliced greens in there to wash

Remove any unfortunate-looking pieces. This was a nice bag of greens, even though it had been in the fridge for a week!

Discarded pieces, lying on the edge of the sink

Looks like I need to remove yucky-looking limescale from the draining board again

Now, we have to decide how to season them. Growing up, I mostly got fairly plain cooked greens, with a slice of dry sugar-cured “streak meat”/”side meat”, salt, and a little sugar to tone down the greenness. Some fried and crumbled bacon (streaky bacon in the UK) works well too.

A package of thick-sliced dry-cured bacon

Pre-sliced Old Waynesboro brand side meat, from MillRiverStore.com. I think I've actually bought some of that Western North Carolina brand before, not sliced.


Photo source.

That’s not a bad way to eat greens, but I got started adding more flavor when I was vegetarian.

A box of Knorr ham cubes and half a chopped onion
I didn’t have any bacon, so I used a Knorr ham cube. It’s not the same, but it’s not bad.

For this mess of greens, I decided to use half an onion browned in about a tablespoon of sunflower oil, some black and crushed red pepper, some dried garlic for convenience, a Knorr “ham cube”, and a little extra salt. (Since the “ham cube” has a little sweetness, I didn’t use any extra sugar for flavor balancing.) If you’re using bacon, fry a few slices crisp and set it aside, and use the grease to brown the onions. For a vegetarian version, you can substitute insta-veggie broth, or just use more salt. The extra savory note is good, though. If you’re in the US, Wiley’s Greens Seasoning is an easy, pretty tasty (non-vegetarian) option.

The cooking is much less of a hassle than cleaning the greens. Just put them into a pot big enough to hold at least 75% of the raw greens (they will wilt down, a lot), add seasonings and enough water to come about halfway up the raw greens, and bring it to a boil. If you’re using bacon, now’s the time to break it up and add it.

A pot of slightly wilted sliced greens, just after the water went in

I used hot water from the kettle, being impatient and all. 😉

Poke them down into the water with a spoon, to make sure everything gets covered by the boiling water. Turn it down to a simmer, and put the lid on.

They wilt down pretty quickly. This is only a few minutes later.

Stir occasionally while they’re cooking. Add more water if they’re not just barely covered. I don’t like to cook them until they’re starting to fall apart, so I gave these about half an hour instead of, say, the more traditional hour and a half. Taste for seasoning, and enjoy!

Finished!

To jazz up frozen or canned greens, just steam-fry them with the same seasonings used here, and a little more water than usual. It’s not as good as fresh, but awfully convenient sometimes. 🙂

A lot of people like to garnish their greens with chopped raw onion or sliced green onion and a splash of vinegar (usually cider). But, with the extra seasoning added to the pot, I like it as is. Plus, I find the vinegar sharpness unpleasant when I put cornbread in to sop up the pot liquor, or just drink it out of the bowl. Not only is the pot liquor tasty, it’s chock full of water-soluble vitamins.

The long cooking is not really a problem. As Mark F. Sohn put it in Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, and Recipes:

In restaurants all across North America today, many chefs serve undercooked, almost raw vegetables. Yes, the vegetables are bright in color; however, they are also tough to chew, hard to digest, and lacking in flavor. For traditional hill folk, the process is different. They simmer fall greens with country ham, salt pork, or smoked ham hocks for one, two, or three hours. Slow cooking develops the flavor and tenderizes both the meat and greens. The result is a muddy-green, drab olive, almost brown color, and it is full of taste and easy to chew and digest. Slow-cooked greens are an example of simple mountain cooking that requires patience.

Tender-crisp vegetables have their place, but not involving collards or other thick-leafed, full-flavored greens IMO. I really don’t like to cook them until they turn colors that remarkably, but when they’re fully tender it’s easier (and more appealing) to eat larger quantities of the greens. Especially if you don’t throw out the cooking liquid, that more than makes up for any extra heat destruction of vitamins from the longer cooking.

Today’s lunch: Japanese-flavored winter vegetables

Vegetables in the pot

Still steaming hot in the pot, last night

Even though I’m usually at home during the day, I’ve started packing lunches for myself lately, so I remember to eat enough fairly well-balanced food–instead of getting caught up in other things, waiting until I’m starving,  and going to stare into the fridge in hopes that something appealing and ready-to-eat will magically appear in front of my rather glazed eyes. (I get a lot of cheese and oatcakes or Corn Thins that way!) Since my energy requirements are pretty high, if I do that, I also end up ravenous later and raiding the fridge for more energy-dense cheese at 2 a.m., which is especially not great when you have a low-level dairy allergy. 😐

A bento-inspired packed lunch has proven to be an excellent workaround. I’ve been packing something at night, usually for a couple of days at a time, mostly supplementing leftovers to make sure it has a decent balance. (Especially important with multiple special dietary needs; besides gluten-free food, I need to make sure there’s plenty of protein and veggies/fruits but not so much starch, managing my particular strain of Type 2 diabetes. That complicates the usual grab-and-eat options.) I’ve been pulling food out of the fridge while coffee brews in the morning, so it will come back up to room temperature by the time I’m ready to eat something. I could heat it up, but I actually prefer a lot of food at room temperature. 🙂

At any rate, yesterday we didn’t have a lot of suitable leftovers, but I ran across a delicious-looking recipe from Maki at Just Bento: Stewed winter vegetables with kouya dofu (freeze dried tofu).

I had enjoyed a similarly seasoned basic simmered vegetable dish before, usually with just carrots and rutabaga/swede–very simple, and delicious. (But, I’m a fool for the umami anyway.) But, reading this variation reminded me that we had a suitable shortcut bag of stew veg in the freezer, and I decided to make something similar. The veggie mix has carrot, turnip, rutabaga, a bit of celery, and some onion. Normally, I’d prefer to use fresh vegetables–especially with the weird texture of frozen carrot!–but that mix can be very convenient.

For lunch, I supplemented this with a few oniony mini-hamburger patties I diverted from last night’s supper, and a miso-marinated hard-boiled egg (also from Just Bento).

Japanese-flavored winter vegetables

What I ended up using:

  • A knob of ginger, cut into a small julienne
  • About 1/3 of a leek we had lurking in the vegetable drawer (can substitute onion)
  • About a tsp. of sesame oil
  • A third of a kg bag of frozen stew veggies
  • Four or five new potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • A couple of handfuls of shredded collards (or other fresh greens)
  • 3 c. (700mL) water

Sauté the ginger and thinly sliced leek in the sesame oil until you can really start smelling the ginger. Add the water and all the veggies except the potato and greens, and bring it to a boil.

Seasonings: (I pretty much scaled the quantities she suggested, but with less sugar and more salt)

  • Some instant dashi powder (it would be good with chicken or veggie broth, instead)
  • 1.5 tbsp. mirin
  • 1 tbsp. sake
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Optional: A block of kouya dofu, prepared per instructions there and cut into large bite-size pieces (I picked up some before for an easy shelf-stable vegetarian source of protein to throw in Asian dishes), some firm tofu, or chicken

Add these, and let it simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Add the potato and greens, and whatever protein you’re adding (if any), and let it cook another 10 minutes or so until the potatoes are done.  Let it cool down and put the whole pot in the fridge overnight to marinate and let the flavors blend, then scoop veggies out of the liquid and enjoy. 🙂

I will probably save the yummy, vitamin-laden broth for a soup, likely with chicken and some King Soba brown rice noodles from Tesco I’ve fallen in love with. (Now I’m wishing Tesco carried the 100% buckwheat soba, and that King Soba made some of the flavored ones gluten-free!)

The verdict: The frozen root veggie texture was a little intrusive, but the flavoring perked them up a lot. Overall, delicious! And satisfying in a very similar way to the very seasonal, classic Appalachian pork neckbones and ribs dish my mom used to make at least once every fall, with turnips, potatoes, carrots, and maybe parsnips, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, and/or salsify stewed up in the super-rich broth. Only, this doesn’t have annoying little pieces of bone to chomp down on in every bowl. 😉 (Or, for that matter, the nutritional content of a rich bone broth, so it’s a trade-off.)

Now I am very tempted to try making a version of that with the not-so-meaty kind of ribs you can get here, but with similar Japanese seasonings (and fresh veggies!). I think the flavors would work nicely together.

On that note, one I’m also tempted to try with the available ribs: the Filipino Pork Sinigang. It’s hard to go too wrong with green beans, cabbage, and tomatoes!