Friday, May 29, 2009

Saving the last of the veggies...

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Once again I find myself at the end of the week, rushing to use up all the remnants of my organic veggie basket before my charming organic farmer shows up at my doorstep with my new basket. With every new batch, I promise myself that I will be diligent about using all my vegetables, and find delicious new (or not new, but still delicious) ways to prepare them, after which I will post them here and pat myself on the back.

Some days that is exactly what I do.

Sigh...not this week.

Not last week either, judging from the glum lack of posts here.

I won’t bore you with tales of feeling under-the-weather and mountains-of-work and what such. I’m sure nobody is a stranger to that (and if you are well, lucky you!). As such, I am also sure that there are those of you who likewise fall into that inevitable position of having to make use (or “liquidate” as I like to nerdily refer to it) of the vegetable remainders.

So, instead of letting another silent week pass us by, I decided to share what I sometimes find myself scrambling to do come end of the week (if I haven’t been diligent about using up all my vegetables in new and inventive ways that is).

I usually get half a squash with my basket, and no matter how much I love squash, there is sometimes a straggling portion that remains in the bottom of the crisper by the time the next squash is due. When it’s evident that I am not going to make good use of it, I chop it up, put it on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it until it’s toasty and soft. While it’s roasting I can get on with whatever is keeping me too busy to make a proper squash dish. When it’s done I let it cool then chuck it into a freezer bag, and using my hands, mash the squash through the bag until it is a rough puree. Then I put it to bed in the freezer for some future squash soup!

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Another regular specimen I get in my basket is these lovely white cucumbers. They are crunchy and refreshing...especially in the heat we are experiencing now! Although they are fantastic fresh in salads or on fish, I find myself more often than not pickling them. It’s a great way to extend their shelf life (especially if you are getting another batch soon and need to make room) and it becomes a wonderful condiment that complements anything from grills to sandwiches to fried fish! I have no recipe to share on this count, as I usually just throw in whatever appeals to me at that moment (remember, this is usually done on the fly, when very busy, and there is no choice but to use the cucumbers now!). You can use your favourite pickling solution but in a pinch I just mix some vinegar with salt and sugar (by taste) and add whatever herbs or spices I might have on hand (fresh dill, fennel fronds, shallots, chilis, whole peppercorns, dill seed, coriander seed...whatever strikes my fancy!).


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The cucumbers aren’t the only things that get pickled. Pickling is a terrific way to take something, put it in suspended animation for a while, then resurrect it at some later date when you have caught your breath. For this batch, I’ve also done it to a small piece of ampalaya (bitter melon) and radish. Pickled radish is something I’ve made before, and for this mix I’ve used much the same pickling solution as I did then. Vinegar and sugar, and lots of black pepper (freshly ground and whole). I also added sliced long green chilis, and some Himalayan pink salt. Before adding the ampalaya to the mix I prep it first as I did here to tone down the bitterness.

Now, bear in mind that I’m not referring to pickling produce by bulk for the winter! That does demand time and work (and certain strict measures of sterilization). What I do is make a small pickling solution (as I’ve described above), place some veggies in it, and store in the fridge for short term usage.

Whew! Now I’ve got some veggies effectively tucked away for future use. The crisper is breathing easy and so am I :)

20 comments:

Midge said...

I love the idea of pickling ampalaya; the end result is a fab condiment for roast pork. ^_^

Oh, and Himalayan salt for pickled radishes sounds so good!

Manggy said...

Oh, maybe you've found a way for me to finally be able to tolerate ampalaya! :) I love the preserving kick you're on-- I'm going to be looking forward to the squash soup (it is so hot, though!) :)

zoe said...

I really love pickled cucumbers. The rest of the veggies sounds good too!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh pickled radish, I'd like to try that.
Any roasted squash I'd probably throw in a salad.
Good eats here Joey, thanks for good ideas.

Elyse said...

Mmm, that roasted squash looks absolutely delicious--as do the pickled cucumbers! Yum! What a great way to use up the straggling remnants of the veggie basket. Sorry that you're feeling a bit under weather--and swamped with work! No fun! Hopefully, you start feeling better and getting out from under the piles of work soon!

corrine said...

Really, chichajo, that's hard to be torn between work and lovely vegetables which if not cooked will just wither away. Pickling is a good way to preserve veggies albeit even short term. My kids love squash soup. Does it taste a lot better if you roast the squash first? I usually just saute them in onions, add some water and zap away. :)

Paz said...

Tasty-looking and sounding!

Paz

foodcreate said...

Wonderful meal tasteful condiment for roast pork.
Thanks for sharing your recipe:)

And you can visit me if I can visit you:)

Welcome~
foodcreate

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge! It’s a great way of preserving the ampalaya...and if you prep it to get rid of some of the bitterness it really does make it nice and mellow!

Hi Manggy! I am not a fan of ampalaya either but having them in my veggie basket (and having a husband that loves it!) is pushing me to figure out ways to use it :) If you follow the steps in my ampalaya with egg post on getting rid of some of the bitterness, that plus the pickling really mellows it out! I was going to agree with you about the heat when suddenly there as a downpour! Strange weather...rainy season cometh!

Hi Zoe! I used to hate pickles until I started making my own :) Now I really like them...still don’t like the ones from the supermarket though...

Hi Tanna! Thanks for the tip as well – will definitely try my roasted squash in a salad next time...although by the time I do this my salad greens are long gone!

Hi Elyse! Thank you! Hanging in here! :)

Hi Corrine! Hehe :) I hear ya! I like the way the soup tastes when I roast the squash first...sometime I roast onions and garlic with the squash and use those in the soup as well. You can try it with other vegetables too – roast in the oven first before turning into soup – like tomato, capsicum, eggplants, zucchini...roast veggie soup, yum!

Thanks Paz!

Hi Foodcreate...will check it out :)

carina said...

My Lola usually makes minatamis na kalabasa. She would slice the squash very thinly, then dry it under the sun. afterwards, she will make a simple syrup and cook the squash. it is actually really good!

Marvin said...

Pickled ampalaya! I'm trying to wrap my mind around how that might taste, but I'll try it myself to see;) Except I'll keep as much bitterness as I can as I love ampalaya.

Dhanggit said...

oh your pickled veggies remind me of my dad's fave!! they are perfect with anything grilled!! hope you will save some for me hehehe

ChichaJo said...

Hi Carina! That does sound good and I’m sure I would love it because I like a similar preparation for kamote :)

Hi Marvin! It’s good! I like it and I don’t even like ampalaya...you are lucky to love it – it’s so healthy!

Hi Dhanggit! Super perfect with grills – especially grilled liempo :) Ack! It’s actually all finished already...my husband also loves it apparently :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I just adore your description of pickling as a "terrific way to take something, put it in suspended animation for a while, then resurrect it at some later date when you have caught your breath." We can all relate, yet you said it so eloquently.

Watergirl said...

I saw these rather rotund ampalaya in a chinese market recently, it wasn't all green, wore a blush of orange in spots. I wonder if it will be less bitter than our all green gourds.

Merry said...

What are white cucumbers??? do they have a white peel as well as being white on the inside?
I never thought of roasting then freezing my sad veggie excess.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Susan! Thank you :) That’s really how it felt like to me!

Hi M! Interesting! Can’t wait to see you and make kwento :)

Hi Merry! The peel is white to a very light green...very pretty :)

betty q. said...

I just love pickled ampalaya. Since mangoes are in abundance there, try adding julienned not so ripe mangoes so it is still quite firm...julienned sweet peppers (red and yellow) and lots ofjulienned ginger...the mangoes cuts the bitterness too of the ampalaya.

Marvin: it is mango season where you are. Add the mangoes,,Ataulfo variety..holds its shape even when ripe.

This pickled ampalaya with julienned Mexican mangoes (Ataulfo)is really addicting!

betty q. said...

I just love pickled ampalaya. Since mangoes are in abundance there, try adding julienned not so ripe mangoes so it is still quite firm...julienned sweet peppers (red and yellow) and lots ofjulienned ginger...the mangoes cuts the bitterness too of the ampalaya.

Marvin: it is mango season where you are. Add the mangoes,,Ataulfo variety..holds its shape even when ripe.

This pickled ampalaya with julienned Mexican mangoes (Ataulfo)is really addicting!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Betty Q! Thanks for the mango tip! I will definitely try adding them in next time...sounds perfect!