Friday, May 29, 2009
Saving the last of the veggies...
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!
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!).
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 :)