freezer frolics: ajvar 14 and QUINCE (crossed out cranberry) chutney

IMG_8984I’m starting a new fad.  Since almost everything I eat at home is local, it’s kind of silly to belabor the point.  So I’m now celebrating the joy of eating frozen food, liberated from my chest freezer and made more available in my regular freezer.

Breakfast was delicious and 100% frozen: kibbeh meatballs with mint, a slice of rye bread, and red hot Ajvar 14 sauce.

Lunch? Thanks for asking.  75% frozen.  Green chile tamales with the rest of my refrigerated QUINCE (as I yelled on the lid, crossing out the former denotation of ‘cranberry’) chutney.  Good.  I HAVE ANOTHER JAR IN THE FREEZER!!!

(The photos will also be frozen leftovers from the vault: this one isn’t too old, but appropriately chickens in the commercial freezer facility at Fair Valley Farm.)

 

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separate two eggs: weight loss and mise en place

Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.
Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.

I’m prepping to receive about 100 lbs. of the tastiest, juiciest, pasture-fed, local beef, so I’m desperately trying to eat down my standing freezer.  This is a bit harder as one person than two, especially one who has been battling appetite slumps and anxiety cooking jags and antisocial moods and dining out hopes and growing terror about a headlong dive into poverty.

I’m finding little gems squirreled away in corners, now that I’ve freed the chicken carcasses, the oxtail bones, and the half pig head, trotter, and jowl from their frozen prisons to make stock.  I bring you the cornucopia of my life, most of it put up in the last year:

  • two fine pieces of lasagna;
  • 4 cups of sour cherries;
  • a quart bag of home-cured posole;
  • 4 cups of ajvar;
  • 3 gallon bags stuffed full of, respectively, boysenberries, haskapberries, and cranberries;
  • 1 gallon or so of tomato paste, portioned into 2 tablespoon-sized cubes;
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini;
  • 4 cups of sauerkraut golabki, pink; consumed;
  • bag o’ pancakes (pancakes?);
  • 2 cups b’steeya filling;
  • bolete pierogi (yum);
  • 2 half-pints duck rillettes;
  • 8 or 10 pieces of injera;
  • local polenta;
  • 2 quarts corn;
  • 1 cup wild mushroom duxelles;
  • 1 quart raisins (to go with the two more gallons raisins on my shelf and other freezer);
  • 2 gallons grapes to make more damn raisins;
  • 8 cups roasted sweetmeat squash;
  • a big package of forgotten homemade sausages (yay!);
  • pancetta;
  • 1 pint pork/raisin/almond tamale filling;
  • pork skin;
  • a bag of chicken feet;
  • and the meats and stocks one might expect.

I’m not even down into the bowels of the freezer yet. Or addressing the daily-use freezer full of readymades in the house.  If I were a civilization, what would this archaeological dig say about me, other than I’ve an embarrassment of riches?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

nacho average salsa: red pepper purée with corn!

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These are some gradin’ nachos.  I’m fortunate since I didn’t have many final projects to grade this term, but the nachos made it easier.  Although I still have a few jars of homemade salsa in the pantry, I thought I’d try something new.  Everyone and their brother is trying to get rid of frozen corn, right?  I noticed I had a drooping bunch of cilantro and a red onion, so thought I’d throw together a salsa. Winter tomatoes didn’t exactly appeal, hm…

And then, inspiration struck.

When I was an undergraduate in Berkeley, I’d almost exclusively shop at the old Berkeley Bowl, showing up on an odd weekday or first thing in the morning on a weekend to avoid some of the foot traffic.  One of the only prepared items I’d buy was a delicious, bright red, zingy corn salsa made by a local company that also (if I remember correctly) made tamales.  They’d sample the salsas on a little table on the weekends.  I’d buy a pint and a bag of corn chips, then rush home and devour half the container for lunch.

It was that good.

So as I was mulling over my corn salsa possibilities, the remembrance of times past filled me with the holy recipe ghost, and it occurred to me that my decades of experimentation to recreate this salsa were misguided.  I had never been able to capture the texture and slightly bitter flavor of the red pepper purée.

But lo!  I had a jar of ajvar in the ‘fridge, and my long struggles were over.

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This summer, I’m planning to make my own ajvar, but until then, I use the stuff in a jar, available at any Middle Eastern grocery store and many plain ol’ American ones, too.  In Orange County, I could buy it at the Safeway, but I’m not so sure about Eugene.  They’d probably have it at Market of Choice.  It’s bright red and fortified with vegetables, such as carrots and onions and eggplants.  The eggplants are the key: they lend the smoky bitterness to the spread that I had been missing when I tried to recreate the corn salsa from Berkeley Bowl.

Did the original recipe use ajvar?  Hard to tell, but it sure tastes like it.  In any case, the salsa is easy, pretty, and vegetable-y.  More importantly, it uses up your freezer corn.  Enjoy.

Red and Yellow Winter Salsa

  • 2 c. frozen corn, unthawed
  • 1/2 c. ajvar red pepper spread, either hot or mild
  • 2 T. minced red onion
  • good squeeze of fresh lime
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional but recommended)
  • chopped fresh jalapeño (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and let sit in the refrigerator until corn defrosts and the corny juice blends with the flavors in the salsa.  Serves as an all-in-one nacho topping, quesadilla insert, or taco fiesta.

stir-fried corn: think globally, freeze locally

I have a lip-smackin’, corn-fed, wintery recipe from Fushcia Dunlop’s Sichuan cooking masterpiece, Land of Plenty.  Or at least I think it is in the cookbook, since I have the British version and feel I need to qualify in case it isn’t in there :).  The reason I particularly like this recipe?  It’s a way to get rid of the corn that’s clogging up your freezer right now.  Ah, corn, I adored you so much in August, back when you and I were young, running on the beach, sharing an ice cream by the boardwalk…  Summer lovin’, had me a bla-hast…

dscf3906Focus.

Now is the winter of our dissertacontent, and it’s hard enough to find a decent vegetable in the take-out joints in this town.  Luckily, we have freezer corn!  For those of you who endured the wormy corn season last year and assiduously put up bags and bags of Bodacious, this recipe is perfect.

So get on with it, already!

Corn makes a simple, authentic Sichuan stirfry.  Dunlop reports that it is served at homes and in humble restaurants at the height of the season.  Of course, it would be brilliant with fresh corn in the middle of the summer, when your peppers are at their juicy best, but it’s not at all bad in winter with frozen corn, especially the local stuff you’ve put up yourself.  As you might imagine, the dish goes well with any meat, not just as part of a Chinese meal.  Each time I make it, I’m tempted to add some Sichuan peppercorns or red pepper flakes to the mix, but it really is perfect as is.

About the peppers.

If you’re living locally, you could freeze home-grown thin-skinned peppers whole and dice them for this recipe.  I do this with some of the Hungarian paprika peppers and pasilla peppers I grow — roast ’em and freeze them with the blackened skins on.  It’s important, when using frozen peppers, to keep in mind that the texture and color won’t hold up when they are thawed.  Therefore, using a tiny dice and having pepper bits for flavor and color is key.  For this recipe, instead, I used the small, elongated Korean peppers available in Asian groceries. See the stuff that looks like okra in the picture?  Only one in 10 is hot (beware!), so taste first if you’re sensitive.   I find these peppers have a great flavor, much better than bell peppers, which are so overrated.  You might also decide to throw in a diced jalapeño or two.  Preserved roasted red peppers would also do in a pinch, now that I think of it.

Dunlop says to dice the pepper so the pieces are corn-sized, and if you are using fresh corn, don’t blanch the ears first, so the corn remains crunchy and juicy.

Three Pepper Corn Stir-fry

adapted from Fuschia Dunlop’s recipe

Serves 2-4 depending on other dishes.

  • 2 cups fresh-frozen corn*
  • 1 T. corn or peanut oil
  • 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 green pepper, preferably a thin-skinned variety (see note above), diced finely
  • lots of salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 T. oil in wok.  When hot and shimmery, fry the peppers until little spots of char appear.  Immediately add the corn, and fry until golden brown spots appear.  Season with copious amounts of salt and freshly ground pepper, more than you think you might need.

That’s it!  Simple, no?

eating down the freezer

In our effort to eat more locally and sustainably and healthily, my husband and I have decided to buy better meat and less of it. We started eating down our freezer, getting rid of the cheap cuts of meat and other processed frozen stuff. I have been freezing soups and chicken stock and baked goods and fresh fruits and veggies for years now, and about half of the small freezer (alas, we don’t have a chest freezer) is devoted to homemade stuff, but there’s also too much crap in there. He loves the fake meat vegan products, so we have (literally) a dozen nibbled packages of fake bacon, fake sausage, fake dscf6163.jpgIndian burgers, fake Mexican burgers, fake chicken strips, fake breakfast patties, etc., etc. I’d really like it if these things went away, too, but we’ll have to make some compromises.

My freezer is also the story of the year. I have little containers of berry puree tucked in here and there from my liqueur and jam-making. I managed to get one precious quart of the terribly sparse sour cherry crop last year, and made brandied cherries and cherry bounce (cherries in vodka) last June, and still have enough for Hungarian sour cherry soup come spring. I also have frozen sweet corn to finish up from August, and my melange of roasted late summer veggies — cherry tomatoes, garlic, red peppers and red onions — to use as a pasta sauce or on flatbreads. There are pesto cubes, too, pretty little things that can be dropped into soup. And soupbones and packages of fried ground pork to add to braised Japanese pumpkin and hot tofu dishes. I have frozen streusel topping and cookie dough and still quite a few tamales leftover from my annual New Year tamale project.

In short, we’ve got a few months’ good eats ahead, at least, before everything begins again with my garden and the wonderful local products we get all spring and summer long at the Saturday Market.