Autumn Beef Stew

Our refrigerator and pantry runneth over, with all sorts of interesting things.  Root vegetables and winter squashes seem to be everywhere, and why not?  It’s certainly the season for them.

I have come to love eating seasonally.  We spent the spring and summer eating ourselves silly with things like asparagus, watermelon, peaches and okra – to the point when they are no longer available, we’re not sorry to see them go.  But that’s okay, because by the time their seasons roll around again, we’ll be anxious for them once more.

Right now we’re awash in apples, winter squashes, carrots, parsnips, beets and potatoes of all varieties.  Most of these will keep for some time if a little thought is put into how they are stored, but there’s certainly no excuse not to fully enjoy them now.  And since the weather has turned chilly and we’ve taken possession of another side of beef, we can and will enjoy them in a hearty beef stew.

Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you; this is a pretty easy recipe.  You start it on the stove, but finish it off on the oven – a necessity the day I made it, since we were in the midst of canning a bushel of green beans.  Other than stirring it occasionally, you can pretty much forget about it for an hour and a half, then add the vegetables and forget about it again for another half hour or so.  It’s just delicious, too – the addition of the apple cider lends the stew a pleasant hint of tart sweetness.

Leave out the new potatoes and it’s Whole30 compliant, but I really liked them in this dish.

Autumn Beef Stew
Autumn Beef Stew
Autumn Beef Stew

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups good quality apple cider
  • 2 cups new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 cups parsnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat the tallow in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Pat the stew meat dry and brown on all sides without crowding, working in batches if necessary. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add the onion to the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Return the beef to the pot and sprinkle with the basil, thyme, salt pepper and tapioca flour. Stir to coat evenly and cook for another minute or two. Slowly stir in the beef stock and apple cider; add the bay leaves.
  5. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the oven. Braise, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  6. Stir in the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and squash. Cover and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 484 calories, 13.9g total fat, 156.6mg cholesterol, 435.6mg sodium, 1700.1mg potassium, 38.7g carbohydrates, 6.1g fiber, 6.9g sugar, 53.8g protein

 

Applesauce

Well, here it is, October already, and we’re all dressed up for Halloween at the Sushi Bar – it’s just so much fun.

The fall harvest is beginning to wind down a bit; we picked up our last CSA share this Saturday.  There’s still an abundance of stuff at the farmer’s market, though, and the cool weather crops are doing just fine.  We now have two large boxes of winter squashes in our basement larder (more about that to come).  We’ve also discovered the most wonderful apple orchard not too far from our other farmers – they make the most incredible apple cider I’ve ever tasted.   While the orchard has has to cancel their “pick your own” days this year because of the drought this summer and a bad hail storm at the beginning of September, they still have plenty of apples (and cider!!) for sale…so we made applesauce.

Lots and lots of applesauce.

Twenty pints, to be exact, which we promptly canned and stuck – yup – in the basement larder.  I’d never made my own applesauce before, and now I’m wondering why; it is just drop-dead easy – especially if you have a food mill.  You don’t need a great big one (unless, of course, you’re planning on making 20 pints of the stuff like some crazy people) – a small mill will work just fine.  Or you can push the applesauce through a fine-mesh sieve, but that’s just a little too labor-intensive for me.

I realize most people aren’t going to want to make 12 tons of applesauce – we canned just over two pecks of apples – so this recipe calls for a mere 3 pounds, which will yield 1 quart of tasty, tasty sauce, especially if you use a variety of apples.  A variety of apples will give the sauce a lovely depth of flavor that is lacking when just one type is used, and if you choose sweet apples, it is quite likely you will not need any added sugar.  Our sauce was made out of Jonathan, Jonagold, Melrose, Holiday and Cortland and not only is it superb, it needed no additional sweetener at all.

Both The G Man and The Young One love it, so there you go.

Note:  There’s no need to peel or core the apples; in fact, you shouldn’t – the peel lends a lot of flavor to the sauce and the core is where all of the pectin is, which helps keep it nice and thick.  It also gives the applesauce a nice, rosy hue, depending on the types of apples used.

Applesauce
Applesauce
Applesauce

Serves: 8 half-cups
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds assorted apples – the sweeter the better
  • 1/2 cup water
Instructions
  1. Remove the stems from the apples, and quarter them – do not peel or core them. Add the apples and water to a large stock pot that is large enough to hold all of the fruit with room to spare, as the apples will expand as they
  2. cook.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle.
  4. Working in batches, push the cooked apples and liquid through a a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the skins and seeds, or process through a food mill (again, discarding the skins and seeds).
  5. Taste; sweeten if needed. Makes 2 pints or 1 quart and can be frozen or processed in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2.2mg sodium, 182.2mg potassium, 23.5g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 17.7g sugar, <1g protein

 

Squash and Crab Bisque

I know it’s still hot in many parts of the country, but here in northeast Ohio autumn has arrived.  Temps have been in the low-to-mid 60s during the day (that’s the mid-to-upper teens for you Celsius folks), and it’s been downright chilly at night.  The leaves are beginning to turn, and the last two days have brought us drab, rainy days.

Yes, it is soup weather.

We made what we call a “squash run” last week – basically, we drove out the farm where we got Pete the Goat and picked up $20 worth of winter squashes.  Since they charge by the squash, not by weight – a helluva deal, really – that’s a lot of squash.  Two boxes worth, in fact.

Among this treasure trove were 3 baby blue hubbard squashes.  Blue hubbard squashes can grow to be quite large – upwards of 20 pounds – but our baby squashes run about 5 pounds each, which is still pretty big, compared to all the butternut, spaghetti, acorn, sweet dumpling and delicatas that are part of our current squash collection.  They have a thick, inedible, greyish-blue outer skin, a brilliant orange, fine-textured flesh and are marvelous for soups.

Combined with a mirepoix of vegetables, homemade chicken stock, coconut milk and crab meat, is makes a seafood bisque that even The Young One will eagerly devour.  Frankly, I know of no higher praise for any dish, much less a soup.

You don’t have to use a hubbard, of course – butternut would work well, as would a pumpkin, though you should keep in mind that pumpkins are not as fine-textured as hubbard or butternut squashes.  Once I’d cleaned and roasted the hubbard, I got about 4 or 5 cups of the flesh for the soup, so if you use a smaller squash you might want to roast 2, or adjust the remaining ingredients accordingly for a smaller batch of bisque.  And if you don’t eat shellfish, this would be equally good with some leftover chicken or turkey.

Fairly low in calories, the bisque is as an excellent source of potassium and vitamin A, as well as a pretty good source of magnesium.  Oh, and the servings are huge.

Squash and Crab Bisque
Squash and Crab Bisque
Squash and Crab Bisque

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 small blue hubbard squash, about 4 or 5 pounds
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 pound crab meat, picked over
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Split the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and stringy material in the center. Pour enough water to cover the bottom into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold both halves of the squash. Place the squash, cut sides down, into the baking dish. Roast until the squash is tender and easily pierced with the tines of a fork, about 45 minutes.
  3. While the squash is roasting, melt the ghee in a large, enameled Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion and celery until the onion is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and chicken stock; reduce the heat slightly. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Once the squash is roasted, allow it to cool slightly and scoop out the flesh into the Dutch oven with the chicken stock and vegetables. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and return to the pot. Or leave the soup in the Dutch oven and, using a stick blender, puree until smooth.
  5. Stir the coconut milk and crab into the soup and return to a medium-low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 363 calories, 15.9g total fat, 88.3mg cholesterol, 578.7mg sodium, 1403.5mg potassium, 36.1g carbohydrates, 1.3g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 24.6g protein

 

Ham Salad

Things are beginning to calm down around here as I become comfortable in my new web hosting home.  I’m still putting things away and rearranging the furniture, but all is well at the Sushi Bar and I’m happy to be getting back down to business.

The business today includes ham.

When we began sourcing whole hogs, we went through 3 a year.  I know that sounds like a lot – it IS a lot, but we were so enamored with being able to pull bacon and sausage and ham steaks out of the freezer, we were eating it for breakfast nearly every damn day.  These days, not so much; breakfast is usually just eggs, and we save the breakfast meats mostly for weekends or when we have breakfast for dinner.  So our piggy consumption has dropped to two hogs a year…which equates to 8 hams.

(Note:  yes, I know there are really only two hams on a hog; one from each side.  Our butchers cut off the ends of each and slice the centers into ham steaks.  Hence, we get four “hams” from each pig.)

Although we love pork, until we began sourcing whole hogs we didn’t eat a lot of ham; it was usually a “special occasion” type of thing.  It wasn’t until we found ourselves with all of these hams in the freezer that we started eating more of it…and I discovered that a smoked ham from a pastured hog was a somewhat different proposition than a ham purchased at the grocery store.

Commercially available hams are injected with a combination of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, water and flavorings. The ham is then cooked to a temperature of 150º F; the combination of the chemical cure and cooking make the hams you buy at the grocery store labeled “water added” and “fully cooked” – all you need to do is heat them up (or not, if you like cold ham; a lot of people do).

The hams from our hogs are processed very differently.  They are cured in a brine of salt and brown sugar (yeah, we’re not real crazy about that, but the sugar makes up a very small portion of the brine and it’s certainly better than all of the chemicals used to cure a commercial ham) and then smoked at a temperature considerably less than a commercial ham – this is known as “cold smoking.”  From what I’ve read, this process essentially cooks the ham, but personally I wouldn’t eat it cold until I’ve cooked it first – for one thing, a ham cured this way is a lot saltier than a commercial ham.  It is also drier than a commercial ham, since they are not injected, so a little more thought needs to go into the preparation.

When we first began cooking these lovely pieces of meat, I’d soak them in water to get rid of some of the salt, roast them slowly in the oven, then glaze them with a combination of the juices given off by the ham and maple syrup – incredibly delicious, but kind of labor intensive.  Recently, though, I’ve begun cooking them in the slow cooker – just place the ham in the crock with a bit of apple juice or cider, set the temperature to low and walk away for 8 or so hours.  The result is a meltingly tender, incredibly flavorful ham that just falls apart when you serve it.

You can’t really slice it, but who cares?  It is damn good.

Since the hams are usually pretty sizable – I often have to cut them into two or three pieces to get them to fit in the slow cooker – we usually have plenty of leftovers, even with the bottomless pit that is The Young One.  Sometimes we just heat it up, but because I am married to a ham salad junkie I’ve found myself making this more and more often.  Which is a good thing; until I met Beloved, I never ate ham salad.  Don’t ask me why, because that I can’t tell you – I guess I just never ate it growing up.  It must not be a “Southern thing.”  After we moved to Ohio, I’d buy it at the deli every so often, but rarely ate it myself because I simply didn’t care for it.

All I can say is I care for it now; when I make it for our lunch, Beloved and I often end up arguing over who gets the last bit – it’s that good.  It’s pretty versatile, too – this version has apples and raisins in it because that’s what I had on hand (it may still be really warm in some parts of the country, but here in Podunk autumn has arrived).  At any rate, I’ve made it before with things like pineapple and cilantro, so you can add just about anything you want to suit your tastes.  Made as written, though, it is just delicious.

Ham Salad
Ham Salad
Ham Salad

Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups finely chopped cooked ham
  • 1 cup [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/index.php/homemade-mayonnaise/” target=”_blank”]mayonnaise[/url]
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Stir together the ham, mayonnaise, celery, onion, apple and raisins in a large bowl until well combined. Taste; season as needed with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve as a salad, with lettuce and tomatoes, or wrapped in romaine leaves.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 406 calories, 31.6g total fat, 86.3mg cholesterol, 694.7mg sodium, 393.4mg potassium, 13.2g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 9.5g sugar, 19.4g protein

 

 

Delicata Squash with Apples and Chili Spices

Arrrrggghhh – it’s the 10th Anniversary of Talk Like a Pirate Day, mateys!

Well, that was fun.

Anyhoo, it’s also Wednesday, which is almost as fun as Talk Like a Pirate Day.  For what it’s worth, I’m closing in on this cookbook thing (I do not know how other bloggers put cookbooks out so quickly – perhaps they give up things like sleeping and bathing?), and have gotten to the point where I’m cooking older recipes and taking new photos of them, because In The Beginning, Jan’s Food Photography Sucked.  Like a bucket of ticks.

One of the dishes I’ve done lately was one originally posted nearly two years ago, when we began our love affair with winter squashes.  Which, coincidentally, have begun to make an appearance in our CSA share and at the farmer’s market; methinks it’s time to visit our squash farmer (and perhaps discuss another goat?).

One of our favorite squashes is delicata, a small oblong-shaped squash with a cream colored, green-striped outer skin and a golden, fine-textured inner flesh. It ranges in size from 5 to 10 inches in length, with an average weight of 1 to 2 pounds, and is considered a “novelty squash.”

We consider it delicious, especially in this dish, which is one of Jolly’s favorites.

Oh, and look – it’s Whole30 compliant, too.  Vegan, even.

Delicata Squash with Apples and Chili Spices
Delicata Squash with Apples and Chili Spices

Delicata Squash with Apples and Chili Spices

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium tart cooking apple, such as Granny Smith,
  • peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil; parboil the squash cubes for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and drop into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cool, drain again and set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not quite smoking. Add the coconut oil and, once melted, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the squash, apple and onion; reduce the heat to medium. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder and cook, stirring frequently, until the squash and apples are fork tender and the onion is soft and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 124 calories, 7.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 487mg sodium, 477.2mg potassium, 16.4g carbohydrates, 2.8g fiber, 6.5g sugar, 1.6g protein