Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garden to Table

Last week I found a recipe for onion jam, so I made some and after putting away a pint, I used the rest in one of my famous "one pot" recipes. When I first learned to cook the Pirate and I lived in an old 20x20 army tent and our only source of heat (it was winter) as well as our only cooking appliance was a two-burner longbox wood stove, like the one below only in worse shape.

So I learned to cook one-pot meals back then and this has been my favorite method of cooking since then (for one thing it cuts way down on the cleanup!). I thought I'd share this combination I made which turned out really tasty and had the added benefit of using up a bunch of kale from our garden. We're drowning in kale right now. It's pretty easy to do if you grow it - each "cut-and'come-again" plant is quite prolific and it's really easy to plant too much, even for a dedicated italian kale eater like me.

Here's the recipe for the ONION JAM (slightly changed because the original was a bit too fiery, even for us people south of the border).

2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 pounds of red onions,peeled and sliced in slivers (I used 3 biggish ones)
a minimum of 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced (I used 8 large cloves, but we LOVE garlic)
chipotle powder, ancho chile powder, cayenne or Tabasco (or a combination) to taste - or if you're really a heat wuss, use chili powder
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

On lowest heat, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Cover the skillet and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring once or twice. Uncover the skillet and add the spices for heat and the balsamic vinegar.

Stirring often, cook until the vinegar is reduced and the onions are a rich brown, about 10-15 minutes more. You can see from the photo below that there is no liquid left.

Add salt to taste (you won't need much). I recommend putting the jam in a glass canning jar - I filled a pint jar with a little bit left over for the dinner dish below. This jam will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks. Serve it warm or at room temperature, or mixed into a hot dish.

Here's what I made using the jam:

[1] 1/2 to 1.5 cups cooked meat cut into bite-sized pieces (pork, chicken, beef - it doesn't matter what kind). The amount depends on what you have on hand and how many people you'll be feeding.
[2] 1/2 to 1 can of beans (NOT baked beans or chili, just beans - black, red or whatever you have on hand); or if you cook your own beans from dried (as I do), use 1-2 cups of cooked beans
[3] 1/2 to 3/4 cup of onion jam (your call)
[4] as much greens as your skillet can take on top of the other stuff - I estimate this to be about 1 bunch of bought greens.

[1] Put the onion jam, meat and beans in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until they're heated through.
[2] First making sure that the food in the skillet isn't cooking too quickly, wash and chop the greens. It's best if there's still water from washing the greens clinging to the leaves when you put them in the skillet.
[3] Add the greens to the skillet and cover. Cook for 3 minutes, until the greens have wilted. Stir everything in the skillet so the greens are mixed in well and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the greens are fully cooked.

[4] Check for seasoning. Depending on how much heat you put in the onion jam, and how much jam there is in proportion to the rest of the food, you may want to add more heat (whatever type you like best) and/or salt.
[5] I happened to have a couple of hard boiled eggs on hand, so I used those for garnish. You might also use pine nuts or pecans as a garnish. Sorry the photo is so dark, but you get the idea.

As you can tell, I'm not a "by the numbers" person - whether it's cooking, knitting, or most other things. I've given you enough structure to keep from any large imbalances but still find the proportions you like best, and make it easy to adapt the recipe to what you have on hand. That, plus first, start with onions are my two fundamental cooking principles.

As they say here in Mexico, "provecho"!

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