Friday, March 13, 2009


The Sausage and Vegetables recipe in the Rutabaga post is rapidly turning into one of my favorites. It is actually a Stovie, a Scottish dish resembling a casserole, but cooked on the stovetop. Stovies come in all kinds of flavors, but usually involve leftover meat and potatoes. From there on, the sky's the limit!

Making a Stovie

Choose some form of meat. Possibilities include:

  • Leftover roast beef, pork or lamb, cut into smallish pieces
  • Leftover roast poultry
  • Thick-sliced or chunk bacon, cut into pieces
  • Uncooked mild-flavored link sausage
  • NOT hamburger or ground meat; that would change the dish totally

Some form of appropriate cooking fat, a tablespoon or two. Consider:

  • olive oil, always a favorite
  • bacon fat or drippings (traditional Scottish), especially those from the roast you are using for the meat
  • chicken fat (if it's roast chicken you are using)
  • home-rendered lard, if you have it (commercial lard is nasty)
  • butter, especially with chicken

Onion--a necessity. Peel and chop.

Root vegetables. Your choice of:

  • Potatoes--traditional. Almost all stovies have potatoes; some have only potatoes. If you're Irish, you want "floury" potatoes. I've been using fingerlings. Some people like baking types, some people like boiling types. Wash, then peel or not as you see fit. Cut into chunks. Don't use already-cooked potatoes for this dish.
  • Rutabagas. Peel and cut into chunks.
  • Carrots. Peel and cut into chunks. Use less carrot than the other roots, so its sweet flavor does not overpower the dish.
  • Turnips, celery root, parsnips (a light hand on the parsnips), if you have them. Don't use beets because it'll turn a strange color of pink.

Herbs and spices. You don't want strong flavors here, which would overwhelm the flavor of the meat and roots. Some ideas:

  • dried or fresh parsley, a good handful.
  • other dried or fresh herbs, with a light hand.
  • ground allspice
  • garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, with a light hand.
  • ground cumin or coriander
  • nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste.

A little broth or water.

Here you have a good deal of latitude. More meat? Less meat? Use about one onion per 1/2 lb of meat, and amounts of vegetables to suit yourself and what you have on hand.

Putting It Together
Peel and chop your onions. Wash, (peel), and chop your vegetables. Have the meat of your choice ready. Cut link sausages in half, cut bacon into chunks, cut leftover meats into pieces.

If you are using bacon, fry the bacon lightly to let it release some fat. Otherwise heat the oil or drippings. Stir in the onions and saute for about 5 minutes. If you are using sausage, add it now and stir for another 5 minutes. Then add the vegetables, stir a few minutes. Add the herbs, spices, salt and pepper and a little broth or water, appropriate to the amount of other ingredients. At least 1/2 cup liquid. You don't want to continue to fry the ingredients, but you aren't making stew either. After adding the water, stir in any leftover meats that you are using.

Cover the pan, let it simmer on the stove 20-30 minutes, until roots are tender. Voila!

My Favorite Stovie
This makes a generous one-dish serving for one, or enough for two people with some other dishes on the table.

1 tbs CA olive oil
1 medium CSA onion, peeled and diced
6 oz local pork sausage, raw, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 lb CO fingerling potatoes, cut in slices
1/4-1/2 lb CSA rutabaga, peeled and cut in chunks
1/4 lb CSA carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbs dried CO parsley
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt, some grinds of pepper

Saute the onion in the oil for a few minutes, then brown the sausages lightly. Stir in the vegetables and spices, add 1/2 cup water, cover and simmer 25 minutes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Late Winter Update

We're into March now, into the "hungry time" of the old days, when the winter stores are getting low and the new spring growth isn't out yet.

It's been very enjoyable to have a nice stock of fruits and vegetables put up from last summer and fall. So far we haven't run out of anything, but there are some things I just haven't used, or used fast enough. Here's a run-down of our stores:

1. Tomato sauce, juice, stewed tomatoes. We have really been enjoying the home-canned tomato sauce I made in large quantities last year. The flavor is superlative. I put a little tomato sauce into a pan, add a little olive oil and Italian herbs, and simmer it for 10 minutes to thicken up a bit, as pizza sauce. I also take a pint jar of tomato sauce, add bits of sausage or ground beef, herbs, and olive oil, and serve over pasta, GF pasta, or spaghetti squash. We may have enough to last until next summer's tomato season.

2. Nectarines. Still just to die for, the nectarines canned in a light honey syrup. This is a special treat for us, which we have about once a week for dessert. I put up over 40 jars, and the supply is holding out well. It might make it until the next harvest.

3. Frozen snap peas. I haven't served these much; they turned out a little mushy even when frozen in vacuum-sealed bags. But they're tasting better and better to me, as it's been many months since we had fresh.

4. Frozen green beans. Again, somewhat mushy. DH wants me to make more lactofermented green beans next year, and less frozen.

5. Fresh apples. Stored in our garage, the November Winesaps from the Western slope. I bought a whole case, which was packed in dimpled trays to keep the apples from touching each other. They are still holding out marvelously. One has rotted, out of a box of 40 lbs. We're still enjoying them tremendously. Fruit makes up our dessert for all but holiday meals. We have about 15 pounds left. The Winesaps are tremendous keepers. The Macintoshes that I had earlier, with their delicate skins, become wrinkled quickly.

6. Bread and butter pickles. I made 7 pints (water-bath canned), and have opened up and used one. They're OK, but just don't taste as good as my mother's bread and butter pickles did when I was a child.

7. Fresh pumpkins. Yes, I still have three pumpkins from my CSA awaiting me. It's amazing that they have kept this well. I need to get busy and not tempt fate. We have been enjoying the spicy pumpkin soup I posted in a previous article; we've had some pumpkin pies over the holidays; and I've used chunks in stews and chili. We've really enjoyed the toasted seeds too.

8. Frozen pesto. Somehow, I just haven't remembered to use the pesto. I have a number of small jars in the freezer; it's just a matter of getting them out. Pesto is good on pizza in place of tomato sauce, it's good on roasted or braised chicken, it's good on boiled potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.

9. Spaghetti squash. Finally got busy and cooked the spaghetti squash. The seeds are good toasted, like pumpkin seeds. You really can have it under pasta sauce, and hardly notice the difference. Spaghetti squash keeps amazingly well, often well into March, with their hard shells.

10. Onions and potatoes. Although I've been using them and enjoying them, I haven't been able to keep up with the supply of potatoes from our CSA. The potatoes have figured out spring is well on the way, and are all sprouting. BTW, you can use sprouted potatoes, as long as they are not green. Green potatoes should just be tossed, as they are somewhat poisonous. Our onions are holding out fine in the garage (which is cold but never freezes). I store onions and potatoes (separately) in paper bags on the ledge by the stairs into the garage, with the top of the bag folded over to prevent light from getting in. Onions and potatoes should not be kept in the same bag, as they do not get along and cause each other to spoil faster.

11. Lactofermented veggies. I outdid myself with lactofermentation last summer and fall. We've been through 5 jars of cucumber pickles (DH really loves them), 2 1/2 jars of green beans, one jar of tomato salsa, half a jar of sauerkraut, and half a jar of vegetable medley (tomatoes, onions, green pepper, ruby chard stems, cabbage, and dandelion greens). I haven't yet tried the bok choy kim chee or the collards, and we have one jar of cucumbers and one of salsa left. I also get lactofermented veggies from the CSA, including carrot and Napa, and delicious daikon and Napa kim chee, so we're not running out.

12. Dried vegetables: zucchini, green beans, green peppers. I've used the green peppers from time to time, though there are still some left. I don't seem to get into green beans and zucchini.

13. Dried herbs: parsley, thyme, marjoram, oregano. I've been using the parsley, though I still have plenty after making a miscalculation in ordering for the food coop which meant I bought and dried 15 bunches for home use. It doesn't really take that large a quantity of dried herbs to have enough for daily cooking.

14. Frozen broccoli: I froze extra from our CSA share, and we've used it all up. It turned out very nice.

15. Dried apples: not really using, since we still have fresh ones to eat. But when the fresh are gone, we'll enjoy them.

16. Canned plums and spiced peaches. These are both fine; I canned a smaller quantity of them than the nectarines, but I'm sure we'll use and enjoy them.

17. Carrots from our CSA. Carrots keep a really long time in the frig. Our CSA was bursting with carrots for the winter share. I put them into salads or soups, pureed with parsnips or turnips, or just peeled and cut for fresh eating. They're part of nearly every day's food. I have a multitude of carrot recipes waiting for some time and initiative on my part, too.

18. Dried plums, prunes, apricots and peaches. I bought Colorado plums (Santa Rosa variety), prune plums and apricots from the coop. We have Siberian peaches in the yard which had a nice crop last year. I dried all of these; the fruit dryer was busy seven days a week last August and September. I've been using them as snacks, but we still have plenty left. I dried them very carefully this year, picking through the partially dried trays to pull out the ones that were dry enough, continuing to dry the others. This means that the early ones were not OVERdried, hard and flavorless. It's a bit more work but the quality of the product is much better.

I put the dried fruit in quart jars this year, so if any got moldy I wouldn't lose a whole half-gallon jar of them (which is just TOO depressing). So far they have been holding out fine, and will probably make it through to the table.

If I made more desserts, we'd use more of the dried fruits. But both of us are watching our weight, and we don't need the carbohydrate-rich calories of sweet desserts. Dried fruit is sweet enough for me.

19. Staple legumes. I've started serving legumes with most dinners, cooking up black-eyed peas, baby dry limas, or other beans to have as a side dish. Another alternative is bean soups or split pea soup. They are particularly nice in winter and early spring. I'm planning to do more with the lentils that I have on hand. Lentils make good European-flavored dishes (like soups and stews), as well as Indian curry-style dishes, and spicy Mediterranean dishes.

20. EXCEPTIONS--This year I loosened the reins a bit for the winter season, and have been occasionally buying celery, escarole, and swiss chard. The cooked chard tastes really wonderful this time of year. I make salads from the escarole, a nice lightly-bitter winter green. (You can also make soup from it.) And celery is such a nice touch in salads, soups, etc., that I decided a modest quantity of California organic celery wouldn't be a bad thing to have.

This year the local eating is going much more easily than last year. This is my reward from the many hours of canning, lactofermenting, freezing and drying that I did last summer and fall. It's a pleasure to put together a meal from our stores. And my recipe research has turned up a number of favorite dishes that we enjoy, many of which I've shared with you.

Ruta... Ruta.... Ruta.... Swede!

Actually the name is rutabaga (baggy root in Swedish), formerly called Swedish turnip (though it's not a turnip), thus Swede.
Rutabagas look like a big rough turnip, with a yellowish cast. But they are in the Brassica napus family, with Siberian kale and rapeseed, rather than
Brassica rapa with turnips. The ins and outs of the multitudinous Brassica clan are still being worked out by the botanists.

Rutabaga's flavor is milder and sweeter than the bite-y turnip, and it lends itself to many of the uses of potatoes as well as those of turnips. Here are some. Enjoy!

  • Mashed rutabaga--like mashed potatoes. Peel and cut up, cook in boiling water until tender, drain and mash with milk and butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Or you can use half potatoes and half rutabagas.

  • Oven-fried rutabaga--like oven french fries. Peel 3 lbs rutabaga and cut lengthwise into french-fry shaped pieces. Mix 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1 teaspoon garlic salt. Toss rutabaga with 1 tbs olive oil, then sprinkle the seasonings over them as evenly as possible. Bake in oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, until tender inside and crisp outside.

  • Baked rutabaga--like baked potatoes. Don't choose the huge honker rutabagas for this, but more modest sized ones. Scrub very well and bake in oven until fork-tender. Cut open, add a dollop of butter or sour cream, and enjoy.

  • In vegetable soups--like turnips and/or potatoes. Peel and cut into suitable-sized pieces in mixed vegetable soups. It will cook right along with other roots.

  • In roasted root vegetables--alongside turnips, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, onion, and/or leeks. Whatever you have on hand. Peel and cut all vegetables into equal-sized chunks; cut leeks into 1" lengths. Toss with some olive oil, sprinkle with herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 to 400 degrees (very forgiving) when you are baking something else. Turn occasionally. They will take 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the temperature and how big your chunks are.

  • In pot roast--with carrots, other vegetables. Brown a roast of beef in a little oil, add one or two chopped onions, liquid to half-cover (liquid can include up to 1 cup tomato juice or wine), salt and pepper to taste. Simmer meat slowly for 3-4 hours till tender. Peel and cut up rutabaga, carrot, potato, celery root, etc., any roots that you have except for beet. Arrange around the roast in the kettle, put the lid on again, and simmer another 30 minutes until tender. Taste for seasoning; add salt and pepper if needed. You could also add a little oregano or marjoram at the beginning of the cooking process, or other herbs to your taste. You can thicken with roux if you like: work equal parts of butter and flour together, form into small balls and stir into liquid. Use about 1 tbs flour for each cup of liquid you want to thicken. This works just as well with rice flour for the gluten-intolerant.

  • Stovetop sausage and root vegetables--In kettle, heat 1 tbs oil, add 1 lb mild pork link sausages cut in half, and brown lightly. Add 2 large chopped onions, stir and brown another 5 minutes, then add 1 pound each of peeled cubed rutabaga and potato, and 1/2 pound peeled cut carrot. Add 2 tbs dried or 1/4 cup fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/3 cup stock or water, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes, until tender.

  • Cornish pasties. Rutabagas are traditional in Cornish pasties. Make your favorite double-crust pie crust recipe, chill while making filling. Mix together 3/4 lb round steak cut into 3/4" cubes; 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and sliced; 1 medium onion chopped; 1 medium carrot peeled and sliced;
    1/2 lb of rutabaga peeled and chopped; salt and pepper to taste. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough into four parts and roll each out into a 6" circle. Place 1/4 of filling on one side of each circle, dot each with 1 tbs butter, fold over the other half and crimp closed. Gently place on baking sheet, and bake one hour.
    I would not advise a gluten-free crust for Cornish pasties; it just wouldn't hold together.

This should help you get through your winter stock of rutabagas, or allow you to be on speaking terms with a new vegetable friend. Happy eating!