How to make a hash out of anything

8 Apr

The cupboards are nearly empty after my boyfriend’s two week absence. The only remaining vegetable is a sweet potato; add to that two eggs. That means a late brunch; sweet potato hash with a soft boiled egg on top. The sweet potato was chopped into small-fry shapes with the mandoline, seasoned with Tony’s, cumin, and achiote powder, and then tossed around a pan until soft. The peeled egg, broken open, sits on top.

If you have a mandoline to do your chopping, a hash is a simple meal, but more importantly, one of those simple meals that are so filling you can feel as if you’ve gorged yourself. It seems extravagant, not like an empty cupboard ploy to get breakfast on the table. What’s more, you can use all of the scraps, the little bit of peels that would look ugly in other dishes. Hopefully you didn’t throw them away and instead have those bits stored in your fridge. Hashes never look ugly, only rustic.

If hashes are not yet part of your life, here’s how to make a hash out of anything.

Well, not quite anything. First off, what is good in a hash?

Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Onions, leeks, garlic, ramps and all other alliums
Beets
Peppers (all kinds!)
Turnips, carrots… ok any root vegetable
Radishes
Greens (if they have most of the moisture pressed from them)
Precooked beans– kidney beans especially. Like the greens, make sure they are dry.
Mushrooms.
Leftovers!

OK, I lied, maybe anything really can go into a hash.

I looked at Wikipedia to find a convenient definition of a hash, and there’s not one that is consistent across all regions. For my purposes, I am going to refer to a breakfast brunch dish that refers back to the word’s root, the French hacher, to chop. It is a collection of vegetables (and meat, if you roll that way) roughly chopped and cooked on a grill or in a pan until soft in some parts, crispy in some parts, and delicious all around.

Here’s how to do it:

Shred or dice any large vegetables, such as root vegetables.

 

Dice your alliums and peppers and chop any herbs that you are using.

 

Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in your skillet or griddle. Once it’s warm enough to make a drop of water sizzle, add your alliums and peppers and sauté until brown. 

 

Add the longest cooking items next, usually root vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and seasonings (I like cumin and cayenne with sweet potatoes, rosemary and thyme for regular potatoes, sage for squash). Cook, stirring occasionally until tender all of the way through. (Check the thickest piece, not an average sized or scrawny piece). How much you stir will change the overall texture. I personally like some pieces that are bordering on burnt, and thus crisp, mixed with other pieces that are just cooked through and soft. You might want it more consistently tender or consistently crispy.

 

Add in any short cooking vegetables, like greens, peas, or pre-cooked beans, as well as any fresh herbs that you are using. Cook until just tender and warmed through. Serve, topping with a soft boiled egg, scoop of sour cream, or whatever else you’d like. 

Cleaning the fridge

3 Apr

The boyfriend is out of town, so I decided to give his apartment a deep clean while it was empty. We eat dinner at the dinner table every night, and it had become so cluttered with junk mail and whatnot that I barely had room for the serving ware anymore. I also wanted to dig through his fridge and make sure no food was going to waste while he was gone.

He actually did a pretty good job of eating or freezing all of his perishables before he left. I only saw one major problem: mixed greens. He had two containers of mixed greens, and I know that just two weeks ago I threw out another. Mixed greens are meant to be eaten fresh, so preserving them is a challenge. What to do?

I made pesto. Garlicky, garlicky pesto that I know the boy will love to eat on his burgers. Here’s a rough recounting of the process, recipe format:

2 bags mixed greens
1 bunch cilantro
about 5 tsp garlic (I kept adding more so I’m not sure the exact amount. He loves garlic.)
1 few tbsp pine nuts
olive oil
salt
lime juice

Put the first bag of greens in the food processor, and drizzle with olive oil to stamp down a bit. Blend on low until reduced in size. Sprinkle a ring of salt around, add the garlic, and the bunch of cilantro, stems and all. Swirl in some lime juice. Blend again until the stems are broken up. You will need to stop and stir occasionally. Add the second bag of mixed greens, drizzle more oil, and blend until everything is chopped and pesto-like.

This made about 2 cups worth. I hope he likes it, because at the rate he buys and disregards mixed greens, he will probably have a lot of it in his future.

Banana Peels!?!!

20 Mar

Ok, this guy has trumped even me for using scraps. I have never found a way to use banana peels before. I wish he would share his technique!

Chef uses banana skin in curry

How to glaze anything

19 Mar

radish

Tonight for dinner, I served kimchi fried rice with collards mixed in. I had a fridge full or produce, though, so I decided to glaze some daikon to serve alongside. It helps to have a few go-to methods of dealing with stray vegetables so you don’t have to think so hard. When you are dealing with a strange vegetable you don’t know how to cook, just go to your standby method, whether it be frying it, roasting it, or, in this case, glazing it. The daikon was fast and delicious and we fought over the last piece.

Here’s the method that I used. It is a generic sweet, Asian glaze:

Cut your vegetable into bite sized pieces, preferably 1/4″ of an inch. A mandoline will make quick work of this. Heat two teaspoons of sesame oil in a pan and then cook the vegetables until until soft or even lightly browned on both sides. Sprinkle on a bit of sugar. I used about a teaspoon, but I wasn’t even working with a full daikon. Add a dash of mirin in to deglaze and stir. If you need more liquid to get up the crusty bits, add water or broth or some water leftover from boiling something else. Stir until there is not any liquid left other than the syrup clinging to the veggies. Add a dash of soy sauce here and there and stir some more. Taste for salt and serve.

Texas Grapefruit

10 Mar

Citrus paradisii: grapefruit. One of those fruit that people either love or hate. I used to be fairly tolerant of it, eating it for breakfast once in a while but otherwise avoiding it. When I moved to Texas, I realized this had to change. Grapefruit is the state fruit of Texas. Do you know your state fruit? Maybe not. But I know that grapefruit is the state fruit because it’s more than that. It’s a state symbol. It’s the only citrus strain not originated in Southeast Asia, and it’s the only citrus perfected in Texas. In 1929, a Texas farmer found a mutated red grapefruit on a pink grapefruit plant. After that, Texans became obsessed with growing the reddest, sweetest grapefruit. And they certainly accomplished this, as I can happily testify.

The markets here sell bags of grapefruit for $1. It’s impossible to not buy several bags. I am a menu planner for a residential co-op, and we started buying cases of grapefruit instead of more expensive produce for our kitchen. This forced me to move beyond eating the occasional grapefruit for breakfast and incorporating them into every meal.

CHOOSING GRAPEFRUIT

In general, you want to select fruits that are heavy for their size, and this also applies to grapefruit. Heavier grapefruit are heavier because they are juicier. I also gently press the grapefruit to make sure there are no unusually soft spots. Usually I don’t waste the time, however, because I’ve rarely found a problematic grapefruit.

Grapefruit also have gray or brown scratch marks or areas of the peel that are a slightly different color. That in no way indicates anything about the fruit itself. Ugly grapefruits need to be eaten too.

STORING GRAPEFRUIT

Just store the grapefruit in your fruit bowl!

To preserve it longer, try canning it. I found this delicious marmalade recipe over at The Cosmic Cowgirl.

Freezing also works– section it or juice it first.

USING IT ALL

Supposedly grapefruit cake is a south Texas classic. No one in my co-op had ever heard of it before, and when I added grapefruit cake to the menu, everyone was, as they described it, “suspicious.” The recipe that we used (here at Saveur) ended up being amazing and everyone’s doubt was resolved.

We’ve also been using it in a lot of salads. You can section the grapefruit over a bowl (video below) and capture the juice that leaks out. The sections get put in the salad, and the juice gets used in a dressing.

Some grapefruit are more peel than fruit, and I hate throwing away half of the fruit. The peel is edible (if you are sure to wash it first!), although the pith is not. Researching this, however, I can only find one way to use the peel in food and that was to make candied citrus peel. (If you google “candied grapefruit peel” you can find pictures and plenty of other recipes.) The peels can also be used in the garden to keep away insects and in the home to make cleaners, but that’s a topic for another day.

Another delicious option: make condiments with it. Serious Eats has this ridiculously tempting grapefruit vanilla curd recipe. I love having interesting condiments like this in the fridge. I can just pop them on the table alongside a quickly made breakfast of eggs and bread and make the meal suddenly restaurant-level interesting.

I know I don’t have to tell you this, but grapefruit can also be juiced. If you have an excess of grapefruit, you can freeze the extra juice as well.

HOW TO SECTION GRAPEFRUIT

This video on sectioning grapefruit is pretty badass. Look at all of the juice that is flowing while the lady removes the skin. THAT is why you do this with a bowl underneath. Don’t let that go to waste!

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