Solving Ingredient Problems with Supply-Side Cooking

Solving Problems with Supply-Side Cooking
Pot roast cooking juices, small carrots, an under-performing winter squash, and a pile of cabbage trimmings collected in my kitchen this week and posed some challenges in the frugality department. Not much goes to waste in this house, and even when I pitch stuff out, the chickens eat it. Most of what I had, though, was too good for chickens, and I wanted to make it into something toothsome for the humans.

Saturday night I did a pot roast. When I was a kid, pot roast was always a favorite with me and I always asked for it for my birthday supper. I hadn’t had one for a long time, and so it was a real treat. I followed Julia Child’s directions in her book, The Way to Cook.

I ended up with a big pan full of the most marvelous cooking juices with chunks of carrot, pieces of onion, and tomatoes floating around in a broth of red wine, homemade beef stock, and herbs and spices. I used some of it slightly thickened with cornstarch as a sauce for the meat, but I still had a half gallon or so. It called out, “Soup!” As it happened, I also made coleslaw that night, and having trimmed up a gorgeous Savoy cabbage to shave off the finest leaves into tender shreds, I had a pile of perfectly useful but coarse cabbage to deal with. It’s a no-brainer: cabbage soup to which Toby suggested I add potatoes. Yum.

That soup would have been good with barley or small pasta like orzo or Israeli couscous added, too.

Now to the carrots and squash. I dug carrots this week and gathered up winter squashes and pumpkins to cure a bit in the sun before I store them away for the winter. When one digs carrots, there are inevitably small knobby ones, ones with three or four legs, and, at least in my garden, a few damaged by nematodes which in storage would turn to mush. What to do with them? Freshly harvested and scrubbed well, they don’t really need peeling, just trimming and cutting up into reasonably similar sized pieces. So I did that.

One of the squashes, a Kubocha, a brilliant orange-red little number with rich flesh, had not fully ripened when we had a frost. The skin was a bit soft in places, but I was reluctant to compost it. I cooked it up and it tasted all right, but not as well as I knew it could. Mashed together with the cooked carrots, though, it was really marvelous. The two orange colors were just different enough that the mixture was marbled. I seasoned it with a bit of light brown sugar and butter, salt and pepper. Delicious and wicked frugal.

A menu suggestion I saw for a sweet potato and carrot puree prompted the carrot and squash combo. I am not big on purees, because I like the texture of mashed better. What I saw was the principle of sweet, orange colored vegetables mixed together and enhanced by brown sugar. I could have easily mixed squash and sweet potato together, too. Or all three.

If I had tried to come at this pile of ingredients with an actual recipe, I would have been in trouble. Too often recipes don’t match up with the supply at hand, so my version is an example of what I call supply-side cooking. You can do this, too.

In the following guidelines, remember that you can substitute sweet potato for the squash or carrots, and that you can freeze whatever you don’t use right away to give you a vegetable side dish some other time.

PS: There is a big foodie event this weekend, Harvest on the Harbor, in Portland, and on Saturday, October 27 at 12:30 yours truly is going to demonstrate how to make Caramel Corn from the recipe in my new book, Maine Home Cooking, then I’ll go sign books at the DownEast booth. On Friday, at 5-7, I’ll be in South Portland at Nonesuch Books. If you can show up either place, I’ll be glad to see you. Be sure to say hello.

Supply Side Squash and Carrots

One small winter squash, peeled and cut into chunks
Roughly an equal quantity of carrots, cut into chunks
Half a stick of butter
3-4 tablespoons of light brown sugar, more or less to taste
Salt and pepper

Steam the squash and carrots separately until they are very tender. While they are still hot, put them together in a bowl and mash with a masher or the back of a spoon, adding the butter and brown sugar until they are uniformly mixed. Taste, add salt and pepper, and more sugar if desired.

Looking for….Advice on Seven Minute Frosting. Thelma White in Sorrento wrote with this question: “After years of wondering how I could duplicate my mother’s Seven-Minute Frosting, it occurred to me that all I probably needed to do was ask you! Her frosting, which I remember beating with an egg beater in her old enamel double boiler for seven minutes, didn’t stay sticky.  It got a lovely, crispy crust–like crust on snow. I have a friend in her late eighties who remembers my mom’s crispy-crusted frosting on chocolate cake, even after all these years.  So, you can see it was memorable. What would make it like that rather than the icky, sticky boiled frosting of today’s recipe books?”

Any ideas from someone who is really good at Seven Minute Frosting?

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.