Category Archives: Cheap Eats

If The Guys On the Block Could Only See Me Now…

It’s barely after dawn, the sun sending long shadows through the trees, smoke curling from a few chimneys, frost on the grass like salt on salad green…and on everything else.  There’s a few birds, chickadees, zipping back and forth from the weeping cherry out front to the feeder by the window where Mariellen sits just inside at her computer.  Winter is creeping up on us, late this year. Perhaps the Halloween horror of a storm a month or so ago embarrassed the angel in charge of weather.  Maybe she moved the snow wheel a bit too far when adjusting things for the northeast.  I’m only guessing, but I didn’t at all mind the warm subtropical November we had.  But it’s December 3rd now, and things are going to get serious, I suspect.

I used the time the past couple of weeks, time stolen from other duties as assigned, to wander about outside and clean up a bit from that storm where each snowflake that fell weighed at least ten pounds and contained a bit more than a gallon of water.  It’s a wonder the weight of it didn’t cause the clouds containing it all to call for a triple A tow!  Anyway, during my walk I saw that while such things as tomatoes and cucumbers and the like were toast already, the herbs were just fine, thank you.  The parsley was vibrantly green, so was the marjoram, hugging the ground and curling in the tangle around the base of a sage plant that was almost as big as the 30 year old forsythia that keep threatening to engulf my neighbor’s home.  Basil, dill, lovage and hyssop were all gone a month or so before.  In another place the oregano looked like a small forest.  And, if the weather held, I had thoughts of putting Christmas decorations and lights on the rosemary.

It was then that I decided to bring some inside to try my hand at drying them.  So I snipped a few twigs from the rosemary and parsley, prepared them and spread them out in one of the rooms upstairs, and walked away.  In a week or so they were drying nicely.  The room was pleasantly fragrant, too.  This was good.  Going outside in my shirtsleeves to cut some more, adding bunches of still green and growing parsley to the harvest, now the room was beginning to fill up, the closet draped with parsley hanging from the empty hangers. But it was fun imagining the next  couple of months cooking with our own herbs.

Thanksgiving came and I stuffed the turkey simply putting several hands full of herbs in the cavity and listening to the compliments, after smelling the aroma sweetly circulating around the house.

Thus encouraged, in came more herbs.  This time marjoram was added to the list.  Though not bursting with drying vegetation, it was becoming a bit difficult to make one’s way around the dryatorium.  So yesterday the marjoram and rosemary came downstairs.  The twigs were stripped and leaves and needles put them into airtight jars (jelly and stuff like that).  They look great, and when the lid’s taken off, the aroma leaps out and fills the room.  My hands smelled so good after that and for the whole day they stayed that way until I washed them before making supper.

Which leads me to this morning.  I realized that it is probably the last opportunity to harvest what I can.  Though not yet dressed I slipped out back in the frosty morning stillness and snipped off a bunch or two of sage, rosemary, marjoram and oregano.  They rest now in the room across the hall, and I can smell their aroma seeping all the way over here.  Sometimes a big nose is a blessing.

I’ll clean them up, arrange them on clean paper towels and fill up that room again with summer smells spending time thinking of more delicious meals, a whole bunch of them.  And next year?  Next year we’ll get started earlier, and we’ll have basil, dill, lavender, parsley, mint, sage thyme (two or three different kinds)…all of them.  Maybe there’ll even be enough for you?

I’ve saved the twigs and am thinking of some way I can dry them, pulverize them and make some kind od incense of them.  There are already have a bunch of Russian Sage twigs drying in the garage.  They’ll go on one of our fires over Christmas.

Here’s a bit of the abundant harvest:

Hanging Parsley

Sage, My Favorite Right Now

A Few Twigs of Oregano

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Cheap Eats (and Fast)

One of my “very important post-retirement careers” takes me into the rectory at out parish a couple/three times a week to splash around in the sink, make a lot of noise and throw something from the kitchen onto the dining room table for our pastor; a nice guy who deserves better, I sometimes think.

I’ve been at it for a little more than three years now.  Shortly after I started he came back from  wandering about the planet with a little plaque which hangs in plain view.  It goes something like this:  Many people have eaten in this kitchen and lived to tell about it.

It is a testimony either to my skill or his courage; maybe both.

A priest I ran into down in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts a couple of years ago said I was doing something worthwhile cooking for Father K.  “We don’t often have time, and most of us don’t have the skill.  Eating out at restaurants every night isn’t exactly the healthiest way to eat.”  I never thought of that, but feeding the hungry is a corporal work of mercy.

Enough of polishing my own horn, here.  I wanted to share something with you, a recipe.  I’ve got all the sympathy in the world for my mother and all of you ladies (and some men) who are the ones who have to figure out what to give the folks who sit down every few hours and say, “What’s for…?”  Some days it ain’t easy.  Days, did I say.  Some weeks it ain’t easy.  There’s times I wake up early in the morning, and instead of thinking about mowing lawns, or shoveling snow, I thinking about what to do in the kitchen for the next five days, and do I have this, and do I have that.

And, you guys don’t get a salary.

Anyway, here’s something I came up with a few months ago when most of what I wanted to use to cook with was either still in the store or on a shelf in someone else’s kitchen.  I guess it could be called Tuna patties, or Tuna Fish cakes, or something like that.

First you get a line and string….  No,  a couple of cans of white meat tune..or mix ’em…to start.  Here goes with the list.

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs

1 can tuna in water (Drained and water set aside)

1 can white beans (navy or some other kind)

1 onion

1 shallot

2 scallions (mainly for color)

2T. chopped fresh parsley

1 1/4 c. bread crumbs

1/2 c. sour cream

juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix all of the above ingredients.  Add water back if the mixture is very dry and crumbly.  You want to be able to form patties, here.  On the other hand if it’s running through your finger wet, add some flour (or use duct tape?) to bind it..but don’t try to make tuna bread with it.

Form the mixture into several hamburger sized patties, I like to flatten them to about 1/2″ thickness.

To cook, you may put them on a baking sheet and bake, or saute them in a frying pan or on a griddle until crisp on the outside.  It makes about six patties.

Mariellen has concocted a very nice version of tarter sauce using mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped fresh dill, Dijon mustard and sweet relish.  Play with it and see what you like.  I’m wondering now if a little horseradish might not be fun.

Serve one or two per person with a salad, some good bread and a crisp white something or other.  A vegetable soup as a starter makes a well rounded meal.  It’s a quick supper, or nice lunch.  Cheap, fast and good.