Every bite

Speaking of things Sally has changed, there's this: I am so, so much more careful about food waste. If we're going to spend money on good food, we're going to eat it. Every bite. As my friend Sarah puts it, "buy food that is so insanely delicious and nutritious you wouldn't dream of wasting even an ounce or a gram."

This is even easier with things we've grown. The other night, for instance, we ate a squash that grew out of the compost pile. It was long and kind of thin, like a cross between a butternut and a tromboncino. When I peeled it I explained to Sally that it didn't look quite orange enough, but that didn't matter. It was still firm and sweet and we would eat it. And so  we tossed it with thyme and olive oil and salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic, and we ate it roasted, hot, tossed over arugula with a good salty feta cheese.

Recently I've been trying to meal-plan with an emphasis on cleaning out the freezers and  eating up whatever root and storage vegetables we have still in the fridge. This means lots of strange meats (kidney ideas, anyone?), and a steady diet of homegrown butternut squash, potatoes, and all-things cranberry. I bought a huge bag of cranberries at the Orleans farmers' market just before it closed for the season in November, and we're still eating our way through it. 

Last week I made  Laurie Colwin's Nantucket Cranberry Pie. If you aren't familiar with Laurie, she was quite a writer and also quite a cook. In addition to several novels and books of short stories, she also wrote a food column for Gourmet. Out of this came Home Cooking, which I have and love, and later on More Home Cooking. They're both essay books with recipes at the ends of every chapter. If you ever see them at a library sale or used book store, nab them.

In the meantime, I highly recommend her cranberry pie. It's not so much a pie as a cake—in fact, it's quite a bit like Goodin-Pudding, except with an almond twist.


If you're looking for a very quick and easy cranberry dessert, this is it. Despite the name, this involves non of the fuss of a pie but delivers all of the flavor. It's good with vanilla ice cream, but it's just as good on its own as a late afternoon snack. 

2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup melted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Get out a 9-inch pie plate and spread the cranberries, walnuts, and sugar evenly over the bottom. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, sugar, flour and almond extract until they're smooth. Pour this batter over the cranberries and nuts, and bake for 40 minutes. The batter should be just set and starting to turn golden on top; don't overcook it, as you want the middle to be ever-so-slightly soft.


Anonymous said...

There's always steak and kidney pie, Elspeth, though a little kidney goes a long way.
David Wright

Elspeth said...

I like this thought. Can you elaborate? I've never tried it.

Againstthegrain said...

British recipes are often great for using up kidneys. Steak & kidney pie is basically a regular stew with the addition of a pot pie crust on top. You could also make a shepherd's pie with added kidney with mashed potato or cauliflower topping. The cubed kidney pieces will usually be slightly more tender & smoother textured than the "steak" (usually not a premium steak but rather cubed round or rump roast - something that can take long braising). But cut into fairly small chunks the same size as the regular meat, kidney is not very easy to distinguish in a brown stew gravy. If you have any of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage cookbooks (or a similar traditional British cookbook) you'll likely find recipes using kidneys. The RC Meat book definitely has an offal section.

When people aren't used to eating organ meats (variety cuts, offal, whatever you want to call it), the best strategy is a) the less said to the potentially squeamish, the better, at least until after the meal is over, and b) don't make the "special" cut stand out much - i.e., if you go the steak & kidney stew route, make sure there is more "steak" than kidney, perhaps a 2 or 3-1 ratio. Trim out any "tubes" or artery areas that will be dead giveaways that the cubes isn't just "meat".

If you have any tongue in your freezer, I find making lengua tacos is a great way to use it. Simmer/boil the tongue (preferably when no one else is around), let it cool enough to peel the skin off, chop or grate it up into small bits, or shred it with two forks, then heat the meat again with sauteed onions, garlic, & taco seasonings. Can also be mixed with browned ground or shredded "regular" meat. Long-simmered tongue can be more tender than regular meat, so try to make sure it is cut up into similarly small shapes and mixed well. No one will noticed it's tongue, compared to sliced tongue, where the origin is unmistakeable (and to some, just too melty-soft and tender).

I use ground heart & mix it with ground meat (beef, veal, lamb) for meatloaf, meatballs, burger, spaghetti sauce, moussaka, tacos, skillet dishes, etc. If you don't have a good meat grinder, pulse chunks in a food processor until they are almost the same texture as ground burger, but not so much that it purees. The heart meat is a darker color so if it's too big it will contrast quite a bit with lighter meats like pork & veal unless really well mixed or dark spices/sauces are used. But heart is the most like regular "fleshy" meat than all the the organ meats.

Againstthegrain said...

part 2

Now that I'm buying meat in bulk from farmers and ranchers, as well as trying to increase our consumption of organ meats for the high nutrient content, I've been collecting cookbooks that take a more old fashioned nose-to-tail approach. I scrounge the library thrift store for older American, British, & ethnic cookbooks (from before the fat phobia/ubiquitous boneless chicken breast/30 minute meals, era). Of course, in addition to HFW's River Cottage books, Fergus Henderson's books are great, but I do find Henderson's recipes are rather laborious and better suited for advanced planned dinner parties than everyday dining (though not impossible if you work from home).

Newer books include Jennifer McLagan's Odd Bits, Deborah Krasner's Good Meat book, as well as Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Online, be sure to check out Chris Cosentino's blog Offal Good (Iron Chef contender & restauranteur/chef in SF who specializes in Italian inspired nose-to-tail eating - best restaurant meal my husband and I have ever had anywhere - offal or not); there are other good online resources but I don't have the names in mind at the moment. And when we travel overseas I usually try to find a good English language cookbook that features local dishes I can make when I return home (which often use far more of the animal than just the premium boneless cuts).

Hope that helps with using up the kidney & other odd bits in the freezer.

It really helps that I have a husband who grew up poor in England - roast pig's head was the standard budget option for holiday meals because turkey was too expensive, and sliced tongue from the deli was the cheapest sandwich meat. He never feared butter, loves the stinkiest cheese/hates American processed cheese, and will eat most anything I attempt without much complaint. But we have a 13 yo son, so it's for him that I have to find clever strategies for incorporating organ meats into our meals without making them extremely obvious (he was much more non-plussed about offal when he was younger, but now he's at that annoying age when being disagreeable and mock-gagging has become his favorite response to anything "different"). This too shall pass, at least that's what I tell myself. ;-)

Anonymous said...


step by step.

Amanda said...

Like you, I cannot bring myself to throw food away. Growing my own food helps me see how much goes into each grain of sustenance. Even fake food-- I can't bring myself to throw it away. That's what I actually posted about today: http://sensibleskillet.blogspot.com/2012/03/pantry-clean-out-swiss-miss-hot-cocoa.html

I absolutely love your blog and your lifestyle!

Elspeth said...

ha amanda i love the inner grandma. i will be channeling mine with that phrase from now on!

Elspeth said...

against the grain...

you clearly know your stuff! i'm looking to do a radio show on steak and kidney pie...any chance you're a local? i'd love to talk. shoot me an email if you're interested: elspeth.hay@gmail.com.

all the best,

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