Although winter is soon coming to an end, our winter pantry is still very full. We had no idea how much preserved food we would need so I canned, dehydrated, and froze in abundance. In typical fashion, I went overboard. It's a perfect time to review our inventory now that the 2012 garden season has officially begun (we're starting seeds!).
|a few trays of onions|
As we design and redesign our garden layout, we are adjusting quantities from last year. For example, 100 tomato plants last summer might have been too many for a family of three. Feel free to stop by for a complimentary quart of canned tomatoes.
Despite the quantity of preserved food in our winter pantry, there is still a limited variety, which challenges my culinary creativity. The thought of another soup or stew couldn't inspire me less. We had guests over for lunch. Here's what I came up with that didn't bore me to tears:
|think of them as Italian pickles|
a winter caprese salad consisting of mozzarella di bufala drizzled with a basil pesto and sun dried tomato pesto,
|tomato, basil, and mozzarella: the holy trinity|
and rustic sandwiches.
|I think we're onto something with pureed peas. Any new idea is great when introduced with bacon.|
The first sandwich is a play on one of my favorite pasta dishes: pasta in cream with pancetta and peas. For the sandwich, we used the amazing local bacon instead of pancetta and melted provolone as the 'cream'. The coarsely pureed peas have the texture of hummus with a fresh, sweet flavor that perfectly compliments the salty bacon.
The peas are fantastically green.
The second sandwich is heartier, kind of an alternative to a meatball sub: grilled Italian sausage, pisto manchego (tomato-garlic-pepper-eggplant spread), and goat cheese. Both went down easy with our home-brewed Brown Ale and Imperial Pale Ale. The IPA went particularly well with the rhubarb crumb bars for dessert.
|rhubarb puree can be substituted in any of your favorite jam cookie/bar recipes|
The rhubarb bars are definitely one of the better desserts I've come up with in order to use the dozens of frozen bags of stewed rhubarb in the deep freeze. The vanilla cake with rhubarb glaze and whipped cream didn't receive any complaints either. And the zucchini-rhubarb oat muffins proved an easy way to get my suddenly picky two-year-old to eat something other than pasta or bacon (or as she calls it, 'that good steak').
The aforementioned meal may not sound particularly special, but it provided new uses for many items in our winter pantry. The winter salads contained marinated eggplant, frozen basil pesto, and sun dried tomatoes. The sandwiches included frozen peas, canned tomatoes, dried eggplant, dried peppers, onion, garlic. The dessert was yet another incarnation of frozen stewed rhubarb.
If you're tired of hearing about the above ingredients, you can imagine how tired I am of finding something interesting to do with them. The end of preserved food is quickly approaching though. Soon we will have fresh vegetables and a new set of ingredients with which to experiment: namely, eggs, poultry, and honey. In our efforts to augment our homestead, we've decided to add chickens and bees this summer.
As we get closer to breaking ground and transplanting our seedlings, I get more and more excited about choosing ingredients from the garden instead of the freezer and winter pantry. However, we still have a few months to make our way through plenty of dried vegetables, a few more heads of onions and garlic, and lots of frozen zucchini, peas, and rhubarb. Oh, and let's not forget the canned tomatoes that could last us well into 2015.