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Preserves in Action: Black-eyed Pea, Tuna, and Pickle Salad

finished salad on marble - Food in Jars

Most days, my lunch is not particularly photo-worthy (despite the evidence presented on Instagram). Most of the time, I eat whatever leftover is closest to the front of the fridge and hasn’t been earmarked for that evening’s meal (at least once a week, I make dinner with the intention that it will last two nights). Occasionally though, I’m inspired to make something a little more elegant than reheated quinoa and roast vegetables.

salad pickles - Food in Jars

This salad was born on one of those days when there happened to be a dearth of leftovers AND I felt moved to use what I had rather than run across the street for take-out. A true alignment of the stars! It was a quick thing, made up of a can of tuna, another one of black-eyes peas, several generous spoonfuls of pickled chard stems, a chopped celery rib (with the leaves), and a liberal application of salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Safe Catch Tuna - Food in Jars

What made the salad special was the ease with which it came together and the fact that the ingredients were so good. I used a can of Safe Catch Tuna that landed in my mailbox some months ago, and it was some of the best canned tuna I’ve ever eaten. It was chunky and flavorful, and had the added benefit of being line caught and tested for mercury levels.

tuna and black eyed pea salad - Food in Jars

The pickles also made it particularly good. I used some of these chard stem pickles, but if you have any of my salad pickles tucked away in a cabinet, they’d also be a good choice. Save either of those, if you are willing to do a bit of dicing, my open jar of pickles you have in the fridge will work. Make sure to tip a generous glug of the brine into the salad for added zip.

finished salad - Food in Jars

The finished salad made enough for two days of lunching and I’ve stocked my pantry so I can make another bowlful soon.

How are you putting your preserves to work these days?

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Preserves in Action: Honey Mustard Chicken

homemade garlic maple mustard

There is a recipe for a maple and roasted garlic mustard in my next book that I made three times before I got it right. The final result is a great condiment, but all that testing left me with a veritable bounty of mustard to use up. I’ve been plugging away at it, making salad dressings and decanting it into smaller jars to give to friends.

honey mustard for chcken

One of my favorite uses for this mustard is a super simple marinate for chicken. I use a wide mouth half pint jar as both a measurement device and a mixing bowl. I use about a 1/2 cup of the mustard (filling the jar about half full) and then pour in 2-3 tablespoons of honey.

chicken with honey mustard

I stir it the two together until they seem mostly integrated. Sometime before I started making the honey mustard, I pulled an appropriately sized baking dish out and set the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the sauce is ready, it’s just a matter of arranging the chicken in the pan, rubbing the sauce into the chicken, washing your hands, and then applying an even dusting of salt and pepper.

honey mustard chicken

Baked until the skin browns and bubbles and the meat is cooked through, it makes a delicious dinner that reminds me of the food my mom used to cook when I was growing up. I serve it with whatever vegetable I can pull together and call it good. In the summer, it’s particularly good with corn on the cob and sliced cucumbers.

How are you using up your preserves these days?

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Preserves in Action: Grain Bowl with Chutney

Today's take on the soft boiled egg lunch. This time, with whole wheat couscous, chopped arugula, and plum chutney.

The classic grain bowl is a dead easy way to start moving your chutney from the jar to the plate (or bowl, as the case may be). In the picture above, I  used whole wheat couscous, which I do realize is not truly a grain. But this idea works equally well with bulgar, farro, or quinoa (a pseudo-cereal), so I’m grouping it all under the grain heading for ease.

I toss the warm grain of the day with some chopped arugula or spinach, top it with a couple of soft boiled eggs (I am partial to the six minute egg), and lay down a generous spoonful of chutney along the side. If you’ve got a container of pre-cooked grain in the fridge (or portions in the freezer), it takes nearly no time.

As I eat this quick little bowl, I make sure to get a little chutney into each bite of the egg, grain, and green for maximum deliciousness. I’ve eaten versions of this meal with plum chutney (that’s what you see above), as well as rhubarb, apple, and pear. Each variation has been different and wonderful. Best of all, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, so it’s a good one to have your mental arsenal for days when you need fast sustenance no matter the time of day.

How are you using your preserves this week?

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Preserves in Action: Simple Peach Cake

peaches in a jar

When I was doing my big jar reorg a few weeks ago, I discovered a small cache of gingery canned peaches from the summer of 2012. The seals were good and the color was unchanged, so I knew they would be fine to eat, but figured it would be a good idea to start using them up before peach season rolls around again.

cake dough and peaches

There’s an Ina Garten recipe I’ve made a couple times during the height of summer that involves layering fresh peaches into cake batter and dusting them with cinnamon and sugar. I decided to take a stab at making it with my canned peaches.

first peach layer

Of course, because I cannot resist these things, I also omitted some of the sugar and swapped in whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose in an attempt to make it slightly more virtuous. The end result was a very delicious cake, though if you skip down to the last picture, you’ll see that my perfectly arranged peaches sunk right down to the bottom of the pan.

second peach layer

I think this happened for three reasons. The first is that I used buttermilk in place of the sour cream that the original recipes requests. Sour cream is slightly thicker and so leads to a denser batter (but I had exactly a cup of buttermilk and I so desperately wanted to get that jug out of the fridge).

The second reason is that I omitted the cinnamon and sugar sprinkle between layers in my attempts at virtuosity. Finally, those canned peaches have had the last three years to absorb additional liquid, making them heavier than their fresh counterparts.

finished peach cake

Still, it was entirely edible and the guys Scott had over for a D&D game did not complain about the sunken peaches (and I did not apologize). However, next time I make it, I think I’m just going to arrange all the peaches at the bottom of the pan, pour the batter on top and call it an upside down cake.

If you want to make it as Ina intended, her recipe is here. The recipe with my alterations can be found below.

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Preserves in Action: Kimchi Quesadilla

side of quesadilla

I taught a class Monday night and by the time I got home, I was ravenous. I’d eaten all the interesting leftovers for lunch and my husband had made himself a meal of hot dogs and peas from the freezer. Looking into the fridge, I spotted a package of whole wheat tortillas, a jar of kimchi, and a block of cheddar cheese. Kimchi quesadillas it was!*

tortilla with cheese and kimchi

To make the quesadilla, I plunk a skillet on the stove and start heat the pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, I put the bottom tortilla into the skillet. I don’t add any oil because my pan is seasoned well enough that for a quick job like this, it just doesn’t need it. If you were using a stainless steel pan, you might want a quick slick of oil to prevent sticking.


Yes, I’m using store bought kimchi. I am out of my homemade version and with the book work going on around here, I just cannot muster the will to make a fresh batch.


Then I spread the grated cheese out on the tortilla, taking care to keep it on the tortilla and off the actual pan. Then I fork out some kimchi. Because I have a small obsessive streak, I try and make sure that my kimchi is placed so that I will get some in every bite. Then I put the second tortilla on top, pressing down gently with the palm of my hand to help adhere it to the melting cheese.

fish spatula

Because my burners heat incredibly unevenly, I end up rotating the pan during cooking, so that all sides get even toasting. Using a flexible fish spatula (the best tool ever for jobs like this), I peek underneath the bottom tortilla. If it is golden, it is time to flip. The second side needs just a minute or two. Once it’s done, I put it on a cutting board to let it cool for a moment and then cut it up into wedges using a big knife.

finished quesadilla

This would work just as deliciously if you cooked sauerkraut or some other tangy pickled vegetable into the quesadilla. I’ve also made something similar with a few spoonfuls of chutney to very good effect. Heck, you could even make a dessert preserves in action quesadilla using fresh ricotta cheese and some fruit preserves. The options are endless!

*I do not claim to have invented the kimchi quesadilla. As far as I can tell, the idea has been floating around the internet since late 2009, when Roy Choi’s recipe was printed in one of the final issues of Gourmet. Still, it’s a good one!

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Preserves in Action: Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Squash and Pickled Cauliflower

finished couscous salad

Like so many of the salads I’ve in the past, this one came to be thanks to a chorus of ingredients that were clamoring for attention. I had a trio of rapidly softening shallots in the fruit basket, an aging butternut squash on the counter, and both some pickled cauliflower and wilted cilantro in the fridge.

butternut squash & shallots

I used Israeli couscous because it was the vehicle I could most easily put hands on (the bag was on the counter). Farro, wheat berries, orzo, or quinoa would also be good options. I happen to adore Israeli couscous because it has such a nice bite, but if you’re avoiding refined carbs or wheat entirely, know that the salad won’t suffer from a swap.

pickled cauliflower

Here’s how it came together. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds, cut away a soft spot, and diced it. I combined those cubes with slivers of shallot and a good glug of olive oil on a roasted sheet and tucked it into a very hot oven (450 degrees F). The couscous I cooked in a large pot of salted water brought to a rolling boil (it cooks quickly, so watch carefully).

steamy israeli couscous

Once the couscous was done, I drained it and turned it out into a large bowl. I added chopped bits of pickled cauliflower and minced cilantro. Once the squash and shallots were done, they went in too. I dressed it with pickle juice, olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a little freshly ground black pepper, and some of the orange zest salt I made recently.

I ate it warm over some baby arugula for dinner the first night and then cold for lunch for the next couple of days. I found that it benefitted from an extra dose of olive oil on the second and third days, as it needed just a hint of moisture.

couscous salad over greens

It’s a formula that is endlessly flexible for the season and the contents of your kitchen. In the summer, I make something similar with barley, pickled red onion, minced cucumbers, parsley, and crumbled feta. Once spring is more firmly here, I’ll be roasting asparagus and spring onions for a turn in a quinoa salad. The secret is to limit the number of ingredients to no more than six, use a fresh herb if you can get it, and chop the pickles very fine.

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