Of Green Tomatoes and Turkey Enchiladas

A couple of weeks ago, I sorted what was left of my slowly ripening tomatoes. The ones that were still very green, I decided to make into a green tomato jam. I had been enjoying slices of green tomato, fried simply (unbreaded) with my eggs in the morning, and then stacked all together on whole wheat toast. Yum. I imagined a savory jam which captured that fried green tomato flavor, and I could use it in the same toasty egg combination. I quartered them, roasted them at 350 for an hour (since I had the oven on anyway) then promptly forgot about them. Still in the oven, yes, days later when I remembered. They looked fine, it’s been cool here.

I chucked them into a pot, covered with water and boiled them for some long time, till they were falling apart soft, then rubbed them through a fine mesh strainer to puree them. Then I stopped for a moment and noticed they didn’t smell… that good. I mean, they smelled fine, but extremely vegetal. Not like anything I could imagine calling ‘jam,’ even of the savory variety. I shoved the pot to the back of the fridge to think more about later.

Or preferably to try to forget until rotten so I could dump it.

Yesterday I finally pulled the pot out, sure they had reached “dumpable” by now. I took the lid off and tentatively sniffed. Damn. Still fine. Still that sort of weird smell, but not remotely rotten. Guess I really have to figure out how to use these, I sighed to myself.

I kept ‘green tomato puree ideas’ in the background of my mind overnight, hoping for a brainstorm.

Eureka!

Green enchiladas!

That slightly weird smell was in fact quite a lot like a tomatillo smell. Hmmm, green enchiladas have chicken, but I didn’t have any chicken. If I got a whole chicken at the farmers market, it would have to thaw, then cook and wouldn’t be ready for enchiladas for days. Hmmmm…

Turkey!

I still had several packs of Thanksgiving turkey left in the freezer. It seemed like I’d even heard of turkey enchiladas with green sauce. It was brilliant!

Or rather, the idea was brilliant. I still had some trepidation as I committed lots of time and good ingredients to that slightly weird smelling sauce. I assembled it in the afternoon, so the suspense was at a fever pitch by 5 o’clock when I set it on the table, with a nice Mexican slaw alongside.

Yum! After all that neglect and weirdness, it came out sooooo good. It was like spinning straw into gold, without any fear of losing a first-born child to a tricky dwarf.

Most likely y’all are done using up green tomatoes in any way possible, but in case you have any still kicking around– fresh, jarred or frozen (I chucked some into a ziplock in the freezer back in my early December panic)– I can’t recommend this highly enough. Of course I don’t have any kind of real recipe to offer up, but here’s the basics.

Fry an onion. Add some garlic. Shake on not too much cumin, and whatever other mexican spices are your faves. I had a jar of chipotle sauce, so added a tablespoon of that and let it fry for a minute. Then I stirred in about 1/2 cup of dark beer. I love cooking with beer, not only does it give a great flavor, but then– oh darn, what am I gonna do with the rest of this beer?

I dumped in the green tomato puree (oh, something like 3 cups) and the juice of one blood orange. Hey, it needed to get used up. Think creatively, right? Then I added my defrosted turkey scraps and let the whole thing simmer for an hour or more. Salt to taste.

(If you had any green chiles they would be ever so appropriate here. I was actually concerned about the quality of green enchiladas without green chiles, but they turned out dandy.)

Grate plenty of cheese, I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella.

Fry your corn tortillas. This is a must for really good enchiladas, whatever the color. I used about 12, I think.

Then I strained the sauce off of the turkey mixture (reserve sauce of course) and kind of mashed the turkey around to shred it, it was super tender by now. I mixed the turkey with a cup of cottage cheese– again, cuz I had it– and because I was adding the cottage cheese I thought I’d better throw in an egg. Then a big heap of cilantro from my garden. Check the salt.

I used a 7×11 inch pyrex. A smear of sauce in the bottom, then 3 tortillas, evenly spaced and overlapped. Lump a third of the turkey filling over the tortillas and spread it evenly, not to the edge of the pan, but just to the edge of the tortillas. Thin sprinkle of cheese, 3 more tortillas, and repeat for two more layers. Finish off with tortillas, the rest of the sauce, a bit of cilantro and cheese. If you have what seems like too much sauce, and it pools down into the space between the tortilla stack and the edges of the pan, don’t worry– it thickens right up into a nice extra tangy side spooge.

We’re big fans of coleslaw round these parts. Particularly, the 3YO who can shovel away a good pint of it all to herself if she hasn’t had it in awhile. And who am I to stop her? Whenever we eat Tex-Mex, I add a bit of cilantro to my regular slaw, and lime juice instead of vinegar if I have it. It adds just the right lift to the otherwise heavy Americanized Mexican food. Plus, well did you see the size of the cabbage in the last post? We’ve been at it for weeks already.

(Sorry I don’t have any photos, our camera is in a bad mood lately. But honestly, it wasn’t pretty food. Delicious, yes. Pretty, not so much.)

Here’s to green tomatoes and using up the harvest!

Anything But the Kitchen Sink

Okay, I’m done talking about cleaning. For now. Honest! I have lots of other interesting things to tell you. And I realize I’ve been text heavy lately, so let’s see some pictures, right?

Let’s start with my garden, which is a heap of righteous green glory. I can’t believe I am eating out of my garden in January, it’s divine. I have cabbages bigger than your head, a bit of broccoli left, snap peas barely surviving the frosts, salad greens if I could want to eat them, garlic and onions putting on heft (though not bulbing yet of course) and don’t forget collards, as always, pumping out the food in dark green form. If I had planned better, I could have had carrots, spinach, beets and chard right now too. It’s crazy. Winter is actually the favored growing season here, because the buggies are scarce. And it’s not like up north where a winter garden is just harvesting what grew in summer and fall. No, cold season crops really grow here in winter. In fact, my Lousiana planting guide says I can start planting my spring crop of all the above mentioned vegetables anytime, though I just can’t make myself do it quite yet. We have some very warm days, but still plenty of frigid days. I might plant a row or two when I head to the garden later today, but mostly I think I’ll wait another week. Then it’ll begin a whole new round of green yumminess.

Speaking of green, I feel compelled to tell you about my tomatoes. Before we left for our 3 week Christmas trip I called my Southern gardening guru to ask what I should do about my two huge healthy looking tomato plants, loaded with green fruit. It was really my first success with tomatoes down here, and I was heartbroken to be leaving them. I asked whether I could harvest the green tomatoes and leave them somewhere cool where they wouldn’t freeze in hopes that they would be ripening just as I got back. He said not so much, they’d ripen in a week or two and I’d come back to a rotting pile of gross. He said he’d just leave ’em in the ground and pray. Having no particular anybody to pray to, and vaguely remembering the one time I tried growing tomatoes in Cordova (under plastic, but they still didn’t ripen before the freeze), I decided to buck his advice. How just like me.

But guess what? It worked! I think he was imagining tomatoes on the verge, you know, when they start turning white-ish? But mine were solid green rocks. Also he was probably imagining them in a warm room, but I left them in my neighbors shed (with the instruction to eat any that ripened). The first batch was just ripening when we got back, and they are still slowly ripening. Granted, these are not flavorful vine-ripened fabulousness. They actually taste about like supermarket tomatoes (for the same reason). But hell, it was that or nothing. I did by the way, fry my share of green tomatoes and experimented with them in general cooking. Green tomato salad? Pretty darn tasty with a good garlicky vinegrette. Green tomatoes in gumbo? They blend right in, almost okra-ey, but without the slime. I have a batch of green tomato jam in progress, but honestly it doesn’t smell that promising.

What does smell good are the muffins I made this morning! Cinnamon Crumble, we’ll call them, though what they really are is leftover granola muffins. I’ve mentioned before that I keep a jar in the freezer where I deposit half finished bowls of soggy granola. With a 3YO around, there’s quite a few of those. I worked hard to make the granola, and it ain’t free either, what with all the organic nuts, oils and high quality sugar. When the jar gets full I make bread, pancakes or muffins. I’ve been working on the recipe and this morning’s was perfect. They’re not overly sweet, but the sugary crumble gives it an extra decadent punch without turning it into cake for breakfast. Unless you’re 3, and manage to peck all the crumble off half the pan of muffins before yer mama catches you. Grrrr…

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ’em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

While you’re munching, how about a few book reviews? I’ve kept up with my Mornings are for Books concept, partly by allowing myself to buy books. I interlibrary loan some, but don’t hesitate much to buy ones I think I’ll want to keep.

I bought and read Harriet Fasenfest‘s The Householder’s Guide to the Universe in November. Great choice. It is a lovely synthesis of practical things such as gardening advice and recipes, with her very personal and honest account of becoming a householder. Just the sort of writing I most adore to read in the AM hours. The link takes you to some of her articles for Culinate, which is also otherwise a great local/groovy food site.

After that I gorged on Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Dorina Allen which I got for Christmas, much to my amazement. It’s not like I asked for it. I hadn’t even heard of this book, which is so very, very right up my alley. It is pure old timey food porn. So full of gorgeous photos that the book itself weighs almost five pounds. The link up there is actually to Amaz*n, so you can get the “peek inside.”

 

 

Now I’m on Living with Goats by Margaret Hathaway (link is to her blog). When we were up north at my in-laws, I met a woman who kept Nigerian Dwarf goats and it really amped my goaty fantasies. It was at their otherwise fairly awkward neighborhood Christmas party, I was politely chit-chatting with people I didn’t know, and a woman across the table said, “Oh, didn’t you come out to see my goats once?”

My ears perked, did she say goats? “Umm, no, you must be confusing me with my sister-in-law. I would definitely remember that, I love goats!”

All of a sudden, a whirlwind swept up around us, separating us from the babbling crowd. All the “oh and what do you do? mmm, hmm, how interesting” disappeared and her eyes locked mine, “You love goats?” she said already coming around the table toward me. Goat people are hilarious.

“Oh yeah!” I said, “Goats are great, smart and friendly, more like dogs than other farm animals. I really want to have a couple of milking Nigerian Dwarves when we go back to Alaska. But don’t tell my husband that!”

“I have Nigerians!” she said, elated. And that was it, the deal was made. We spent the next half an hour in impenetrable goat-talk, and made a date for a goat visit a few days later.

She had a small flock of something like 8 Nigerians. She wasn’t milking at the time, but she does the once-daily milking that I had read about on Fiasco Farm. I am very intrigued by that idea, especially since it doesn’t require taking babies away from mamas, something I’m not sure I have the hutzpah for, but also because once a day is a lot less time commitment, and do we really need all that much milk anyway? She also gave me courage about the goats as “browsers” idea which I kind of relied on in my goat fantasies. Hay would be very expensive as the sole feed in Cordova, no one around grows it, I’d have to ship it all in from the more pastoral parts of Alaska. But weeds and brush we have! In spades. (I have since read in a paper on goats as land clearers that said a goat’s natural diet is 82% “browse” and only 18% grass…)

Talking to her got me started on a heavy duty scheming streak. I have done a bunch of research since, and I’m pretty fired up. I decided it was time to buy myself a book.

Living with Goats is definitely a beginner book. Really I’d have to say it’s more of a schemer book. If you were really getting goats, you’d need something a lot more thorough. But since I am just scheming, it’s perfect. I do wish I had just interlibrary loaned it though, I don’t suspect I’ll need it for reference much.

Whew! I had more things I wanted to tell you, about non-sewing projects, and homemade antlers for Bambi-obsessed 3YOs, but it’ll all have to wait. I’ve got to get out to my garden before it’s too late!

Happy Saturday!