Recipe: excellent pasta/polenta topping using farm-preserved ingredients

I don’t really know what to call this (a sauce? a topping?), but we’ve made it several times as an easy way to combine many different preserved/stored ingredients into a delicious meal.  Thick and richly flavored, we’ve served it both on pasta or polenta (pictured below) and it could make an excellent bruschetta as well. I’m including notes on the ingredient sources, as well, as this is almost entirely an on-farm meal drawing heavily on the diverse foods we put up for winter. This could easily be made with purchased items, but was especially pleasing as an on-farm meal. It could be made with all fresh ingredients, too, but would likely be thinner and saucier; I like the thick, lumpy texture the preserved items give it. Amounts are my best guess; farm-sourced ingredients in italics.

SAUCE/TOPPING
1 cup thinly sliced red/yellow onions (stored from fall; could use dried)
1 cup diced shiitake mushrooms (freshly harvested, could use dried)
3 cloves minced garlic (stored from fall)
1/2 cup minced cured ham (optional; cured from fall butchering)
1 cup dried tomatoes (stored from fall)
1/4 cup dried bell peppers (stored from fall)
1T basil (packed in olive oil & frozen from fall)
1/4 cup feta cheese (made fresh from our spring goat’s milk)
1t salt (extracted from specially dug brine well…ok, just kidding)
Boil a pan of water to rehydrate any dried ingredients being used (turn off the heat and place all ingredients in the water, letting them soak for 10-15 minutes until soft). Meanwhile, saute the onions in a bit of olive oil for 10-15 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add mushrooms, garlic, and ham (if using) and saute for ~5 minutes more. Drain, chop, and add any rehydrated ingredients along with the basil & cheese. Mix well and cook for just a minute or two more to combine flavors and temperatures, then serve.
SERVING
Using this on pasta is quite easy. In the photo above, I used freshly-made polenta from fresh-ground farm corn instead, which adds a richer flavor to the dish. We generally cook our polenta (cornmeal, water, and salt) in a large pot for 30 minutes or so, then bake it in a large glass dish for another 30 minutes. You could also add this to bread for bruschetta.
For this late March meal, we balanced the main dish with a fresh spinach/sorrel salad straight from our overwintered greens, topped with a German pickled egg, one of our favorite ways to use up extra eggs. Simply hardboil a set of eggs, gently crack the shells, then steep in a brine (water boiled with salt and onion trimmings) for a few days. I find that 6-7 eggs fit nicely in a quart jar. An excellent snack or topping with lovely flavor.


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