Leftover heaven

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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Nothing makes better leftovers than baked ham, so if you happened to take my suggestion last weekend, baked the big one and put some away in the freezer, then one of these recipes would make a great weekend meal.

Ham and Asparagus Breakfast Bake

These flavours are reminiscent of quiche, but with less fat and without the pastry fuss. This is delicious for brunch with toast, but great for a spring supper, too. Tarragon and asparagus love each other, but use any fresh herb you like, or leave it out altogether.

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tbsp. butter or margarine

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 small bunch fresh asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried savory

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

2 tbsp. flour

2 cups warm milk

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups diced cooked ham

2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves, about 4 (optional)

1 cup each grated Swiss and old cheddar cheese

Fry onion in butter until soft. Add red pepper and asparagus and cook another few minutes, until asparagus is starting to soften. Add garlic, salt, black pepper, savory and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant. Add flour and stir to coat vegetable mixture evenly. Stir in milk. When hot, bubbling and smooth, turn off the heat and add Parmesan cheese. Cool 10 minutes. Stir in eggs, ham and tarragon and pour into a greased 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Sprinkle swiss and cheddar cheese over top and bake at 425 F for 20 minutes - the centre will have stopped jiggling, the cheese should be melted with a few brown bits at the edges, and a knife inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Ham, Goat Cheese and Raisin Salad

This intensely flavoured mixture makes a great light meal all by itself, or an elegant starter for a dinner party. The ham really must have firm texture and plenty of flavour to make this as good as it should be - thinly sliced deli meat will be a poor substitute. I've tried it with chicken breast and it's just not as good. Likewise, you can substitute sherry vinegar, but a fine balsamic is the absolute bomb in this recipe. This makes enough for 6 generous servings.

1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch salt

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

1 large or 2 small heads romaine lettuce, washed and thoroughly dried

2 cups diced cooked ham

24 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Whisk together vinegar, honey, pepper and salt and pour over red onion and raisins. Set aside for 10 minutes then stir in olive oil. Tear or chop lettuce into bite-sized pieces and arrange on a serving platter. Scatter ham, tomatoes and goat cheese evenly over lettuce. Toast almonds in a dry frying pan until they are golden brown and sprinkle on top. Pour balsamic vinegar mixture over everything and serve at room temperature.

Pea Soup and Dumplings

I shared my old family recipe with you a few years ago, but I keep getting asked for it again. Besides, I learn something new every time I step up to the stove, so it's definitely time to update this traditional - and wonderful - soup.

The first big change I made was boiling the hambone and peas with onion, celery and carrot to create a tasty broth, then discarding the cooked vegetables in favour of fresh ones for the soup itself.

The second change was the addition of fresh herbs. There's no going back on that one. Finally, once I discovered how wonderfully tender dumpling are when made with cake flour, I can't imagine any other way. If you substitute all-purpose, reduce the total amount of flour by 3 tbsp. This is a big pot of soup, but leftovers freeze beautifully.

Broth:

1-1/2 lb. dried yellow split peas

1 big hambone with plenty of meat

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered

2 stalks celery, quartered (with celery leaves attached if possible)

2 large carrots, scrubbed and quartered

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 big bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley (stalks only-reserve leaves)

4 fresh bay leaves or 6 dried

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

16 cups cold water

Soup:

4 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)

Dumplings:

1-1/2 cups cake and pastry flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

3 tbsp. each cool unsalted butter and shortening

3/4 cup milk

Cover peas with lots of cold water and soak at least 4 hours but up to overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse peas; drain again. Discard any shriveled peas and debris. Remove as much meat from the hambone as possible. Cube and set aside. Put peas, hambone, onions, celery, carrots, thyme, parsley stalks, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 hours, or until the ham bone is boiled clean and vegetables are just about ready to disintegrate. The peas should be completely collapsed so they easily go through a sieve. Strain and return broth to pot. Discard bone, vegetables and herbs. Add diced carrots and turnip to pot and simmer 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add reserved cubed ham and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in parsley. For the dumplings, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and parsley. Cut in butter and shortening - you're looking for the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Add milk, stirring lightly just enough to combine. Drop in about 12 spoonfuls into the soup and cover immediately. Don't lift the cover for 12 minutes. Scoop dumplings out gently with a slotted spoon. Serve at once.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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