When you work – in or outside the home – it can be hard at times to come up with the energy to make dinner. Even for someone like me for whom cooking is actually restful and fun, there are many nights (like last Thursday) when it’s just easier to pick up something fast or frozen and let the effort of someone else nourish me. It’s sometimes harder for me to rationalize when I know I have great, organic veggies from my CSA in the house because I don’t want to waste their effort to grow my produce or my money to buy it.
It’s my version of Sophie’s choice: cook or risk wasting vegetables.
On Friday night I was pretty tired from the week and it would have been so easy to just get something. I knew I had some leftovers in the fridge I could eat and in my efforts to keep the stuff in my freezer from going to waste, I had pulled out a half package of bacon that was stashed in the back on Wednesday. I knew I needed to do something with it soon but I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I figured if it was thawed, I’d be forced to get to it sooner rather than later.
Here’s the kismet of other people’s ideas. I was reading a blog post earlier in the day where a guy was saying how his friends celebrate new year’s day by getting together and eating BLTs and drinking champagne. The moment of “a ha” for me in the blog was that he said they used tomato jam as the T rather than fresh tomatoes which makes complete sense since January is not tomato season.
I went through a stint of making tomato jams two summers ago. Wisdom would say you should eat what you can within a year for best quality. I knew I had some jars that were getting close to 2 years or longer so instead of leaving them in the basement where they’d keep languishing, I brought them up to my dining room table and left them there to ‘shame’ me into use. One of the jars was a large, lovely jar of a tomato jam.
I had made two versions. One was very intense with clove flavor and the other was a bit more spicy and flavored with cumin and coriander. I wasn’t really sure which kind my jar was since I’d not labeled it well, but I was happy to find it was the spicier, cumin and coriander type. Unlike ketchup, it’s got a more intense tomato flavor with the consistency of a jam — chunky and very glossy.
On the way home, I picked up a package of english muffins because I love the way their pockets capture butter or jam. I knew I had a bag of lovely mixed winter greens from the farm — baby mustards, kale, tatsoi, arugula and chickory and raddichio — and my mystery jar of jam on the table and thawed bacon in the fridge.
Even on my tiredest nights, I try to help set myself up for cooking I might have planned for the next day or two. I knew I was hoping to try my hand at pizza dough as the first of my attempts to get comfortable with yeast, so before making the sandwich, I prepped a butternut squash to roast in the oven while I ate my dinner. I like butternut squash because it’s very easy to peel and cut up (unlike some winter squash). I knew a few minutes now would save me lots of time on the weekend so I got it prepped and in the oven to roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
As soon as the squash was in the oven, I started the bacon. I cut a few strips in half for my sandwich. After cooking those, I cut the rest of the bacon into small pieces and just fried it up so I’d have it for use over the next few days. Again, sometimes it’s just easier to take the time when you have it so you save the time when you don’t or can’t be bothered. As the bacon strips were draining on paper towel and the pieces were frying, I got to work picking over and cleaning the greens I intended to use on my sandwich.
It was lovely to behold. On top of the crispy english muffin, I added a generous slathering of the tomato jam, the slices of crispy bacon, and then a generous and lovely topping of the winter greens. It was almost too pretty to eat, but it was also pretty delicious. The jam was spicy and sweet and a lovely foil for the salty bacon and the slightly bitter greens. It was really once of the best BLTs I think I’ve ever had, so thank you to the inspiration of that other blog and that old jar of tomato jam!