Photos by Tomo Saito
I decided to cook up some of my heirloom Christmas lima beans and make a casserole. With a lot of work to do in preparation for the National Heirloom Expo, I need my energy. I had the food processor out with the shred blade on, as I was already making my pipinola (chayote) kraut. I was also sitting on several pounds of zucchini from a farm trade that I made with our local CSA. I decided to just keep shredding and make a taco seasoned dish that I could use throughout the week. Here is what I did: I had cooked the Christmas lima beans on low overnight in the crockpot with water enough to cover, and 1/2 of a Sweet Onion. I was already planning on using the beans, so I thought that all I needed was some more vegetables.I shredded one half of a large Hawaiian Sweet Onion, One large Zucchini, one pipinola(chayote squash) 2 orange habanero peppers, and 5 pickled hot peppers. I then poured the shredded veg into a bowl, and pulsed 2-3 cups of the now room temperature cooked lima beans. I added them to the bowl, and added two packages of taco seasoning, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a cup of breadcrumbs. I mixed it all together and pressed it into a 9×9 square pan, baking it at 350 degrees for an hour.
I’ve been making homemade kraut for several weeks now, as a means of capturing the harvests that come and go at both the farm and garden. The salty zing of the sea salt brine is welcomed after a hot day in the field. I thought, why not? Add it to the taco. I am happy to learn that this one taco casserole makes two completely different dining experiences. Fresh out of the oven, it is warm and comforting, with melted cheese and steamed rice for an evening meal, but the next day, it is bright and light as a chilled lunchtime taco with the ice cold kraut.
Since I am doing a lot of physical labor, I need a lot of food energy to get me through the day, so this homegrown, healthy taco had enough staying power to keep me going. Granted, my farmer portion was probably a bit larger than many would make. Overall, it was a simple feast made out of farm and garden goods. I will certainly make it again soon.
Try experimenting, I am sure carrots or pumpkin would be equally nice additions to the taco. Just think in terms of a meat loaf minus the meat. You can add two beaten eggs to the mix as well, or add chopped boiled eggs if you are a hungry one like me. As for the kraut, I have made a wide variety of them in my initial experimentation. It is all based around what is in arms reach. I have a few chili peppers producing now, and I always keep fennel fronds near. Though I am not a seaweed (limu) collector, I support those few that do here in Hawaii. I have been using seaweed as the majority of the salt in the recipe, topping off jars with just a bit more salt for fermentation. If you haven’t read it, you may enjoy my earlier post on my summer fermentation trials with pipinola (chayote)
Aloha from Squash and Awe
For those growing in Hawaii, we know Pipinola, also known as Chayote, but we may not know what to do with it. This squash relative is a big climber, which can be a blessing, or not so much, depending on where it is growing. Edible from the chestnut like seed, to the fruit, leaves, and even the tasty stem tips too. Like all squash, every single bit of it is useful, and edible. Even the pig adores them, as she crunches them like apples. They do not have a great deal of nutrients, nor do they have a lot of flavor, which brought me to ask, “what do I do with a bushel of them?” When conditions are right, they will produce a lot at once.My method is to harvest, and follow by pruning the vines heavily twice a year. The green material is perfect for adding to your compost, the lush vines help to conserve garden moisture, and they make for a very useful pig food/bedding making for what I call Hannah’s edible bed. The vines will soon produce more than you know what to do with, or at least that is how it was, but now this changes everything.
As I was sorting through vine and pipinola fruit, separating the split sprouting fruits out so to replant, or fed to the pig. The small medium and even larger ones seemed to have untapped potential. An idea popped into my head: could this be fermented? I kicked off the rubber boots and looked it up online. In the Americas, expats often use them for kraut. There were several references to how they are available in Mexico, Central, and South America, by the bag or bushel. Elisa Fusi charmed my idea with this wonderful blog post about her organic farming and cooking while visiting Panama. More and more recipes turned up as I sat by the computer. I was growing excited, and needed to begin. I keep couple cases of jars on hand at all times, because, you just never know when a storm is going to hit and you need to put up a bushel of something.
The recipes varied primarily in the way they let the fermentation take place. Some used jars with lids, some used crocks, one used a bowl covered in plastic wrap. I decided to use the jars, since my counter space is limited, and having them ferment in the jars seemed one step closer to being completed.
Each recipe called for a slightly different amount of salt as well. So here is how I did it:
Washed down counter, cutting board, and selected a knife.
Pulled a box of kosher salt and a large glass bowl out of the cabinet.
Washed jars, and set them aside with new lids
I pulled out the ol’ trusty thrift store Cuisinart, and selected the shred blade, feed tube pusher, and the tool that slides into the shred blade and fits it to the machine. I made a nice work area with several clean dish towels up and out of the way.
I washed and sorted the pipinola/chayote, then quartered or halved them to fit in the food processor feed tube. I left them clean and in two colanders so to keep them close at hand. There is no need to dry them.
Next, I rifled through the spice drawer looking for underutilized, but fresh spices. Several recipes called for caraway seed, which I use in my Irish Beer Bread. I am sitting on a goldmine of fennel seed and lemon grass too. I pulled some garlic too.
Then I started shredding until I filled the whole container. Then emptied it into the glass bowl. I added about 4 teaspoons of salt, to over a quart of shredded squash, a dash of caraway seed, and minced two garlic cloves. I massaged it all together for about 5 minutes. In that time, the pipinola begins to foam and release liquid. I then loaded the soon to be kraut into jars, leaving an inch of room at the top, and pressing the mixture down firmly. Liquid should cover the kraut. The lid is screwed on, and they were placed one after the next onto a shelf out of the sun.
I could have walked away at that point, but instead, I kept going. I had just bought fresh seaweed, and the orange Habanero were producing, and I cannot make anything without pumpkin, I was skidding into a creative buzz. So I kept going, and trying all kinds of made up combinations. I treated each in the same manner, of packing the solids down, and having enough brine to cover them. I backed off on the salt when adding salt-laden seaweed, I pumped up the garlic and chilis to make a sort of “Squash-chi” kraut kimchi combo.
Each day has begun with my taking five minutes to open them all, release any air pressure that built up, and then smoosh down the solid material so to keep it pressed together, and below the brine line. We are now at day 4, and I have already eaten a pint through my daily sampling, so do make plenty. I have just gifted jar today, and I am sure there will be some requests for trades.
I made a trade today, exchanging my pumpkin for zucchini, I thought that that may be nice to use as well. I picked up some Hawaii grown Sweet onions too. So the day is filled with promise for fermentation, since I still have most of the bushel of Chayote still to go. Overall, it was easy, fun, and I felt like it made a great product out of a rather extraordinary harvest.
These will all be refrigerated in the next week. They will then keep in the fridge for months.
Dark green, with light green and gold freckles, Dream Keeper is a new organic squash that I created by cross-pollinating two strong C. Moschata strains. The result…a beauty that is virtually mildew and bug proof without sprays. On the inside she is as gorgeous as a Hawaiian sunset.