I had a very meaty Christmas and I loved every minute of it. In the span of a week, I indulged in one braised rump roast, one giant fresh ham, one roasted chicken and two spiral hams.
Today, the advance copy of our book, Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet arrived on our doorsteps. As I flipped through it for the very first time, I looked forward to returning to my Meat Lite lifestyle, and all its endless possibilities.
Yesterday, our packed car made the trip to Philadelphia from my family in the Hudson Valley with a generous helping of leftovers of the spiral ham that played a delicious role in Cuban sandwiches the night before. Back in my kitchen, it was divvied up for multiple recipes, including this week's Meat Lite feature.
Ham is the perfect ingredient for recipes that use just a bit of meat because its robust flavor goes a long way. We call on small amounts of it in Almost Meatless for Red Beans and Rice and Ham Stock.
Joy uses just an ounce of ham steak in her Pea Soup for 1 recipe, and because it shares a similar flavor profile, chunks of ham (about 8 to 12 ounces) can be swapped in for the smoked turkey wings in Smoked Turkey Soup.
These days, more and more producers are making cured ham from humanely-raised and heritage breeds of pigs, using natural processes and ingredients, and without nitrates and additives. If you're a meat lover and horrified by the realities of factory-farmed pigs and the looming alternative of test tube meat, look into options from purveyors offering respectable alternatives.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and tasty Almost Meatless 2009.
About the author: Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. Her blog, Crumbs On My Keyboard, is dedicated to delicious things in Philadelphia and lots of other places.
- 1 pound spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups sliced broccoli florets and stems (about 1/4 pound)
- 4 ounces sliced spiral ham, cut into 1/4-inch squares (or thin slices if you prefer)
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for grating
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. While the pasta cooks, prepare the rest of the recipe. (Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before straining.)
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan (at least 10 inches), over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant and starting to soften, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer the liquid to reduce by a little more than half.
Add the 1/4 cup of water and the broccoli pieces. Cover the pan and let the broccoli cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is fork tender. Add the ham and toss to combine.
Strain the pasta and immediately add it and the reserved pasta water to the sauté pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and toss the pasta with the garlic, broccoli and ham. Simmer for 30 second or so, just until the liquid reduces and thickens a little bit. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil.