when life gives you ham Monday, May 2 2011 

Some people get sent home from Easter dinner with a few extra slices of ham. Somehow, though, this year we got sent home with… an entire ham. Yep, an entire ham. For two people. I have no idea how this happened.

I cut a bunch of it up into medium dice and froze it. (K, who is wise in the ways of freezing, suggested spreading the diced ham on a sheet pan and freezing it first, then pouring the frozen cubes into freezer bags so that they could be easily separated later. Brilliant.) They’ll come in handy for casseroles or whatever. Still got all these slices to deal with, though.

Anyway, it’s been ham in every meal for us. For dinner last night, I made a split pea soup with plenty of ham in it, and served it up with ham and cheese scones. My standby cheese scone recipe, I figured, was robust enough to take some extra ham.

The batter had me worried at first, because the dough was incredibly moist and shaggy. It was hard to work with, but I managed to separate it into triangles. Then I pushed it into the oven and hoped for the best.

Result: total success! The scones are near-relatives to cheesy biscuits, not dry at all, with plenty of savory ham flavor in every bite. They’re best right out of the oven, but toast up just fine the next morning (and, I hope, will continue to do so for several mornings to come).

ham and cheese scones

Ham and Cheese Mini Scones
(I like my scones smallish, but you can make yours as big as you want)

2 3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder (make sure it’s fresh!)
1/2 tsp table salt (actually, you could probably cut the salt completely, with all the salt from the ham and cheese)
1/4 tsp baking soda
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cubed
approximately 1/2 cup ham, cut in small dice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 green onion, minced
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 tbsp white vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup)
1 tbsp water (may not be necessary; add bit by bit if it looks like more moisture is needed to incorporate the dry ingredients into the dough)

Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I used a silicone baking mat).

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until lumps of butter are pea-sized.

Stir in ham, cheddar, and green onion. Add buttermilk and stir; dough should begin to clump. Add water if necessary. Knead gently until blended.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface (or another baking mat) and pat into an 8″ square. Cut into 2″ squares and then cut squares into triangles. (Or if you want big scones, pat the dough into a big circle and cut it into wedges.) Dough will be moist. Arrange scones on baking sheet, spacing 1″ apart.

Bake until golden, or until the bottoms start darkening, about 25 minutes. (Just lift one up with a pair of tongs and peek if you’re not sure.) Serve warm.

o frabjous day! Monday, May 2 2011 

This morning could not get any better. First I wake up to the news that a mass murderer has finally been brought to justice, and now HowChow informs us that the Howard County Farmers Markets are opening this week. Does it get any better than this?

(I know, total juxtaposition of the monumental and the prosaic. But that’s life.)

Yay, the farmers markets are back! I’m so thrilled. One of the things I love about the CSA is the sense of community. Members chat with the other members, or the farmers, and trade recipes and suggestions. That’s also the attitude in the farmer’s markets, where people will just turn around and chat with you about how good the strawberries are, or what to do with spinach, and the farmer might even throw in an extra tomato or two if you buy enough produce. It’s a type of community interaction that’s pretty much missing from the big box grocery stores, where you just get stuff off the impersonal shelves and your interaction with the cashier is limited to “How are you?” “Fine, thanks.”

Farmers markets! Words cannot contain my excitement. I’ve had such great experiences at the farmers markets. At the Cedar Lane one, I walked up near closing once and the guy just gave me all his remaining spinach for the price of a pound (“I’m leaving anyway,” he said, “it’ll go to waste otherwise.”). There’s a guy at the East Columbia one who will happily talk your ear off if you just ask him a simple question (“Do you have lemon basil plants this year?” spawned an entire dissertation on the care and feeding of herbs).

Berries in the spring, tomatoes in the summer, apples and cider in the fall… it’s the beginning of a wonderful, bounteous time of year.