Fill repurposed glass containers with stacks of deliciousness
Jars are great for saving and using again and again for storing things or serving this crunchy cheesy chipotle chicken. (Ellise Pierce/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »
Jars are great for saving and using again and again for storing things or serving this lentil salad with smoked salmon. (Ellise Pierce/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »
Jars are great for saving and using again and again for storing things or serving this cauliflower with cheese. (Ellise Pierce/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »
Jars are great for saving and using again and again for storing things or serving this ginger-plum crumble with ricotta creme. (Ellise Pierce/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »
Back in the days when peanut butter came in glass jars, my mom declared these the best of all savable jars because they were large, sturdy and reliable.
She used them for storing bacon grease, for orphan buttons, and in the summertime, my dad filled jars with homegrown cucumbers from his garden with vinegar and dill, and used them for storing nails and screws in the garage, too. I don’t think a jar was ever thrown out in our house.
Along with the Pierce family coffee addiction, I’ve also inherited the love of old jars.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but my boyfriend and I probably go through at least one jar of jam every week or so (he always puts a few big spoonfuls in his yogurt), and I save them all.
I’ve always used them for making vinaigrettes and storing leftovers, from chopped garlic and olive oil to extra pizza sauce, but after seeing one composed salad after another at trendy to-go lunch spots, each one of them featuring layers of veggies, or grains, or legumes, artfully stuffed into clear plastic cups, I thought about an even more economical and environmentally friendly way to do the same thing: with repurposed old jars.
It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Instead of going out to buy that perfect ramekin or cute little dish to make that recipe of chocolate mousse or pudding or whatever, just use your old jam jars. I say jam jars, because they’re often fat and squatty, and therefore easy to eat out of, but any old wide-mouth jar will do (some salsa jars are actually great for this).
I now use them for all sorts of things, from making single (and portable) servings of cold salads, like lentil salad with smoked salmon, to stuffing them with plums, cauliflower or chicken and warming them through, like the mini-casseroles they are.
Pick your jars depending on what you plan to do with them. If you’re using them for stuffing and traveling (jars are great for picnics or lunches), any old jar will do, but if you’re using them to cook in, make sure they’re heat-resistant, as canning jars will be.
Besides the obvious money-saving appeal of using jars, they’re cute — especially the ones that I find at flea markets. I like to think of it as recycling.
Lentil Salad With Smoked Salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic
1 stick celery, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1 pound lentils (du Puy if you can find them; small green French lentils if you can’t)
2 bay leaves
¼ cup tomato paste
1 quart vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups cooked quinoa
4 small handfuls arugula
6 ounces smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
Make the lentils: Put the olive oil, onion and garlic in a large, deep pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Let this cook until the onions become translucent, 5 to 10 minutes, then add the celery. Let this cook, stirring every now and then, until the celery begins to just slightly soften, about 5 minutes. Now toss in the carrot cubes. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, then add the lentils, bay leaves, tomato paste and vegetable stock. You may need to add 2 to 4 cups of water at this point, to make sure you’ve got 4 inches of liquid over the lentils. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Taste the lentils for doneness and seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool and refrigerate.
To make your jarred salads, put 1 cup of the lentils in the bottom of each of 4 (2-cup) jars, topped with 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Now add a small handful of arugula to each, and ¼ serving of smoked salmon (1½ ounces for each one).
Ginger-Plum Crumble With Ricotta Crème
Cooking tip: Cut away the tough skin and use your garlic press for fresh minced ginger.
24 fat plums, chopped into eighths
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced (see Cowgirl tip)
½ cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons ground pistachios, plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
9 ounces ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil.
Toss the plums with the ginger, sugar and lemon juice and divide among 4 jam jars that’ll hold at least 2 cups’ worth of fruit.
Make the crumble topping: With your fingers, mix the butter, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons sugar, flour, ground pistachios and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the plum mixture. Pop into the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.
While the crumbles are baking, whisk together the ricotta, lemon zest and 1/3 cup sugar and refrigerate until time to serve.
Serve the crumbles warm or at room temperature with a big spoonful of ricotta and a sprinkle of crushed pistachios.