Falling for delicious dishes

by Don Bingham
Mike Kemp photo

Fall is a perfect time to enjoy those quick and sometimes recycled foods that we all love: the comfort foods — the quick go-to foods when we are on a pressed schedule of myriads of deadlines, the children’s many activities and soon-approaching holidays.

These recipes serve a crowd and are also great to save for future meals when on the run. For many of them, you only have to open the pantry and you will probably find all the ingredients ready to cook, enabling you to enjoy the finished product in a short time.

They are adaptable to feed a crowd or just to enjoy alone for a few moments while watching your favorite game show on television.

If you are hosting a party, now is the time to pull out all the cast iron pieces, the fall-colored dishes, the baskets and grapevine wreaths and the ornamental corns. It’s the time for burlap, leaves, tall sticks and real pumpkins. Treat the pumpkins as though they were pieces of sculpture or art. Put them under glass, as pieces in your home’s exquisite art collection. Orange fabrics, fall plaids and textured pieces of material or quilts add a gentle fall touch to any setting.

One of our favorite quick dishes is fried rice! We often have leftover white rice, and it transforms into a great recycled main dish with the potential to feed a crowd. The recipe is included in this column.

Another quick but delicious dish to feed the family or even the extended family is Ham Steaks with Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage. This can be multiplied to serve a group. Add cornbread or hard rolls and butter, and it’s a winner!

Fall comes but once a year! Enjoy the weather, the returning spices and herbs of the season and most of all, the delight of entertaining with family and friends!

Fried Rice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 cups frozen shelled and deveined shrimp, halved
1 10-ounce package frozen green peas
3 cups leftover cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium. Combine the eggs with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and pour into the skillet. Cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 1 minute. Break into small pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil, the onion and the garlic to the pan; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and peas; cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the eggs. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly crispy. Stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger and sesame oil; add to the rice in the skillet along with the shrimp, peas and egg. Cook just until the egg is heated through and serve.

Ham Steaks with Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 small red cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 14-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, finely chopped, with juice (about 1 3/4 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds ham steak, cut into four pieces

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, allspice and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and cook until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add the cabbage and tomatoes; bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is very tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the reserved bacon. Keep warm. In another skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium-high and add the ham steak. Cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Divide the steak among 4 plates and top each steak with some of the sweet-and-sour cabbage.


Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and previously served as the executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion. He is now the director of special events at the University of Central Arkansas.


Don Bingham
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