Turnips!

Okay, kids, boil away!  “No way!” I hear hordes shouting.  Yes, indeed, I’m here to tell you that those staple roots available at very reasonable prices at farmers markets in early summer and fall to winter are actually an enjoyable vegetable to eat at dinner.  They’re a low carb alternative to potatoes on your dinner plate.  And if you cook them promptly the greens are delicious with ’em, so you get a double dose of veggies — roots and greens — for one effort. And everything is better with roasted garlic, which this has.

Here’s what you do, per the very excellent and wacky Power Vegetables by the Lucky Peach folks.  Boil them and toss them with a snazzy anchovy, caper vinaigrette and eat your low-carb veggies happily.  You boil the peeled, cut turnips for 15 minutes or less, throw in their greens at the end (or arugula or spinach, as I did), then toss with a Riviera/Italian wacky vinaigrette and … wow!  A great side to chicken or I’m told roast pork.

Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 anchovy filets

1 t capers, rinsed and chopped

2 T chopped parsley

1/2 T red wine vinegar

1 T olive oil

4 turnips, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Turnip greens, arugula or spinach (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees (or can go to 350 if need be)
  2. Put garlic cloves on pan and bake for 30 minutes until soft.  Peel when cool enough to handle.  Mash if you want.
  3. Put up large pot of water to boil.
  4. Make (low-volume liquid) vinaigrette: Put anchovies, capers, parsley, oil, vinegar & S&P in a jar and shake.  Add garlic if cool, or else just hold on side to add with turnips later.
  5. When water boils and you’re ready to eat in 15 minutes, salt water and add turnips and boil for 15 minutes or until no resistance when poked with a knife, but before turning mushy.  Add greens at end and drain, returning all to pot.  Add dressing and garlic and stir well. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Winter salad — Watercress, pears and blue cheese

A delicious, elegant dinner party first course.  I served for Thanksgiving.  Pears are in season; watercress is a welcome bright green as Winter is setting in in the Northeast US.

Ingredients:

Watercress

Mesclun

Pears – D’Anjou

Blue cheese

Walnuts – roasted and cooled (375 degree oven for 8 mins until fragrant)

Vinaigrette:

Shallots, minced; soaked in apple cider vinegar to cover

Lemon juice

Walnut oil

Olive oil

S&P

Shake in bottle; refrigerate up to a couple days. Remove before using to come to room temp.

Salad assembly:

Wash and dry lettuce and watercress; remove thick stems if needed

Cut pear in half and core with corer, or cut into quarters and slice to remove core.

Cut quarters into quarters  or thirds lengthwise to make moderate-size wedges.

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Place on individual plates. Lay pears in pretty way grouped together on side of plate. Sprinkle walnuts and blue cheese on top. Drizzle more dressing on pears, etc.

Boiled potatoes

Buy your best new potatoes — fingerlings if available, or like I did, new Maine Yukon Gold (in later April).  This is an excellent accompaniment to a highly-flavored meat roast (like pork shoulder with garlic and rosemary).  Very handy technique for a dinner party since it does its thing pretty much on its own while you cook other parts of the dinner or chat with your friends.  When done, you can cover the pot and hold them for a bit.

Scrub and place taters in big pot with water to cover by an inch or more.  Cut in half or more if large.  Add salt.  Bring to boil and cook uncovered until barely tender.

Drain most of the water from pot, leaving 1/2 inch or more.  Add several cloves of garlic and slices of butter.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until water evaporates.

Asian style eggplant and peppers

image

Remember how I said this blog is about simple, easy cooking?  What could be simpler than a two-ingredient dinner dish?  Yes indeed.  This recipe comes from Lucky Peach cookbook.  Here’s what you do:  Buy some mini-eggplants and some cubanelle peppers (aka Italian frying peppers — light green and somewhat elongated).  You boil (!) the eggplant, heat up neutral oil and cook whole garlic cloves, then the peppers, and mush together in a bowl the eggplant, peppers, garlic and perhaps some more of the now very flavorful oil.  And salt.  Siracha if you want a tang.  With some brown rice we can call it dinner.  Beats the pants off of yucky Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, laden with oil.

For a fancier version, check out this recipe from “Swanky sweet potato”  blog.

Ingredients (per person):

2 small-ish eggplants (or 3 for 2 people)

2-3 cubanelle peppers

6 cloves garlic

1/4 c grapeseeed or other neutral oil

Brown rice (as accompaniment)

Directions:

  1. Start brown rice if you want.
  2. Put up a big pot of water to boil.
  3. Boil eggplants, covered, for 20 minutes, until soft.  imageSet aside on paper towels on a plate or baking sheet to cool. (Will retain heat for a long time.)image
  4. Heat 1/4 c grapeseed or canola oil, and cook garlic for 6 mins, turning to brown lightly on all sides.
  5. Prepare peppers:  wash, and cut into 1″ pieces.
  6. Remove garlic to bowl.
  7. Turn up heat on oil to medium, and fry peppers, turning to blister on all sides.  Remove to bowl as they are done.image
  8. Cut stem off eggplant.  Cut into quarters, lengthwise, then in half.
  9. Mush with a fork together with salt and a spoonful (or more) of oil: garlic, eggplant and peppers.image

Simple weeknight fish dinner

I love fish.  It is both delicious and nutritious (except farm-raised).  But I don’t eat it at home as much as I would like because I repeatedly forget how to cook it.  Here is an easy fail-proof method:  Put fillets in hot oven (425-450 degrees) and  bake for up to 10 minutes.  There.

Entire meal takes less than 50 mins.  It is a very, very low-stress meal.  You put up rice to cook which sets the outside time parameter.  Then you get out your vegetable and fish.  The fish cooks undisturbed in the oven at the end when you are steaming your broccoli or cooking other vegetables.  Easy-peasy.  A slow, little-attention dinner prep for a three-part meal.

Meal:  Brown rice, steamed broccoli, and baked haddock

Directions:

  1.  Put up rice to cook.  I like short-grain brown rice.  1+ c. water with 1/2 c. rice.  Put both in small pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook 45 mins.  (When done, stir and let sit covered for 10 minutes if you have the time; it can sit longer if needed.)  Make extra if you want to have stir-fried rice with veggies on another night.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Prepare broccoli:  Cut off ends, and cut into large florets.  Rinse in colander.  Put water in pot up to steamer.  Bring water to boil and let sit.
  4. Prepare fish accompaniments:  Cut lemon; take out butter and parsley. Cover 1/4 sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  5. When rice is almost done, put broccoli in pot, cover and steam for 5+ mins.  Turn off heat before fully cooked.
  6. Chop parsley.
  7. Rinse fish fillet (6+ oz/person), put on baking dish.  Season fish with S&P; dot with butter, squeeze on lemon.  Put in hot oven and bake for 8 mins.  By this time rice should be done and broccoli turned off.  Check fish for doneness with fork.  Cook for up to 2 mins more if needed.
  8. Plate rice and broccoli, and dab with butter.
  9. Put fish on plate, squeeze on fresh lemon and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Voila!  A simple, low-stress delicious weeknight meal!  Well done!

Spaghetti with olive oil and anchovies

If you purchase good anchovies in a jar, you will have a very good pantry ingredient.  Lasts in your refrigerator for longer than you will remember.  With a jar in your refrigerator, you are not more than 20 minutes from eating a very delicious, deceptively simple bowl of pasta.  And before you read it and think: “meh,” I am here to attest that the sum turns out to be much greater than its parts.  The parts are: good olive oil, lots of garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes and if ya got ’em, walnuts.  And spaghetti or linguine.

Ingredients (for two people)  (Psst you will need to eat this with someone who already loves you, since you will both end up with garlic/anchovy breath.  Your cat will find you very interesting.)  Here goes:

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

good pinch red pepper flakes

3 anchovies, with their oil, from a jar

parsley, minced

walnuts, 1/3 c. toasted

Directions:

  1. Put up a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti. When it comes to a boil, add a good amount of kosher salt.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and toast the walnuts for about 8 minutes, until they give off a nice aroma. Set aside to cool, and later break up into smaller pieces.
  3. Mince garlic.  Heat olive oil gently in small sauté pan, and add garlic and red pepper flakes. image
  4. Heat gently, stirring, adding anchovies.  Do not let garlic get too dark or burnt.  Add salt and pepper, walnuts and parsley.  Set aside.
  5. Cook spaghetti.  When almost done, warm olive oil mixture.
  6. Drain pasta, reserving a ladle or two of cooking water.
  7. Dump drained spaghetti into pan, turning off heat, and toss to coat.  You can add more olive oil if it seems to dry, or for fewer calories (though less flavor), you can add some of the reserved pasta water.

VARIATION:

Steam a good couple handfuls of spinach with salt.  Add to oil/walnut mixture (omit parsley) and stir around.

Winter vegetables

You may at this point be wondering if you’re ever going to get vegetables back in your diet, since the green vegetables shipped from California look not so good for the travel and/or questioning nutritional value after a week or more out of the field.  I hear ya and am here to pique your interest in vegetables to see you through winter.

I frankly do not understand why people buy cucumbers in the dead of winter, or heaven forbid dreadful styrofoam tomatoes.  Me, I’m not looking to recreate deficient summer salads.  So I leave the summer produce alone — see you later zucchini! — and reacquaint myself with winter staples.

Carrots.  Braised with water and butter, and then lift the lid to let the water evaporate and then — voila! — you have cooked carrots with just a bit of butter.  Add some thyme or other fresh herb, even parsley or cumin. Splurge on organic; they’re not expensive.  Adds color to your dinner plate, and they’re delicious (and nutritious!).

Cabbage.  Cabbage need not be vile.  Just don’t boil it and you’ll be fine.  I like it sautéed with olive oil and oyster mushrooms and maybe some pancetta.  Just quarter head, cut out core, and cut into thin strips. Savoy is good for this.  Napa cabbage makes an excellent cole slaw, such as Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Chicken Salad (sans chicken).

Parsnips.  Julienne them with carrots and roast in olive oil in a hot oven of about 400 degrees tossed in olive oil and thyme.  Fantastic side dish.

Broccoli rabe.  This bitter green survives the trek from CA well, and is just the thing for green leafy vegetables mid-winter.  (Contra swiss chard which is too delicate to not wilt one week out of the field.)  Braise it with garlic (natch!), olive oil and red pepper flakes and you have a very delicious and somewhat bitter green.  Add beans and/or sausage (andouille is what I like) and you have yourself a one-bowl dinner.

Escarole.  This green too survives the cross-country trek well.  It is also on the bitter side but not as strong as broccoli rabe.  It is a perfect foil for the fattiness of pork, as in pork tenderloin with prunes and escarole I made years ago.  Escarole does well braised with beans.

Potatoes.  Roasted.  Boiled.  In a gratin.  These are winter standbys.  And there are some good ones to be had, either a framer has them in storage or seek out some interesting varieties.  Or make soup.  It’s the easiest soup to make, and is a recommended starter soup to make as your first soup.  It is delicious, easy (you can simply use onions rather than leeks), and will build your confidence to trek further into soup-dom.

Sweet potatoes.  Yes, these are just fine scrubbed, poked, rubbed with oil and baked in a hot oven, and smothered in butter.  Even better is to roast them in wedges with olive oil and then some chipotle peppers near the end of the roasting time.  Or if you’re having a crowd, make my friend Deb’s sweet potato salad.

Winter squash.  I confess I am not a big fan of acorn, etc.  I find the texture too stringy and not welcoming, and the flavor, meh.  But I am fond of butternut squash.  Steam or roast wedges, and puree and stick into a quesadilla.  Or add maple syrup and butter and serve in a bowl.

Cauliflower.  A fine vegetable to eat in the winter, and shines in flavor when roasted.  If you’re feeding picking kids, put steamed cauliflower in a pan, dot with butter and lay on grated parmesan and heat until cheese is melted.  Adults like it too.  It makes a fine soup, either as the main ingredient, or as part of a vegetable soup.

Avocados.  These happily high-fat wonders have seem a resurgence (did they ever surge?) in popularity, carried on the shoulders by health afficienados.  They are good in guac.  Even simpler to cut up, sprinkle with lemon, and smush or place onto a piece of toast and call it breakfast.  And if you’re making a salad, they have a fine place there.  I like the bumpy ones from California, and avoid the smooth larger ones from Florida.

Celeriac.  If there is a farmer in your midst that stores, celeriac is a welcome relief.  A gnarly root crop related to turnip (at least taste-wise) it carries a cheery celery flavor too.  (Am not pausing to google to see if it is in fact what some refer to as “celery root.”  I don’t think it’s a common celery plant root.)  Grate it in your food processor or by hand (as I did when I –yet again — snapped off a crucial piece of plastic comprising the safety latch) along with a carrot or two and make celeriac remoulade.  (I prefer to grate it, and add wine vinegar to mayo.) I hear you can make a gratin with celeriac and potatoes.

And don’t despair.  Buy some citrus fruits, which are getting into their peak season now.  Have you tried a Cara Cara orange?  They will make you happy — sweet, juicy and very flavorful.  For dessert, try slicing them as follows: Cut in half from tip to tip.  Lay flat insides down on cutting board.  With blossom tips facing you east and west, cut the end, then make three thick slices and cut off other end.  Repeat on second half.  Serve on a plate for dessert.  I like mine room temp.