Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Fall’ Category

Quince, Squash, Beans – Simple Fall Pleasures (& a New Class)

quince and delicata

When you cook and adapt and create recipes every day it’s easy to get swept up in the many variations and tricks that are certainly fun but not always necessary. And a few of  the teaching projects I’m currently working on are forcing me to strip things down to the very simplest preparations, to really practice what I preach– that cooking can be liberating, a way to frankly make life less complicated rather than more; that cooking can be simple, creative and just plain fun, not to mention delicious, economical and convivial.

It still feels like fall has just begun since the weather here in Oregon is warm and glorious, however, the produce at the markets clearly marks the passing of summer and early fall. The peppers are gone and cabbage is here and so is winter squash in its many sizes, shapes, and flavors. And this year’s crop of dry beans is arriving and my quince tree is loaded. This week I was feeling overwhelmed by the fairly labor intensive ways to preserve  quince (my dwarf  tree produced 50 quince this fall!) so I decided to simply bake the whole unpeeled fruits in a covered pot, as  I was already roasting beets. And voila, after an hour the quince had become sauce and I just needed to pick out the cores and stir in some honey.

quince ready to bake

The beauty of this season’s produce is intoxicating and I’m reminded that even this time of year, the hard, grainy quince and the unwieldy, weighty winter squash can be prepared and enjoyed with ease. And in the case of the latter it can be sliced and baked and enjoyed with nothing more than salt and maybe a little olive oil or maybe some salsa verde.

roasted squash wedges

And then there are beans! The humble, wonderful and under appreciated dry bean I love so much. I just ordered 30 lbs of pinto beans from one farm and will be loading up on other varieties from another soon. Nothing makes me feel more secure than big jars of beans in my pantry. Soaked and then cooked with a bay leaf a clove of garlic and chunk of onion and then left to cool in their broth, . . .then a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of oil and lunch is served.

bowl of beans

And put the three together–wedge of squash, bowl of beans and quince sauce for dessert-simple indeed!

And speaking of fall and what the changing temperatures and products mean for the kitchen, I’m co-teaching a class with Ellen Goldsmith who will bring her experience with Chinese culinary philosophy to our evening of conversation over dinner and would love to have you in class! Details below:

A Taste of Autumn: East meets West at the Dinner Table

Are you wondering how to make your autumn cuisine delightful, delicious, and inspired? Join Ellen Goldsmith and Katherine Deumling for an evening of conversation and eating just for autumn. What does this season’s food tell us about our bodies, our vitality, and our appetites? Katherine will bring her cook-with-what-you-have approach to delicious, produce-driven dishes for this abundant but cooler time of year.

Ellen will offer an overview of the Chinese medicinal and seasonal culinary philosophy as it applies to the autumn season to enliven your cooking.

Infuse your fall season of cooking and eating with a conversation over supper. We will discuss:

• The elements of a vibrant seasonal meal

• To utilize local and seasonal produce in a new way

• The benefits, from a Chinese medicine perspective, of cooking with the season

• How tastes of different foods energize your cooking and you!

You will receive materials, including the evening’s recipes.

When: Tuesday, November 5, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Where: Home of Ellen Goldsmith in Northeast Portland (Address available upon registration)

Cost: $60/person

Ellen Goldsmith, licensed acupuncturist, brings a passion for cooking and food with over 25 years of experience practicing Asian medicine and teaching all about the vitality and potency of food through the lens of Chinese medicinal principles. She practices acupuncture, dietary therapy, Chinese herbs, body-mind health, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Pearl Natural Health in Portland. In addition, she shares her passion for transforming our lives through our health on her weekly podcast Health Currents Radio and as a board member at the National College of Natural Medicine, the oldest naturopathic medical school in the country.

Last Gasp of Summer

big garden tomatoes

I know it’s fall–it looks, smells and feels that way here in the Pacific Northwest–but the giant tomatoes I’m still hauling in from the garden and that keep showing up in my CSA share are ever so welcome. It is that time of year for me though where there is so much produce, both summer and fall crops, that it’s hard to focus. This salad is a good way to work through a lot of tomatoes and cherish their sweet juicy-ness before they disappear for many months.

This quick salad today is not a panzanella, at least not in the typical Tuscan sense, though it may look like it to many. This is panzanella! Thank goodness for a better writer than me and one with more authority on Italian food than me to write a proper post about this wonderful, soggy, yes soggy, Tuscan dish that I ate day after day in Italy and have recreated for students and friends alike, almost always to raised eyebrows of skepticism before and appreciation and wonder after ingestion! I like many of the more modern, American adaptations with toasted bread, I just resist calling them panzanella for some stubborn nod to tradition that occasionally comes over me.

In this salad, a thick slice or two of toasted bread is cut into cubes and tossed with big chunks of tomato, feta, a bit of arugula and lots of basil and some diced red onion. Red wine vinegar and good olive oil and salt and pepper is all the dressing it needs. Buon Appetito!

IMG_8794

 

IMG_8800

IMG_8801

Late Summer Perfection

The beautiful beginnings.

The first day, prepared according to  Deborah Madison’s simple recipe in Vegetable Literacy, it was delicious. The second day (breakfast) it was even better with a fried egg, and the third day it turned into a most memorable pasta sauce. This most versatile and rewarding dish is Deborah’s sweet pepper and onion tian. My only other reference for a tian had been Julia Child’s zucchini and rice tian which is delicious but bears  little resemblance to this late summer pleasure.

Here you gently roast torpedo onions (or plain red onions or any onions you have for that matter) with sprigs of thyme, sweet peppers, garlic and a few tomatoes–for 90 minutes. Then you reduce the liquid that accumulates in the baking dish with a touch of vinegar on the stove top and then toss the perfectly tender vegetables with the reduction. It’s the kind of thing I could, and did, eat three times a day, for days, albeit in various incarnations.

It’s the slow, extended cooking time that brings out the flavors and textures of the vegetables that my often quick, thrown-together, summer dishes lack. It begs to be eaten slowly and relished–something I actually don’t do often enough.

I’m sure I’ll play with this technique with other vegetables but frankly there’s something to be said for making this just as Deborah suggests. You need the liquid from the tomatoes and the peppers and onions keep their shape while the tomatoes melt. The vinegar is the perfect counterpoint and complement to the sweetness of everything else. So, make it! And make plenty!

After 90 minutes in the oven.

 

Sweet Pepper and Onion Tian
–slightly adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Oh my goodness this is good. All you need is some time. The preparation is dead simple but it takes 90 minutes to bake. It’s just as good or better the next day so you could make it one night while you’re making something else for dinner and then have it the next day.

3-4 small-ish torpedo onions or red onions or any onions you have
3 sweet red peppers
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 thyme branches or several pinches of dried
6 small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine, sherry or balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to  350 F.

Quarter the onions, leaving the base intact, and peel them. Halve the peppers both crosswise and lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and cut them into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide. Remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them into sixths.

Brush a bit of olive oil over the bottom of a gratin dish, scatter the thyme over it, and add the vegetables, including the garlic and arrange in the dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the vegetables, being sure to coat the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the tian and bake for 1 1/2 hours. The vegetables should be very soft, the tomatoes melting into a jam. Remove it from the oven and carefully pour the liquid that has collected into a small saucepan. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce until it is thick and syrupy. Taste for vinegar and salt; then pour this syrup over the vegetables.

Deborah suggests serving this with slices of grilled polenta or piled on top of grilled bread that has been spread first with a layer of garlic mayonnaise.  See above post for further ways to use, i.e. with a fried egg or blended into a smooth pasta sauce, etc.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For breakfast with an egg.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

Zwetschgendatschi

Italian Prunes make this simple tart so delicious and there is a short season for these so take advantage if you can find some.

There are many versions of this Bavarian dessert and many of them use a yeasted cake as the base. I grew up with a butter heavy, short crust version and am thus devoted to it. You want Italian Prunes since they have the acidity and complexity that makes this simplest of all desserts so incredibly good. Italian Prunes are sometimes called Prune Plums or just Italian Plums. I know over the years growers and marketers alike began avoiding the word prune and conflating it with a dried prune but I cling to what I think of as the real name!

My home state of Oregon used to be a very large producer of this wonderful fruit, delicious both fresh and dried. Many of the orchards have been taken out over the years, often to make room for vineyards which admittedly produce a sexier crop. These prunes are the epitome of late summer to me and my mother brought me a big bag of them and I couldn’t resist pulling out her recipe and making this childhood favorite. And while there are  many variations of this cake, they are ALL (in Germany at least) served with lightly sweetened whipped cream so please don’t skip that, unless you’re having it for breakfast, and even so it wouldn’t be a bad  idea.

When cooked, the prunes take on a lovely pink hue and the dusting of cinnamon and sugar just barely caramelizes the fruit.

Zwetschgendatschi (Prune Tart)

Makes one 10-inch tart

For the crust:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature if you remember–cold butter will just make you a work a bit harder:)
scant 1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (you may need a bit more to bring the dough together depending on if you use one whole egg or just the yolk)
1 small egg (or the yolk of a large egg)
Pinch of salt

For the topping:

About 2 lbs of prunes (you may only need about 1 1/2 lbs but it depends upon how tightly you want to pack them onto the crust)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream the butter with the sugar until just mixed. I know it seems silly to try to split one egg in half but it’s possible so do that or just use the yolk of a large egg. Or if you  happen to have a very small egg use the whole thing. It doesn’t really matter so much how you do this. You can always add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky. The original recipe is double the above quantities with one whole large egg. It makes a lot of dough which is why I halved it since it fits perfectly into a 10-inch tart pan. Feel free to double it and make a larger version of the tart or save half the dough for something else. When the egg has been incorporated mix in the flour and salt. Use either a wooden spoon or your hands. Work the dough until it’s nice and cohesive. It may be a bit sticky so just add a bit of flour.

Pat the dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with the palm of your hand. You want to bring the dough up the sides just by 1/3 -inch or so. If you don’t have such a pan you can also press it into an 8″ x 13″ pan. If you are using a 10-inch tart pan you may have a little excess dough with which to make a little mini tart as happened to me on my second batch recently.

Now cut the prunes into quarters and arrange them tightly in circles, starting from the outside and moving inward. If you’re using a rectangular pan arrange them in rows instead. The fruit will shrink so pack them in well, pressing down just a little. When you’ve covered the dough mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle evenly over the fruit.

Bake in the lower half of the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes until the fruit has released some juice and is bubbling a bit and the edge of the crust is golden brown. Let cool to room temperature and enjoy with lots of whipped cream.

I like this tart both on the first day and on the second, when the crust softens a bit and absorbs the juice.

Ready to go in the oven.

Enjoy these heartbreakingly beautiful days with so much bounty to cook and preserve and eat!

New Favorite One-pot Meal (+ an Egg)

Lots of chopped greens, onions, garlic, harissa and a bit of bulgur turn into a heavenly pot of goodness after an hour of gentle steaming. 

A friend of mine raved about this dish at a dinner party the other night. It took me a week to finally make it and then I made it twice in a row–the second time to take to another dinner party where it was happily devoured. It’s a humble, somewhat subtle dish that is perfectly suited to any climate that has an abundance of hearty greens (chard, kale, mustards, etc. ). And I can’t wait to play around with other spices and toppings. But for now here is more or less the way it was conveyed to me and I believe it originated with Paula Wolfert, so no wonder it’s a keeper. Please report back and tell me how it works for you and if you adapt it.

After its hour-long steam it’s ready for lemon, a fried (or poached) egg, more harissa and Greek yogurt.

Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
–inspired by Paula Wolfert 

This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisia hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and garlic, coriander, red chili powder, and caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.

1 large onion, finely diced
1 leek, carefully washes, sliced in half lengthwise and then finely chopped (or more onion if you don’t have any leeks)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote) I used 4-5 teaspoons but with other brands that might be too much.
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving

Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.

Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.

When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.

Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.

It makes me hungry just writing this caption. The lemon juice is important to brighten everything up a bit but if you don’t have a lemon extra harissa will probably do.

Winter Squash Coconut Muffins

Winter Squash and Coconut Muffins

One of my favorite things to do with winter vegetables like beets and winter squash–both of which take a while to roast–is to roast big panfuls to have on hand for any number of savory or sweet uses. Since the roasting is basically unattended you can do it while you’re in the kitchen making something else for dinner or whenever you happen to be home for a bit or your oven is already on.  It then seems like such a coup to have those sweet, tender chunks of goodness in your fridge whenever you want them. I think of this as another element in my prepared pantry. A term I use to describe all those things (veggie bouillon, cooked, frozen beans, etc.) that enable you to make fast food with real, wonderful ingredients. I think I’ll devote a whole post to this concept one of these days. And as a matter of fact, some of my upcoming classes–Pantry Stocking & Quick Meals and Kitchen Confidence: Techniques &  Tools, Variations & Combinations–focus on just such things.

Sometimes I don’t even manage to make them squash or beets into anything but just snack on them or serve them as a side with good olive oil and salt and a drizzle of sherry vinegar for the beets. But often they go into salads or a risotto or soup or curry. The other day I had a bunch of roasted squash in the fridge as well as a partial can of coconut milk which I knew wouldn’t last much longer. So out of these two items these muffins were born.

The coarse sugar and toasted coconut make for a nice, crunchy topping. Don't skip this part--it really adds and you use more of the coconut in the batter it anyway.

The bake-with-what-you-have strategy does not always work but this time it did and I will open a new can of coconut milk and roast squash for just this purpose in the future. I added some chopped golden raisins (whole my son picks them out but chopped he doesn’t mind them) for sweetness, a bunch of fresh, grated ginger and some toasted shredded coconut. Next time I’m going to try adding some lime or lemon zest just for fun but there already is plenty going on in these. And in the bake-with-what-you-have vein, I’m sure these would be good with nuts instead of raisins or other dried fruit or different sweeteners so play around and let me know how it goes.

These muffins keep quite well since the squash keeps them moist.

Winter Squash Coconut Muffins

These muffins are not very sweet so up the sweetener a bit if you’d like. And the sweetness will also depend on the kind of squash you use. I used buttercup and would recommend it, kabocha, hubbard or butternut. You want a dense, dry-ish fleshed, sweet squash. But then again, use whatever you have and see how it goes!

About 16 – 20 muffins (I made 12 regular sized-ones and 8 smaller ones — see photo)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour, etc. )
3/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown or regular granulated sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾  tsp salt kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
Generous 2 cups roasted winter squash
1/2 cup golden raisins (chopped if you have raisin dislikers in your circle)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut lightly toasted, divided (I did this while I was preheating the oven)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (preferably full fat)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Topping:
2 tablespoons coarse sugar such as demerara or turbinado
3 tablespoons toasted, shredded coconut (from quantity listed above)

Preheat oven to 375. While it’s heating spread the shredded, unsweetened coconut on a sheet pan and toast until just beginning to turn golden. This can take anywhere from 5- 10 minutes. Check often and be careful not to burn.

Put the squash, eggs, ginger, coconut milk and vanilla in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Alternatively you can mash the squash with a fork (it should be nice and soft and easy to do) and then whisk all the wet ingredients together by hand.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the squash coconut milk mixture, the raisins and toasted coconut (be sure to reserve 3 tablespoons for the topping) and stir until just combined. Don’t over mix.

Portion the batter into muffin tins, filling each one about 3/4 full. Sprinkle each unbaked muffin with the coarse sugar and toasted coconut, lightly pressing down on the topping so it sticks well.

Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Rice Custard

One of the first things I remember my husband cooking was this rice custard. We have been together 19 years today and I remember him talking to his mom over the phone asking her to track down this recipe that he had made as a kid. The phone conversation resulted in a somewhat terse handwritten version on a scrap of paper that he occasionally unearthed from my overflowing recipe binder over the years. Many years later his mother gave him the old Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1959) where this recipe originated.

Rice Custard from the 1959 The Fannie Farmer Cookbook made by my husband Brian.

This last weekend Brian made the rice custard again, on a lovely lazy Saturday (the first Saturday in a month that I hadn’t taught a class) and we ate rice custard at 4:30pm with the sun shining in the window. Ellis exclaimed gleefully mid-way through his bowl, “we’re having dessert right before dinner!” I spooned the very last of my boozy fruit (mostly cherries preserved in rum that had been “marinating” for 7 months now) over the custard and found the custard to be the perfect foil for it.

So there we were the three of us, eating warm, luscious rice custard on a late afternoon in February almost 20 years since Brian and I first met. As old as I sometimes feel these days, life also just seems to be getting better and better. And food made with love . . . don’t need much more than that.

Rice Custard
 –adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1959)

Heat in a double boiler (or any heat proof bowl over a pan of gently boiling water)
2 cups milk
2 generous cups cooked rice (we use white Jasmine but short grain brown or white could work too) from one cup uncooked rice.

Beat until smooth in a separate bowl
2 egg yolks
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add the hot milk and rice slowly, whisking constantly, to the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Pour back into the double boiler and cook until thick (about 10 minutes would be my guess).

Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the zest of half a lemon and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and/or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Gently fold in the two stiffly beaten egg whites (leftover from your two egg yolks earlier). It’s best warm, right after it’s made.

Enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day

Kissin’ Wears Out, Cookin’ Don’t!

I heard this one for the first time yesterday at a talk I gave at the Alameda Tuesday Club, a local Portland philanthropic and social group with a fascinating 100-year history. Judy, the woman who shared this said that it is an Amish saying and I knew I’d find use for it right away.

And I hope there’s some truth to it because I think I’m on the verge of wearing you all out with root veggies. Next week you’re going to get a break from them for sure but this week I am eager to answer some of the questions that surfaced from last week’s post. I received inquiries about what to do with parsnips and cabbage so here we go.

On the cabbage front this gratin and this soup should serve you well. I was also asked about how to make cabbage a little more kid-friendly and in my experience the below recipe for Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Okonomiyaki) is a great way. Please report on how they go over.

Sliced parsnips, celery root and rutabaga.

Now to Parsnips, which are inherently very sweet and if fresh, very tender. Their core can get a bit woody and fibrous if they have been in storage for a long time but before you cut out the core (which is kind of a pain to do), taste a thin slice raw and you’ll be able to gauge whether or not you can keep it. Chances are you can especially if you’ve gotten them from a farmers market or CSA box.

Parsnips are wonderful additions to this veggie hash or these latkes. However, for a dish where they truly shine, try this light “cake” in which they are paired with celery root. Often gratins are heavy on the cheese and/or milk.  However, in this version, some simple broth or stock  (or veggie bouillon) provides the moisture and thyme, salt and pepper are the only seasonings and the result is light yet sweet and rich from the veggies themselves.

Parsnip and Celery Root “Cake”

It would be awfully hard to wear me out on root veggies and winter produce in general so I definitely stand by the Amish saying (at least the latter half!).

Lastly, I have a couple more spots in this Saturday’s Greens Class (a short and inexpensive class) and  have posted  a handful of new ones!

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Parsnip and Celery Root Cake
–adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

You can make this as written with parsnips and celery root or substitute rutabagas or turnips for the celery root. I’m sure potatoes and sweet potatoes would be comfortable in the mix too so feel free to use it as your use-up-random-veggies dish if you need to. I made the dish pictured above with parsnips, celery root and rutabaga and it was delightful.

As I note above, parsnips can have woody and fibrous cores but if they are quite fresh they probably don’t and you don’t need to cut out the core. Taste a thin slice raw and see how it seems. I’ve found that parsnips I buy at the farmers’ market are quite tender all the way through, even the really big ones.

You want to slice your veggies very thin. A sharp knife works great if you’re comfortable and a bit practiced and the food processor is a good alternative too.

1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large or 3 small (or 2 medium!:) parsnips, scrubbed and thinly sliced.
1/2 a medium celery root, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme, chopped up a bit
6 tablespoons vegetable broth or stock (I use veggie bouillon)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.
Toss the sliced onion and veggies in a large bowl with they thyme, at least a teaspoon of sea or kosher salt and plenty of pepper. You need to be generous with the salt.

Put the butter in a baking dish and place it in the oven while it’s preheating. When the butter is melted add the veggie mixture and combine well and pack the veggies down as evenly as possible. Pour the stock or bouillon over the mixture. Place a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil over the veggies and press down firmly. Bake for an hour and then remove the foil and turn your oven up to 425 (or to broil if you’re in a hurry) and cook for another five minutes or so until the top is nicely browned and the veggies are very tender.

Japanese Cabbage Pancakes (Okonomiyaki)
–adapted from Food52.com 

These pancakes are fantastic. They make a light supper with a salad on the side. Don’t be put off even if you don’t love cabbage. They are quick, cheap, and I have yet to encounter any resistance to these, adults and kids alike. Traditionally they include shrimp though I always make them without and love them that way but by all means add 1/2 cup of chopped shrimp if you like.

Makes about 12-18 pancakes (depending on how big you make them).

Sauce:
Scant ½ cup mayo
Scant 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot chili sauce)

Pancakes:
3-4 large eggs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups cabbage, finely sliced
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped (or 3 tablespoons or so diced red or yellow onion if that’s what you have)
Olive, coconut or peanut oil for pan-frying
1-2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Whisk the first set of ingredients together for your sauce. Set aside while you make the pancakes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt. Gradually add the flour until incorporated. Fold in cabbage, scallions, and shrimp. Warm a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until glistening. Spoon the batter into the skillet in whatever size you like. I make them about 4-5 inches in diameter. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Keep pancakes covered in a warm oven as you make the rest. Scatter sesame seeds on top of pancakes and serve with dipping sauce.

Ode to the Box Grater and Unconventional Latkes

I use my box grater most days. I’ve been grating carrots and rutabagas and making “latkes” with them. I’ve been grating beets and turnips and carrots and making a salad with toasted sesame seeds and a lemony dressing. I’ve been making celery root remoulade the classic French salad of grated raw celery root with a creamy mustardy dressing (though I use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise). I’ve been making delicata squash pancakes and grated sweet potato and regular potato and parsnip pancakes.

Turnips, sweet potatoes, celery root and carrots, the latter pulled from my garden this morning. . . These were the roots I happened to have around today but so many others--parsnips, rutabagas, beets, potatoes, winter squash--lend themselves to grating.

I love my food processor and its coarse grating blade too but I’ve reached for the good old box grater more often lately. It’s easy to clean, lives in a central drawer and requires no moving, assembling, or non-human power.

And tools aside, these grated concoctions are winners. There’s no better way to enjoy (or get unfamiliar veggies into skeptical tummies small and large) than grating them, mixing them with a light batter and pan-frying them into crisp, spidery pancakes.  Nor is there a better way to put a wintry salad on the table since the grating softens the veggies and enables them to soak up zippy dressings with lots of herbs and acidity.

In addition to writing about box graters and root veggies I had planned to write some sort of New Year’s greeting, but this morning I read this post and have been thinking about it ever since. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And I’ll just say what a pleasure it is to cook with the beautiful produce our fabulous farmers grow and that I hope to increase access and knowledge and comfort with it, both with new and familiar folks in 2012.

And finally, there are lots of new classes posted, including another round of the Eat Better Series, which is a great way to start the new year. So if you received a gift certificate for a class or have been wanting to take one or would like a “tune up” I’d love to see you here.

Happy New Year!

I shouldn't really call these latkes since they have cream or milk in the batter but they are worth trying with most any root veggie you have on hand.

Rutabaga and Carrot “Latkes”

I referenced this recipe last week and received quite a few questions asking for more details and a real recipe so here you go.

This is more of an idea/technique than a recipe and it’s not an authentic latke. Be that as it may it’s a great, great way to enjoy winter (especially root) veggies. You can also include or substitute turnips, celery root, sweet potatoes or potatoes. The quantities listed are approximations and can be adjusted based on what you have on hand, your taste, etc. For the below recipe you want about six cups of packed, grated veggie.

1 smallish or half a larger rutabaga, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater or shredded with a food processor
3-4 medium carrots, scrubbed and grated (same as rutabaga)
½ a medium onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or oregano, mint or chives or about a teaspoon of chopped sage or thyme, fresh or dried) optional
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
½ – 2/3 cup of cream or whole milk
Salt (at least 1 teaspoon kosher)
Freshly ground pepper
A few tablespoons of oil for pan-frying
Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving

Let the grated veggies rest, sprinkled with a little salt, in a large bowl while you prepare the batter. In a smallish bowl whisk the eggs with the flour and cream, salt and pepper. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the veggies with your hands, a big handful at a time. Return to the bowl; add the onion and herbs and finally the batter. Mix well. Taste for seasoning before you start frying. Under salted latkes are no fun.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Scoop large spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot pan. Flatten each one a bit with a spatula. Leave them alone for a few minutes until the sides start getting crispy and golden. Flip carefully and continue cooking until both sides are nicely browned. Eat hot topped with Greek yogurt or sour cream.

 

Apple Cider Syrup

Apple cider cooked down to a syrup. Spectacular in salad dressings, cocktails, etc.

I have a few aces in my cooking repertoire, not that many, but a few. And this one is probably at the top of the list. Like most things I cook and teach it’s pretty straightforward, laughably simple actually. It came about a few years ago when I had lots of apple cider left over from my family’s cider pressing party. So I decided to reduce about a gallon of the cider until it just got syrupy which took my gallon down to about a pint. (If you reduce a bit too far, add some cream and a little salt for the most divine apple cider caramel sauce!)

I started using a teaspoon or two in salad dressings and I was hooked. The stronger winter greens this time of year are perfectly complemented by this “mystery” ingredient in the dressing. Countless times people have asked me what was in my salad dressing and a friend now can’t make big enough salads since her 8-year-old eats practically the whole bowl. I have to admit this has not worked with  my 4-year-old  . . ..

This syrup also inspired the Party Class I co-taught with cocktail wizard Scott Taylor this last weekend. He encountered the syrup in a Beans Class  (that by the way I’m teaching again with new recipes January 7th) earlier this fall and immediately went home and started mixing drinks with it. It is a winner mixed with bourbon, ginger syrup, bitters and lemon!

Cider syrup over Greek yogurt.

Beyond salads and cocktails the syrup is wonderful over ice cream or Greek yogurt, drizzled onto soups or braises or roasted vegetables or fruits, on pancakes or waffles. . .. It’s sweet and tart and complex and contributes almost anywhere. So go buy a couple of gallons of apple cider, reduce it and give your friends who like to cook and drink a little jar or it as a gift. Or just make a bunch and freeze some. It also keeps well in the fridge for several months.

And speaking of gifts, you might also give the gift of a cooking class (to yourself or others) this season– a gift that doesn’t clutter anyone’s home yet makes a daily difference for the tummy!

Apple Cider Syrup

1 gallon apple cider (not apple juice)

In a large pot or saucepan bring the cider to a boil. Let boil, uncovered until gallon has reduced to approximately two cups of syrup and consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This can take anywhere from 40 to 90  minutes depending on the size of your pan, the strength of your stove, etc. Refrigerate or freeze when cool.