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Posts from the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

Leftover short-grained brown rice, peas, eggs, bacon, ginger, onion, carrots and green garlic. . . .made for a very tasty fried rice.

A student of mine turned me onto a classic (as I learned) way of cooking brown rice a few years ago. This method works particularly well with short-grain brown rice and has converted many a brown rice skeptic in my circles. You bake the rice in the oven after adding boiling water, a bit of butter and salt. Tightly covered it cooks away for an hour. And then watch out! I eat too much of it every time. It’s fluffy and buttery and tender and sweet and really just perfect.

In any case, I make a big panful of this brown rice whenever I make it since it also makes a noteworthy fried rice the next day (or week or month since it freezes beautifully). Having some cooked, frozen rice on hand is a gift on a busy day. Rice thaws fairly quickly and when re-purposed into friend rice or added to soup or gratin or even a cold salad with a zippy dressing, is hardly any worse for wear. In fact for fried rice to be good you want to use rice that was previously cooked and cooled so the grains are sure to separate nicely.

In my  kitchen fried rice is another perfect cook-with-what-you-have kind of dish. Whatever bits of vegetables and sometimes meat I have on hand all fry up nicely when cut into small pieces and given plenty of room and heat. Scoot the rice and veggies to the side and scramble a few eggs in the same pan before mixing them in gives it extra heartiness. And any number of fresh herbs tossed in at the end are a bonus. In this case it was basil and mint. Sometimes I add chopped, roasted peanuts and a good splash of coconut milk (unorthodox I’m sure but very good nevertheless).

You can scramble a few eggs in one side of the pan and then mix them into the rice.

So cook some rice, lots of rice, and then make fried rice or rice custard or tell me what your favorite thing to do with leftover rice is . . . Happy Cooking!

Cook-With-What-You-Have Fried Rice

This is the quintessential quick dinner, utilizing whatever bits and pieces you have on hand. Asparagus, corn, turnips, radishes, leeks, chard stems, green beans all work well in this dish. Quantities are all approximations and you can vary them as you like. You just want to be sure you cut the vegetables finely and fairly uniformly and you don’t want to crowd your skillet or wok. To avoid a soggy dish you need to be brave with the heat level and steer away from vegetables that give off a lot of liquid like tomatoes or zucchini, though finely diced zucchini would work well with enough heat!

Serves 4 (more or less)

4 cups cooked, cooled rice (I recommend making short-grain brown rice as described above, if you can)
2 tablespoons coconut, sunflower or olive oil
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or one or two stalks of green garlic, minced–using the whole things except for the ratty tops)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 ounces of bacon, cut into small dice
1 1/2 cups of peas (fresh or frozen) or snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small carrots, cut into small dice
1 Serrano chili, seeded (if you don’t want it very spicy) and finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil, mint or cilantro (or a combination)
Salt

Heat the oil in a wok or wide skillet over high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, Serrano chili, and bacon and cook stirring very frequently for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the peas and the rice and mix everything very well. Cook for about three more minutes to heat the rice and peas through. Then push the contents of the pan to one side and add the eggs to the empty spot and scramble them until almost set. A few stray peas or rice kernels will make their way in which is just fine. You just don’t want to mix the raw egg into the rice right away since you’ll loose track of it as it just coats the kernels instead of scrambling. When the eggs are almost set, mix them gently into the rice, add the soy and fish sauce, stir well and then mix in the herbs. Adjust seasoning–it may need salt or more soy or fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice–and serve immediately.

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Green Garlic, Butter, and Parmesan

. . . with eggs, or  fresh pasta, or fish or beef or beans, or toast. . .! I can think of few things that would not be enhanced by the combination of these three things. I know I wrote about green garlic here a few weeks go and in fact I do every spring. There’s something about those sweet, fresh, flexible, immature garlic stalks that makes cooking so fun this time of year. It’s the third wet, cold spring in a row for us Oregonians and my robust green garlic crop is one of the few highlights in an otherwise unbearably soggy garden.

In other news, my recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky (beautiful city with excellent food) for the Slow Food National Congress was decidedly not soggy and very inspiring. But I was also relieved to be home again and reminded of how comforting and freeing it is to be able to cook with whatever odds and ends you might find in your kitchen/garden after being away for a week. You can read about that here. And it reminded me why I love to teach cooking classes and in particular my Eat Better Series, which lays the foundation for delicious, healthy eating every day, no matter where you are or what your dietary restrictions may be. So if you sometimes find yourself at a loss for what to make for dinner and no time to run to the store or need, simple, quick recipes to avoid eating processed foods, then this might be your class.

If you live in Portland, Oregon you can buy this fresh spinach pasta at Pastaworks/City Market. It's delicious, beautiful and incredibly inexpensive.

Pasta with Green Garlic, Butter & Parmesan

You use the whole garlic stalk, much like you would a green onion (scallion). The whole plant is tender and delicious so just barely trim it. And if you don’t have pasta you can gently cook fish fillets or shrimp in the garlic mixture, or toss the garlic into scrambled eggs or a frittata or stir it into a bowl of warm pinto beans. You really can add it to most anything.

1 lb fresh pasta (or 2/3 lb dried spaghetti, linguine or other long, skinny pasta)
5-6 stalks green garlic, roots and scraggly tops trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt, pepper and touch of olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Have a cup on hand to scoop out some of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped green garlic and stir well to coat. Add a few pinches of salt. Cook the garlic, covered, stirring occasionally until it’s soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn it.

If you’re using fresh pasta you’ll just need to cook it for two minutes or so. Check frequently so that you don’t overcook it. When the pasta is al dente, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the garlic (off the heat), then add the grated cheese and some of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to mix. It will take a minute or two for the pasta cooking water to work its magic and combine with the cheese and the garlic to create a sauce that will just coat the pasta. Add more water if it seems dry. Adjust for seasoning and drizzle a bit of good olive oil over the whole thing and add a few grinds of pepper. Enjoy!

I had eaten my whole serving save this bite when I remembered I wanted to take a photo. I'm warning you, this goes down very easily!

Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . .Well, my garden would never materialize if I  did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like a cook–without a whole lot of planning when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it's much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until smooth-ish. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish

Split yellow peas and basmati rice cooked with cumin seeds, turmeric, Garam Masala and cilantro and topped with a spicy, lemony onion relish.

One of the best things about living in this era is that we can experience so much of the world through food and the people who share it wherever they end up. What began with the Spice Trade as much as 2500 years ago and continues in varied forms today is a global exchange of flavors, cultures, and tastes that enrich my life and all of our communities, I would argue, every day. I use turmeric and cardamom, cumin and mustard seeds as well as fish sauce and coconut milk, capers, chocolate, and cinnamon . . .pretty regularly. And they all work beautifully with our local produce and products.

I am also a devout farmers’ market shopper and supporter of CSAs and generally try to purchase what we need (food and otherwise) as close to home as possible but with the above exceptions and a few more! Thanks to my current project with the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council my global and local interests are converging nicely.  I am working on some videos for their new, soon-to-launch consumer-facing website on how to prepare dry peas and lentils. I am testing recipes with yellow split peas, red lentils, whole dry green peas, garbanzo bean flour and much more, which is making me particularly grateful for culinary traditions world-wide. Indian and Italian preparations are serving me particularly well, but so are  Mexican and French ones. So the fact that we grow such a huge variety of peas and beans in the U.S. that I can then prepare based on hundreds of years of cooking wisdom from far-flung places, climates and cultures is a joy.

While I did not intend to post two recipes back to back with the same colors and almost the same spice-scheme, I hope you’ll consider them both.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish (Golden Kichuri)
–adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2/3 cup yellow split peas (matar ki daal)
1 2/3 cup basmati rice
3 tablespoons ghee, coconut or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
3-4 cups  veggie bouillon broth or water
Salt

Onion Relish

1/2 a small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste — 1/2 teaspoon  makes this VERY spicy)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of Greek yogurt or plain whole milk yogurt (optional)

Soak the peas in ample warm water for 2-3 hours. Soak the rice in ample warm water for 1 hour. Drain both.

Heat the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the cumin seeds. Cook just for a scant minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Add the rice and peas and stir to coat well with the fat. Add the Garam Masala, turmeric, cilantro and broth or water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (unless your broth is quite salty–if you’re using water add a generous teaspoon of salt). Stir well, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered for about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water or broth, in 1/2-cup increments if it seems too dry. When the peas and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed let it sit off the heat, covered, for 10 more minutes to steam.

While the peas and rice are cooking, stir together the relish ingredients. Serve the rice and peas with the relish and some yogurt, if you’d like.

Salad

From top left: beet, orange and radicchio salad; roasted squash, black bean, avocado and cilantro salad; raw collards with pickled apples and toasted walnuts; and mixed salad with chopped egg.

I got to have lunch with my mother today. You’ve heard about her many times here but not lately. I was standing at the counter in the kitchen this morning mixing yogurt into my muesli with fruit and granola and I had one of those moments where you catch yourself, you recognize yourself in someone else. You realize how fundamentally you’ve been shaped by someone else, you have similar reactions, tastes, expressions. . . . It made me smile, feel old and all-grown-up and quite comfortable actually.

And then she came by for a quick lunch today. As per usual I tossed together whatever I had on hand to make a hearty salad. Today that was already cooked barley (Jet Barley) and already roasted squash. I had a few radishes, a lone scallion, some goat cheese (leftover from Saturday’s Improv class), a handful of parsley, a few leaves of romaine, and one puny slice of bread which I toasted and then tore up in to tiny bits. This all sounds rather odd but dressed up with a nice vinaigrette enlivened with my apple cider syrup it was just right–chewy, fresh, and rich from the squash and cheese.

Barley, radish, parsley and squash salad and my lovely mother and me.

I’m not suggesting you recreate this particular mix. What I do suggest–surprise, surprise (!)–is that you have cooked beans or grains or roasted or fresh veggies on hand so that tossing something like this together is a snap. My mother often does this and I remember her doing this especially when my father was away for work. Meals got simpler, less conventional (though she was never terribly conventional!).

This winter I’ve been making random concoctions like this a lot and I’m getting better at them, with the exception of the one with grated rutabaga (which can be very good in salads), roasted beets, and radicchio. It’s fun to balance textures and flavors and create such colorful one-bowl meals with odds and ends. And I continue to be inspired by Plenty (the beet salad above, for instance) though I rarely have all the ingredients Yotam Ottolenghi calls for but his combinations are so brilliant and they’ve been adapting well.

I realize I’m not giving you a precise recipe but you might not need one. Just think of your salad bowl and the contents of your pantry and fridge as your inspiration. Make a zippy dressing of some kind and see what happens. And if that seems too vague or scary and you happen to live in the  Portland, OR area then come to the upcoming Pantry & Quick Meals or Kitchen Confidence (techniques, substitutions, etc. ) or Salad classes!

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Frittata

It’s like a pizza but eggy! That’s how my five-year-old (as of yesterday five-year-old!) said to his teacher this morning when asked what his favorite food at his birthday party had been. I beg to differ on the likeness to pizza but it is one of my favorite dishes. I teach it regularly in vastly different incarnations but have never written about it here.

Frittata with kale, chili flakes and nutmeg

It’s a bit like pizza in that you can adapt it endlessly and it hails from the same country but that’s about it. There’s no yeast dough to make and let rise and there’s no floury mess to clean up. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza but don’t find myself making it when I have a hungry crowd to feed and only 20 minutes in which to prepare something.

A frittata can be as simple as the one in one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies — Big Night — as in just egg and salt. The eggs are lightly beaten, seasoned and then cooked in a skillet until firm. When I experienced them being in made in Italy they were usually flipped part way through, usually with the assistance of a little crust of bread that served as the heat absorbing extension of your hand when managing the flipping maneuver.  I’ve long since adopted the finishing-in-the-broiler method instead of flipping but if you’re lacking excitement in your cooking routines by all means, flip away! As a matter of fact my broiler quit working in class once a long time ago and I found myself needing to flip a 12-egg frittata in a huge cast iron skillet so if you’re lacking a broiler, you’ll get your practice in any case.

This weekend I made two frittate for my son’s birthday party: one with finely chopped, kale, onion, chili flakes and a bit of nutmeg and one with diced potatoes, sausage and fresh oregano. They really are the easiest, most portable and nourishing item to make for a party. They are delicious at room temperature and you don’t need a fork or even a plate. With the addition of meat and potatoes they are even heartier and they are the perfect foil for bits and pieces of vegetables that may be in the bottom of your crisper. Some of my favorites include lots of herbs either alone or in combination–parsley, basil, chives, thyme, tarragon, etc. And this time of year the hearty, leafy greens or leeks (with thyme and goat cheese) are my standby’s.

The birthday party frittate from this weekend: kale, chili flake and nutmeg, and sausage and potato.

Leftover wedges of a frittata make a wonderful sandwich filling paired with a little arugula, a few slices of onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. If you have leftover spaghetti or other pasta (sauced or unsauced) you can chop it up a bit and saute it briefly in a skillet and pour the egg over the pasta for a perfect second incarnation. So you get the point, if you have little time and a few eggs on hand, dinner is just a matter of minutes away.

Frittata with Greens

This is one of my quickest, go-to dinners for a busy day. The options are literally infinite as to what to include. In this version you can use a lot of greens and just have the egg hold it all together or you can use less greenery and have it be more eggy—it’s really up to your taste. This is wonderful the next day in sandwiches or as a snack. It’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot.

1 bunch greens (chard, kale, collards, etc.)
1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 eggs (or whatever you have on hand or want to use)
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
1-2 ounces grated hard cheese or your choice or feta or goat cheese (optional)
Salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or well-seasoned cast iron pan. Rinse the greens and remove any tough stems. If you’re using chard, remove the stem and chop finely and sauté for a few minutes before you add the greens. Cut the greens into thin ribbons (easier to handle that way and cook down more quickly). Add greens and a few pinches of salt to the pan and sauté over med-high heat until they’re tender. You may need to add a splash of water to keep them from burning and sticking. And the length of time will depend on the kind and variety of green. Most cook in about 10 minutes or less. Set your oven to broil.

Lightly whisk the eggs until they’re just broken up—no need to get them frothy or really well mixed. Add a few generous pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper, the chili flakes, and the nutmeg (if using). Pour eggs over the greens and tilt the pan to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the eggs, if using. Cover and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. When the eggs begin to set and the sides are getting firm take the pan off the heat and set under the broiler until the eggs are cooked and slightly puffed and golden. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving. It will come out of the pan much more easily that way. Serve with a slice of bread and salad. Variations: Add bacon, sausage, leftover pasta, most any other veggie (sautéed leeks or onions, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, spinach, diced carrot, zucchini . . .)

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted some new classes, including another Eat Better Series later in the spring, a class on everyday savory and sweet baking, one on techniques and tricks and more!

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.

Genius Recipe

 

That’s a risky title. When I worked at a restaurant many years ago the chef, wisely, noted that you should never call anything the “best this” or “world-famous that”. . . it’s annoying, it’s highly subjective, so on and so forth. I think this falls into a slightly different category. The folks at Food52 ask folks to submit genius recipes and I believe they define them as just plain smart, unusual, surprisingly delicious, and/or unexpected in their simplicity and success. I’ve been meaning to submit this recipe to them but in the meantime, here it is. And it has an irreverent title to boot!

It’s toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, slathered with pesto and doused with brothy black beans. That’s it and it’s really, really good. Make it and tell me when you do and what you think.

Zuppa Bastarda (“Bastard Soup”)
–inspired by Carol Boutard (of Ayers Creek Farm) who got the recipe from Nostrana which got the recipe from Anne Bianchi.

Bastard soup is so named because it uses black beans, which are called fascistini in honor of what Elda Cecchi calls “that black shirted bastard who brought Italy to the brink of destruction during WWII.”

It’s very simple to make. And if you have previously cooked black beans with their broth on hand by all means just use those. The garlic and pesto on the toasted bread add lots of flavor so don’t be put off by its simplicity.

1 ¼ cups dried black beans, soaked (or 3 cups of cooked black beans in their cooking liquid, see headnote)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 tsp dried crumbled dried sage or chopped, fresh sage
6 3/4-inch thick slices good bread, toasted
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Drain the beans and place in a soup pot along with 3 cloves of the garlic, the onion, sage, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 25 – 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half. Using half a clove for each 2 slices of bread, rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic until the bread is perfumed with the odor, spread about 1 tablespoon of pesto on each slice. Divided the slices among 6 bowls and pour the bean soup into the bowls over the bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve hot.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted a bunch of new classes, shorter, cheaper and with new subject matter, including one for youth/kids and pantry stocking/quick meals one.

I used Black Basque beans (grown by Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon) this time around and they have a much lighter hue when cooked. Usually I use Black Turtle beans which are much darker. It works well with both or probably any other kind of black bean you have. Getting the best, freshest beans you can find is always good though.

 

 

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.

 

Winter Comfort (Caldo Verde)

Curly Savoy Cabbage

Cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, carrots, beets, and kale are my dear friends this time of year.  Yesterday I was writing my E-newsletter and I started with: “if you need to use up half a rutabaga and a few carrots. . . .” and then stopped and changed that to: “this recipe is a great way to enjoy rutabagas, carrots, . . .”.  It got me thinking about the semantic treatment of the less-than-sexy veggies or maybe any bits and pieces that remain in the crisper long after they’ve been purchased.

My four-year-old and I devoured the rutabaga and carrot latkes I was writing about and he requested that I make them for lunch everyday now. They were just plain delicious. So I am consciously changing my recipe writing tone to promote these winter workhorses that are packed with nutrients, endlessly adaptable and combinable, and in season in many parts of the country right now.

Today’s post features one of those winter veggies that keeps in the crisper (and stays crisp) for weeks: cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes showed up here just a few weeks ago but today’s recipe for the Portuguese Caldo Verde is completely different, quick and so satisfying.

Cabbage, potatoes, and chorizo

An early Christmas present to myself in the form of Tender, Nigel Slater’s completely absorbing book about veggies, inspired the revival of this dish in our household. . .as well as the ever-present half-head of cabbage in the fridge, and my job writing recipes for CSA Farm members.

Caldo Verde--Just as good or better the next day though a little less photogenic.

Caldo Verde (Cabbage and Potato Soup with Chorizo)
–adapted very slightly from Tender, by Nigel Slater 

Savoy cabbage is very good in this but regular ol’ green cabbage or any kind of kale works just as well. One chorizo is really plenty to flavor this soup well but if you’ve got meat lovers at the table feel free to toss in another. If you’d like to make this without the meat, I would add a teaspoon or two of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton) and another clove or two of garlic at the beginning.

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 -4 medium waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
4-5 cups water or broth
2 bay leaves
1 chorizo sausage (about 4 oz), cut into thin rounds
4 cups Savoy cabbage (or other, see headnote), cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling

Saute the onion and garlic over medium-low heat in a large pot in a bit of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a few more minutes before adding the water (or broth), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are quite soft. Meanwhile fry the slices of chorizo in a small pan until they are crisp and the fat has been rendered.

Mash the potatoes in the pot with a fork or potato masher until partially broken down. You want the potatoes to thicken the soup but also leave plenty of lumps. Add the cabbage and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the chorizo, adjust for salt and serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and another grind of pepper.

Happy Cooking and Eating!