Category Archives: Home Cooking

The Chard Among the Goosefoots

The goosefoot family of plants, the chenopodiaceae, is one we’re all pretty familiar with even if we don’t know its longish name.  It includes spinach, beets, and chard, but also a host of edible wild (and cultivated) plants collectively known as “quelites”.  Among them are lambs quarters, magentaspreen, orach, pigweed, and the cultivar, Good King Henry.  Quinoa and huanzontle also reside here, as do a number of wild desert plants, like Four Wing Saltbush.  All have masses of small edible seeds. Some, like huanzontle, are eaten while they’re still in their flower form. Others, like quinoa, are eaten once the seeds have formed and dried. Some of these are amaranths which used to be botanically closer but are still pretty similar in some respects, especially taste. Below is a bouquet of amaranths from a farmers market in Arlington, MA.

Amaranths from the farmers market

One botany book of mine succinctly sums up the goosefoots as a group of rank and weedy plants, which some clearly are. Epazote, the only herb in the family, certainly could be described that way, as can a number of the wild goosefoots that grow around my neighborhood. When I note the summer pollen index in the morning paper, much of it is due to the “chenopods”, the wild weedy ones just going to flower in June

But why goosefoot? Because the leaves are supposedly the shape of a goose’s foot. And they are, sort of. And how do I know? While visiting a u-pick berry farm in the Cuyahoga National Park, a small flock of geese had gathered behind a fence. As my friend and I approached their enclosure they ran Magliette Calcio A Poco Prezzo towards us, their long necks outstretched, hissing with unbridled menace because while we were proper visitors to the farm, in their eyes we were also likely to be thieves. I asked the farmer if he’d be willing to pick up a goose and show me its foot so I could see its shape. He did so, thrusting a big, orange leathery-looking claw-like appendage in my face. It was a powerful looking foot, but its shape was both broader and simpler than I had expected. It didn’t match up exactly with the shape of the leaves in this family, although it did roughly enough.  This webbed foot was rather broad and many goosefoot leaves like spinach and chard, are narrow.  Maybe some geese have narrower feet? Still, it is possible to see the resemblance, especially when you think of other leaves in other families that have absolutely no similarity, like artichokes and salsify, two members of the daisy family.

Aside from the one herb, the seeds and the beetroot, the edible parts of this family consist mostly of leafy greens (also reds purples, and magentas), tender leaves that are edible raw when young, cooked when older, and highly nutritious at any stage. There are not nearly as many edibles as in other families, like the cruciferous (cabbage) family or the solanaceae (tomatoes, potaotes, eggplant), but they are all easy to prepare, not difficult to grown, and they pair well with one another in all sorts of ways. The greens of these various plants are essentially interchangeable and taste very much the same, the wild ones being somewhat stronger.

Among them, I’m partial to chard.  It grows pretty much easily everywhere. It yields edible stalks as well as extremely handsome leaves. Just the appearance those thick leaves with their bubbled surfaces, not to mention the translucent golden, rose and purple stems of the rainbow variety, make my mouth water, even though chard isn’t as exciting as, say, mustard greens or broccoli raab. It is, however, ever reliable, useful, and can be prepared in all sorts of ways. Just steaming or braising the leaves until they’re tender, then turning maglie calcio poco prezzo them in some good olive oil, sea salt and pepper flakes is a simple act that goes far in the taste department. Chard is always compatible with lentils (in a soup) and potatoes (added to boiled ones or a mash.)  My favorite frittata, the Provencale trouchia, is based on slowly cooked chard and onions with basil. Another dish I never tired of is chard cooked leisurely in its own moisture with a few tablespoons of rice and a lot of cilantro, cumin and garlic. You don’t end up with a lot, but the few bites you get are intensely satisfying. Chard can also serve as somewhat neutral but bulk-supplying element when cooked in a soup with stronger tasting but less substantial greens, such as sorrel, nettles, and lovage. It can stuff a crepe or nestle into a lasagna. The combination of eggplant and chard is oddly meaty. The leaves can also be used to harbor fillings. And on and on.

Rainbow chard

All in all chard is an extremely useful green that can be led in this and that direction depending on its herb or spice companions. And you know what else you can do with it?  You can put the leaves in a vase and put them on the table to admire for a day, then cook it. Here’s a recipe from my work in progress, “Vegetable Literacy”.

Chard, Ricotta and Saffron Cakes with Micro Greens Makes 12 3-inch cakes

These can serve as a tidy little nibble for a pass-around, made slightly larger for a first course, or large still for a vegetable main course.

Enough chard to make 10 to 12 cups trimmed leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1 cup white whole -wheat pastry flour or spelt flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 farm eggs

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup whole milk

3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

Thick yogurt or sour cream and micro greens

Wash the leaves and cook them in a covered pot until they are wilted and tender but not overcooked, so keep an eye on them and taste them frequently once they’ve wilted. When done, put the greens in a colander and set them aside to cool and drain.

Cover the saffron threads with 2 tablespoons boiling water and set aside.

In one bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking powder. In another bowl, mix the ricotta, cheese, eggs and milk together. Add the oil, butter and steeped saffron threads, then whisk in the flour mixture.

Returning to the greens, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop them finely and stir them into the batter.

Heat a pan with olive oil, ghee or butter.  Drop batter onto the pan, making small or larger cakes as you wish, and cook over medium-low heat. The batter is quite thick and it will not Cheap NFL Jerseys behave exactly like a pancake.  You need to give it plenty of time in the pan and it will still be very moist. Cook over moderate heat until golden on the bottom, then turn the cakes once, resisting any urge to pat them down, and cook until the second side is also well-colored.  Serve each with a spoonful of sour cream and a garnish of micro greens.


Two Long Roots: Salsify and Scoroznera

A friend came to visit one Thanksgiving bearing a gift of carefully wrapped salsify roots she got in her Wisconsin CSA box.  She brought them because she had no idea what they were, much less what to do with them.   Unfortunately I didn’t have a great deal of experience with them myself. Salsify and its black-skinned relation, scorzonera, have long been out of fashion although both were popular in colonial gardens.

You pretty much have to grow these vegetables yourself if you want to know what they are. Salsify, I know from experience, is easy to grow. I don’t know yet about scorzonera. You scatter the large seeds on top of the soil instead of burying them and they soon put down roots and begin to make plants and grass-like leaves that are striking when they move in the wind. Several months later you should have roots. Mine were ready in the fall, but I wasn’t ready for them so I left the roots in the ground and nearly forgot about them until early February when those long leaves on the ground jarred my memory. I got my fork and dug them up. As you can see, they’re pretty gnarly looking. Each root is covered with a thicket of smaller ones, which give it its other name, goat’s beard. It’s also called oyster plant because many say that when cooked, it tastes (faintly) of oysters.  I’ve never found this to be true, but when I unearthed my crop I broke off one of its side roots and inhaled the main root where it was torn. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I detected a whiff of the sea – faintly briny and fresh.

Salsify roots freshly pulled from the winter garden

Unlike the pale-skinned salsify, the black scorzonera root is smoother and longer. Both roots are white inside and, like many members of the daisy family, have a tendency to darken unless plunged immediately into a bath of acidulated water. The two can be used interchangeably. Like lettuce, the roots of salsify, when broken, release a milky substance, and like chicory roots and Jerusalem artichokes, they contain inulin, which is good for controlling blood sugar and providing a pleasing sensation in the mouth, maybe a sensation that resembles an oyster. As for varieties, there are not besides Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify and Black Giant Russian Scorzonera, except in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook where there are several varieties of each. The paucity of choice indicates only a mild interest in either plant from breeders. I believe there are more varieties of rutabagas than oyster plants, a vegetable that is the favorite of very few.

The roots of both plants, once scrubbed and peeled, can be steamed, braised, included in soups and stews, mashed, baked in gratins or dressed like salads. Young salsify roots can  (apparently) be eaten raw in salads as can the tender greens, or grated and made into little fritters. Both roots, however, are extremely mild which means that either more robust flavors need to be introduced to make them more interesting, or the accompanying ingredients need be delicate and complimentary. The few times I’ve had possession of either vegetable I’ve enjoyed Gafas Ray Ban outlet them steamed then finished in brown butter with breadcrumbs, a rather classic treatment of vegetables on the whole.  But then, what’s not good with brown butter and toasted breadcrumbs? More can be done and would be, if we saw these vegetables more often. If you are at a loss as to what to do with salsify and scorzonera, use them as you would carrots or parsnips or, as one seed catalogue suggests, treat them like asparagus. Or try this Salsify Chowder.

Thinking of the oyster-seafood connection, I thought of chowder, then I thought of corn but not frozen. Instead I used freeze-dried corn, which I’m currently intrigued with. They dehydrate into actual corn-flavored kernels.

If you prefer not to eat dairy, omit it. Make a stock from the leek trimmings and potato peels and use that, or chicken stock. If you really like dairy, decrease the water by 1 cup and replace it with milk or even half-and-half. If you’re in between, you might want to use 2% milk. It will be more of a pale white than creamy looking, but it will still taste good.

Winter Chowder of Salsify and Dried Corn                                                      Serves 4

2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar

1 to 1 ½ pounds salsify or scorzanera

1 small onion or 1 large leek, the white part, diced, enough for 1 cup

2 celery stalks, peeled if need be, and diced

2 or 3 yellow fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, about 12 ounces, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

sea salt

½ cup freeze dried corn

1 cup whole milk

a little finely chopped parsley or tarragon to finish

freshly ground white pepper

Put the lemon juice in a bowl with the water. Scrub, then peel the roots one at a time, slice them into ½ inch rounds or chunks and immediately put them in the acidulated water.

Prepare the rest of the vegetables. Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, celery, potatoes, then the salsify.  Give a stir to coat everything with the butter, then cook over Ray Ban outlet medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, add the corn followed by 3 cups water or stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook, Covered, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Puree two cups of the vegetables with the milk and additional liquid from the soup if need be, and return it to the soup. Taste for salt. Serve with a bit of fine green herb in each bowl and freshly ground white pepper.

Like many soups, this is even better the next day.

My Accidental Near-Vegan New Years Menu

The aftermath of the holidays seems to have produced more articles about becoming vegetarian or vegan whether for a day, a week, or a month than I remember seeing. I’ve even contributed to an article or two myself to the subject. And why not? It’s good to try something new.

I often make meals that could be called vegan, but I never think of them that way. It’s just how things turn out. But the idea of making a vegan meal for a dinner party isn’t something I’ve been much inclined to do. Again, sometimes it’s just how things turn out. It’s pretty much what happened when a friend wanted to give her husband a cooking class for Christmas. After reading The China Study the opera singer became a vegetarian. He already loved to cook, but his wife, who is not a vegetarian, thought a little instruction might be a good idea. And since we were friends, we thought we’d conclude with a dinner party.  And why not New Years? It was coming right up, after all.

In our class I wanted to show my student tricks and techniques, specific recipes, winter vegetables, and introduce him to a passel of different oils and vinegars plus herbs, spices, salts— basically, as much as I could cram into a short afternoon.  We cooked a lot of food. It didn’t all go together as a menu – you wouldn’t have a soup and a stew in the same meal— but I wanted to show him how, in a soup, a little miso could provide that umami quality and how, in a stew, he could tease ordinary vegetables into a robust red and gold dish. We had more than one salad, but each one was provided a lesson or two in itself. Except for one dish, not a hint of butter, cream, cheese, honey or eggs appeared in this meal.

The non-vegan element, and it could have been foregone, was baked fresh ricotta cheese with thyme, one of my favorite dishes. We had it with crunchy crackers and olives. Dessert was a matter of arranging Medjool dates, marzipan, Satsuma tangerines, pecans, figs stuffed with almonds and anise on a platter.

When it was finally time to open a bottle of champagne and nibble on salted almonds still warm from the oven, we were ready for dinner, course after course of it. During dinner we drank a spectacularly delicious Marques de Riscal Rioga (2005) that worked well with the food.  It was a bit of a crazy mixed up menu, but I like to think that my friends went home with a lot of new ideas, a few tricks up their sleeves along with a bowl of Romesco sauce.

While cleaning up I noticed the wedge of Manchego cheese and a lovely blue I had intended to put out and that was when I realized we had just enjoyed pretty much a vegan meal, plus it was for company and not only company, but for New Years. And it was just fine. I just wouldn’t call it vegan, or maglie calcio poco prezzo vegetarian or anything but a good dinner, but with some refinement, I’d do it again. For company. After all, it’s good to try something new. The leftovers saw us into the first days of 2012, the recipes were from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and my upcoming book, Vegetable Literacy, and the vegetables were, with a few exceptions, from the farmers market and my garden. Amazing what we can do these days for produce.

And now it’s time to think about ordering seeds.

raised beds iin March snow

New Year’s Crazy Mixed Up Menu

Roasted Salted Almonds

Baked Ricotta with Thyme
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Golden & Chioggia Beets with Red Endive, Black Olives, and Pickled Onions

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger, White Miso and Black Sesame Seeds

Caramelized Fennel with Toasted Fennel Seeds and Fennel Greens

An Ozette Potato, Chickpea and Pepper Stew with Romesco Sauce

Finely Slivered Radicchio with Walnut Vinaigrette

Winter Tidbits of Dates, Tangerines, Marzipan and Nuts

Keep the Meal and Take a Hike

2. Bourbon Red

This is the time of year all the health magazines come out with suggestions for lighter pumpkin pies, non-caloric mashed potatoes, creamed onions without the cream and the like.  That’s fine, I guess, but when I was asked to contribute some suggestions for “healthier” holiday recipes for an article, I found I wasn’t so keen on the idea of lightening up my holiday dinner. But I did have another idea about feast days.

I guess I just don’t see Thanksgiving dinner as the cholesterol-laden threat of excess that others do.  In fact, I rather enjoy these meals that are larger than what’s needed to satisfy hunger, the groaning board laden with dishes often contributed by friends who have brought their favorites, dishes that they’ve gone to some extra trouble and care over. A table might showcase a parade of local foods that far outnumber what you’d cook on any other Thursday. Or maybe it’s time for those foods without which Thanksgiving wouldn’t be that. They may be rich, silly, sentimental good or even questionable, but whatever they are, they’re probably dishes we don’t normally make and there’s something about foods that appear only once —maybe twice— a year. They’re special. Since we don’t eat like this all the time can’t we lighten up our fears instead of our food? It’s a holiday, after all!

A number of years ago when we were all new to e-mail, several chef friends and I planned a Christmas dinner we would share in Los Angeles. It turned out to be quite a challenge because one couldn’t imagine Christmas without oysters; another was allergic to them, but had to have Blue Lake beans. Were green beans really in season? “Yes!” said one of the west coasters so, yes, green beans were in.  What about the main course? Turkey? Crown roast? Ham? Did it have to one? Could it be another? What about the vegetarians? Some were flexible, others weren’t. But we all had dishes that were must-haves, and of course, everyone wanted to contribute those favorite Christmas desserts. We ended up with 10 appetizers, an enormous meal, and there were probably a dozen desserts—plus champagne, wine, chocolates, nuts, tangerines, and more.  It was truly excessive but it was much more memorable than a balanced, low-fat meal even though I recall vowing I would never again choose to be this full in my life.

But then, there as a beach right outside our motel, which leads me to my present take on this whole business of turning holiday meals away from excess to moderation. How about adding another element and leaving the food alone?

Our family used to take long walks in the  cold and return hungry and ready for dinner. As long as the oven was actually turned on (a few times it wasn’t) it worked out well. We’d come in cold and hungry to a house that smelled delicious, our anticipation high.  When I spent a Christmas in Norway a few years ago, the succession of big meals (and I do mean big, rich fatty ones) was broken by several hours of cross-country skiing in between. All the maglie calcio poco prezzo huffing and puffing under the light of clear moon in that Norwegian winter dusk was both a pleasure and a life saver. And if hiking and cross country skiing aren’t your activities, there’s always tennis, touch football, volleyball, Ping-Pong. Even raking leaves. Whatever it is, forget the treadmill and do something outdoors, with friends.

Sometime it’s not the meal that’s a problem as the leftovers. While leftovers are of course one of the best things about Thanksgiving, you might consider not making so many candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies that you find yourself eating them for a week. Maybe make enough for one extra meal and leave it at that. You probably really don’t need more leftovers than will fit in the fridge. Better to share the wealth or just have less to start with. And if you’re going to have turkey, skip the corn-fed factory-farmed birds for their sakes and yours, and find a local one, maybe a heritage breed. They’re smaller, but far tastier and far better bred.

A Gorgeous CabbageI will add this thought, though.  If you’ve generally changed how you eat, say you don’t Cheap NFL Jerseys make desserts anymore, cream hardly ever shows up in your kitchen and you barely remember sugar, then some of those old dishes, like real creamed onions and my beloved candied sweet potatoes may not have quite the appeal they used to. I mean, it’s a possibility your tastes have changed and if that’s the case, cook what you like to eat. In any case, cook what you like to eat, banish guilt, and above all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

The Next Generation Cooks Dinner

Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Too much rain or not enough. Wars and famine.

It was time for some good news.

Last week my husband and I were invited to a dinner party. It was given by Kate, aged l7, who was leaving for college the next day, and she wanted to have a little going away party for herself. Of course we’d come. After all, we’ve known Kate since she was born and her two brothers since they were little kids.

Because it was her dad who actually invited us, we expected the big kind of rambling get together Kate’s parents often hold, where a lot of people who don’t know each other –and some who do – mingle and eat and talk. But no, this was Kate’s deal. Aside from her brothers, her boy friend, and brother’s girlfriend, the rest of us were her parent’s friends. And it turned out that neither Kate’s mom or dad were there —a sick parent need attending and a truck had broken down—which gave us the giddy feeling that there weren’t any adults around despite our ages. When we offered to help, “No thanks! Got it!” was the reply. Kate had dinner under control. Here’s the menu that she cooked.

Margaritas from scratch, no margarita mix in site

Home made guacamole

Grilled asparaguswith a tomatilla salsa

Grilled steak

A big Caesar salad

Polenta with fried onions

A plum galette and lime mousse tarts for dessert

Nothing was from Trader Joes. Nothing was out of package. No parents were there to lend a hand. Kate and her boyfriend, with a brother occasionally pitching in, pulled off a delicious meal without a hitch. Us older types sat around the kitchen table with our margaritas and basked in the situation. We watched the kids cook, ate a wonderful dinner and it was a terrifically fun party with lots of conversation.

I had no idea Kate liked to cook or knew how. When I asked her brothers about this, they thought that kids in Santa Fe generally knew how to cook. They acted as if it weren’t a big deal, but just a natural consequence of growing up here, which I found surprising. Why would that be the case?

One reason brother Andrew sited was a program called Cooking for Kids that has, for over a decade, worked in the Santa Fe schools to give children hands on experiences of cooking food. (I actually taught the younger brother, Will, through this program when he was in the 3rd grade.)

Then both brothers said that when they finally realized how much it cost to to eat out all the time, they figured that they had to learn how to cook.

But they didn’t mention something that had been going on right under their noses, and it had to do with their parents. Their dad, a furniture designer who works from home, is a very good baker. There’s always fresh bread around or the smell of bread baking. When it’s pizza night at their house, it isn’t Ray Ban outlet delivered, but made at home. as are their other meals. Kate’s parents aren’t foodies, they don’t shop at the farmers market or get excited about smoked salt, but baking bread and cooking from scratch is just something they do.

Kate’s mom commutes to her job so her husband often cooks. But as a naturally social person, she often puts together parties. The parents have always made time for friends and included their kids and those of their friends in their large get-togethers over the years. They’ve also given parties in honor of their children–one graduating high school, another getting that masters degree, a third visiting home from college —and they do so with natural ease and graciousness.  So is it really surprising that Kate would be able to pull off a dinner for 14 with the grace and skill of a practiced hostess—and all this the night before heading east for college?  Not really.

Not to take one single thing away from this young woman whom we love and admire, perhaps it’s true, that what your parents do does make a difference and does count for something. In Kate’s case, a natural ease in the kitchen and equal ease with guests, plus a certain tolerance for chaos, are already Occhiali Da sole Ray Ban outlet fully functioning qualities in her young life, and these skills will only get better as she gets older.  Her familiarity with the kitchen also suggests that programs, like Cooking with Kids, which engage children in cooking and eating on many occasions as they go through school, also make a difference.

It’s been a week now, but I’m still basking in the deep joy of that evening as the guest of a 17-year old whose parents weren’t there, who proved herself a competent cook and a gracious host as well as the lovely person she is.  It definitely cancelled out the bad news. And I didn’t even think to take a picture!