Category Archives: Recipes

Black Bean Chili is Still Good

I recently made the Black Bean Chili from The Greens Cookbook – the first time in many many years. And I’m happy to report that it’s still good and that my husband loved it. I pureed the leftovers and served the resulting “soup” around rice and that was good, too.

I’ve written a lot of bean recipes over the years and they appear throughout my books. Now that my husband likes beans, I am turning to those recipes once again with pleasure. They work!  Give them a try and let me know what you like.

I just planted the last of my many kinds of beans and with this unexpected heat, perhaps they will reward me come fall.  I hope so.

The Golden Glow of Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

A heavy box arrived just before Christmas, delivered by my trusty UPS man who always has a warm hello for my pesky little dog as he searches the big brown truck for cookies. It was from chef Charlene Badman of FnB, (as in Food and Beverage). Charlene is one of my favorite chefs. Anywhere. In addition to serving up some very good dishes, FnB also has a bodega where some of those good and unusual ingredients used in the restaurant can be bought, and a wine shop to boot. It makes such good sense. FnB happens to be in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Scottsdale is also a place where Meyer lemon trees grow along with other citrus fruits.

I suspected that this large, well-taped box might be filled with Gillfeather rutabagas, a vegetable Charlene and I share something of a passion for. But once I cut though all the tape that held the cardboard together, it was lemons that came tumbling out, lemons of a deep yellow hue, lemons that were exceptionally large and that spewed fragrant oil into the air when nicked with a fingernail or sliced in half. These were the lemons I grew up with in California. Charlene couldn’t have known – or maybe she did – how very happy her citrusy gift made me, especially in winter when I tend to be more homesick than usual for California produce.

Don’t get me wrong – we are grateful to have snow on the ground and we’re happy to have it be cold outside because fruit trees need their chill hours to bear fruit next summer. Nine degree mornings aren’t the easiest for dog walks, but the sunny cheer of these winter fruits seemed to warm up the air with their glow.

First I put them in a bowl –one of my favorites— (see the picture) and it’s made by Robert Brady in Berkeley (www.traxgallery.com) to admire. Nestled there, they lit up the darkness of winter. Even in sunny New Mexico we do have grey, overcast days. I also left some in the refrigerator so that they wouldn’t get slack and soft, and now that the official holidays are nearly over, my lemony lights will join them in the chill. I do treasure them so I know there’s a danger of keeping them far too long instead of using them, but I intend to overcome that, starting now. I know there are many things I can do with Meyer lemons, besides look at them.

There are lemon sorbets and ice creams to make, lemon curd and lemon tarts, which David Lebowitz (www.davidlebowitz.com) has recently written about, or, turning to one of my favorite dessert books, Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts, I’m reminded of how to make a Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie and her Meyer lemon Ice Cream. And of course these fragrant fruits can be used wherever lemons are called for. For the moment, though, I will use at least some my lemons in sauces and vinaigrettes as the holidays have brought a surfeit of sweets and the beginning of the New Year does inspire a break.

So here’s a simple Meyer lemon sauce from Local Flavors, Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers Markets, that I’m inclined to spoon over avocado and pomelo salads, toss with shaved fennel, or spoon over poached or roasted fish or use to dress a frikeh and beet salad—on the menu for tomorrow, I think. In short,  you can use this sauce wherever you want a complex tasting but simply made dressing. Now is one time I splurge on buying fresh tarragon, as mine has crisped up and fallen away with winter and its freezing temperatures.

 

Meyer Lemon Sauce with Tarragon

Makes 1/3 to 1/2-cup.

1 large Meyer lemon

1 shallot, finely diced

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped

 

Remove the zest, juice the lemon and put both in a small bowl with the shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand for several minutes, then whisk in the oil and add the tarragon. Season with a little freshly ground pepper. Taste and add more oil if needed. Meyer lemons are generally sweeter and less acidic than Eurekas so 2 tablespoons might be enough.

The Zucchini with Ribs

Costata Romanesco zucchini, whole and sliced.

Costata Romanesco is hands down my favorite zucchini.

I know that might sound strange, for zucchini isn’t the most interesting, vibrant, or glamorous of vegetables. Plus everyone likes to complain about how they have just way too much of it. I say to those lucky complainers, “You don’t have squash bugs, for if you did, you’d treasure each and every squash and blossom!” For some of us, the effort to grow zucchini means encounters with hoards of creepy grey bugs and the inevitable early death of one’s struggling plants. So if I’m going to open myself to squash bugs and anxiety over the early demise of my summer squash, then I’m going to grow a zucchini I get excited about.  And Costata Romanesco is it.

There are three things that are special about this old variety. Each squash has ribs, the ridges that run along the long body of each one. A little hard to capture in a photo until you slice them, then you can see them as the ruffled, sculptured edges of each round of squash. I think they look wonderfully fetching and are truly so when a mass of the rounds is jumbled together. It doesn’t matter whether you steam or sauté them, either, because they will taste good.

Another virtue of the Costata Romanesco is its density. Somehow, this variety is less watery and the texture more firm, which makes it a much more satisfying summer squash to eat than others.  Add to that the flavor, and you’re home. The flavor is, well, simply more squash-like. Some describe it as nutty. I think of it as down-to-earth. In any case,  it’s there, and it has real taste, which cannot always be said of more modern squash.

The Costata (meaning ribs) is an Italian heirloom. Lots of companies stock seed packets for this gem. (Johnny’s, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Sustainable Seed Company, Fedco).  Like many heirlooms, it doesn’t always produce as heavily as other zucchini, but the plants are big and robust and if you don’t want a glut of zucchini, why not choose the best and go with what it produces? Actually, I’ve always found that mine make plenty.

And one squash makes a a fast and neat little lunch for one.

 

One Zucchini Lunch

A One-Zucchino Lunch for One

Time required: about 4 minutes

1 7-inch Costata Romanesco squash

Sea salt

Good olive oil

Fresh herb, such as dill, basil, marjoram

Pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

Lemon if you wish

 

Slice the squash crosswise  into rounds about ¼ inch thick or a little more if you like it heftier.

Steam over boiling water for about 3 minutes —taste to make sure it’s done enough for you.

Turn it out onto a plate or better, a shallow bowl.  Season with sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil, some fresh herb, a few pine nuts, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

That’s it. Sit down and enjoy. Mop up the juices with a piece of bread.

 

And this is just the beginning. You might add halved Sun Gold tomatoes, thin shavings of Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, a shower of very young arugula leaves, a slivered squash blossom —or just leave it as is.

Little Stars of the Aster Family

Jerusalem artichokes in bloomm

One question people ask me when we’re talking about ‘Vegetable Literacy’ is, “What is your favorite plant family?”

“Do you mean to grow or to eat?” I ask.

“To admire for its flowers or for its curvaceous membership?” I wonder.

“Or for its eccentricity, or colorful stories?” I hope.

These botanical families are all quite wonderful and also, quite different, and it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. They’re all favorites.

Some are large, others small. Some common and trustworthy, others strange and eccentric.  But the family that is now captivating me most right now is the aster (daisy, or sunflower) family. The word Asteraceae, the name for the family, comes from the Greek word for little star. Think of an http://www.raybanoutletes.com/ asterisk (*), another little star, or an asteroid, a somewhat larger one yet quite little in comparison to our big star, the sun.  Jerusalem artichokes are in this family and I once wrote a piece in which I referred to them as “star flowers.” I didn’t know about the word Asteraceae meaning little star, or even what family they were in. They produced sunflowers, but lean and articulated ones, and they struck me somehow as stars, especially those on the ends of eight-food branches, nodding against the sky. How curious that they belonged in the family known by the same name. We know without knowing.

This family intrigues me. Its members are prickly, spiny, hairy, bitter, but with innocent looking daisy-like flowers along with variations on the composite flower theme, such as the tufted purple artichoke and thistle blossoms.

DSC00980

Consider cardoons, artichokes, salsify, burdock, chicories and endives, lettuce grown in too warm a spot. These are plants that in many cases emit a thick, latex like liquid which, if you taste it, and I have, is bitter indeed. You can tear your fingers along the edge of cardoon spine or prick them on an artichoke leaf, and you’ll astonished at all the roots that sprout off a long root called salsify, which give it its other name, “goats beard.”  Sometimes my radicchio is almost too bitter to eat. And those strange subterranean creatures, sun chokes, will take Gafas Ray Ban outlet over your garden. They might have flowers like little stars, but they’re aggressive in their march towards dominance. Burdock dwells here, too. It was long considered a medicinal plant before it was regarded as a vegetable. Its root grows to such length that harvesting is the challenge. I was once sent a burdock root that was three feet long which said as much about the harvester as about the soil. It was like having a large snake it the kitchen.

The culinary herb in this family is tarragon, which also goes bys the name dragonwort.  Or dragon’s mugwort. Artemisia dracunculus. Why dragon? The name dates back to a time when the idea of the Doctrine of Signatures, a system that looks for correlations between a plant and its possible uses. As the roots of tarragon are snaky in appearance, it was thought they were useful for treating snakebites, which were thought of as small dragons.

The Milky Way seems especially well peppered with little stars against the desert night sky, my asters are already up though many months away from making their galaxy of lavender blooms, and there’s enough tarragon to use in an egg salad made with my neighbor’s perfect eggs. Spring is creeping, however slowly, towards its own lush moment.

 

Egg Salad with Tarragon, Parsley and Chives                 Makes about 2 cups

I had somehow forgotten about egg salad, but with the tarragon and chives emerging in the garden, eggs becoming more numerous with the lengthening days, and some very good bread in the house, egg salad suddenly came sharply into view. I also add a small, finely diced pickled shallot to egg salad just to insert a little zing into the creamy richness of real farm (or backyard) eggs.

 

6 farm eggs (likely to be on the small to medium size)

1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon finely snipped chives

1 tablespoon minced parsley or lovage

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small shallot, finely diced and tossed with a little vinegar

chive blossoms, if available

Cover the eggs with cold water in a saucepan, bring them to a boil Ray Ban outlet and boil for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let stand for 7 minutes. Pour off the hot water, rinse with cool, then peel and chop the eggs.

Put them in a bowl with the herbs, and mayonnaise.  (If you used commercial mayonnaise you might not need much salt.) Taste, add ¼ teaspoon, then taste again. Season with pepper.

If you want the zesty hit of the shallot, toss it, once diced, with just a few drops of vinegar and let stand for a few minutes. The color will change right away to a soft pink. If there is excess vinegar, drain it off and add the shallots to the mix.  Pile the egg salad into a serving bowl and garnish with chive blossoms, if you have some.

Just Vegetables: Radicchio di Chioggia

 

Radicchio in the Garden

Radicchio in the Garden

At the store we just see the red heart in the center, but in the field we see the other leafy material that is part radicchio, too. The outer leaves, which are green, often lie open, the purple ones next tier in that are also somewhat opened, then finally there’s the tighter purple-red head in the center, looking something like a cabbage, only smaller. Radicchio, however, is not a cabbage, but a chicory, closer kin to lettuce, Jerusalem artichokes, and salsify —all members of the daisy, or aster family, Asteraceae.  All of the plants in this family produce flowers that are daisy like in form. During the summer radicchio doesn’t look so interesting in my garden, but the minute the weather turns cool, it starts to turn that seductive dark purple red that makes it irresistible. As dramatic as radicchio is in a salad, I adore it when it’s seared in a skillet and covered with Gorgonzola or another blue cheese. As it’s color fades to brown, its flavor swells and sweetens. I add the cheese once the wedges have been turned then let it Oakley Sunglasses cheap soften and ooze into the leaves. Freshly cracked pepper finishes the dish and maybe a little splash of aged red wine vinegar.  It’s the winter food I eat often and adore each time I do.

 

 

Seared Radicchio with Blue Cheese                                    for 2, or even 1

 

1 head of radicchio di Chioggia (about the size of a grapefruit)

Olive oil

Slices or small chunks of blue cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Cut the radicchio into 6 or 8 wedges, keeping them joined at the base so they don’t fall apart. But even if they do, don’t  hesitate to use them.

Coat a cast iron skillet or grill pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the wedges of radicchio and season with them with salt. With the pan being hot but the heat only medium-high, cook until the wedges are browned on the bottom, then turn, adding a little more oil if needed and another few http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ pinches of salt. Lay the cheese over the top, season with freshly ground pepper, and cover the pan. Cook until the leaves are browned all the way through and the cheese has softened, a matter of a few minutes. Remove to a plate and eat as is, or with a dash of vinegar.  You can eat this over polenta, too, or with pasta, and it’s delicious paired with roasted winter squash.

The Friendly Breakfast Bap

How could this be? I forgot all about baps, once my favorite little roll, until a friend wrote saying how she use to relish the breakfast baps at Café Escalera years ago. Hardly anyone came for breakfast but a few diehards, even though I managed get out warm baps practically before sun-up. I thank her profusely for prodding my memory of those tender, yeasty rolls. They were the perfect breakfast bread and they certainly cheap oakley provided one of the nicest way to greet the day—golden round baps, warm from the oven, tender inside but crusty outside, a saucer of homemade jam along side, maybe some thin slices of a good cheddar, a bowl of coffee. Indeed, a good breakfast. Plus “bap” is such a funny, odd word, and fun to say.

Marion Cunningham told me about baps years ago. She loved them, too, and thought they were indeed the just about perfect for breakfast, although she thought many things were, in fact, perfect for breakfast. She included a recipe in her little masterpiece, The Breakfast Book, saying in her head note, “This is the Scot’s breakfast roll. Crisp-crusted, soft-centered, and well buttered, a friendlier roll you’ll never meet.”

Imagine. A friendly roll. That’s so Marion. And it is true of baps.

And I think a friendly roll might be just what’s needed right now.  January is always a long hard month. It’s too cold to be lured by the seed catalogues (minus-1 yesterday morning!). Our tea-party governor’s address to New Mexico doesn’t cheer, nor does the NRA. I’m tired of food and thinking http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ about food and almost even cooking, except, now that baps have been brought up, maybe, just maybe, I’ll make up a batch. Not today, but maybe tomorrow. I’m out of yeast and they call for a lot.

Baps are not only friendly, but, as Marion pointed out, they’re Scottish—and that’s my heritage, at least in part, and my husband’s in full. No wonder I was once especially keen on baps—it’s genetic. But I don’t believe you have to have a drop of Scottish ancestry to enjoy these little rolls. (Plus I never saw them in Scotland when I went there.)

Here is Marion’s recipe. She calls for lard, for it’s good “barny” taste, so if you use it, do here. Otherwise, sneak in some salty Irish Kerrygold butter. Serve them warm with that special jam you’ve been saving and saving. If you’ve got the winter blues, now just might be the time

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup warm water

3 (yes!) packages dried yeast, but cut back if you want to (I do at 7000 feet altitude)

4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ cup lard or soft butter

½ cup warm milk

1/ cup warm water

Dissolve the sugar in the water and sprinkled over the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a larger bowl mix together the flour and salt and rub in the lard or butter. Add the now bubbling yeast, the milk and water and mix together with your hands to get a soft dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Divide into l6 pieces and shape into a ball. Put the balls on a greased sheet pan and set them aside to rise for 30 minutes while the oven warms.

Heat the oven to 400’F and bake the baps until golden brown. (I brush mine with a beaten egg, but you don’t have to.) Serve them hot from the oven. The picture is cheap oakley irrelevant, but meant to say that one day summer will be here.

Imaginary flower

Imaginary flower

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.

 


Color and Carrots

Mixed giant carrotsCarrots are on my mind for two reasons. One is that I keep unearthing giant monsters from my garden. The second is that I seem to have ordered 9 seed packets for different carrot varieties so I know it’s going to be a carrot year. I didn’t know that I liked carrots that much. It’s more that I wanted to learn the differences that distinguish different varieties from life rather than looking at a picture—their shapes, flavors, and colors.

Strange how important color can be in food. As a college Oakley Sunglasses cheap student I worked in a lab at UC Davis where ice creams were different colors than their flavors would suggest. We gave them to students to eat and asked them to identify the flavors, which they found very hard to do.  Banana isn’t usually green; pistachio isn’t pink, strawberry isn’t yellow. Without the colors in their right places, the tasters were stumped. We put colors and flavors together in very particular ways, it turns out, and with the ice cream flavors matched with their colors, there as no problem and much relief.  As kids, my brother, who worked for a different lab at UC Davis,and I thought it would be amusing to make blue mashed potatoes from the Peruvian tubers he was studying. We thought it would be fun because it would be off-putting, and it was. There aren’t a lot of blue foods, maybe for a reason. Except for blueberries and blue corn flour, blue does not invite one to dig in.

Which brings me back to carrots.

Even though lots of people are growing them and buying them, it seems a bit fussy to call for particular colors of carrots in a recipe. If I saw a recipe for a white carrot and cumin puree, I might think, “Oh? And what’s wrong with orange?”  But if white carrots are what you have, well, you give things a try.  I’ve http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ had a lot of them, very late harvest, gigantic white carrots that I keep finding buried in the ground. Naturally  I wondered what would happen if I made a white carrot soup. It would taste like carrot, but it wouldn’t look like carrot. Would my guests know what they were eating?

Garden writer, Leslie Land, who ate this soup, thought that blindfolded, one might guess that it was based on potato and something rooty. In fact, there was not potato (just a tablespoon of rice). She then put for the idea that flavor is associated with pigment and that orange carrots have more flavor—an idea she has promised to research the minute she gets home. It’s true—the flavor was not robust, though to me it was clearly carrot. But maybe because they were pretty old carrots was why they weren’t’ more carroty. The jury is still out on the flavor component.

I suspect that a white carrot soup can mess with your head. It tastes like carrot but looks like potato, parsnip, celery root, anything but carrot.  A soup made of yellow ones is less disturbing, slightly more carroty, and in fact, pretty and delicate to behold.  If you use those purple skinned orange cheap oakley carrots in a soup, though, you’ll end up with the ugliest brown soup you can imagine. I did that once and I couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t’ get past the color. But the flavor was amazing which suggests there might be something to Leslie’s theory.

I’ve been using my lighter colored carrots in an almond-carrot cake where they work beautifully, giving the cake a soft, rich golden hue instead of intermittent orange streaks.  I recently braised some yellow carrots with orange cores that I bought from Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, tossed them with coconut butter and lime and they were gorgeous (and quite worth eating). Roasted purple carrots mixed yellow, white, and a few orange ones are full of drama, but the inclusion of the orange fellows lets you know that you’re eating carrots. Going back to the soup, I thought that a very fine dice of orange carrots plus the tender greens would be helpful, letting you know where you are in the vegetable world, and so I did just that.

DSC03143

Ivory Carrot Soup with A Fine Dice of Orange                                                      Makes about 5 cups

This is an extremely simple soup, intentionally so, as I was just going for the purity of color and flavor. Try it also with the pale yellow carrots, but not so much the purple skinned ones. They turn brown.

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pound of white carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon raw white rice

sea salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

A sprig of thyme

4 cups water or light chicken stock

A few tablespoons finely diced orange (and/or other colored carrots, for garnish) plus some of the finer greens, chopped

Warm the butter and oil in a soup pot, add the onion, carrots, rice 1 teaspoon salt and sugar. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, turning everything occasionally.

Add one cup of the water or stock, cover the pan, turn down the heat, and cook while you heat the remaining three cups of liquid.  When hot, add it to the pot, maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the thyme branch. Puree the soup. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Simmer the diced carrots in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain.

Scatter the diced carrots plus the minced greens over the surface of the soup just before serving.

Mouse Nibbles and High Winds

Despite the wind, putting on a jacket, grabbing a fork and going outside was actually easier than driving to the store, not to mention a better choice than burning up fossil fuel for some Jerusalem artichokes and a leek.

Our miserable windy spring weather has begun. On Leap Day, winds from our area turned into tornadoes in the mid-west. Here they were merely fierce, cold and loud, bringing sand and dust on their breath and doing a number on the cottonwood trees, pruning the live limbs over the dead ones. It’s not much fun to go out in this weather, but in the interest of being frugal as well as being curious, I did. I couldn’t resist prowling Ray Ban outlet around my beds to see what was there. I came back inside chilled, but with arms full— more hairy salsify roots, a few leeks, plenty of red skinned Walspinel Jerusalem artichokes and a few giant carrots, mostly white and pale yellow. I’m so amazed at how generous the garden has been given the neglect it’s endured since the fall. Plus it kindly stores my harvest for me, which is convenient since it won’t all fit (or last) in the refrigerator. And so I am grateful, too, and inspired to do better.

What’s interesting about cooking from a garden is that you just look at what you have and go from there.  Not that I don’t do that pretty much everyday regardless of where my food comes from, but the garden messes with your head in a different way than your well-mannered vegetables from the co-op do. It gives you a few salsify roots, maybe one burdock, a yellow carrot with mouse nibbles on it and a whole lot of white carrots. The leeks are too tough for the spring braised I’m hankering, but I’ve got to use them somehow. The bearded salsify I now regard as a bit of chore to deal—I see why it went out of favor— but there it is. (And a fresh package of seed is on the way!) I have one thin burdock root.  I wash the dirt off my collection, take the water outside for a peony, then stare at my harvest. Eventually a dish takes form.

In this case, it was a soup, which is always most forgiving when you’re faced with a bit of this and more of that. I thought it would go in one direction, but instead it went in two. I used the burdock, those red-skinned Jerusalem artichokes, the leeks, a few salsify roots, and some mushroom stock I had http://www.raybanoutletit.com/ made from a pound of forgotten funghi, plus a cup of home-made chicken stock. When I got all the vegetables trimmed, sliced and into the pot, I was taken aback by their forms and hues. They were gorgeous, their earth tones subdued and subtle.

JA, salsify, burdock soup

When I finished cooking the soup I was reluctant to puree it as intended, so I served the vegetables in their thin broth. That thinness was deceptive though, for the flavor from the roots was earthy and big and not too sweet. I added a pinch of truffle salt. I love that with weird roots. It was a light soup, good for the first course at dinner, with big surprising depth.

JA Soup unpureed

I pureed what was left, as I had intended in the first place. It was simple, beige and flecked with the skins of the sunchokes, but the flavors wandered around among the earthy, sweet but not too sweet natures of the roots. Truffle salt went on this one too.  No cream. Not only didn’t I have any, I didn’t want to dilute the flavor. No green, either, though sunflower sprouts would be good and right in the same family as the Ray Ban outlet Prezzi Jerusalem artichokes.  It looked dull, but then it surprised.  I did keep some vegetables intact plus added a few breadcrumbs for texture.

JA Soup with Breadcrumbs

I want to give you a really worked out recipe, but what I have is more of an approach. I know I can’t ask someone to go out and look for a salsify root, after all, or assume they have one growing in their back yard. Your soup will be fine without it. But do try the burdock – it’s a good partner with those sun chokes. And don’t be afraid of a soup that doesn’t look like much. The drama is really in the flavors – except that the cook gets another bit of drama when she looks in the pot early on and sees all those beautiful, odd vegetables.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Burdock and Salsify Soup with Truffle Oil                    Serves 6

(These are more-or-less amounts, as they can be in a soup.)

1 1/2  tablespoons sunflower seed oil

1 or 2 leeks, thinly sliced, or an onion, diced into ½-inch pieces, about one cup

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 small yellow-fleshed potato, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 white or yellow carrot, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 burdock root, about 4 ounces peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick and covered immediately with water and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice

1 salsify root, (should you have it) peeled, sliced in rounds and put in water with the burdock root

sea salt

41/2 cups, in all, chicken stock, mushroom stock, or water

1 tablespoon flour

Tuffle salt (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the leek or onion, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and carrot. Drain the burdock and salsify and add them to the pot. Turn immediately to coat with the oil. Sprinkle over 1 teapoon sea salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the 1 cup of the stock, cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, sprinkle over the flour then stir it in to the vegetables. Pour in the rest of the stock, bring to a boil then simmer, partially covered. Check after 15 minutes, take a taste, and make sure the burdock is sufficiently tender. If not simmer 10 minute more, or until it is to your liking.

Either serve the broth with the vegetables and a pinch of truffle salt. Or puree the soup.

If choosing the latter route, you might have to add extra liquid, which could be any of those you’ve used so far, or milk or a little light cream.  Taste for salt, consider a little pepper, and serve with or without the truffle salt.

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 http://www.raybanoutletes.com/ 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.