Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Warm Beet Salad

Monday, April 7th, 2014

beet saladweb

I know beets haven’t arrived in farm stands yet—but I’m looking forward to them! Here is a very fattening but a very fun, delectable, and showy way to use this colorful vegetable.

The recipe comes from my dear friend Michael Collins, the chef at the now closed Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. Michael and his partner Tony Palumbo are hoping to open a new Mexican restaurant, Mi Vida Loca, in nearby Shelburne Falls soon. I can’t wait to eat there—and I’m hoping the new eatery will have room for a piano so I can perform!

If you have high-speed internet, you can watch Michael prepare the beets with a little help from me by clicking “play” on the video below the recipe.

Just in case you can’t watch videos (I can’t at home in Massachusetts!), I have provided the recipe.

beetsweb

Ingredients:

3 small beets
a small handful of pine nuts
a small, flat bowl lined with all-purpose flower
1 egg
panko bread crumbs as needed
olive oil as needed for light frying
a bed of red-leaf lettuce
a few tablespoons fresh, soft goat cheese
the juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground pepper
fresh chives to taste

Instructions:

Quickly wash the beets and immerse them in boiling, salted water. Return the water to a boil, turn it down, and simmer the beets until they are fork tender (about 40 minutes). Drain the beets, rinse them in cold water, and quickly remove their skins and ends. If you wish, you may do this first step early in the day and finish preparing the salad just before you want to serve it.

When you are almost ready to serve the salad, toast the pine nuts in a small iron skillet until they start to smell lovely and begin to brown. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Place the flour in one bowl, the egg in a second bowl, and the panko crumbs in a third bowl. Add a small amount of water to the egg, and whisk the egg and water together.

Slice each beet into four slices. Dip the beet pieces first in the flour, then in the egg mixture, and finally in the crumbs.

Pour oil into a 10-inch skillet (enough to cover the bottom). Heat the oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the breaded pieces of beet and cook them quickly until they are golden brown, turning once. (This will take less than 5 minutes.)

Place the lettuce on a plate, and arrange the fried beet pieces on top. Top each beet with a small amount of cheese; then squeeze lemon juice over all. Sprinkle pepper and freshly cut chives on top of the salad.

Serves 2 elegantly.

Souper Bowl of Dip (with Chips!)

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

dipweb

I have a confession to make. I have always had a weakness for dip made with packaged onion-soup mix. When I was little and my mother made it (very occasionally, I must add) it seemed like a miracle that all that flavor could come out of one small package stirred into some sour cream.

As a grownup I’m more skeptical about packaged foods than I was as a child, when they were a novelty. And I have to shudder when I read the side of an onion-soup package. I don’t really think a creamy dip needs things like partially hydrogenated soybean oil, caramel color, corn syrup, and disodium inosinate. I don’t know what that last item is—and neither does my computer’s spelling program—but I’m pretty sure it’s not what one could call a food, let alone a healthy food.

I do still love onion dip, however. And it’s an easy, tasty snack for the Big Game—or the “Superb Owl,” as The Colbert Report calls it since the NFL threatens to sue anyone else who uses the official terminology.

As this football event approaches I am concocting a more natural version of my childhood guilty pleasure. This dip starts with the base my mother used for her cordon bleu French onion soup—caramelized onions, mustard, and wine. She used red wine, but I was darned if I was going to open a bottle of wine for the minuscule amount I wanted so I used sherry. If you feel like drinking red wine, by all means substitute it for the sherry.

I can see adding additional ingredients another time—a little Creole seasoning for kick, some herbs (parsley? dill? thyme?), and/or a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. On Sunday as I watch the Broncos and the Seahawks battle it out, however, I plan to serve it just as it is below. This onion-dip recipe takes a little more time than the package-based version, but it’s by no means difficult. The resulting spread tastes fresh yet mellow, and highly satisfying—like French onion soup on a chip.

It tastes best with homemade vegetable chips. We made sweet-potato chips yesterday. I won’t tell the Culinary Recording Angel if you go out and buy some, however.

Mustard is added to caramelizing onions.

Mustard is added to caramelizing onions.

French Onion Dip

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices (my slices could have been thinner!), with each slice cut in half
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used mustard with a little garlic, which lent a lovely flavor)
1 tablespoon dry sherry
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier)

Instructions:

The dip is best prepared early in the day or the night before you wish to serve it. It needs time in the refrigerator to let its flavors blend and mature.

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least five minutes. Add the sherry and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the onions and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature. If you want to avoid having strings of onion in your dip, chop them a bit once they have cooled.

Put the onions and sour cream in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir briskly to combine.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors combine for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with vegetable chips.

Makes about 2 cups.

in oilweb

Cold-Oil Sweet Potato Chips

My sister-in-law Leigh and I actually made two kinds of chips to go with our test dip—one batch fried and one batch baked. HOWEVER, I’m only giving you the recipe for the fried batch because we were so busy eating the fried chips (they were AWFULLY tasty) that I forgot to time the baked ones. They are obviously healthier than the fried version.

I’ll tell you how we did the baked ones, but I won’t officially publish the recipe until I make them again! Basically, one slices the sweet potatoes just as one does below for the fried chips. One combines extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) and sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) in a bowl; then one stirs in the slices of sweet potato until all are coated with a tiny bit of oil. The slices go on cookie sheets in a preheated oven (325-ish) until they finish cooking; I THINK this is about half an hour. One should stir/turn the potatoes after 10 minutes and check on them frequently.

Now for the FRIED version. Leigh has a mandoline slicer, which made creating the chips a breeze. I got the idea for cold-oil frying the chips from my friend Devany Vickery-Davidson in Charleston, South Carolina. Apparently, cold-oil frying is very chic, but I had never heard of it until Devany wrote about making French fries this way. It is less messy than hot-oil frying and a lot simpler.

Leigh works her mandoline magic.

Leigh works her mandoline magic.

The Chips

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced thinly
canola oil at room temperature as needed
sea salt as needed

Instructions:

Place the pieces of sweet potato in a deep, heavy skillet or saucepan. Spread them out as much as you can. Cover them with oil; then add a little more oil. Place the pan on medium heat. Stay by the stove.

In a few minutes the oil will begin to bubble. Stir the potato pieces a bit and keep heating them. As the potatoes cook stir them every minute or two to keep them from sticking together—and to monitor them. In a very few minutes they will brown and crisp up very quickly.

Use a skimmer or tongs to remove the chips from the oil. (Don’t forget to turn off the stove!) Drain them on paper towels, and sprinkle salt on top.

Let the chips cool for a couple of minutes; then serve them with dip. Makes about 20 chips. (The number depends on the thickness of your slicing.)

cudipweb

Celebrating the March on Washington

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Today in honor of the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary I cooked a couple of appropriate recipes on the television program “Mass Appeal.” I post the videos below.

You may see the full recipes elsewhere on this very blog. I originally made the black-eyed peas to remember the television program “Amos and Andy.”

And the pound cake, which may be made with blueberries as well as peaches, appears here.

Happy viewing!


Kritters!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

okraweb

Most of us up here in Yankeeland have very few opportunities to eat fresh okra since this vegetable prefers temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It has begun creeping into farm stands just south of me in the Connecticut Valley in the last couple of years. The Valley is sunny and warm (well, warm for New England!).

I purchase okra at the Bars Farmstand in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Although it’s a bit of a drive for me, I love the Bars Farm. It has the most extensive variety of sweet and hot peppers anywhere around. And like many other local farms it practices integrated pest management; its owners are responsible stewards of their land.

Many people object to the “slime” component of okra. I have found that when it is fried it doesn’t emit much slime. My friend Michael Collins grills it, and I hope to try that method soon. Meanwhile, here I share the recipe for the okra fritters (a.k.a. kritters) I have made twice now.

The size of the kritter depends on your taste. The kritters are crunchier (and of course more fattening) if you cut the okra into tiny pieces—say, 1/3 inch long. When I made them earlier this week, I just cut each piece of okra in half after snipping off the ends. This method results in a little more okra flavor.

Either way you make them, you will doubtless convert non-okra lovers with these treats.

Okra Fritters

Ingredients:

10 pieces of okra, with the ends trimmed off, sliced either in half or into several smaller pieces
enough buttermilk to cover the okra
1/2 cup cornmeal (this is approximate; just dump some cornmeal into a bowl)
2 tablespoons flour (ditto)
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
canola oil as needed for frying
salt (if needed)

Instructions:

Wash and dry the okra. Place it in a bowl, and cover it with buttermilk.

In a flat bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, and Creole seasoning. Dip each damp piece of okra in this mixture.

Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with oil. Heat the skillet until the oil is quite hot. Quickly fry the okra pieces in the oil, turning once.

Remove the okra pieces to a paper-towel-covered plate. Taste one. (Try to stick to ONLY one!) If the kritters need salt, sprinkle a little on top.

Serves 2 copiously as an appetizer or side dish.

kirttersweb

Grad’s Pantry Pasta

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

pasta with blossomsweb

My friend Grad in Savannah sent me this recipe months ago, but somehow or other it took me a while to make it. She says she always has the ingredients in her pantry. Unfortunately, they weren’t all in mine. The pasta was particularly hard to find. I tried numerous local grocery stores and finally gave up and ordered bucatini from Amazon.com.

Bucatini are long, thick strands of pasta that are slightly hollow inside—sort of like lengths of thick pipe. They hold their shape beautifully in the sauce. The word “buco” means hole in Italian; hence the name. Bucatini will be a staple of my pantry from now on.

Here’s what Grad had to say about her dish:

This is one of those things my eldest son loved so much when I made it years ago, he now makes it himself, adding what he has on hand. Rather than a recipe, I think of it more a road map that allows side trips. Leftover shrimp? In it goes. Clam juice? Why not? A little bit of chicken broth left over from yesterday? Absolutely. How about that leftover asparagus? Or those little cherry tomatoes you want to use? You get my drift. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you have the anchovies, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, pepper flakes, olive oil and perciatelli (or bucatini) you can’t go wrong.

I hope you make this dish. It is even better the next day and I love it cold! Keep the basic ingredients in your pantry (along with a nice bottle of red wine) and you are ready for any foodie emergency—or for when you need a hug.

My minor additions (bell pepper and fresh asparagus) are noted below. With asparagus season over, I think I’ll try the pasta next time with a little sautéed zucchini and some tiny tomatoes. And broccoli would be divine in the fall. After all, we need hugs in many seasons….

bucatiniweb

Grad’s Pasta

Ingredients:

1 lb. bucatini or perciatelli (if both are available, Grad prefers the the bucatini, but either will do)
salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
6 peeled garlic cloves, minced (or more)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced (added by Tinky)
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more if you like things hot
3 to 4 flat anchovies packed in oil (I chopped these up)
1 6-ounce. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 4-ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in oil
1-1/2 cups blanched asparagus pieces (added by Tinky)
2 tablespoons of oil from the tomatoes
Parmigiana-Reggino or Grana Padano cheese to taste

Instructions:

Put the pasta on to boil in boiling, salted water. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion gently until soft. Add the garlic and bell pepper; cook gently until they soften as well. Try not to brown the garlic.

Add the anchovies and cook gently until they disappear into the other ingredients. Sprinkle in the pepper flakes and heat them for a minute or so. Drain the artichokes, reserving the marinade. Slice them thickly, and add them to the skillet. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into thin strips, and add them to the skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil in which they were packed. Cook gently. Stir in the asparagus pieces. Taste and sprinkle with a little salt if needed. (I just waited and added salt at the table since people like differing degrees of saltniness.)

Add a little of the artichoke marinade to the mixture. Taste and correct seasonings. Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and bring the mixture to a boil to reduce it slightly. (At this point, Grad sometimes adds 1/2 cup of bottled clam juice or chicken broth. They are not essential, however.) When the pasta is al dente, take it out of the water with a pasta fork and add it to the skillet to finish cooking. Toss everything together with tongs. If it is needed, add a little pasta water one ladle at a time, tossing between additions, until the mixture is a nice saucy consistency. Take the pasta mixture off the heat, and sprinkle cheese on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you'll see the little hole inside.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you’ll see the little hole inside.