Monthly Archives: January 2015

Root Vegetables

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carrots, red beets, white potatoes and parsley

When winter sets in, the best of the local farms, even those with extended growing seasons, will have a predominance of root vegetables to offer. No late tomatoes from the hoop house, no summer squash. In California, all of those crops have gone south to Mexico for the winter. Now we see these earthy, winter jewels in the farmer’s markets and CSA boxes: mature carrots and potatoes, beets of every color, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery root.  Late winter can be monotonous, after you’ve received box after box of root vegetables, and options for cooking them seem to run out, but truthfully, there is one tried-and-true way to prepare the earth’s tubers: roast them.

Once you get started, the options become endless. The easy part is paring the skin with a vegetable peeler (though that combined with chopping them can be not-so-easy on wrists, power through, they are worth it), then cutting them into chunks of equal size. Douse them in sufficient olive oil and enough salt and pepper to appeal to the eye, then tuck them into a 350 degree oven, turning every 10 minutes or so. For the most part, they will tell you when they are done, with a slight brown edge and a pucker of flesh, but you can also pierce them with a fork or paring knife, or better yet, eat a chunk. Most vegetables take 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the cut.

Then come the options: Chopped herbs? Thick sliced shallots and garlic? A finish of vinaigrette at the end of cooking? A pesto rub before roasting? How about a honey or sugar glaze?

Use your imagination, go without a recipe, take some time to experiment with roasting, and enjoy the cozy comfort of these earthy winter gifts.

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chioggia beets, turnips and carrots with thyme

Cauliflower and Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed PotatoesSubbing mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes is a novel trend, and for all of the right reasons: it has fewer carbohydrates, more fiber and is rich with vitamins C and K. But have you tried the swap on your kids? Not so popular at my dinner table, where I heard a hilarious conversation between my daughter and friend: “These mashed potatoes taste terrible!” “I think they’re that thing that parents do with the cauliflower instead of potatoes to make us eat cauliflower.” I was called out, a little ashamed that I was trying to pull one over, but the truth was, I liked it. In an attempt to meet in the middle, I made a half and half compromise, which won the whole family over. This mash is very light, using olive oil and chicken stock, but if you prefer a richer flavor, you can substitute butter and milk.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, broken into florets

2 bay leaves

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into equally-sized chunks

1/2 cup of homemade chicken stock, or a good quality, low sodium boxed broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Fill a large stock pot with water and a generous pinch of salt. Add the cauliflower and bay leaves, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the cauliflower until slightly tender, then add the potatoes in with the cauliflower, and cook until the potatoes are tender to the probe of a fork. Drain the cauliflower and potatoes in a colander, shaking off the excess water.

Pass the cauliflower potato mixture through a ricer or food mill, squeezing the mixture back into the hot stock pot to help steam away any excess moisture. Discard the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust the seasoning.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes 2

Spinach & Carrots

DSC00961This is what you need to eat right now.

Green Lentil and Spinach Soup

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 cups sliced carrots

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup diced onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 whole fresh thyme stems with leaves

1 bay leaf

1 15-ounce can diced organic tomatoes with juices

6 cups homemade chicken stock or good quality boxed stock

1 1/2 cup dried green lentils

1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed, triple washed

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat a large stock pot, then add olive oil, carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes. Add the thyme stems, bay leaf and tomatoes, then cook another 5 minutes, until the herbs and tomatoes are very fragrant. Add the chicken stock and lentils, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Taste the broth for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed. Simmer the lentils for about 20 minutes until they are tender, then stir in spinach leaves until wilted. Pull out the thyme leaves and bay leaves, season with additional salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Rainbow Chard

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I’m amazed when I open up the farm box and see a bunch of rainbow chard. The vivid jewel tones provoke an exclamation of nature-awe, “How did that happen?!?” Like a stain glass window, the stems range from turmeric yellow to scarlet, tangerine, smokey plum and emerald. Not only did Mother Nature make it beautiful, she packed it with nutrients like vitamins A and K, iron, dietary fiber and phytochemicals.

I wanted to treat my rainbow chard with the same deft elegance, and use it as a gift wrap for rustic Italian flavors. With a “root-to-stem” approach, I sautéed the chopped stems, which are similar in texture to celery, then I added in onion, garlic, pine nuts, capers and basil. The blanched leaves were to both cloak to keep the tilapia filet tender and add earthy flavor, in a deceptively simple way to get dinner on the table. Serve with steamed farro for a complete meal.

Rainbow Chard Roasted Tilapia with Pine Nuts

Serves 4

1 bunch Rainbow chard, leaves torn from stems, stems chopped

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

4 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

pinch of red chile flakes

4 tilapia filets

Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Bring a stock pot filled with water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the rainbow chard leaves, blanching them for 1 minute, until slightly wilted. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Heat a large skillet, then add the rainbow chard stems and onion. Cook until the vegetables soften, then add the garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables just begin to brown. Turn off the heat, stir in the pine nuts, basil and chile flakes, then season with salt.

Season the tilapia with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a filet on top of a rainbow chard leaf, then a quarter of the vegetable filling. Fold the sides of the chard leaf over the filet into a tight envelope. If the chard leaf does not cover the fish, then roll in a second leaf to cover. Continue with the remaining tilapia filets.

Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish, then place the chard-wrapped tilapia in the baking dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the the tip of a paring knife can easily pierce the tilapia, meeting no resistance. Serve immediately.

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