Imperfection

parsnip carrot celeriac garlic roasted
Roasted parsnips, carrots, celery root (celeriac) and garlic cloves–delicious as is or turned into soup.

 

The always inspiring Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com wrote a post last week about writing a blog for a dozen years and the importance of having a voice and a point of view. She muses about how she could do more video work or more this or that that others suggest she might do but that what she really wants to do is write recipes and take beautiful photos.

For years I posted a recipe once a week and then as my business shifted and I got busier I posted less and less often in part because, unlike most other blogs I love and follow who post recipes, I rarely had the perfect, tested-multiple-times, beautifully-photographed-step-by-step recipe to post, so I didn’t post at all. Well my business (and life’s mission) is not called Cook With What You Have for nothing. And cooking-with-what-you-have everyday to make simple, nourishing food for those you love is often messy and rarely terribly prescriptive. So, I’ve decided to post much more often again and if it’s four different salads in a row that all turned out deliciously but just used what I happened to need to use up then so be it. I won’t be posting them to suggest that you exactly emulate what I did or that it was the best thing I’ve made in months, but maybe it will inspire us all to look around our kitchens and gardens and use our imagination and have a meal of this and that and feel satisfied.

Roasted Root Vegetables and Garlic

Case in point. . . I needed to clean out my refrigerator before the next CSA share arrived and found a bunch of small parsnips and carrots and half a celery root. I scrubbed and trimmed everything and tossed them on a baking sheet with some oil and salt and a head’s worth of garlic cloves and roasted all until browning and fragrant.

I ate some of this goodness for lunch, standing at the counter before heading out the door for a meeting. The rest was reheated in plenty of  vegetable broth (inspired by a post of Heidi Swanson’s many years ago!) with a bit fresh sage and thyme and then pureed and eaten for dinner with a bit of olive oil and plenty of black pepper. It was too dark by that time to take a photo of the soup and it was tastier than it was pretty so use your imagination.

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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 dressings with lots of herbs and acidity.

 

Rutabaga and Carrot “Latkes”

 

This is more template than 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.

 

2 cups grated rutabaga, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor
3 medium carrots, scrubbed and grated on large holes of box grater
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 cup of cream or whole milk
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup 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.