Winter has at last taken up residence in western North Carolina, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy fresh, colorful and seasonal salads. This one will give you quite a pow in the taste buds and as always, takes minimal effort to prepare.
Right now radishes are really coming into their own. They are a good accompaniment to something like pasta or rice for their ability to help break down starch in the body. Plus, they come in some truly glamorous colors. I love watermelon radishes though they are pungent.
Full disclosure, you will need a food processor or mandolin to get nice, thin, palatable slices for this salad. Experiment with your roots here, the list below is by no means exhaustive. I usually stick to 3 different vegetables to allow them to shine. If you are using radishes, consider adding a little sugar to counterbalance the heat. I also find pairing them with sweet beets helps with this as well.
- 1 part rice vinegar
- 2 parts sesame oil
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp of sugar (optional, useful if your radishes are really strong)
A combination of three of the following thinly sliced in equal parts
- Beets (red or golden)
- Small turnips
- Fennel bulb
- Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke)
After the culinary debauchery of Xmas, you're probably looking for something fast, easy, economical and healthy. It's time you got to know the humble lentil. Its versatility will make it a staple of your kitchen.
These humble legumes are packed with fiber, protein and iron. They are filling, comforting and fat free. They come in various forms from red to black to green to brown. I use the small red ones and larger brown ones the most though my favorites are probably the French puy lentils; they're considered the caviar of the family.
Soups and stews are an obvious choice for sure but they make great vegetarian burgers and roasts and are a good alternative to ground beef in cottage pie. I also love them as a salad. Many's the evening I have arrived home a little late and lentils have saved my bacon. After a flurry of initial prep that I often do after putting the baby somewhere and feeding the cat, I can sigh with relief as they bubble happily on the stove and I can get changed, play with the baby and watch some news. Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes.
This curry is rich and satisfying. By all means add some of your favorite vegetables to bulk it up.
2 tablespoons of canola oil
14 oz 1 can of coconut milk
14 oz Dried Red lentil (basically fill the empty coconut milk can with the lentils)
14 oz of chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion finely chopped
1 inch of ginger minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of curry paste (I like Patak's mild)
1 teaspoon of turmeric
As tomorrow is Halloween I thought this would be an ideal time to discuss the humble rutabaga.
When I was growing up in the UK, we always made Jack 'O' Lanterns from rutabagas or swedes, as they are known over there. Pumpkins were pricey, particularly around Halloween time so my mum always bought swedes. They are harder to carve since the flesh is very dense and not at all hollow like a pumpkin. I prefer them to pumpkins in that they are far cruder looking and therefore infinitely more creepy. Pumpkins are a bit jolly (orange, smooth etc), rutabagas are sinister and so perfectly suited to Halloween.They are also quite pungent, even now the smell of them takes me back to that time. Autumn was so exciting to me. First there was Halloween, then Guy Fawkes' night then my birthday and the smell of raw or cooking rutabaga is permeated with that childlike excitement still.
Rutabagas don't seem to be very popular in the US, in fact every time I bring them to the check out at my local grocery store the cashier looks utterly confounded by the thing and usually asks me what it is (mind you they also do this with leeks, parsnips and various other produce too). I live in the South where the climate is rather kind and rutabagas thrive in wet, cold climes so perhaps if I went farther north I would find them everywhere. The taste is mustardy and they are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that also boasts broccoli, spinach, arugala, Brussel sprouts, kale and more as members.
Despite their rather modest look, I think they are too often overlooked in cooking. They can be steamed then mashed with lots of butter and then mixed with steamed, mashed carrots as a much healthier and tastier alternative to mashed potatoes. If you roast them they develop a stringent and sweet flavor. They are a popular addition to Cornish pasties, and many British soups and stews contain them because they are plentiful in the Autumn and therefore cheap.
The stew below has a heartiness due to the rutabaga and lentils/beans however the tomato and vinegar lift the flavors, preventing it from becoming too stodgy.
Fall Stew with Rutabaga and Greens
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 pound of kielbasa sausage finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/4 cup of cider or red wine vinegar
1 rutabaga cut into 1/2 inch cubes
28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of dried lentils (i like to use a mix of different varieties) or a 12 oz can of white beans or black eyed peas
Two big handfuls of greens such as kale or mustard greens (stalks removed and roughly chopped)
If you choose to grow vegetables, sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes should be at the top of the list. Drop the knobbly little tubers into the ground in a sunny spot where their tall flowers won't cause an obstruction, and you will enjoy year after year of this nutty crop with almost no effort. Sunchokes are perennials so they don't need to be sown every year. Their bright yellow flowers are lovely in the late summer. It's best to harvest sunchokes after the first frost because like Brussel sprouts, these vegetables turn sweet after a hit of sharp cold.
I was once told that they are the gassiest of vegetables but I think that's a small price to pay for this under-used gem. Sunchokes are a wise alternative to potatoes. While starchy, they are much better for you since the starch does not turn quickly to sugar in your body the way potatoes and other white starches do. True they are a little awkward to peel but if you cook them in their skins this becomes less of a problem.
Come up with as many uses as you can for potatoes and I guarantee sunchokes can be used in the same way. Whether baked, mashed, boiled, steamed, their flavor is far more interesting than potatoes. Plus you can eat them raw. I like them slice on a mandolin so they are thin and crispy and they honestly taste like a water chestnut!
While everyone gets excited about the bounty of summer, it's autumn fruit and vegetables that I love. Crisp apples, juicy pears and robust yet versatile turnips, rutabagas, celery root (AKA celeriac) and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) etc.
Parsnips are sweet and delicious with a creamy texture when cooked. They are very popular in Britain where they hold their own as a side for the beloved Sunday roast. I love to roast them in the oven with a drizzle of honey or puree them. If you have a mandolin or food processor try making thin slices then deep frying in olive oil.
In the puree below the parsnips are cooked in milk which is then used in the puree, making it irresistibly rich.
Serves 2 as a side dish
2 large parsnips
1/2 tablespoon of butter
half a cup of whole milk
This risotto tastes a bit like a savory rice pudding. Since finding brown Jasmine rice, we have pretty much abandoned white rice. Except for this dish. It is easy, quick and comforting and I don’t mess with a good thing.
The original recipe was given to me by secretary of the language school I worked at in Italy. I was complaining that I was bored with my own food and wanted something new but not fussy to make. I remember her explaining this rice dish to me in the simplest way possible since my Italian was not good. ‘Riso, uovo, mozzarella, burro, basta.’ It was almost a poem and the resulting dish was too. I then added the lemon and cabbage which I think horrified her. Sorry Ester!
Serves 2 at least
Two cups of Arborio rice
Half the head of small white cabbage, shredded thinly
2 eggs beaten
A ball of mozzarella pulled into small pieces (makes about a cup)
Two tablespoons of butter
The juice of half a large lemon
Salt and pepper
I have my baby daughter to thank for this recipe. I had pureed some cooked butternut squash with the stalks of some broccoli for her and it tasted very good indeed. Honestly, all of the food I give her I could happily eat myself. I am a little concerned that I appear to feed her as if she were a piglet I am fattening up. Any scraps of vegetables or fruits get pureed and fed to her, though organic matter that is truly inedible gets composted. So far she will eat anything as long as we use a pacifier to shovel it into her mouth, she leans into the path of it, frantically sucks it and lets the food squelch out of her mouth as she sucks. Try as we might the spoon is usually met with tight-lipped haughtiness. I hope that by the time she is ready to leave for college she will not need the pacifier to feed herself, but we take each day as it comes.
When butternut squash first became popular I would ask people how they might prepare it and usually the shrugged answer was ‘soup?’ and I would feel a bit disappointed. There are other ways such as cutting it with peel still on, drizzling with oil and salt and roasting it. The peel becomes paper thin and you can either slide the flesh from it or eat with skin. I now agree that it is great for soup too. Soups are such a wonderful thing to master: they are healthy, can be made in big batches and frozen and are an efficient way of using up seasonal produce. Most of them, including this one, are a cinch to prepare as well. I the mix with broccoli here because it cuts through the sweetness of the squash and it allows you to use the whole piece of broccoli rather than just the florets.
Serves about 6
1 small to medium-sized butternut squash
1 punch of broccoli
1 32 ounce carton of low sodium chicken broth (I used the Pacific’s organic free range broth)
Salt to taste
Despite the small number of ingredients, I think the soup is packed full of flavor however if you want to give it a boost, try ...
adding one of the following to the soup before blending:
1 tsp Ground cumin
¼ tsp of Nutmeg
A sprig of chopped fresh rosemary
A handful of chopped fresh oregano
OR, just before serving perhaps you could try...
A drizzle of chili oil
A little pat of butter, maybe herbed or garlic butter
A splash of thick cream or yoghurt
A sprinkling of blue cheese or parmesan
Have any other ideas for a tasty addition? Let me know in the comments!
Welcome to Illustrated Foodie!