Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cumin roasted roots and braised winter greens

I'm feeling really lucky and guilty about living in Northern California. It's so easy to eat locally and have a plethora of delicious foods. But as I sit in a cafe in Boston visiting with my old friends in my old haunts, I've decided to do a recipe of the season that can be accomplished mostly with last of the season harvests and storage vegetables. Throw in a storage bird (chicken confit or even some leftover turkey) and you have a complete seasonal masterpiece.

  • 1 large parsnip, cut into big pieces
  • 6 large beets, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 T toasted cumin seeds
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs (this may only be available in the spring, so sub onion or leeks)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 head greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1-2 C chicken or vegetable stock
Beets are a great winter storage vegetable. Stock up when they hit the market for the last time. Don't bother washing them, just chop off the leafy tops and put in a bag in the back of the fridge. I managed to keep some through December when I lived in Boston. Their juice stains more when it is cooked, so peel and cut them prior to cooking. Place in an oven safe baking dish and coat with 2 T olive oil and about 1 t salt. Bake at 425 F for about 45 minutes, tossing to recoat every 15 minutes. They're done when they can be easily pierced with a fork. When fully cooked toss with lemon juice and toasted cumin seeds.

Another great storage vegetable, parsnips can be kept unwashed in the fridge through almost the entire winter. By March they'll be the only thing left in your fridge, so using them sparingly throughout the season helps keep you from getting sick of them. Boil the parsnip until tender. Transfer pieces to a blender adding just enough of the boiling liquid to blend into a thick, smooth sauce. Set aside and warm just prior to plating.

You will likely not have greens throughout the winter, but some farmers are good about covering their greens through the first frost and may be able to deliver hearty greens as late as December. Wrap them in a towel, place in a plastic bag, and store in the crisper for weeks. You can also blanche them for a few minutes in boiling water and then freeze. To braise, saute the garlic in 2 T olive oil over medium high heat then add washed and destemmed leaves, flipping the leaves with tongs. Add the white wine and cook till almost gone. Reduce the heat to medium low and add 1/2 C stock. The length of cooking time and the amount of stock depends on the type of greens. Tough greens like kale will require a longer cooking time, around 30 minutes, while spinach or chard will cook in about 15 minutes. Add just enough stock periodically to keep the pan wet while cooking.

In a separate pan with about 1 T olive oil, place 1/8thed fennel bulbs flat side down over high heat. Cook till the fennel starts to caramelize (turn slightly black in places). You'll have to pick up a piece every so often to check. Then cover the pan and take of the heat. Allow to sit and steam in its own juices for about 10 minutes.

To plate, make a swish of parsnip sauce on the plate. Intersperse beets and fennel on top of the parsnip sauce. To the side, create a small mound of greens. Top the greens with some meat or leave it naked and pure.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monthly micro-batch: bourbon ginger ice cream

I've been a vodka drinker for the last 15 years of my life. So it was a pretty big deal that Paul shamed me into trying different variants of whiskey and I ended up liking it. Hence the libation recipes in the blog. Since fruits are not as plentiful at this time of year, I figured I'd use bourbon as the central ingredient in my monthly micro-batch. Slightly spicy, creamy, and amazingly warming, this is perfect for the cold holiday season. Snuggle up with a bowl.

  • 1/3 C Makers Mark
  • 3 T grated ginger
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 C half-and-half
  • 1/2 C whipping cream
Gently heat the bourbon over a medium flame. Grate the ginger into the bourbon and mix. When you find ginger in your local market, buy as much as you can. You can grate it and freeze it or just freeze is whole. Then you can use it year round.

Cut the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape out the seeds with a knife. Add the seeds to the mixture on the stove. Cut the bean shell into large pieces and throw it in, too. Mix in the sugar, half-and-half, and whipping cream. Heat till almost bubbling then remove from the heat. Let it cool then put in the fridge over night to allow the flavors to meld.

Before processing in the ice cream machine, strain through cheese cloth to remove the chunks of ginger and vanilla bean shell. Don't worry, the vanilla seeds are tiny and will pass through. Squeeze the cheese cloth to get as much flavor out as possible. Process till smooth in the ice cream machine, then freeze to harden it up a bit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

White bean and artichoke salad

This is a tasty and tangy salad, inspired from a recipe in Fresh Every Day. For most people living in freezing temperatures right now, many of the ingredients will not be bursting through your soil till spring. However, the beans, artichokes, and onions are from my storage, so if you simply put it in a wrap or eat it alone, you could have a nice taste of summer right now.

  • 1 C cannelinni beans, rehydrated and cooked
  • 4 small artichokes, steamed or boiled
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (you can leave this out if they're not in season)
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • 4 sprigs mint, chopped
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 t salt
  • few dashes cayenne pepper
  • fresh arugula (or another green, or no greens and just on its own)
When artichokes first came into season after I moved to San Francisco, I bought them by the bag full, typically about 10 at a time. I knew that they wouldn't be in season all year, so I decided that I had to store them for future use. 

There are a few ways to store artichokes. Canning or pickling them seemed too wasteful, so I turned to freezing them. Basically, I simply cooked them, steamed or boiled, and then stuck them in the freezer. This is the first recipe I used my frozen chokes in. They take a little bit extra work than canned chokes, but taste great.

You can't use the entire choke because most of the outer leaves are too tough. I peeled off the outer leaves, made a nice dipping sauce, and ate them. You only need to peel off the leaves until you get to the ones that start to turn a lighter color.

Once you get to that point, simply chop off the top portion and then cut the choke into whatever type of pieces you want. I cut mine from stem to tip (lengthwise), to eight pieces.

Add this to the other chopped veggies and the beans. 

I used Italian parsley and mint, but the original recipe called for tarragon. Use whatever bright herbs you've got on hand (parsley, mint, basil, tarragon, lavender, etc). Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and mix well. Let this sit overnight in the fridge to really allow the flavors to meld. Serve over fresh arugula.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Libation: ginger cookie holiday cocktail

After the oodles of holiday parties, most of you will likely not need any help with cocktails over the holidays. However, if you find yourself at home, sans holiday party, try warming up with this. The flavors come together to remind one of cookies your grandma used to make.

I particularly love this drink because the ginger comes from my favorite farmer at the farmers market. He is only there every third weekend, bringing small amounts of what he has, which has included, at different points in time, zucchini flowers, ginger, ginger leaves (and the instructions for how to use them to wrap food for cooking), red potatoes, and beautiful and sweet-smelling ginger flowers.

  • 3 T grated ginger (the more the gingerier)
  • 2 sprigs mint (a few more leaves for garnish)
  • 1/2 juicy lemon
  • 1 T simple syrup
  • 1 jigger brandy
  • 2 jiggers bourbon
  • 1/2 jigger Becherovka
  • 1 egg white (use the egg yolk in something else, freezing if you can't use immediately)
  • Peychaud's bitters

Muddle the ginger, mint, lemon, and simple syrup. Add the liquors with a few solid ice cubes. Shake, shake, shake. Strain with a fine mesh strainer, reserving the leaves and ginger. Squeeze out the mint and ginger to make them give up all they've got to this drink.

With the drink, the cubes, and an egg white back in the shaker, shake, shake, shake some more. You'll know it's ready when it starts to feel less wet and more frothy.

Strain into two glasses, tapping the strainer to get the froth to top the drinks. Garnish with a few leaves of mint and a few drops of Peychaud's. If you'd like to get even more fancy-pants, use a toothpick to make a design with the drops.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shredded turkey and thyme

Okay, so this dish is not beautiful, so I've chosen to show the center piece made by my niece and Paul's mom - much cuter, even with his creepy turkey friend lurking in the background. I did a pretty good job of cooking only the amount of turkey we needed for Thanksgiving, but I still had leftovers. I wanted to cook something that would use up stuff in my fridge, but tasted a bit different than Thanksgiving. By bringing in fresh mushrooms and thyme, I made an easy variation of Rocco's Chicken and Wild Mushroom Strudel.


  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 C mushrooms, sliced (I was boring and used crimini, but you can use anything that you have in season - you could also use rehydrated mushrooms and pour the water in the mix instead of/in addition to gravy)
  • 2 C shredded turkey or chicken
  • 1 C gravy or pan juices from roasting
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 2 T fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium high heat. Saute garlic till almost translucent. Add mushrooms and cook till the desired tenderness.

Add the poultry and mix well. I had already boiled the turkey carcass to create a rich stock. I was then able to use moist meat that I stripped from the bones. You can use meat straight from the roasted bird.

When the chicken is warmed through, add the sour cream and gravy. One thing that I completely nailed on Thanksgiving was my stuffing. Unfortunately there was none of that left. But the second best thing was my gravy. I roasted the bird with onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and thyme inside and rosemary butter under the skin. I also had braised the legs separately with the same veggies and white wine. All the drippings went into the gravy (minus most of the fat). This gravy was too good to throw out, so I was glad to be able to repurpose it in this recipe.

Right before serving add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. I served this over brown rice, but you could use noodles or the filo dough that Rocco does in the original recipe.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Libation: holiday turkey

While I do drink a lot, I've never posted any drink recipes. But with some of the ingredients lingering in my fridge after Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good idea to put some of them in a drink.


  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, chopped
  • 10 fresh cranberries
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 jigger Wild  Turkey
  • 1/2 jigger brandy
  • ice

To create the garnish for this, peel half of an apple carefully to make one long apple skin. Twist it into a rose, tucking the beginning and ending into each other. Stick a cranberry in the middle.

Muddle the apple and cranberries with the vanilla extract. Add the spices, alcohol, and ice. Shake well. Put the garnish in the center of a martini glass. Strain the drink into the glass, squeezing as much liquid as possible into the glass.

For a fun variation, the smoked turkey, rinse the glass with a smoky scotch. If this is too intense, add a bit of soda water in the muddling process.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monthly micro-batch: pineapple guava sorbet

I know most of you are in the middle of snow storms and such, but seriously, pineapple guava is still in the farmers market here in San Francisco. I know it's not fair, but it's true. This fruit is a lot of fun to eat all by itself - just bite of the end and squeeze and suck the luscious center out. But I also thought it would make a tasty, refreshing sorbet. It's light and slightly tropical, so it serves as the perfect foil to all the rich foods of the season.


  • 1 C ripe pineapple guava innards
  • 1 C fresh ginger ale

To get the most out of this fruit, you need to roll it on the countertop to soften it up.

Then chop the top off and squeeze the pulp out, scooping out the center.

Once you've got about a cup of pulp add the ginger ale. I used the Alton Brown recipe for ginger ale. I find it to be a little light on the ginger, but a little more subtle than using lemonade that most sorbet recipes call for.

Add about a cup of ginger ale and watch it bubble!!! Blend it up till smooth. If you don't like bits of guava, you should probably strain, otherwise throw it straight into the ice cream maker.

Process in the ice cream maker till thick and then finish in the freezer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Freerange Thanksgiving

Pretty much the first thing I did after we secured a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco was to invite my sister to Thanksgiving. Granted, it was still May, but I had never had my sister and her family to my house for any holiday because they always lived in California and I lived in Massachusetts. And once they agreed to come, it was a pretty easy sell to get the rest of the family here.

Of course, it should be apparent to most anyone who has ever perused this blog that I love food and I love cooking food for the people in my life. So it's no surprise that I would plan so far ahead for the one holiday, above all others, that celebrates food. Yes, I know, the holiday is about giving thanks, but when the pilgrims sat down to give thanks that very first time, it wasn't because they had a shiny car or a high profile job or even love in their lives - it was that they were able to survive. And they survived with the help of the Native Americans who taught them how to grow and harvest food.

In honor of this foodie holiday, I tried to embrace the modern day equivalents of the lessons learned in 1621.

Enjoying the bountiful harvest
Of course, I'm always writing about whatever beautiful things are in season and this was no different. I tried to serve mostly foods that were harvested locally. Certainly there were a few essentials (cranberries, marshmallows, and the hot dogs which proved the staple of my nephew's diet) that were not local or in season, but almost everything from the pumpkins to the turkey were fresh from my local farmer's market or from other local purveyors.

The best part of buying locally was the ability to go back to the market the next week and tell one farmer how everyone raved about his garnet yams and the other farmer how he was right that his red bliss potatoes were perfect for mashed potatoes.

Food, like the weather, is something we all instinctually talk about. While we usually complain about the weather, with food it's almost always a positive conversation. Now what better way to give thanks than to actually thank the farmers who bring you the food?

Working hard for our food
Farmers aren't the only ones who put effort and love into their food. And with just a little extra effort, you can end up with better tasting food and more oohs and aahs from your guests. You'll also end up with less packaging waste. Some of the things that I made from scratch included the potatoes for the sweet potato casserole, the pumpkin and evaporated milk for the pumpkin pie, and the stock and bread for the stuffing and noodles.

None of this was difficult to make, they just took a little more planning to make sure I had time to boil down four cups of milk into two or bake the bread to let it get stale. 

And this was just the food that would typically come from cans. That didn't include the handmade noodles, pie crusts, ice cream, whipped cream, and cranberry sauce. All of these dishes used old family recipes, kept alive and celebrated on this day.

Sharing the love
My niece is at the age where she wants to help in the kitchen. Aside from the turkey, she was able to help with every dish that we made. This allowed her to be a part of the fun, but it also allowed us to share our love of food and love of each other with her.

But we didn't just have the family - we also invited a few friends over. It was fun to see what foods they brought to share. Sure, when I was hectically running around the kitchen at the last minute trying to make sure the turkey was done, yelling at anyone in my way, I wasn't thrilled to have so many cooks in my kitchen. But when we all sat down to the gorgeous and delicious meal, cooked with help from almost everyone at the table (and I'm counting the moral support of keeping me company as I cried while chopping onions for the stuffing), it was all worth it.

Thanks everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spaghetti squash pancakes with olive and chard pesto

As a person who tries not to waste food, it always bums me out when I don't get proportions right and end up having to throw something out. That happened to me the other night when I made eggplant parm with spaghetti squash.

I ended up with leftover egg wash, flour dredge, and squash. Why not put them all together?

The resultant pancakes are great on their own, served with applesauce and sour cream (like potato pancakes), or with a snazzy pesto.


  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 C red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 spaghetti squash
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 C cooking oil (you can use leftover oil from the eggplant)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C olives
  • pepper
  • 1/2 C ricotta cheese

Mix the leftover egg and flour. Add another egg and the spaghetti squash. Add the flour gradually to get the batter to the consistency of pancake batter.

Add the chopped onions and mix completely.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a smal pan. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, gently drop a large spoonful of the batter in the oil. After about a minute, flip the pancake over. Cook on both sides till they are golden brown.

Saute the chard in olive oil till wilted and dark green. Put the chard in the blender with the olives, garlic, and pepper. Blend till chunky. To serve, put a bit of ricotta on a pancake and the pesto on top of the cheese.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sweet black olives and pasta

Friends have been telling me to go to the Alemany Farmer's Market for weeks now and I finally made the treck down to Bernal Heights to check it out. It is definitely a lot bigger than the one I'm used to, but for the most part it had a lot of the same veggies that I get each week. However, I did find something new and exciting. I found a farmer who was selling fresh olives, which I got a few pounds of to cure at home. But he and his wife also convinced me to try some sweet black olives. The way he described them, to be eaten "with a glass of nice, red wine" I just couldn't resist.

While most olives you must cure to remove the bitterness and to soften them up, these you can actually eat raw. They have the consistency of a grape, but with more of an olive flavor. When you open it up, you can see the soft flesh and thin skin. It's so easy to saute these plump purple orbs - when they burst open, they're ready. Also, I was told that they freeze well, so what you don't use immediately, you can freeze to use later in the year.

I made a simple pasta sauce with some tomatoes and garlic, but you could also add some greens like kale, chard, or arugula and top with some grated cheese.


  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 C washed sweet olives
  • 4 small tomatoes (I used early girls)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 servings of fresh pasta

Heat the olive oil over medium high and add the garlic. Cook till it starts to turn translucent.

Add the olives to the pan, stirring frequently.

When the olives start to pop open, add the tomatoes, lemon juice, and white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few cups of pasta water to the sauce to make a nice gravy.

Serve over fresh pasta. Add a tad more salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Roasted tomatillo salsa

I'm a native Floridian, so the odd, husk-covered tomato thing called a tomatillo is not foreign to me. They're not something I see every day though, so when I do, I definitely buy them, in large quantities.

You can use them for a lot of things. Cut them up and put them in salads, for example. I will sometimes put them in guacamole instead of diced tomato, which is fun because then it's all green (also handy since my boyfriend doesn't like tomatoes). They're brite and crisp and not really at all like the texture of a tomato.

The best use for them is salsa - not only is the salsa delicious, but you can also can it and have a taste of tomatillo throughout the year.


  • 2 lb tomatillo, shucked
  • 2-4 jalapeno or cayenne (or your pepper of choice), chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Either on the stovetop or in an oven at 425ºF, char the tomatillos till their black on two sides. This is not a required step, but it helps to give a little softness to the flavors.

Chop the peppers and garlic coarsely. Use the seeds if you'd like a little extra spice. I like using red peppers, like cayenne, because it adds a little more visual dimension to the salsa.

Add all the ingredients to the blender or food processor. If you're using a blender, you may need to add a bit of water to make it all come together. However, there should be enough liquid from the cooked tomatillos.

When fully blended, you can serve. Or you can cook on medium high for about 20 minutes and then process for 15 minutes in a canner for storage. This makes about 3 pints.