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.