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.

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