Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pumpkin Time: Recipes from around the world

It's Halloween, so you can't escape pumpkins.  Why not just dig in and enjoy them. Everybody knows the giants we carve and the Gargantua we put on front stoops. So let's focus on those sweet little sugar pumpkins made for cooking. Not only pumpkin pie but dinner dish cooking. Put fat free mega beta-carotene Vitamin A and hard to find potassium on the table Halloween night.  Here are a few tasty ways the rest of the world eats autumn pumpkins:

Argentine Carbonada de Criolla 
Beef and Squash in a Pumpkin or large Squash
For up to 6 servings

If you want to serve this in a pumpkin or individual squashes, you will need a large field pumpkin or several small sugar pie pumpkins. You must slice off a “lid” and clean out the interior. Brush melted butter and honey over the insides. Put the lid back on and bake in an oven preheated to 375º until starts to feel soft. Don’t go to mushy because you’re going to bake this again with the stew inside. You can bake while making the stew. The timing will work out perfectly.

1 lb chunked sugar pie pumpkin
6-8 dried apricots plumped in warm water or even rosewater
1½ -2 lbs lean stewing beef cut into bite sized chunks
2-3 slices chorizo, minced
2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp corn, canola or olive oil
1 med/lg yellow onion, peeled and diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lg carrots, sliced into thin disks
1 sm green pepper, diced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp dried oregano leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped tomatoes (with their juice is okay)
3 cups beef or vegetable broth
8 sprigs flat leaf parsley
2 tsp salt
2-3 medium white potatoes, chunked into bite-size
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chunked into bite-size
1 lg zucchini in ½ disks
2 large cobs of corn or 1½ cups kernels

In a large heavy gauge lidded casserole pot, heat butter and oil. Brown the beef and remove it with a slotted spoon. Put the chorizo, onions, garlic, carrots, green pepper and spices including pepper flakes into the pot. Stir to blend and sauté 5 minutes until veggies are soft.  Add the meat and mix. Pour in the tomatoes and broth. Add salt and parsley sprigs. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add white and sweet potatoes and squash/pumpkin chunks. Blend in. Cover and simmer 30 minutes until everything is soft.

Remove about 6 vegetable/potato chunks and ½ cup liquid. Puree this with 1 tbsp corn kernels. Add this back to the pot to thicken the broth. Add the remaining corn, the apricots (drained) and zucchini. Cook uncovered on low for about 5 minutes. If you want thicker broth cook on medium heat another 2-3 minutes. Test for taste and adjust salt, pepper and other seasonings to yours.

Put your serving pumpkin or pumpkins on a cookie sheet. Make sure they stand up straight. Fill with the stew. Bake at 350º 12-15 minutes. Be careful the container doesn’t get mushy and collapse. Toss chopped flat leaf parsley leaves on top to serve.
 P.S. This is traditional and beloved comfort food, which means everyone has their own way of making it. So you can too. I’ve added the spices.

Italian Zucca a la scapece (Roman-style Marinated pumpkin)
This is used as an appetizer to stir the stomach. It's also proudly placed on a cold cut platter beside salami.

Serves 4 
1lb pumpkin flesh
scant 1 c (more like 4/5ths) olive oil, for frying, plus extra
1/3 c plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 small dried red chilis, crumbled or chopped
A handful of mint leaves
Cut the pumpkin into 2" thick slices, then each slice into 1" sections. Heat the oil in a small pan and, once it is hot, fry the pumpkin in batches until it is soft and golden. Lift from the oil and blot on kitchen towel. In another small pan, heat the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar and chilli. Bring to the boil for 4 minutes and then remove from the heat. Arrange the pumpkin in a bowl or dish, rip over some fresh mint, pour over 2 tbsp olive oil then pour the dressing on top and leave it to sit – turning every now and then – for a few hours.

Libyan Tershi (Pumpkin dip or spread)
This is a pumpkin hummus supposedly from an ancient Jewish community in North Africa which is why it also appears in Roman Jewish cookery. It's really quick and easy once you clean out the pumpkin.
Serves 6-8

A 2 lb sugar pumpkin
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
scant 1 tsp Aleppo chili powder
2 tbsp vinegar (sherry, white wine, apple)
salt to your taste
½ tsp caraway seeds, crushed or ground
 fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 450º.
Slice the top off the pumpkin and clean out the cavity. (You can clean and toast the seeds with spices for a fabulous snack or salad ingredient.) Peel the pumpkin and chop it into 1” cubes.  Spread on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the cubes.  Roast at 450º, 20 minutes or until soft. Puree or mash.

In a medium skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil. Over medium low heat add garlic and sauté just until it’s fragrant. Add chili powder and blend.  Add the pumpkin and blend everything. Continue to cook over medium low heat 3-4 minutes.  Add vinegar and salt, blending everything. Continue cooking until mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the caraway and turn off the heat.

Fill a serving bowl. Optionally drizzle very fruity olive oil on top before garnishing with freshly minced parsley. 
Serve as a dip, salad or spread on very crusty bread. Use as a side dish with a grilled cheese sandwich.

The Nepali Version of a "pumpkin hummus"

serves 4
1 cup mashed pumpkin (canned will do)
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cooking oil
2 jalapeno or serrano chilies, stemmed
1 lemon
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. chili powder
fresh ground black pepper
¼ bunch cilantro leaves                                                                                    
Dry roast the sesame seeds and grind them. (A coffee grinder can do this.) In a small bowl mix the pumpkin and ground, roasted sesame seeds. Add the salt. Cut the chilies into thin strips and cut the strips in half. In a small frying pan, heat the oil. Add the chilies and fenugreek seeds and cook over high until the seeds are black. Lower heat. Add the tumeric and chili powder. Cook 1 minute. Empty contents of pan into pumpkin. Squeeze the juice of the lemon (use a strainer to catch the seeds) into the achar. Add the fresh ground pepper and stir to blend. Chop the cilantro leaves and stir in when ready to serve.

Haitian Soup Joumou (beef stew with mashed pumpkin)

 serves at least 4
2 cloves garlic
2 scallions, sliced, plus more for garnish
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 medium shallot, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chili, stemmed and seeded
Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. beef chuck, cut into ½" pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil
8 cups beef stock
2 carrots, cut into 1½" pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1½" pieces
1 small leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and cut into 1½" pieces; rinsed
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1½" pieces
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1½" pieces
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1½" pieces
½ small green cabbage, cored and cut into 1½" pieces
½ small sugar pumpkin, cut into 1" pieces 
Puree garlic, scallions, parsley, thyme, shallots, chili, juice, salt and pepper, and ½ cup water in a blender until smooth; mix with beef in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Remove beef from marinade and dry with paper towels; set aside. Heat oil in a 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook, turning as needed, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add stock and and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 1½ hours. Add carrots, celery, leeks, onion, potatoes, turnips, and cabbage; cook, slightly covered and stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring squash and 2 cups water to a boil in a  2-qt. saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid and transfer squash and liquid to a blender; puree until smooth and set aside. When vegetables are tender, uncover, and stir in reserved squash puree; cook, stirring occasionally, until soup is slightly thick, 5–10 minutes more; season with salt and pepper and serve with scallions and lime wedges.

Roasted Pumpkin with Lime Yogurt
from Yotam Ottlenghi in London

1 medium sugar pumpkin, cut in half lengthways, seeds removed, then cut across into 1" wide slices
3 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
6 large plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 red chili, seeds removed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
For the lime yogurt
1/2 c Greek yogurt
¼ tsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of ½ lime, plus 1½ tsp lime juice
To serve
handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 450º. Mix the squash wedges with 2 tbsp of the oil, 2 tsps of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out on a large, parchment-lined baking tray and roast for 35-40 minutes, until golden-brown. Set aside to cool.
Turn down the oven to 325º. Put the tomato halves skin-side down on a parchment-lined baking tray, sprinkle with a quarter teaspoon of salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and roast until softened.
Put the ginger, chili, garlic, sugar and a quarter teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Mix to a paste, then spoon on top of the tomatoes and cook for 40 minutes more, until caramelized, then set aside to cool.
Put all the ingredients for the lime yogurt in a small bowl, add 1/2 tsp salt and a good grind of pepper, mix well and put in the fridge until ready to serve.
Spread out the squash on a large platter and arrange the tomatoes in between. Drizzle over the yogurt. Sprinkle over the cilantro, cashews and serve.

Nepali Braised Pumpkin (quicker than above)
serves 4-6

1 small pumpkin peeled and chopped (you need 4 cups)
1 tbsp. corn, mustard, sunflower or canola oil (not olive)
1 tsp. cumin seed
½ tsp. fenugreek seed
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1/2" fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 cup water
½ tsp. garam masala or curry powder

In the bottom of a medium heavy gauge saucepan or wok, heat the oil to very hot. Fry the cumin and fenugreek seeds until they turn brown/black. Add the minced ginger root, pumpkin/squash, turmeric and salt. Stir and stir fry for five minutes on medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add water and cook 15-20 min.
 until pumpkin is tender. Add garam masala/curry powder, stir to blend and remove from heat. Drain any excess liquid and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves to serve.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Back to our roots

As days get darker, shorter and chillier, as the vegetables of summer disappear from the market, it's time to get back to our roots, all those colorful vegetables that have slowly been soaking up the energy and minerals we're going to need now. They are many. They are tubers, bulbs, rhizomes and corms. They are vivid. They are nourishing. They store well, think "root cellars." They are also mighty tasty.

To name just a few, believe it or not, they are: beets golden and magenta. burdock, carrots in all their colors, celeriac, daikon, fennel (it's not called fennel bulb for nothing), Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes, kohlrabi, leek, onions red and white and yellow, parsnips, potatoes of all colors and sizes, radishes, rutabaga, salsify, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips and yams plus garlic, ginger, turmeric, and coriander.

What to do with all this bounty?  Here are a few hot and cold ideas perfect for right now.  With apologies for the terribly Google blogger formatting I can't control.


 There are many recipes for this famous Slavic red beet soup: with or without meat, hot or cold, pureed or chunky.  I like this bonanza right now when it's not quite cold enough for a very hearty, slow simmering meat borscht because it celebrates the roots of autumn in the tastiest, most colorful and low calorie way. It also lets you use the beet greens so their vitamins don't go to waste. Perfect for vegetarians--and if you forget the sour cream topping, vegans too. Plus it's a cinch to put together.

Serves 4-6

3 large or 8 small fresh red beets, peeled

1 bunch of small beet greens, washed and dry

1 large onion, peeled

2 large carrots, peeled
2 turnips, peeled

¼ lg. white cabbage with outer leaves discarded, shredded as if for coleslaw

3 medium sized red or new potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

5 cups vegetable stock

Juice of one lemon

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsps. dill seeds

1/8 tsp. Szechuan pepper or Nepali timur, or for a slightly different taste crushed juniper berries

1 tsp. celery seed

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. cracked pepper

1 tbsp butter

¼ cup olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

½ cup fresh dill, chopped

Sour cream or thick yogurt and 1/8 tsp. caraway seed to garnish

Either finely chop the onion or chop it in a food processor into tiny pieces.

Grate, shred or finely chop in a food processor the carrots. Then do the same to the beets and beet greens and turnips. Do not puree but chop into small bits to get a thick soup. Ground the dill seeds in a coffee grinder, small chopper or mortar and pestle. 

Over medium high flame, heat the olive oil in a heavy gauge soup pot or large casserole. When it is hot, add the Szechuan pepper, ground dill seed, celery seed, allspice and stir to blend.  Add the onion and stir fry for one minute.  Add the butter and once it melts, add the carrots and stir fry for two more minutes. Add the cracked black pepper, beets and beet greens. Stir to blend, lower heat to the lower end of the medium range and cook about five minutes, until vegetables are soft. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
 Add half the lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and stir to blend.
Add the vegetable broth, shredded cabbage and diced potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

 Stir in the remaining lemon juice. Taste for salt and add to your taste.
Remove from heat.  Toss in the fresh chopped dill.  Ladle into soup bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt in the middle of the bowl. Sprinkle caraway seeds over all and enjoy.

Crunchy slaw (celeriac, daikon, carrots, fennel bulb, sunchokes and salad turnips)
There is truly no exacting recipe for this. Just do what you can and it will be fine.
serves 4 -6

1 med celeriac, peeled and cleaned
3 med/lg carrots, peeled
1 sm daikon, peeled
1 fennel bulb
2 chiogga or golden beets, peeled and cleaned
4 sunchokes, peeled
4 med/lg salad aka Hakurei/Tokyo turnips, cleaned
1 med purple onion, peeled 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste

Grate the celeriac, carrots, daikon, salad turnips, beets and sunchokes into a large bowl.
Core the fennel bulb and slice in crosswise into very thin strips. Add to the bowl.
Half the onion and cut it into very thin strips. Add to the bowl and blend everything.
You should have a rainbow in there. Add salt and pepper. Blend.

For the dressing:

3 garlic cloves, minced or mashed
1 tsp. dried tarragon
½ tsp. Dijon-type mustard
½ tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 c vinegars: I mix Balsamic, Japanese rice wine and plain red wine (you can also use apple cider vinegar for a slightly sweeter taste)
¼ cup olive or corn oil
salt to taste
Combine everything and whisk to blend. Pour as much as you want over the slaw and serve.
Rutabaga and Potato Gratin with onion, leeks and garlic

This recipe is from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, and was a huge hit in Mongolia!
Serves 6-8

1 tbsp olive oil (you can use butter if you prefer)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 cups heavy cream (you can substitute one cup of evaporated milk for one cup of cream but the final dish will be soupy)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 star anise, crushed (if you don’t have star anise, substitute ½ tsp dried tarragon or 1/8 tsp ground cloves)
1 ¼ lb baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 large rutabaga (1lb), peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 large leek, sliced into thin disks and washed
½ lb. Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375º and get out a baking pan approximately 11” x 7”. 

Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan.  Add the garlic and onion and sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir in the cream.  Spread the leeks evenly around the bottom of the baking dish. Don’t worry if there are gaps, just be sure they are uniform.  Cover the leeks with a layer of potatoes (half the potatoes). Sprinkle the rosemary over the potatoes, then sprinkle ½ cup of cheese.Add a layer of rutabaga, using half of what you have. Sprinkle the crushed star anise around this layer and then ½ cup cheese too. Repeat a layer of potatoes and cheese, then a layer of rutabaga. Pour the creamy onion mixture over everything as evenly as you can and bake for 30 minutes in convection or 35 minutes in a regular oven.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and continue to bake another 12-15 minutes, or until the rutabaga is tender and the cream seems to be solid. (It won’t be if you used evaporated milk.) Remove from the oven and let it cool at least 5 minutes before serving.  You can sparingly add freshly chopped flat leaf parsley for color if you wish.

Tibetan lamb with daikon, ginger, onions and garlic

serves 4

1½ -3/4 lbs. stewing lamb pieces with bones
1 lg. daikon, peeled
2 med./lg. onions
3” fresh ginger, peeled
7 lg. garlic cloves, peeled
¼ tsp. Szechuan pepper or ¼ tsp. coarse ground black pepper & 1 dried chili
½ tsp. salt
4-6 cups water
1 lg. tomato, cored
¼ tsp. mild chili or 1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1 tbsp. corn, safflower, canola, mustard oil
6-8 med. Asian mustard greens (1/2 a bunch)*
 *You can substitute dandelion greens or large arugula. You want pungent.
Cut the daikon into two inch long pieces (probably 5 to 6). Quarter one onion.  Smash the ginger and 6 garlic cloves with the back of a knife.

Put the lamb, daikon, quartered onion, ginger, garlic, pepper and ¼ tsp. salt in a medium casserole or lidded saucepan and barely cover with water. Depending on the width of the pot, this will require four to 6 cups.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for an hour or a few minutes longer, until the lamb is just tender enough to fall easily from its bones. Remove the lamb and daikon from the broth. Boil the broth hard for 15 minutes to reduce it. (This is the point at which you can cool everything and put it in the refrigerator until you want to serve it.)

Take the lamb meat off the bones, discard the bones and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Cut the daikon lengths into thin (1/8”) discs, then cut them in half lengthwise so you have semicircles.
Chop the remaining onion finely. Chop the tomato finely. Mince the remaining garlic clove. Degrease the broth and strain it.  Over high heat, heat the tbsp of oil in a wok or large sauté pan that has a lid.  Add the onion and garlic. Stir fry to brown.  Add the chili or cayenne pepper and blend.  Add the lamb. Stir to blend. Keep cooking on high about 90 seconds to brown the lamb slightly. Add the chopped tomato, another ¼ tsp. salt and ½ cup of the broth. (If you’d like this really “stewy” and not braised, add ¾-1 cup of broth.) Cook about five minutes until the tomato dissolves into the juice and the broth is boiling.

Coarsely chop or break the mustard greens in half or thirds (depending on their size), lay on top of the lamb and daikon, cover the pot and steam for two minutes. Remove the lid, stir the greens into the “stew”, adjust for salt and pepper and serve. You can use the remaining broth to make Scotch Broth or to pour over rice.

Stewed chicken with carrots and kohlrabi
This is from the book How to Fix a Leek....

serves 6

3 lbs chicken parts, cleaned 
 2 tsp each salt & ground black pepper 
8 sm kohlrabies, leaves off 
pinch of saffron threads 
3 carrots, cleaned and peeled
½ tsp each turmeric & cinnamon 
½ stick (4 tbsp) butter 
2 tsp ground coriander
2 lg onions, thinly sliced 
1 qt chicken stock 
1 cup chopped tomatoes (boxed ok)
 6 sprigs parsley, washed    

Cut kohlrabies into 1” chunks and carrots into ½” thick disks. Heat butter in heavy gauge casserole on med. heat. Add chicken. Sauté 5 minutes to crisp skin. Add onion, tomatoes, salt, pepper, saffron and spices. Sauté 5 minutes. Add broth and parsley, cover, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook 20 minutes.  Add kohlrabi and simmer 15 minutes, add carrots and simmer 20 minutes more or until vegetables and chicken are tender. Serve garnished with minced parsley.

Vegetarian red flannel hash
 serves 2 -4
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
3 beets, scrubbed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tbsp prepared horseradish (this is a root vegetable)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias (more roots)
¾ c grated dry jack or Cheddar
2 tbsp butter, plus more as needed
2-4 eggs, fried soft in butter 

Heat the oven to 425º. Rub the potatoes and beets with a bit of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and wrap individually in foil. Put on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on their size. (Remove when done.)

Toss the onions in enough olive oil to coat. When the potatoes and beets are about halfway, add the onions, and roast, turning occasionally until they’re tender but not caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Combine the crème fraîche and horseradish in a small bowl, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, crush them with your hands; peel and trim the beets, and chop to about the same size; same with the onions. Mix with the scallions, cheese and some salt and pepper.

Put 2 tbsp each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the potatoes and beets, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Shake the pan to form a single layer, and cook undisturbed, but adjusting the heat as necessary so that the vegetables sizzle and bubble. Add more butter if the pan looks dry, but the hash should never look oily. Cook until the potatoes and beets are golden brown on the bottom, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn, taste, adjust the seasoning, then sprinkle with some lemon juice
and salt. Serve topped with a fried egg and a bit more lemon juice

 Root vegetable pot pie 
This is an old time favorite I made up years ago and included in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking.
I think this truly celebrates root vegetables in all their tastiness and color.

Serves 6-8
1 lg onion, peeled 
1 small rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped into bite-sized pieces 
1 white turnip, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces 
3 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1” pieces 
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into ½” disks 
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into thin disks 
1 leek, washed and cut into ½” disks 
1 sm daikon, peeled and cut into thin disks 
1 small celeriac bulb, peeled and coarsely chopped 
6 purple or red round potatoes, washed and quartered 
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced 
2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced 
4 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
½ tsp ground turmeric (this is a rhizome) 
3 tbsp olive or peanut (a ground nut) oil
1 tsp salt 
¼ tsp ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika  
2 tsp dried marjoram leaves  
1 tsp ground coriander (this is the root of the plant) 
1/8 tsp ground black pepper 
1 ½ c vegetable broth or water 
½ c chopped tomatoes 
½ c fresh parsley sprigs, chopped 
1 c dried polenta meal 
½ c buttermilk 
1 tsp salt  
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp butter
¼ cup grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
4 cups water 
pinch of nutmeg
Slice the onion into thin disks, slice each disk in half and then in half again. Heat the oil in a large casserole or small soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, black pepper and turmeric and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shallot slices, onion and leek. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft. They will be colored by the turmeric. Stir in ground coriander, chipotle or smoked paprika and marjoram. Put remaining root vegetables in the pot. Add salt and broth or water. Raise heat to a boil. Cover, lower heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350º. Get a large ovenproof casserole or deep-dish pie pan.
In a large saucepan, boil the 4 cups of water and salt. Stir in polenta and 2 tbsp of butter and stir rapidly to blend, so the polenta doesn’t lump up. Continue stirring and cooking the polenta for 4-5 minutes, until it starts to release large bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in buttermilk. Stir tomatoes and chopped parsley into the vegetables.

Fill the casserole or pie dish with the vegetables and their juice, leaving about ¼” at the top. Using a large kitchen spoon, spoon the polenta over the top to create a crust, up to ½” thick is okay. Be sure to cover the edges and smooth the top.  Cut the tsp of butter into tiny pieces and scatter on top of the cooked polenta. Sprinkle on the cheese and the pinch of nutmeg.

Put the potpie in the center of the oven and put a large cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch any spills. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the top vaguely starts to brown and crisp. Remove and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

I'll serve up more root vegetable ideas later on as winter markets have nothing but them.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Making the homely celeriac bulb feel at home

It's easy to pass by the hairy, homely celeriac bulb, also known as celery root. It's probably the ugliest offering in the farmers' market.
Yet once you get beyond that leathery skin and those roots hairs, you get pure celery sweetness with a hint of fresh parsley. Plus you get hard to find potassium, Vitamin K, and Vitamin B6 along with lots of Vitamin C and crucial dietary fiber. And you get it all with absolutely no fat. This is a prize for getting to October. So be a winner and get some.
Here are a few tasty ways to treat it-- once you've peeled it, of course. Not saying that's easy...

Basic Mashed Celeriac
This is how I discovered the bulb: my French family always made mashed celeriac for their huge Christmas eve feast and served it with venison. It perfectly cut the rich gamey meat flavor with the look and feel of mashed potatoes but none of the calories or cholesterol. It was so memorable I took to carrying celeriac bulbs from fancy Manhattan markets every fall to mash them for Thanksgiving. They are perfect with roast turkey.
for 4-6 servings

1 lg celeriac bulb, peeled clean and washed
3-4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1 tsp celery seed or flakes
pinch of salt
2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream

Do your best to chop the bulb into maximum 2" chunks. Put in a large saucepan and just barely cover with the broth/water.  Add the celery seed/flakes and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and cook on low 30 minutes or until the chunks are very soft. Check from time to time that there is always liquid in the pot. To purée: if you have an immersion blender, drain off all but 1/4 c of the cooking liquid and whir to mash. Add the creme fraiche/sour cream and blend to a smooth consistency. Use a little more cooking liquid if you need it to do that. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste and serve hot.
P.S. You can add celeriac mashed to mashed potatoes or cauliflower.

Celery Remoulade
This is another classic, common French dish: basically celeriac slaw.  

1 cup mayonnaise 
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
1 tsp sea salt, plus more, to taste 
3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice 
freshly-ground black pepper 
1 lg (approx 2 lb) celery root
(the photo shows grated celeriac before dressing) 
Make the dressing first because celery root can discolor when it hits air. Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, 1 tsp salt, lemon juice, and a few grinds of black pepper. Peel the celery root --you made need a good chef's knife,and grate it coarsely into match stick sized pieces. Mix the dressing with the celery root and taste, adding additional salt, pepper, mustard, and lemon juice, to adjust. Garnish with minced flat leaf parsley or chives. You can serve this to great effect with charcuterie, sausages or burgers.
Baked celeriac served with capers and smoked trout

This is from London, from famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi, for a first course or brunch with scrambled eggs.

1 medium celeriac, skin scrubbed but unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 thyme sprigs
Flaky sea salt and black pepper
1/3 c creme fraiche
1 1/2 tbsp fresh horseradish, peeled and finely grated (or prepared jarred horseradish)
2/3 lb sliced smoked trout or salmon, each slice cut into 1” wide strips
2 tsp lemon juice, to serve
For the salsa
1½ tbsp small capers (or normal capers, chopped)
1 tbsp parsley leaves, minced
2 tsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped  
1½ tbsp olive oil
Heat the oven to 350º. Put each celeriac half on a separate piece of foil large enough to wrap it in. Dribble a tablespoon of oil over each celeriac half, scatter the thyme and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt on each half, and rub all over. Add a generous grind of pepper, then tightly wrap the celeriac halves in the foil. Bake for an hour, until soft, then unwrap and set aside for half an hour, until they come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, mix the creme fraiche and horseradish with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, then refrigerate. Mix the salsa ingredients in another bowl.
To serve, cut each celeriac half into four even wedges. Put two wedges on each serving plate and spoon over them some horseradish cream. Lay some fish strips on top and drizzle with salsa. Squeeze half a teaspoon of lemon juice over each portion and serve immediately.
Hearty Gratin of Potatoes, Celeriac and Ham

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp olive oil (you can use butter if you prefer)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 cups heavy cream (you can substitute one cup of evaporated milk for one cup of cream but the final dish will be soupy)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp dried sage
pinch of ground cloves
1 ¼ lb baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 medium celeriac (1lb), peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 large leek, sliced into thin disks and washed
1/2 lb baked ham, sliced thin
½ lb. Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375º and get out a baking pan approximately 11” x 7”. 
Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan.  Add garlic and onion and sauté over medium heat about 3 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir in the cream.

Spread the leeks evenly around the bottom of the baking dish. Don’t worry if there are gaps, just be sure they are uniformly around.  Cover the leeks with a layer of potatoes (half the potatoes). Sprinkle the rosemary over the potatoes, then sprinkle ½ cup of cheese. Add a layer of celeriac, using half of what you have and top it with a layer of ham slices. Sprinkle the sage and cloves around this layer,  then ½ cup cheese. Repeat a layer of potatoes and cheese, then a layer of ham and top with last layer of celeriac.

Pour the creamy onion mixture over everything as evenly as you can and bake for 30 minutes in convection or 35 minutes in a regular oven.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and continue to bake another 12-15 minutes, or until the celeriac is tender and the cream seems to be solid. (It won’t be if you used evaporated milk.)  Remove from the oven and let it cool at least 5 minutes before serving.  You can sparingly add freshly chopped flat leaf parsley for color if you wish.

Seafood chowder with celeriac
serves 3

1 lg celeriac (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 fresh lemon
1/2 lb pancetta
1 shallot
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
2 lbs haddock
3 1/2 c  fish stock or vegetable broth
2-2 1/2 lbs clams
fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish

Peel the celeriac and get rid of all those root fibers. Coarsely grate it into match stick pieces and put in a bowl with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.  Peel, halve and roughly chop the onion. Cube the pancetta, removing any tough skin. Put it in a heavy bottom deep soup pot, turn the heat to medium and sweat the fat out of it to lube the pan. Add a tbsp of oil if you need to stop sticking.  Once the pancetta starts to turn golden, add grated celeriac and stir. Add the onion and thyme, stirring to blend. Cook until everything is soft, golden and aromatic--8-10 minutes. Trim the haddock into very large chunks and remove any skin. Push the onion mix to one side and gently lower the haddock pieces onto the other to lightly brown them. Turn carefully with a good spatula to brown the other side. Then pour in the stock/broth. Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to simmer so the soup bubble gently. Simmer 5 minutes.Meanwhile scrub and inspect the clams, discarding any that don't shut. Add to the soup and cover the pot tightly with a lid. Check after 3 minutes. If the clams have opened, taste and adjust salt and pepper, then lade the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with minced parsley leaves.

Celeriac with buckwheat (kasha) and ham
serves 4

1 lg celeriac bulb, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of thyme or 1 tsp dried leaves
2 tbsp buckwheat groats (aka kasha)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 sm onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin
1 c chicken stock or vegetable broth
4 thin slices of air-dried ham or proscuitto, torn into pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º. Scatter half the cut celeriac over a roasting tray or baking sheet. Sprinkle over it 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the thyme and put the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until celeriac is tender and starting to caramelize around the edges.

Meanwhile, toast the buckwheat by scattering it around a small baking sheet or pan and putting it in the same oven for 6-8 minutes. Remove promptly and cool.
Put a medium saucepan over low heat. Add half the butter and the remaining olive oil. When it's bubbling hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook gently for 5-6 minutes until soft and starting to brown at the edges.
Add the remaining celeriac to this pot. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the stock, cover the pot and simmer on low heat 15-20 minutes, until the celeriac is tender. Add the remaining butter.
Using an immersion blender purée the contents of the pot to a smooth consistency. If you don't have one pour the contents into a blender or food processor and do the same. Taste for salt and adjust.

Spread the warm puree over a serving platter. Scatter the roasted celeriac chunks on top, sprinkle with the roasted buckwheat and top with the torn ham.