Recently in Vegetables
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

roasted parsnips

roasted parsnips with cumin and honey

Parsnips will never win a beauty prize. They’ll never even place runner-up. And sadly, all too often they get passed up for a prettier-looking vegetable. Root vegetables have it rough, I tell ya.

Even Andrew wrinkled his nose in disappointment after finding out that I was planning on roasting parsnips for supper. “Wasn’t there anything else at the farmers’ market,” he grumbled.

Well, actually, no there wasn’t much more at my local market a few weeks ago, nor has the situation improved much last week. Which is why I kicked off my bimonthly “The Farm Stand” column over at Prospect Heights Patch, with something as homely and humble as a parsnip.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

rutabaga mash

rutabaga mash

How did you ring in the New Year? Was it calm and quiet with you and just a few friends or your significant other? Or was it decadent and festive, a Manhattan in one hand and a caviar blini in the other? Me – I chopped off a piece of my finger while making lasagna, and were it not for Andrew stepping in and making the lasagna by himself (with me looking on), we would have shown up to our friends’ party one dish short. It all worked out in the end, trauma aside, even though I now type with nine fingers, while the injured digit rests all bandaged up. It really isn’t so horrible (I’m such a drama queen), but being that it’s my worst cooking injury to date, naturally I’m a little unnerved by it.

So coming off of a busy December, we plunge head on into a full January. 2011, I expect great things of you! There are changes abound, all of them good, but I’m because I’m a creature of habit, because I don’t seek out change on my own (a haircut, or new nail polish doesn’t count) I am, a tiny bit, laced with fear. In the last month since I hinted at some news, I got many emails guessing what these news might be. Suffice to say, they ran the gamut of typical things people “announce”. Well, I’ve kept you wondering long enough. So here goes.

Continue reading rutabaga mash.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

Quick, quick, make haste! Rush to the market this weekend and grab some corn – there’s still some left! We’ve a few precious summer weekends left and then, it’s autumn. Sundresses will be replaced by sweaters; sandals – by boots. I’ve been eying some corduroy pants and scarves. I’m going to learn how to wear scarves in that carefree, insouciant manner that suggests that I have style. My iced tea will yield to hot cider and piping hot coffee. There will be lots of soup coming out of the Sassy Radish kitchen, so get ready. I’ve got plans, people, and I mean to see them through.

At the market, things will change as well. Berries will make way for apples, pumpkin and squash. There will be some late harvest tomatoes and, eventually, root vegetables. And I’m excited for it all, but I know, for a fact, that there are a few summer dishes I am going to miss. But this corn – this corn I could eat every day.

husking

The best thing about eating around the seasons is that you learn how to properly miss a specific food. You savor it better, celebrate each time you spy it at the farmer’s market, run back home with your loot and lay it out on your kitchen counter. I make an exception for tomatoes. If they were in season year round, I would be in heaven. Part of the reason you don’t see many tomato recipes around here, is because they almost never make it into a cooked dish. I devour them whole, sprinkled with a little bit of salt, eaten with a rustic piece of bread.

But today is not about tomatoes – it’s about corn. Sweet, warm corn sauteed in a bit of cream, and tossed with some feta, cilantro, and mint, and then brightened with lime juice. It’s really, unbelievably good, and is delightfully unfussy. Which is sort of the best thing about produce at the peak of season. You need to do so little to make it shine.

12 ears of corn

When I served this at one of the suppers on Sunday, we had a few visitors over: Andrew’s younger brother and friend from Chicago. Andrew’s friend, after chewing a few forkfuls, proudly declared that this was the best corn he ever had, and then reached for a second helping! And he’s from the midwest – where people know their corn. Frankly, I also thought it was pretty good. So good in fact, that it might be my favorite summer way to eat corn, outside the traditional on-the-cob method.

feta, cilantro

I’m hoping to make it again this weekend as a sort of a last hurrah to summer and to corn. Were I not completely and hopelessly in love with fall and its bounty, I would be sad, but I am excited in anticipation of what the next season will bring. I’ve made a list of things I want to make – a list that far exceeds the number of days in the season itself, but that’s a rather high quality problem to have. I’ve a few more summer meals coming my way, and I will savor each and every bite.

sauteeing the corn

Continue reading corn with feta, cilantro, and lime.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

thai red curry with root vegetables

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

Well hello there, lovelies! Are you sick of winter yet? If you’re reading this and you live someplace warm, like LA, where I am told today is supposed to be a balmy 79 degrees, we, the East Coasters, are very jealous and wish you all the best, but please don’t rub it in. We just might start crying. We’d kill for some sun dresses and flip flops right about now. Am I right? I’m ready to take my Uggs and my sweaters and my puffer jacket and pack them away for at least 10 months. I look like a black marshmallow making my way down the streets of New York. No matter how you slice it, winter wear is just not that flattering – it can be pretty frumpy. Also, I’d like to stop using cups of tea as ways of warming up my hands at the office. A girl can only take so much.

vegetables, awaiting their fate

But, though I’ve prepared quite a soliloquy about my winter discontent, I realize that what I’m about to tell you cannot possibly be appreciated unless you’re bundling up this month. Do you really want to eat Thai coconut curry in balmy weather? I didn’t think so. And even if you did, doesn’t it taste so much better when there’s snow falling outside your window and you’re enveloped in warmth and stillness of your home? Perhaps, these cold winter months are an opportunity for us to appreciate these comforting stews. There is some joy to hibernation, to puttering around your home, inviting a friend or two over and lazing around on the couch wrapped up in blankets.

onions, curry paste, cumin

Winter is also a time when few vegetables are in season – and mostly, these are root vegetables. Much like my winter get-up, they, too, are rather frumpy looking. Have you ever looked at a parsnip or a turnip and thought to yourself, “My, what a looker?” I didn’t think so. And frankly, neither have I. But, given a chance, these little guys can truly transform themselves. They clean up rather nicely. Typically, they are roasted with salt and pepper, and maybe a glaze of sorts, to bring out their sweetness. Sometimes, they’re added to soups. All these things are great and wonderful, but there’s an opportunity to let them shine in an unlikely place – a Thai-inspired red curry made with coconut milk!

red curry paste - gluten-free!lemongrass
turnipscoconut milk

This curry brings me such joy that I think, for all my complaining, I can tolerate winter a bit better, snow, sleet, wind and all. Armed with this dish, some sweaters and strong coffee – I can take winter with all its elements. The curry is so delicious, that I can’t get enough of it, and in fact, I’ll be making it for the book club ladies this Thursday; not to mention, this was a permanent weeknight dinner fixture throughout most of November. And so I must say this to you – drop whatever it is you’re doing, and make this without delay! Unless you have a really good excuse tonight, this should be on your dinner menu. Really, I insist. You’ll thank me later, I’m pretty sure. I’m so smitten with this curry, that each night you might delay making it – I’ll feel personally responsible.

simmering

This curry has everything going for it that you’d want in a weeknight winter meal: ease, taste, leftover potential, scalability, function. It’s as unfussy as they come and once all the ingredients are in the pot, you put the lid on top, reduce the heat to low and go about your business doing whatever it is you want to do at night – be it catching up on emails or tidying up your living room, or kicking back with a beer. Here’s the best part – this curry comes together in about the same time it’ll take you to dial and wait for take-out. Any leftovers you have will freeze beautifully, saving you time in the nights ahead. Winter’s bite might not even seem that bad. Who knows – your LA friends might even get insanely jealous of your cold-weather meals and wish for sweaters and mittens themselves. Probably unlikely, but please don’t burst my bubble.

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

I got so excited cooking this, that I almost completely forgot to take the prep pictures. Which should tell you that you should, if you’re an eggplant fan, go ahead and make this right away. Consider it a direct missive. Waste no time – it is eggplant season and will be such through October.

This was borne out of, well, instinct, really. I was making dinner for a friend on Friday night and our initial plan was to make a stir-fry with vegetables and tofu and serve it over brown rice. But we got carried away – we made that along with leek confit, blackberry pie, and this pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant. What started out as a simple Friday night meal turned into a feast of sorts. And this was the surprise hit.

I wasn’t prepared to cook eggplant and when my friend picked it up, I automatically nodded, but did I have a plan? No.

In fact, I was all shades of disappointment with myself because I didn’t have pie crust waiting for me in the freezer, as I normally do, because I happen to get crazy last-minute urges to bake pies. Then again, it’s safe to say that I happen to have an abnormal love of pie. In fact, I have pies I’ve recently made lined up in the queue that I need to write about and I’m embarrassingly behind.

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

In any case, when I was amidst baking the pie (with pre-made crust, see I’m not above it!), prepping the stir-fry, and caramelizing leeks, I suddenly had an idea; I was going to bake the eggplant in an olive oil and pomegranate molasses glaze. I was going to add a spoonful of chopped ginger, a clove of garlic and a sprinkle of salt. And then, I was going to let it cook until the eggplant would get soft and impossibly buttery. That, was my plan and that’s what I stuck with.

I was a bit worried because, the whole dish was concocted in mere seconds. I had a flash of inspiration, but I had no idea what the results were going to be. But after my friend ate the near entirety of the dish, while I managed to only get a couple of forkfuls, I knew this improvisation was a hit. I loved my forkfuls and clearly, so did he.

The next day, I got to thinking about how sometimes when we improvise in the kitchen – we succeed. And other times – we fail. Both are good and necessary processes by which we learn, and yet somehow we get burned and scarred by our failures. My first-ever pie crust, an epic fail, caused me to avoid making my own crust for years. But once I got to do it again, I haven’t looked back since. Time and time again, I have to remind myself that should one of the dishes fail, all we have to do is move on, try it again and just realize that sometimes, our tempered eggs will cook, our soufflés might not rise, our cakes might sink.

The worst thing – is that we try it all over again. And if that gets us back into the kitchen, is that really quite so bad?

Continue reading pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cream braised cabbage with leeks

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

I know it’s a little strange that I’m that I am telling you about another cabbage recipe so soon after the first one, but I can’t help myself. It’s too good to keep from you a moment longer. Doing so would be selfish and wrong. And I’m anything but selfish. Besides in Russia households typically always have a head of cabbage on hand. I know in my family it’s always been the case.

Moreover, I wish I could tell you that I’m one of those people who cooks a new thing every night, who is constantly craving variety, and is always out trying new things. I don’t. Sometimes I go for weeks without so much as turning on the stove. Embarrassing, but true. So if I find a dish that truly strikes a chord with me – well, I will make it over and over and over. Like this one for instance.

big pile of cabbage - YUM cream-braised cabbage with leeks

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m very open to trying a new dish or a new flavor combination, but I am quite often finding myself ordering the same few things off my regular take-out menus. I could also very well make something and then eat it for several days and sometimes even longer. I’m a creature of habit to a fault. I like schedules and planning. Leftovers are just another way for me to continue eating what I like. Besides so many different things taste that much better the following days when the flavors have a chance to meld together: chili, soup, stew, and believe it or not – this cabbage. That is if it lasts that long in your household.

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

So this cabbage I want to tell you about. Well, I’ve recently fallen in love with braising vegetables in cream. You take something somewhat pedestrian, like cabbage for instance, and you add in some chopped leeks and then you sauté the whole thing for awhile until the leeks start turning yellow-green, closer to yellow; and the cabbage has wilted and began to look a little sad. This is where you swoop in and add some lemon juice, salt and finally cream and thus transform it from sadness into glory, like Cinderella going to a fancy ball. You let it thicken for a few minutes and then scoop it generously onto a plate. And then, as a pièce de résistance, you grate a tiny bit of Grana Padano over it (I know cheese sounds superfluous, but trust me on this one). Just try to have one serving of this and not eat the whole thing. You can consider it an open challenge.

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

Continue reading cream braised cabbage with leeks.