Recently in Vegetables
Sunday, February 15, 2009

glazed pearl onions in port

port braised onions

Honestly, if someone told me I had to go and live on a uninhabited island and could bring one vegetable with me, it would be an onion. My kitchen feels oddly empty when I run out, which is why I buy loads of them at once as if the great onion famine is going to set in any day. I always wonder about the folks in the check-out line with a singular onion – why just one? Can’t you just chop up a great deal of them and make caramelized onions, spread them on bread with a little fleur de sel and you have a meal fit for a king?

Consider the onion – it is a humble thing. It’s subterranean, for one, growing in the dirt. It isn’t all sweet and welcoming like a carrot is, for instance. It’s never been serenaded, unlike, say the plum. Songs have not been written about it unlike beans for example. It’s got a smell, a bite, and it makes you cry. It’s cheap, fairly pedestrian and socially maligned (just try ordering a salad for lunch with onions and see what happens). And yet, what sandwich would be complete without it? What soup wouldn’t get more depth if you took on onion out? Making stock? Better have an onion on hand.

port braised onionsport braised onions

And when I say I can be giddy with a piece of hearty bread, topped with slowly caramelized onions and fleur de sel, I’m not lying. As a child, it was one thing my mother could make at any time and I would eat it. All of it. Without leaving so much as a little onion piece behind. I would have turned down chocolate and cookies just to sit down with a bowl of caramelized onions. And I might be the only one out there who swoons at the word “allium” – I once name my goldfish that. Unfortunately the goldfish lived an additional three hours and then decided it was time to go belly up. Perhaps it was offended at the name, but I meant it in the highest of compliments.

port braised onions

So let me just warn you before I give you the recipe for this. If you’re an onion fan and if the thought of slow-cooking an onion gives you weak knees like it does to me, run to the grocery store and get the ingredients to make this. Go now, don’t wait. As a side dish this is perfection. Roasted in port, these are luxurious, earthy, fully developed flavors. While peeling them is time consuming and is a pain, the end result is so worth it. Besides, roasting the onions in port makes the dish anything but pedestrian.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

roasted cauliflower with indian spices and yogurt dressing

roasted cauliflower with indian spices and yogurt dip

Sometimes, I operate under the delusion that I have excellent time management skills, that I can multi-task and that no goal is unattainable. Take this roasted cauliflower, for example. I wanted to share it with you before I left for my vacation to L.A., but I got a bit distracted and failed to do much of anything. And then I thought I might even write about this while on my vacation, but who was I kidding? Not that I didn’t have an opportunity – L.A. was rainy for the 4 out of the 6 days. So much for their eternal sunshine.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

tofu stir-fry with spinach and okra

tofu, spinach and okra stirfry

It pains me to say this – but the cookies must take a break for a bit. My pants have told me this as well as the fact that I went through a total of twenty pounds of butter making treats for work. Twenty. Pounds. Of. Butter. And there are still butter reserves in my freezer, it’s like a mini-China in there. I promised the butter I would not abandon it forever, but a breather is much needed after the month of decadent and sweet treats.

tofu, spinach and okra stirfry

In addition to me swearing off cookies for awhile (let’s see how long that lasts), I also signed up for a half marathon in a few months to keep myself honest and motivated. While it’s both exciting and intimidating, I know it’s very achievable if I stick to a training routine with some discipline.

tofu, spinach and okra stirfry

I first made this stir-fry a few days ago as I was trying to save wilting spinach and sad-looking okra and was attempting my hand at something moderately healthy – and it was delicious. I threw in some ginger and spices for an added kick and served the vegetables over some brown rice. I know that not everyone likes okra – and it is a tough vegetable to love. A little slimy, without much flavor, okra is like an ugly step-child of the vegetable family. But it readily absorbs other flavors and envelops the dish in softness, which to me tastes comforting – perfect for a winter meal.

tofu, spinach and okra stirfry

And if tofu is not your thing, throw in some chicken instead, or other vegetables you might like. It’s a stir-fry so really – just about anything goes. Except for, maybe, cookies?

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

best potato latkes

Latkes

While I am delinquent with telling you about an ingenious way to reinvent your turkey after Thanksgiving, because let’s face it, turkey leftovers can only get so exciting, I am way ahead of schedule in prepping you for the holidays. And here it goes. Hanukkah or not, I have not met a soul who doesn’t like latkes. And what’s not to love? Crispy, fried, and if done right, lacy pancakes that melt in your mouth. And a Hanukkah with out latkes is like Christmas without a Christmas tree – it’s a must. For all the various latke recipes out there, including the permutations with sweet potato, zucchini and other vegetables, I hold the classic potato recipe near and dear to my heart. A classic is a classic for a reason – its sheer simplicity and elegance outshine any attempts for a trendy update.

Latkes Latkes
Latkes Latkes

Ironically though, it is the simplest and most elementary of things that are at times hard to get just right. I’ve had my fair share of latkes – some good, some bad. The really heavy ones drenched in so much oil, you wonder where the potato went, the really bland mushy ones that aren’t at all crispy, really good ones you pile a ton of sour cream on (I didn’t grow up with apple sauce on my latkes and I still don’t enjoy it).

Latkes

But this recipe has completely flipped my latke world upside down. I’ve never had latkes so good and the fact that I ate the entire batch I made in just about one sitting is proof enough. I even called my mother to tell her that our family recipe, which I boasted as being the best – was going to have to take a backseat to this one. Martha Stewart, yet again, has exceeded my expectations – because her latkes recipe (her mothers, in fact) is tremendous. Perhaps, it is because she ingeniously figured out a way to decrease the amount of moisture, while maintaining the same starch ratio, which makes the latkes extra crispy. Also, no matter what anyone tells you, you should hand grate the potatoes using the coarse side of the grater. It only takes a few minutes more than the food processor, and the results are a lacier latke, which means a crispier, more delicious latke.

Latkes Latkes
Latkes Latkes

Of course, that means you are in danger of eating your own batch and not sharing with anyone. Hardly a problem in my book, especially if you have plenty of sour cream on hand.

Latkes

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Friday, November 21, 2008

cream braised brussels sprouts

Braised Brussel Sprouts in Cream

I must first apologize for the ugly picture above. No matter how hard I tried, these sprouts refused to look sexy for me, and instead you get this washed out, glib picture. I’m sorry for that, I really truly am. But as disgusting as this picture looks, that’s how good these sprouts are. Better even, they’re stunning, operatic, grand. Sure, they may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, braised in cream this is a royal dish. One that is perfect on its own, or as as side to some hearty roasted meat. Or maybe even, say turkey?

Everyone is probably counting the days down to Thanksgiving, I know I am. Menus have been planned, dishes have been discussed, shopping lists drawn. And yet, in my emails with friends from here and there, I keep hearing the same sentiment - I just need more sides. Well, if more sides is what you need, here, use this one. Because, let’s face it, the green beans have been overused to the point of delirium. They could use a break from all this pressure to perform on the foodiest of all the food holidays. Here, give Brussels sprouts a go.

the glorious brussels sprouts leeks

Disliked by many a child, I am almost positive that he (or she) will gobble this up in minutes. And maybe even ask you for seconds. I think that the trick here is cream, which in my opinion, makes most things better and elevates them to a status fit for a feast and not just an everyday side. Lemon juice, too, makes it sparkle even more so. And seeing as this is really easy to make (I know, here I go with this easy stuff again!), you won’t even feel taxed adding one more side to your Thanksgiving menu. And it’ll look that much more impressive!

my newfound favorite vegetable -- the humble leek!

Honestly, whatever yield I give you below, I am lying through my teeth. This was devoured in one sitting by three people and quite honestly, we would all have gone for seconds. Or, in my case, I probably would have had three helpings if that were an option. This recipe, which was adapted from Molly, is a true stunner and one to be made over and over this cold wintry season.

In case this is not an appealing side dish for you – I’ve compiled a few Thanksgiving dishes that should be pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. And will post it tomorrow!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

olive oil mashed potatoes

olive oil mashed potatoes

I think I should let you in on a small secret – make me mashed potatoes and I’ll be instantly won over. I know – I sound like I’m setting the bar low here. But in all seriousness, I am truly in love with well-prepared mashed potatoes. You know the kind – perfectly salted, hearty, filling, richly-flavored and undeniably seductive. Potatoes? Seductive? I’m certain some of you are rolling your eyes at me.

not just garnish

Except I think that the potato is kind of like the little black dress – indispensable, perfect for just about any occasion and with limitless possibilities on variations and accessories. I could rattle off at least a dozen mashed potato recipes, each with its own unique flavor, because as ubiquitous as the spud is, its every day appeal is precisely what gives it the versatility it possesses.

olive oil mashed potatoes

So why am I giving you what seems to be the most basic recipe? Why am I even omitting garlic? The trick to these mashed potatoes, in this particular case, is olive oil. The best you have in the house. The best you can afford. Because how sublime your mashed potatoes will taste will depend exclusively on the quality of the olive oil used. It should also be noted that this is a vegan recipe and is perfect for those with lactose intolerance. Or, if you keep kosher, this works well with any poultry or meat dish you are cooking alongside.

And just as it’s sometimes best to keep your little black dress free or any bold accessories – this is one recipe that wins because of its understatement.

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