Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wine from my collection: Marziano Abbona Bricco Barone Nebbiolo d'Alba

Another very drinkable Italian red, this one a nebbiolo. Nebbiolo d'Alba is made in a large area around the town of Alba, situated in the region of Piedmont in northwest Italy. This variety is considered the king of Italian red grapes, prolific in the Piedmont region and the backbone of the internationally renowned DOCG wines Barolo and Barbaresco. 

It's fruity, with strong spicy and peppery notes, and is a great entry-level nebbiolo.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wine from my collection: Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2009

Don't let the name throw you--this is a really great montepulciano, inexpensive, and you don't even need to remember the name. Just look for the bottle with the stick on it.

Montepulciano is an Italian grape, and this wine is fruity (lots of blackberry and plum notes), well-balanced, and goes with damn near everything. It's one of the wines by the glass offered at my restaurant, and seriously, it goes with damn near everything. I sell it as the "staff favorite," (which, as I'm staff, and it's my favorite, is true), and I've yet to find anyone that didn't love it.

Plus, it retails for $12 - $15. It's a win all the way around.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spinach and feta puff pastry pockets

These make a great party appetizer, a great snack, or just a great yummy thing to eat. Small number of ingredients, easy to throw together.

1 box frozen spinach, thawed, with all the water squeezed out
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup feta
1 box puff pastry, thawed

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the spinach and cook for another minute or so. Let cool. Add the feta. Cut the puff pastry sheets into nine even squares. Place a spoonful of spinach mix in the center of each one, and wet the edges with a little water. Press the edges together to make a triangle. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until browned on top.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pasta with smoked salmon, capers, and cream sauce

I had some leftover smoked salmon in my fridge that needed to be used up. (Not a common occurrence, I assure you.) I was also feeling lazy, and didn't want to deal with cooking anything fancy. So I made this.

Five minutes to throw together, a bare minimum of ingredients, and it TASTES fancy--like I spent a lot more effort on this than I actually did.

I may have to start keeping smoked salmon around, just so I can make this periodically.

1 lb penne, cooked and drained (save the water)
1 lb smoked salmon, cut into strips
1 onion, diced
4 tablespoons capers
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley (optional)

In a skillet, saute the onion in olive oil until soft. Add the salmon and cook until just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the capers and cream, and stir; add the cooked penne and blend well. If there's not enough sauce, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water (or more cream) until it's the consistency you want. Salt and pepper to taste, parsley if you have it, and serve.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sun-dried tomato hummus

This makes an excellent breakfast on homemade bread, by the way.

6-8 sun-dried tomatoes (preferably the kind packed in oil)
1 can chickpeas, drained, or the equivalent of amount of dried/soaked/pre-cooked
1 tablespoon tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, cayenne

Whiz everything except the olive oil in the food processor until it's the consistency you like. Drizzle that in until it becomes hummus. Add salt and pepper and cayenne to taste.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Refried beans

I made my own refried beans the other day. "Why?" you ask. "When canned refried beans are so cheap?" Well, for two reasons: 1. Have you looked at the ingredients list on a can of refried beans? and 2. Canned refried beans smell like cat food.

Also, 3. Making your own from a bag of dried pinto beans is way cheaper.

So I got a bag of dried pinto beans (cost: 89 cents), soaked them overnight, and precooked them in my Crockpot. Then I drained them, saved the bean water, and mashed them with a potato masher. (All this took a combined two minutes of effort, don't worry.)

1 bag pinto beans as above, soaked, precooked, drained and mashed
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
Seasonings: chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, cayenne, oregano

In a large skillet, saute the onion in bacon fat (if you have it; if not, olive oil) until soft. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and seasonings, and cook 1 minute. Add the beans, and mix well. Add the bean water a tablespoon at a time if the beans are too dry. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Now you can use your refried beans to make refried bean enchiladas with canned tomato salsa, like I did. A great meal that is super-cheap and came almost entirely out of the pantry.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Canned tomato salsa

I confess, I've never made canned tomato salsa before. Because that would be gross, right?

Actually, not. After looking at the ingredients on a tub of so-called "fresh" salsa, I was appalled enough to decide to make my own fresh salsa--albeit with canned tomatoes, as we all know you can't get decent fresh tomatoes this time of year.

It turned out really well. Plus, you can just dump everything in the food processor, so it took even less time to throw together than fresh salsa.

1 28oz can whole tomatoes, with juice
3/4 roughly chopped onion
1 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
3 cloves garlic
2-3 jalapenos
1 teaspoon pepper
Juice of 1 lime

Throw everything into a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Let stand for a bit to let the flavors meld.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sun-dried tomato risotto

In the depths of a New England winter, eating vegetables can be challenging. Your body is crying out for starch, starch, starch, and fat all the time, the veggies in the supermarket are crap, and the local options consist largely of potatoes and onions.

Fortunately, there are pantry options. One of these is sun-dried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil). Healthy, nutritious, and something that can hang out in the back of your cabinet almost indefinitely. Great with pasta, risotto, pizza, whatever.

And since risotto can be thrown together at a moment's notice, this is a great cheap winter dish.

1 large handful sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
Parmesan cheese

Use a little oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes to saute the onion until soft. Add the tomatoes and the rice, cook for another minute, then deglaze with a cup of white wine. When the wine has all been absorbed, start adding broth (chicken or vegetable), a cup or two at a time, stirring in between. When each addition of broth has been absorbed, add more. Repeat until the rice is done. Stir in a dollop of heavy cream (optional) and a handful of shredded parm. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter salad with barley, watercress, mushrooms and roasted beets

Now that I don't have access to a winter CSA, and I'm not in the habit (or budget) of regular grocery shopping, it can be difficult to get green things. I'm also not interested in flabby, wax-covered supermarket greens that have been shipped halfway across the world from God-knows-where; I'd much rather go to the farmer's market and get fresh local green things, but alas, the farmer's market was snowed out this past weekend.

So I went to Whole Foods instead.

Still a supermarket, but at least I could get cage-free eggs and local fruit there. I got eggs, apples, and hey, look! Watercress was on sale. Probably not local, but I had an instant craving for it.

I picked up some button mushrooms too and threw together this wonderful winter salad. It's just cooked warm barley, sauteed warm mushrooms, and roasted sliced beets (I had white beets) with the raw watercress. The warm vegetables cook the watercress down just a little, which is nice. Sprinkle liberally with salt, and you've got your winter greens craving taken care of for a bit.

1 cup uncooked barley, cooked in water (bring to a boil, then let simmer) until done, and drained
2 bunches watercress, large stems removed
3 roasted, peeled and sliced beets
1 container button mushrooms, sliced

Saute the sliced mushrooms in a little butter until browned. Combine all in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Warm blue potato salad

I got the most beautiful blue potatoes at the farmer's market a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got around to using them. (Of course you could use regular potatoes, too; waxy ones work best for this.)

2 lbs potatoes, in chunks
salt and pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 shallots, finely diced
1 teaspoon Dijon
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons capers
Parsley, chopped

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until cooked through, and drain. Whisk the lemon juice and zest with the shallots, mustard and olive oil until it becomes an emulsion. Mix that with the potatoes, capers, and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pickled carrots

As an homage to David Chang and my recent dinner at Momofuku Ko, I decided to make his pickled carrots (found in his cookbook, Momofuku).

2 lbs baby carrots, peeled and trimmed--and for goodness' sake, NOT those whittled down "baby" carrots sold in bags from the supermarket that are soaked in bleach. I mean tender young regular carrots, small ones
1 cup hot tap water
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

Combine the liquids and sugar and salt in a bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Put the carrots in a jar and pour the mixture over. Best after 2-3 days in the fridge.

Friday, January 20, 2012

White bean, sausage and spinach soup

We got our first real snowfall in New England yesterday, three inches or so. Which I guess officially makes it soup weather.

The equivalent of four cans of white beans, drained (dried, soaked and pre-cooked if possible)
3 links of Italian sausage, squeezed out
1 diced onion
4 diced carrots
4 diced celery stalks
Vegetable or chicken broth
1 box of frozen spinach
Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

Brown the Italian sausage in olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until soft. Add the beans, and enough broth to float everything. Add the box of frozen spinach and let simmer on medium-low until the flavors are melded (30-45 minutes). Season to taste, and serve.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Momofuku Ko

On Tuesday, I managed to snag a reservation at Momofuku Ko in New York.

For those who don't know, Momofuku Ko is one of David Chang's restaurants, has two Michelin stars, and is consistently the hardest restaurant in New York to get a reservation to. There's no phone--there's only an online lottery for reservations, and since the restaurant only has 14 seats, and only takes reservations seven days in advance, the 14 seats that become available every day at 10 am are immediately gone. I've been playing reservation roulette with them for FOUR YEARS, and this is the first time I got lucky.

Amazingly enough, I was planning to be in New York on Tuesday anyway to see friends. So that worked out really well.

The food was incredible. There's no menu, you just take what the chefs--who are working right in front of you--give you, and everyone gets the same thing. You can choose a beverage pairing; my friend and I split one, and it was fine, but they charged us $95 for one beverage pairing which was almost as much as the food cost ($125). Verdict: not worth $95. (Mostly wines, a couple of beers, a sake, the best one was the first one, a huckleberry negroni.) Stick with the food.

They also don't allow you to take pictures. So no pictures.

Here are the courses, in order: (The chefs spoke quickly, so I'm sure there are key ingredients missing for each of these. But you get the general drift.)
1. Salsify puree with black truffle
2. A chiccarone (pork rind) with salt
3. Oyster with green apple and coconut vinaigrette
4. Fried whole shrimp with some kind of mayo
5. Shortbread with chicken liver mousse
6. Curry fish consomme with shrimp
7. Spanish mackerel with ginger pickled shallots
8. Gruyere consomme with brioche, bone marrow, candied lemon zest
9. A soft-boiled egg with caviar and chips
10. Ricotta cavatelli with fried beef tongue and horseradish
11. Trout with rutabaga mayo, panko, radishes
12. Shaved frozen foie gras with pine nut brittle and lychee
13. Duck with pomegranate glaze, braised pumpernickel, spicy greens
14. Some kind of crazy Asian citrus fruit sorbet with Earl Grey panna cotta
15. Passionfruit meringue, coconut custard, Thai basil

I couldn't even begin to finish all that food.

I liked the ambiance, too: very chill and casual, but with high-class food, and I got to watch the chefs work, which I really like.

Would I ever go back? Probably not, but not because I didn't enjoy myself--only because it took me four years to get a seat there. But you should definitely try for a reservation. The $125 is totally worth it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New York Sour

A whiskey sour, with a red wine floater. A completely bizarre-sounding combination, I know, but a delicious one.

1 3/4 oz rye
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz dry red wine

Shake the rye, syrup and lemon juice together and strain over ice. Add the red wine floater, and maybe an orange twist for garnish.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A scallop, live and whole

A scallop in the shell looks very little like a "scallop."

The other night, the restaurant got in a bag of super-fresh, super-awesome live scallops. They ran a special on them, $4 each, for a scallop that was steamed in its own juices. They took a scallop (see top picture, that thing was easily the size of my hand) and put a ring of dough around the shell to seal it shut. They then roasted it for a few minutes, to steam the scallop, and then presented it just like that.

I ordered one, just for the sheer novelty, and dissected it. You had to crack off the dough ring, break the two halves of the shell apart, and then pick through the scallop insides (various membranes, a bag of black stuff, some muscles and connective tissue) to get through to the actual scallop. You know, the part that looks like a scallop.

Pretty tasty. A lot of work. But it was worth it, just for the experience. When was the last time you dissected a scallop still in the shell?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crab bread pudding

I got this recipe from the latest issue of Food and Wine, but I adapted it right away. I used canned crab instead of fresh (didn't have any fresh, couldn't afford any, already had the canned), and I threw in a few extras. The day before, my husband made me an omelet with sundried tomatoes, parsley, feta cheese, red onion, and capers, and he chopped too much stuff--there was about a cup of that combination left over. So I threw that in, too. Quite honestly, I think more of that combination would be quite tasty.

3 cans crabmeat, drained
Chopped fresh parsley and chives
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne
1 stick butter, softened
1 baguette or loaf of homemade bread, slightly stale, sliced
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
Optional: diced sundried tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, capers

Butter a 9 x 13 dish. In a bowl, combine the crab with the parsley, chives, lemon juice and cayenne, plus sundried tomatoes etc., and season with salt and pepper. Butter each slice of bread and stand up in the 9 x 13 dish. Tuck the crab mixture between each slice.

Whisk the eggs with milk and half and half, seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour over the bread and let stand for 10 minutes. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

It's really good--crabby and eggy and bready all at the same time, a rich and decadent breakfast.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pickled squash (or pumpkin)

For a while now, the latest thing in food trends has been pickling (and now as I say that, I realize that pickling is probably no longer the latest thing, there's probably something else cooler and newer I don't know about yet, but hey, I'm not cool). Pickling is easy to do--essentially, vinegar plus sugar and/or salt plus spices, put in a jar, done--and almost anything can be pickled. The obvious, cucumbers, but also carrots, radishes, beets, apples, pears, squash, pumpkin, onions, cranberries, you name it.

The restaurant where I work has been featuring pickled pumpkin as an accompaniment with the chicken liver pate--tiny pieces of raw pumpkin, pickled. They're addictively delicious. So I decided to make some of my own, using butternut squash instead of pumpkin.

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced very small
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
cardamom pods (or, if you don't have any of those, fennel seeds would be very nice)

Put the diced squash (or pumpkin) in a jar. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over medium heat. When dissolved, pour over the diced squash and add the seasoning. Seal and place into the refrigerator for a day or two. Enjoy with pate, cheese, charcuterie, or just eat by the handful, which is what I seem to be doing.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter panzanella

Panzanella, in the summer, is a lovely tomato-bread salad, made with capers and olive oil and lemon and is a great way to use up both tomatoes and stale bread.

Obviously there are no good tomatoes this time of year.

So this is a winter panzanella, with roasted butternut squash, stale bread, red onion, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. That's basically the recipe, too: combine roasted diced squash, any kind (or pumpkin) with stale bread cubes and some sliced red onion. Combine the olive oil and red wine vinegar (you don't need a lot, maybe 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar for a big bowl) and pour over. Mix well and let sit for a bit.  Serve at room temperature.

Friday, January 13, 2012

White beet salad

While at the winter farmer's market, I found these awesome white beets. All the beet flavor, none of the beet staining!

3 beets, roasted, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of cumin

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and spices in a bowl. Pour over the beets and toss well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Venison chili

As part of my Christmas haul, my mother gave me some venison (the scraps--suitable for stews only). But venison chili is a fine thing. In fact, my cat has decided that venison chili is his new favorite as well, because I caught him eating some last night when my back was turned. And trust me, this is a fiery chili.

Red beans (the equivalent of six cans' worth, if you're using dried and pre-cooking them like I do)
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 lb venison stew meat, cubed
2 cans tomato sauce
Seasonings: 2 bay leaves, chili powder, paprika, red chili flakes, cumin, salt and pepper

Saute the veggies in olive oil until soft, then add the stew meat. Let that cook for a couple of minutes, and add the beans, tomato sauce, and enough broth (I used turkey broth) to float the whole thing. Let simmer for an hour or so, then add the seasonings. Let simmer for another half-hour to let the flavors meld, add salt to taste, remove the bay leaves, and serve.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A twist on a drink special

Every night, the restaurant where I work has a drink special--an entirely new cocktail. The other night, the bartenders came up with something they called the Always in Fashion (a take on the Old Fashioned) with rye, ginger simple syrup, and cranberry bitters.

"Whoa," I thought, "I could make that at home!"

Turned out I didn't have any cranberry bitters, but I did have ginger simple syrup. So I made the drink with peach bitters. It was peachy.

2 oz rye
1/2 oz ginger simple syrup
2 dashes peach (or cranberry) bitters

Mix and serve neat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Alligator gumbo

Last night I hosted my first official guest in the new place, so I pulled the alligator filet and alligator sausage out of the freezer, left over from our trip to New Orleans last summer, and made--what else?--alligator gumbo.

(Why alligator gumbo? Because I already had all of the ingredients on hand.)

I used this gumbo recipe, substituting alligator meat and alligator sausage. I used turkey broth, since that's all I had; shrimp or fish broth would be ideal, but vegetable broth would work okay too. I also used basmati rice, which again is technically incorrect, but who cares? It's what I had available.

The alligator gumbo was delicious, and not nearly as exotic as it sounds. Because gumbo is so heavily spiced, I would have been  hard pressed to identify the meat as alligator if I hadn't known. Which means plain old chicken-and-andouille gumbo is just as good.

Fun wine fact: viognier goes best with alligator gumbo.

Another fun fact: homemade chocolate ice cream makes an excellent dessert afterwards.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grandma's cookbook

This is (was, rather) my grandmother's cookbook.

She recently moved into a home; so part of Christmas this year was dividing up some of the things she couldn't take with her. This included most of her kitchen stuff, so I inherited a five-inch-deep cast-iron skillet (can you call it a skillet if it's that deep? Cast-iron dutch oven, perhaps), a heavy leaded crystal decanter-and-goblet set, her flour sifter, her cookie-cutter collection, and this cookbook.

As you can tell, it's been well-used.

There isn't a title left on it--the inscription page is missing, so I'm not sure of the title, the author, or even the date published, although the acknowledgments page lists a date of 1947. I'm assuming it was published in the late 40s.

It features many of the recipes of the time--aspics, deviled eggs, fish pie, tea sandwiches, that sort of thing. But there are also sections on pickling (very chic, these days), using the leftover bits from a hog (tripe soup, cracklins, head cheese), and information on how to get the most from your food dollar.

There's also this charming tidbit, which I love:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Raw mustard greens salad

Turns out those bags of chard my mom gave me contained some mustard greens as well. I love making salads out of raw winter greens, and admittedly, these particular mustard greens were a bit old and peppery. But hey, ramp up the lemon juice and cheese in this recipe, otherwise just get younger and fresher greens.

From Bon Appetit, reprinted here:

  • 5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups 3/4-inch cubes crustless country bread
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces), divided
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 bunch mustard greens (about 12 ounces), center rib and stem cut from each leaf, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 5 teaspoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine anchovies and garlic in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Place bread cubes in medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons anchovy oil over, tossing to coat. Sprinkle bread with salt, pepper, and half of cheese; toss to coat. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Scatter bread on sheet. Bake croutons until crisp and golden, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

  • Measure 8 cups (loosely packed) mustard greens and place in large bowl (reserve any remaining greens for another use). Add croutons and remaining cheese to bowl. Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice into remaining anchovy oil; season dressing with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Add dressing to salad; toss to coat.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


The other night, while working at the restaurant, I closed a large heavy door on my thumb.

Not intentionally, of course--it banged shut, on my thumb, before I could move my hand completely out of the way. But now my right thumb is swollen, exceptionally painful, and my thumbnail is a particularly vivid shade of navy blue.

So, it may be a while before I can use that hand fully again. I'm afraid I'll have a completely disfigured fingernail for a while. Fortunately, the pain is tamping down to a dull roar. When it first happened, it hurt so much I actually got queasy. (And then still had to work a regular shift, opening wine bottles and carrying hot plates and writing things down. I popped six ibuprofen in as many hours.) Today I can at least type without wanting to cry. So hopefully I'll be able to get in the kitchen this weekend and cook like a normal person, with properly-working thumbs.

I'm running low on staples, but I'm trying to put off grocery shopping as long as possible. Here's what's on the docket for the next few days, using up what's around:

Red beans and rice (with Italian sausage)
Chili (with venison)

In other news, I've invited a couple gals I work with over for dinner Monday night--it'll be my first attempt at entertaining in the new place. I'm thinking about making an alligator gumbo, using the frozen alligator and alligator sausage I brought back from New Orleans.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Feta-corn muffins

A brilliant way to use up the feta in my fridge.

From epicurious:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 6 ounces)

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. and butter well twelve 1/3-cup muffin tins.

    In a large bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add sage and feta and toss well. In a small bowl whisk together milk, egg, and butter.

    Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until batter is just combined (do not overmix). Divide batter among prepared muffin tins. Bake muffins in middle of oven about 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden and springy to touch. Turn muffins out onto racks to cool.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Baked eggs with chard and mushrooms

    Ah, the joys of baked eggs for dinner. Simple, fast, delicious, and slightly daring, since you're eating eggs for dinner. Also, a great way to get some protein when there's not much in the house.

    I combined a bag of dried shittake mushrooms (reconstituted in boiling water) with 2-3 big handfuls of chopped fresh chard in a little butter, and cooked the chard down until it was wilted. I buttered six ramekins, filled each about 3/4 with the chard/mushroom mixture, and topped each with an egg. I topped the egg with a tablespoon of milk (cream would work better, but I didn't have any) and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

    Bake at 400 until the whites of the eggs have just set. Serve immediately.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Fried sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes)

    Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, aren't artichokes at all. They're a tuber (related to sunflowers, actually), that looks like a knobby piece of ginger and tastes like a slightly firmer, slightly earthier potato. Unlike most root vegetables, these are best fresh--once they get old, they start to taste old.

    And the good news is, you don't have to peel them. Just scrub them well.

    Slice them thinly, and fry them up in a little olive oil in a big skillet, just like you would fried potatoes. When they're browned and crispy, sprinkle a little salt on them and eat.

    What they look like fried

    This was the first time I'd eaten/cooked with them, and they're really good. Sunchokes are definitely going into my winter vegetable rotation.

    What they look like sliced

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Swiss chard, barley, and lentil soup

    I ate more junk food last week than I normally do in a year.

    I love my family, and I love seeing them at Christmas, but my uncles are junk food fiends. I was in a house filled to the rafters with chips, store-bought pastries and pound cakes, enormous bags of M&Ms, and every kind of soda imaginable. It all got eaten, too.

    So I was very happy that my mother sent me home with some goodies from her garden--several bags of fresh-cut herbs which are now drying, but most importantly, two great big bags of chard. Instead of having to run right out and buy groceries as soon as I got home, I've now got a several-day supply of greenery that I can supplement with pantry stuff.

    My body is crying out for green stuff.

    Last night I made a chard, barley and lentil soup, but I made it more like a slurry and less like a soup--I didn't put much liquid in there at all. You can put in more, if you like.

    Here's the original recipe, reprinted below. I didn't put in carrots or dill (didn't have any) and I used shallots instead of onions (didn't have any).

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrots
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 10 cups (or more) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
    • 2/3 cup pearl barley
    • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
    • 2/3 cup dried lentils
    • 4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard (about 1/2 large bunch)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

    Heat oil in heavy large nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots; sauté until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Mix in cumin; stir 30 seconds. Add 10 cups broth and barley; bring to boil. Reduce heat; partially cover and simmer 25 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice and lentils; cover and simmer until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

    Add chard to soup; cover and simmer until chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill. Season soup with salt and pepper. Thin with more broth, if desired.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Happy New Year!

    I hope it will be a great one for all of us!

    It's considered good luck in the South to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's, so here are some black-eyed pea recipes to help your luck along.

    Hoppin' john
    Black-eyed pea salad
    Black-eyed pea soup with collard greens and andouille sausage