14 December 2010

On the Third Day of Veggie Christmas: Rutabaga Puree with Thyme

Raw Rutabaga
On the third day of Veggie Christmas, Whole Foods brought to me, a rutabaga. I've had rutabaga in pasties, but never on its own, so I used a simple preparation that allowed the vegetable's flavors to shine.
The result? A dish that's satisfying but light, mildly sweet and earthy. Rutabaga would add a hint of pizzazz to a dish without overwhelming it. This is a vegetable that's easy to love!

Cooked Rutabaga

Rutabaga Puree with Thyme, serves 2
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, about 4 cups diced
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 pinches salt 
2 pinches white pepper
2 small handfuls pecans, optional

+ In medium pot, boil rutabaga until tender, about 25 minutes.
+ While rutabaga is cooking, brown butter in small pan. Add thyme as butter first turns golden.
+ Drain rutabaga.
+ Puree rutabaga with salt, pepper and butter mixture.
+ Toast pecans in pan over medium heat.
+ Serve, sprinkled with toasted pecans.

13 December 2010

Adventures 2010, No. 1 -- An Afternoon in Chelsea

Because the end of the year is almost here I've decided to do a year-in-review column where I'll talk about some of my favorite adventures of 2010.

I travel to New York regularly and have realized that the city is too big, too wonderful to explore all at once, so I've decided to break down my adventures by neighborhood. At the end of the year, however, I'll take on the city in its entirety and put together my ideal weekend in New York as a whole.

For now, let's start in Chelsea. A good friend recently had a baby, so I've been spending a lot of time in her neighborhood. Chelsea offers everything I'm looking for in a day of exploration: art, fashion, greenspace and plenty of good food and drink.

My picks for an inexpensive afternoon in Chelsea:

Eat Your Way Through Chelsea Market
Jump-start your adventure with a cappuccino at Ninth Street Espresso. Last March The New York Times published an article about the best coffee shops in the city, and I've been tasting my way through the Manhattan locations ever since. This is one of the best of the best.

Lose yourself while browsing contemporary books and creative gift cards at Posman Books. This independent bookstore is one of those places that makes me want to stop everything to just sit down and read, or at least gift others with that pleasure.

Raw, vegan, organic One Lucky Duck is a favorite stop if I want something healthy and filling after a yoga class. Try the spanking, a rich shake made with fresh coconut, blueberry, banana, cashew milk, cinnamon and vanilla.

Stroll the High Line
Enjoy an elevated view of the city as you make your way uptown.

Get Your Culture for Free at the Chelsea Galleries
The area from 22nd-26th streets and between 10th and 11th avenues and surrounding areas are filled with contemporary art galleries, some with museum-quality art. I get exhausted if I spend too much time looking at art, but am rejuvenated and revitalized if I give myself just an hour or two. On my most recent visit I stuck with 22nd street and wandered through most of the galleries and shops on just that street. I'm sure I missed a lot of great shows, but I also felt refreshed when I was finished.

Pace Wildenstein puts together museum-quality shows. They're currently showing photographs by one of my favorite artists, Hiroshi Sugimoto. (Nov. 6-Dec. 24)

Stop by Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons. Both out of my price range, but interesting spaces and the details of the clothes are incredible and worth a look up-close.

Enjoy Peace and Quiet on the Hudson River Park
Sit on bench and enjoy the book you picked up at Posman Books as the sun sets over the Hudson River. Savor the golden light on the Statue of Liberty as you nibble on a snack saved from Chelsea Market. Or if it's too cold, talk a brisk walk along the water and relish the peace and quiet that you found in Manhattan, just a few avenues from all the hustle and bustle.

On the Second Day of Veggie Christmas: Parsnip and Carrot Roesti with Nutmeg

On the second day of Veggie Christmas, Whole Foods brought to me, parsnips, a vegetable I both love and hate. I find them pleasantly sweet, but also overwhelmingly aromatic. Parsnips are a perky new friend I really enjoy, but can only take in small doses.

To mellow and balance the parsnips' intensity I combined them with carrots and nutmeg to make a roesti adapted from a recipe for Beet Roesti with Rosemary in How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman. The resulting dish was mildly sweet, intensely flavorful, with a crisp exterior and soft interior. I enjoyed it as a small snack, but would try it again as a side with other strong flavors, maybe a roast lamb entree with Barolo to drink.

Parsnip and Carrot Roesti with Nutmeg; serves 4
2 medium parsnips, about 1 1/2 cups
1 medium carrot, about 1/2 cup
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

+Peel, then julienne or grate parsnips and carrot.
+Heat a skillet over medium heat.
+Melt the butter in the skillet until golden brown.
+While the butter is melting, toss the vegetables in a large bowl with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then add half of the flour and toss. Add the remaining flour and toss again.
+Place vegetable mixture in the skillet and press into a cake with a spatula.
+Cook on medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to keep from sticking, until bottom is golden and crisp but not burned, about four minutes.
+Slide the roesti onto a plate, then place another plate on top and invert the plates so that the cooked side is now facing up. Slide the roesti back into the pan and cook until the second side is golden and crisp, about three minutes.
+Slide the roesti onto a plate, slice into four pieces and serve immediately.

09 December 2010

On the First Day of Veggie Christmas: Celery Root and Apple Remoulade

When we lived in San Francisco we bought all our vegetables from a wonderful organic CSA called Marquita Farms. Every other week we'd pick up a garbage bag full of all sorts of interesting vegetables including heirloom varieties and other things I'd never heard of (agretti anyone?). Pick-up day was filled with anticipation: what kinds of goodies would we find this time? We looked forward to the surprise so much that we began to call it "Veggie Christmas."

Leaving Marquita Farms was possibly the hardest thing about moving from San Francisco. Santa Monica has great farmers markets -- especially the Wednesday market -- but I don't see the variety that Marquita Farms offered. I select the same vegetables each week and use the same preparations.

On a recent trip to Whole Foods I noticed an assortment of root vegetables I'd been completely overlooking. Part of what made the CSA so fun was not only that we got to try something new every couple weeks, but the intention and excitement we brought to the offering. So, to break out of my veggie rut, I'm reviving Veggie Christmas.

Over the next week I'm going to try one new vegetable or vegetable preparation a day, and will share the recipes and results with you. This will culminate in a full Veggie Christmas, with a feast of vegetables and wine on Friday, December 17.

On the first day on Veggie Christmas, Whole Foods brought to me, a celery root. Because I was feeling inspired by San Francisco, I started my root vegetable recipe search by turning to the roots of California cuisine: Alice Waters. I was tempted by a recipe for Celery Root Remoulade in Chez Panisse Vegetables. I then referenced The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg for their suggestions of what flavors to match with Celery Root. The following recipe is mostly Alice's, with a dash of inspiration from Karen and Andrew.

The mayonnaise makes this a fairly heavy dish. I'd planned to have this as a first course to a longer meal, but my husband and I were too full to continue. The dish is fairly bright, floral and lemony. If you want to round out the acidity and turn it into a more complete meal, add roughly chopped pecans or almonds. 

Celery Root and Apple Remoulade; serves 4.
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice L. Waters (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1996) 

A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Dijon mustad
1/2 cup homemade cooked mayonnaise (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds 
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1 medium celery root, peeled
1 large Fuji Apple, peeled

+ Whisk together salt, pepper, coriander seeds, lemon juice, mustard and mayonnaise.
+ Cut celery root and apple into 1/8 inch julienne, or grate using largest setting. Toss with sauce.
+ Let stand at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld, then serve garnished with parsley. 

Homemade Cooked Mayonnaise
Adapted from How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 1998)

1 egg yolk
1tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Dash of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil

+Gently whisk egg yolk in small saucepan.
+Add lemon juice and water. Whisk.
+Cook over low heat stirring constantly. Remove from heat once the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
+Using a food processor or blender, mix the egg, cayenne, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the olive oil.
+ Add the rest of the oil in in small amounts, blending between each addition, or in a slow, steady stream while blending.

A Veggie Merry Christmas - to you!

08 December 2010

Almond and Kale, Together At Last

I never would have guessed it, but almonds and kale are a perfect pairing. Tonight, after several days' indulgence in buttery French brownies and creamy eggnog, my body screamed for a health break. In our house "I feel like something healthy" is translated as, "I'd like to eat nothing but kale."

Tonight, however, my body was also craving protein, so I grabbed a handful of raw almonds. I popped one in my mouth while still chewing the kale and discovered that the fruity, earthy nut and the bitter, earthy greens played off each other beautifully.

Suddenly I remembered I'd had the pairing before. A few months ago my husband and I had dinner at Northern Spy in New York's East Village. The restaurant reminded us of those in San Francisco -- ingredients from local farms and purveyors, simple preparations, chalkboard specials, casual, lively, small. It was a good restaurant, not our absolute favorite in New York, but the kale salad they served was something special -- raw kale, toasted almonds, clothbound cheddar, delicata squash, lemon dressing and pecorino

From now on when I say, "I feel like something healthy," I'll mean "I'd like that great Northern Spy salad."

07 December 2010

Brownies Ever After (or How I fell in Love with the New York Times Recipe for French Brownies)

As a chocolate lover who has carried an emergency bar of 85% dark chocolate in my purse for the past ten years, it's not surprising that I've frequently been let down by brownies that claimed decadence, darkness and delight, but delivered sweet bread with a hint of cocoa flavor.

Yet, I knew my brownie soul mate was out there; I just had to look a little bit harder, try a little bit more. I knew what I wanted in my brownie: something lighter than a flourless chocolate cake, but richer and more chocolatey than any brownie I'd ever met.

Well, it finally happened. I'm pleased to announce I met my brownie match. They're everything I was looking for: a chocolate dessert that isn't too serious and knows how to have fun, but is still full of meaning in a dense, dark, buttery, rich and full-of-flavor sort-of-way.

I present to you: French brownies. We met at the New York Times website in a recipe adapted from “Baking: From My Home to Yours,” by Dorie Greenspan. We've been together for dinners and breakfasts, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, and they've always managed to make me smile. I hope you'll be as happy together as we have been.

Recipe notes:
  • The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, but I only had unsweetened on hand. The next time I make this recipe (if my non-healthy self wins out this will be tomorrow) I'll use unsweetened again, and might even cut a tablespoon of sugar. 
  • I used whole wheat white flour and egg whites (again all I had on hand) and the recipe turned out well.
  • I don't have a double boiler, so instead heated the butter and chocolate in ramekins in a pasta drainer over a large pot of simmering water.

06 December 2010

Memories, Eggnog and Bellyache

Christmas means many things to many people, but for me Christmas means eggnog.

Two of my happiest childhood memories are of drinking homemade eggnog while watching Freaky Friday (isn't that everyone's holiday classic?) and of placing a fresh glass next to my bed on Christmas Eve to satisfy the inevitable middle-of-the-night, holiday-specific eggnog craving. Every time I see eggnog I'm immediately transported, a la Proustian Madeline, to that happy moment where my lips first met the tantalizing foamy mixture of raw egg, sugar, cream, milk and nutmeg.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when my husband suggested a Christmas weekend, I immediately thought "EGGNOG"! We listened to Fred and Bing croon essential holiday tunes, decorated our mini-table-tree, watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and, of course, made and drank some eggnog.

I followed a Gourmet Today recipe for cooked eggnog, ready to be drawn back to childhood with each sip of homemade custardy goodness. Instead I ended up with a bellyache from too much sugar and the realization that my eggnog impressions were created when I loved white chocolate, had Rainbow Brite sheets and wore my hair in a side ponytail.

Maybe some recollections are meant to be cherished and not relived, but for some reason I just can't give up the hope of discovering an eggnog that can resurrect the belle epoque of childhood at Christmas.