Tag Archives: vegetables

a bowl of beans

fava

There may be more written about Italian food than any other cuisine on earth. For this reason it is intimidating to write about one’s food experiences in Italy. Nonetheless, I just returned from Rome and also a village in Perugia called Montefalco, and about this I must write.

fennel scraps

One of our first meals in Rome wasn’t even in Rome. It was at the cafeteria at Ostia Antica, on a Sunday at noon, when we were suddenly ravening and miles away from anything else to eat. Ostia Antica is an abandoned Roman port city right outside of Rome. Unearthed in the late 19th century, it is hauntingly beautiful, elegant, and organized. So different from the hot chaos of the Roman streets, here weeds grew quietly up between the ancient paving stones, and ancient tablets marked graves and directions. The city had been immense, Rome’s first colony, when it found it needed a port. Imagine the chaos of boats, bringing hundreds of African animals each day, bound for death in the Colosseum. Other boats carried wheat from Egypt, and slaves. People lived on top of people. You can see the remains of enormous apartment buildings. At several points I thought, just the trash from the amount of food consumed in the city itself—it must have been daunting.

The place was more or less devoid of tourists, except for a gaggle of German high-schoolers who were clearly Latin students traveling with their teachers. It was a brilliantly sunny, cloudless April day, and hunger struck us quickly. As miserable as cafeterias at a tourist site can be, we dutifully trouped in to find something to eat. The format was tavola calda, meaning there were dishes piled with warm items to one side, and dishes piled with cold items to another. The food looked good.

carciofi

I selected a number of salads, including one of borlotti beans: celery, celery leaves, carrots, all doused in olive oil, perfectly salted. We sat outside in the chilly sunshine with our dishes, scooping up bites of frittata, or cheese, or beans. Clearly, I thought, there is a conjurer in the kitchen, cooking up an insurrection in this a cafeteria.

Every meal was wonderful, even sandwiches from a cart in the park. Eventually we did find a real conjurer, at an enoteca in Montefalco called l’Alchimista. It is almost tragic that this restaurant is so hard to find, perched in this little town made entirely of rock. It is absurd how good it is to consume the layers of crepes, besciamella, and mushrooms they call “lasagne,” and it is almost silly how you begin to covet each remaining bite of grilled quail, or beef.

giant meringues indeed

Since I returned, I’ve begun to replicate my favorites modestly, beginning with that bean salad. I cook a pound of Rancho Gordo borlottis, or Ojo de Cabra, or cranberry beans at the beginning of the week. Then each night I scoop some out and make a new salad. Cafeteria food.

A bowl of beans

  • 3 cups drained and rinsed cooked or canned beans (Borlottis, cranberry beans, or Ojo de Cabra work well)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and then sliced thinly with a mandoline or vegetable peeler
  • 1 stalk celery, strings removed, finely chopped, leaves included
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (if you have it)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt (much less if using table salt)
  • freshly cracked pepper

1. Select a bowl that will hold all of the ingredients. Mix together all ingredients except for salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste and add fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, and cracked pepper, as you feel necessary. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

 

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orange + avocado salad

salad forever

I learned this salad about halfway through my college years. I lived in Cabot House at Harvard, where the residential quarters are divided into 12 houses, each with a professor in charge, and a number of graduate students and other scholars kicking around to keep an eye on the undergraduates. The professor in charge of our house was a faculty member who had a remarkable wife, a phenomenal cook, a brilliant host, and a lively spirit.

Though I had grown up in a house where we fed every soul who walked through the door, Emanuela taught me a lot about the military-drill precision involved in preparing for entertaining. While she had a genius for flavors, textures, and more than anything, technique, she also innately understood when things had to be ready and how to get them ready. Just as hordes of college students and faculty would push their way through the door, platters and bowls arranged themselves flawlessly on the table. There was never any stress involved; even though people overuse the word “effortless” in this sense, she really made it all seem effortless. Suddenly we would all be tamed, civilized. Perching on chairs, eating carefully, listening to the speaker who was invited, mulling the topic. Civilization.

platter

Civilization; that is what this salad represents, and it charmed me from the beginning. Before college, I had never eaten or prepared an avocado. And we certainly never used a knife to take the skin off of an orange, creating glistening, jewel-like slices. Emanuela would toss this with giant tubes of pasta for a salad, dousing it in just the right amount of olive oil. These days, I leave off the pasta and serve it on its own. I recently made it for a big party and loved the proportions of it on the platter. If you’d like to be the genius of your next party, give it a shot. It will all seem so effortless, and civilized.

gems

Orange + avocado salad

This is scaled for a big crowd on a huge platter. You can bring it all the way back to 1 avocado and 1 orange.

  • 10 ripe Haas avocados
  • 10 juicy navel oranges
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt for sprinkling

1. Peel the avocados and cut into 6 to 8 lengthwise slices. Use a sharp knife to take the skin and pith off of the oranges. First, slice off each end, then set up on one of the flat ends and cut with the knife just under the pith, rotating the orange and removing skin and pitch in sections. Flip to the other flat end and remove remaining pith with your knife. Slice in half lengthwise and remove the center of the orange. Cut each orange into 8 or so slices. Place slices in a bowl as you go. Collect up all the juices from the cutting process and reserve.

2. Arrange orange and avocado slices in alternate on a large platter, in concentric circles or however you like. Drizzle all the juice from the orange over the platter, making sure avocados are covered. Sprinkle onion over, and drizzle olive oil over. Sprinkle with just a little Maldon salt or fleur de sel. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve.

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smothered cabbage

heads will roll

Two hours. In two hours you can do your laundry, pop a bowl of popcorn and watch an entire episode of Miss Marple, meet a friend for a leisurely lunch. It turns out that in two hours you can also transform a humble head of cabbage, which will cost you roughly $2, into something fairly well sublime. First, you must sharpen your knife. You’re going to take the head of cabbage and remove the outer leaves, and then slice down one side of it making thin, paper-thin shredded slices, until you reach the core. Then you’ll lay it on that flat side and slice down another side until you reach the core. You’ll do this five times—four sides plus the top—until what you have left is a cube of cabbage core and a giant bowl of thinly shredded cabbage. Doing this is a meditation, if your knife is sharp. If you knife is not sharp, it is a chastisement. What did you do wrong? Think about it. It will come to you. It is Lent, after all.

nature

I cannot tell you what happens inside the pan that transforms this most humble of brassicas into something sweet, yet not slimy. Maybe it involves quantum mechanics, or Maxwell’s demon. I could not say. What I do know is that the produce section of the supermarket is loaded with inexpensive cabbages after St. Patrick’s Day. And if there were ever a dish that is the exact opposite of boiled wedges of cabbage in every respect, this is that dish. Even better is the fact that cabbages will keep a good old time in the crisper of your refrigerator. I like to have one on hand for nights when the vegetable for the meal has not yet revealed itself to me. The trick is getting home early enough to let this cook along while the rest of the meal is emerging.

shredding with a knife

When it is cooked, does it look pretty? No, it does not. But it is March. There are no vegetables. We have had our flings with rutabagas, parsnips, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts. Those days are over. It is the time of year when I discover anew that the winter of my discontent actually occurs fairly near the vernal equinox. On an evening when you have the leisure to let something simmer away for two hours, I hope you make this smothered cabbage, and ponder sunnier glories.

Smothered cabbage

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan; serves 6 or so as a side dish

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • five to six cranks of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head of green or Savoy cabbage, about 2 to 3 pounds, thinly shredded
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. In a large, heavy casserole pan with a lid, warm the onion, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until very soft and onion is beginning to turn gold. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and give a few more turns. Add shredded cabbage, tossing completely together five or 10 times. Add red wine vinegar, toss three or four more times, and add the lid.

2. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook for two hours. You can do something else. Come back every 30 minutes and give it a good tossing. If it is getting dry, sticking, or browning, add 1/4 cup water, and stir. After two hours have passed, remove from heat and serve. I like it with roast chicken, or pork roast, or sausages, or chops.

smothered

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roasted sweet potatoes + brussels sprouts w salmon

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As we accelerate towards the vernal equinox (can’t believe I just typed that), the situation at the farmers’ market becomes more extreme. We can still find winter squash, which have been stored for a while and are still tasty, and sweet potatoes, which are even sweeter now than they were at Thanksgiving. Beyond this, it’s slim pickins. This past Saturday, though, I witnessed what I consider to be the very earliest sign of spring at the market: eggs. We are entering what some farmers and folklorists call the “egg moon,” the moon cycle before Easter when the hens start to lay again in earnest. There is more sunlight each day, and while we silly humans continue to bask in misery when we see the dirty snow on the ground, grimacing at our friends’ Facebook postings from tropical locations (enough, already!), the hens are keeping their beady little eyes on the ball. The ball, that is, that hangs in the sky during the days, the days that are inching longer, and longer still. There are worlds of wisdom in our feathery friends.

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Take heart, gentle reader! We have only a few weeks to go before little greens and pussy willows make their way to the market. Meanwhile, grab yourself some sweet potatoes—or winter squash—and roast them up. Soon enough you’ll be waxing sentimental about the root vegetables of winter, and how you miss them at times in the glorious summer. Sweet potatoes are not the favorite vegetable of my beloved, but my roots include a tribe of sweet potato-growing farmers in southern Maryland. And I love sweet potatoes. Brilliantly, you can cut them into small fry-shaped batons, and toss them in smoked paprika, salt, and olive oil for a delicious treat. You can do the same with little, teeny Brussels sprouts. You can roast these and then at the end add a nice piece of salmon and have yourself a decent meal.

You can scale this recipe up for a family-sized meal that’s fast to throw together and tasty, too. And use the time you saved to dream of what you can make next week with eggs, and soon, with garlic scapes, and spinach, and a handful of tender and early herbs.

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Roasted sweet potatoes + brussels sprouts w salmon

Recipe below will feed 2 people; double or triple it to feed more, and use multiple baking sheets

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/4″ x 1/4″ fries the length of the potato
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1/4 of a large red onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus a little extra for the fish
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 salmon filets, 4 ounces each
  • lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato fries and half of the onion slices with half the olive oil, half the paprika, and half the salt. Spread evenly on baking sheet, making sure fries aren’t touching each other. Then, in the same bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with half of the onion slices and the rest of the olive oil, paprika, and salt. Spread on the other half of the baking sheet.

2. Place baking sheet in hot oven and bake for 20 minutes, removing once to turn fries and toss sprouts. Remove from oven and make sure that sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are mostly cooked. Make space in the middle of the baking sheet and add the fillets, skin side down. Sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top of fish. Return to oven for 10-15 minutes, until fish is cooked. Remove from oven and serve promptly, spritzing with lemon juice if desired.

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balsamic + honey glazed brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are our bread and butter around here this time of year. We probably eat them three or four times each week. Sometimes I roast them in the oven, and sometimes I roast them in a pan on top of the stove. Reflecting on this vacillation, I can divine no method to my choices. I think in this I am completely mercurial; sometimes I feel like preheating the oven to 425 F, and sometimes I don’t. Maybe it has to do with whether there is something else already in the oven, though not always. Either way, the sprouts are delicious, and deserve a spot on our plates regularly in the winter.

These are of the pan-roasted variety. The key here is for the first sear to let the pan be nice and hot, and let the sprouts rest with their cut sides on the cooking surface much longer than you would find natural or sensible. Then you pop the lid on the pan to steam the sprouts until they are just cooked through. In the end, much depends on the acidity of your balsamic. I have had balsamics that range widely in their balance of sweet and tangy. Taste, taste, several times before you serve. I always think this recipe will yield leftovers with just the two of us. About this I have always been wrong.

Balsamic + honey glazed brussels sprouts

Enough for 2 to 4

  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and washed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • freshly cracked black pepper

1. In a large nonstick skilled, warm the olive oil and shallots over medium-high heat. Cook until shallots are fragrant and browning. Add sprouts and work your way around the pan flipping them so they are cut side down. When cut side has browned well, begin to stir the pan, modulating the heat as necessary, for about 5 minutes. Crack some pepper over the sprouts. Then place a lid over the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. (If your sprouts were enormous, it may take longer to mostly cook them through in this step.)

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the honey and balsamic. Remove the lid of the pan and pour in the honey and balsamic mixture. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until sprouts are glazed and have absorbed the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and taste. Add more vinegar or honey as needed, and serve.

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oyster mushrooms + thyme

I feel that few things convey the warmth and beauty of my Thanksgiving wishes to you better than posting a picture (and recipe) of a gorgeous fungus. I mean that in all sincerity. Is there anything more fabulous than a fresh and frilly mushroom?

If you are putting away the wreckage from the opening salvo of Thanksgiving cooking, I hope you are satisfied with your labors. I have just finished roasting the sweet potatoes, the butternut squash, baking the pies (pumpkin and raisin), drying out the bread for the stuffing, and straining the broth for the gravy. My grandmother has already made the turnips, and cut up all the onions and celery for the stuffing. We are set well on the path to the great American holiday. (I believe that what makes this holiday particularly American is that for something so simple, we certainly have made it complicated. And probably for excellent reasons. Is there any aspect of this holiday that has gone unexamined?)

If you are attending a feast elsewhere and are expected to bring a dish, but have given it absolutely no thought and are now filled with remorse and anguish: this is your recipe. These mushrooms are sold by Two Guys from Woodbridge at my farmers’ market in Wooster Square (New Haven) on Saturdays, but you can make this with any flavorful wild mushroom you find in the market. The beauty of it is that it is quite delicious at room temperature. So you can whip this up tomorrow and bring it along with you to supper without asking your host to borrow a burner. I like it dished up on the side, but you can also serve it piled up on toasts if you prefer. Quadruple the recipe and make it in two batches, so as not to crowd the pan. That is all.

I hope you have a brilliant Thanksgiving. And, as always, thank you for reading.

Oyster mushrooms + thyme

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced into thin ribbons
  • leaves from 2 – 3 small branches of fresh thyme
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Maldon sea salt, kosher salt, or fleur de sel
  • thin toasted slices of baguette, if desired, for serving

1. In a large nonstick skillet, warm butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, scatter in mushrooms and reduce heat to medium. Shake the pan once and then cook mushrooms without disturbing them for 3 – 4 minutes until starting to brown on the side in contact with the pan. Then stir, sprinkling with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for 1 minute more.

2. Remove mushrooms to a serving bowl. Serve hot or, better yet, at room temperature. Eat plain or on toasted baguette slices, if desired.

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fettuccine w butternut squash + cauliflower

If you stop by your farmers’ market this morning, pick up a cauliflower and a butternut squash, as well as some parsley, and make this dish for supper. When we think of Italian food, we might not think of dishes like this, but it is a traditional Italian dish from Naples. It makes use of the best of the market this time of year, pairing creamy butternut squash (which melts into the sauce just at the end of preparation) with the marvelous texture of well-cooked cauliflower. At first I thought long ribbons of fettuccine were a counterintuitive pasta for this dish, but they are the perfect noodle to absorb this lush and hearty sauce.

Besides the cauliflower and squash, everything else in the dish is a pantry staple. The list of ingredients below is long, but when you parse it, you see that at least the process is not that fussy. All the vegetables and most of the seasonings go right in at the beginning, with only the pasta to cook at that point, and parsley and cheese to add at the end. If you cut up your squash and cauliflower beforehand, it makes an eminently doable weeknight dinner. For a dinner with meat, I would just fry some nice Italian sausages to serve after. But the dish is so hearty—I radically increased the amount of vegetables from the original recipe—that it’s not really necessary. Seriously, look at that giant measure of vegetables, below! It’s so virtuous that you can probably excuse all manner of sins for the rest of the week.

Fettuccine w butternut squash + cauliflower

Serves 6

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s Italy, which is a great cookbook

  • 4 cups cauliflower, cut into florets and quartered
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed with peel removed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups of tomatoes from a can of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 lb. fettuccine

1. In a large sauteuse or skillet with a lid, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell it, then add onion slices, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Ad squash and cauliflower, capers, salt, and crushed pepper. Toss and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, add the lid, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan to prevent the vegetables (particularly the squash) from sticking.

2. Add the cut-up tomatoes, plus the vegetable stock, if using, or water. Stir and cover the pan again. When the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain the simmer, about medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes. Test a large piece of squash to be sure it is softened, then uncover and continue cooking until the juice in the pan is very thick and will coat the pasta well, about 5 to 8 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt as necessary, and keep it at a low simmer.

3. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the fettuccine and cook barely to al dente doneness. Remove a cup of pasta cooking water from the pan, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce (if that pan is not large enough, pour the sauce into the empty but hot pasta cooking pan and add the pasta back to it). Over medium heat, warm the entire mixture, tossing it well. The squash will break up a bit to help coat the pasta. If it seems dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. If the mixture seems to wet, cook it a bit more to reduce the juices. Then turn off the heat, toss with parsley and grated cheese, and serve in large, warmed bowls.

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ham, bean + cabbage soup

With a hurricane bearing down on the northeast, something strange happened. It would seem that I am genetically programmed to cook ceaselessly—like, everything in the refrigerator—when a storm is approaching. Apples were turned into a crumble, and also added to a slow-cooked pork loin roast with onions. Bits and bobs of cheese (four totally random kinds that had accumulated in the drawer) went into a big dish of macaroni and cheese. A container of leftover ham, the odd turnip, potato, carrots, celery, and beans was clearly the base for a soup. Hurricane soup! What could be more appropriate with a weird hybrid storm approaching? Soup is called for in this situation. Soup is part of the emergency planning scenario. The thinking was that even if the power goes out, we can use the gas stove to heat up the soup. And the longer the soup sits around, the better it tastes.

I’m not going to lie and say that this soup is terribly gorgeous. It is fairly unattractive. But, hey, any port in a storm, right? It is delicious, and filling, and flexible. You can add or subtract from the amount of carrots, turnips, cabbage, and potatoes I used. You could substitute other root vegetables, or swap in kale for the cabbage. Heck, you could substitute a few slices of smoked bacon in place of the ham. The soup won’t mind. It just gets better and better. If you still have power, and a gas stove so you can keep cooking if the power goes out, start a pot of soup. It’s time to get serious about storm preparation. Good luck to everyone on the East Coast, and I’ll see you on the other side of Sandy.

Ham, bean + cabbage soup

Makes 8 large bowls of soup

  • 2 small or 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 celery stalks trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups cooked ham, chopped
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch chiffonade
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (such as navy or cannellini), with some of their cooking liquid
  • salt, if needed

1. In a large soup pot, combine onion, carrots, celery, turnips, potato and vegetable oil. Turn heat to medium-high and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until vegetables are fragrant and onion is translucent, but not browned. Reduce heat to medium if necessary to prevent browning.

2. Add rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, and ham, and saute for 2 to 3 additional minutes. Add cabbage, stock, and cooked beans. Then add water to cover vegetables and ham by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 60 minutes, until turnips and potato are cooked, and soup is thick. Leave to simmer for longer, if desired. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve piping hot with crusty bread, or biscuits, and a salad.

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chicken w glazed turnips

I feel there should be an annual celebration the week when turnips finally appear in the farmers’ market. To me, this is one of the great advantages of fall. Last week, when I saw the first ones at the Wednesday market, I was on my way from one meeting to another. I grabbed three gorgeous purple globes and popped them into my bag. They went to every meeting with me the rest of the afternoon, including a cocktail reception in the Beinecke Library. I must confess that I was quite distracted during the reception. All I could think was, “when was the last time that Gutenberg Bible across the room was within spitting distance of a bag full of turnips?” See, the turnip is the little black dress of the vegetable world, and perfectly at home in a building full of incunabula. And I’m sure they were just as popular in 15th century Germany as they are today. I always wondered about those ensembles advertised in J. Crew as “perfect for the transition from work to evening.” Now I know what they were talking about.

I  thought Melissa Clark’s article about roasting chicken thighs with whatever for supper last week was smart advice. I frequently turn to my skillet, rather than the oven. But I think the method below would work just as well for: cubed potatoes, butternut squash, rutabagas, broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potatoes. Just for starters. Usually we don’t have boneless, skinless breasts, but that happened to be what I had this week. I was afraid the dish would not be very flavorful, but it was just the opposite. The chicken browned very nicely and left a great fond in the pan, which really enriched the turnips and turned them a delightful deep caramel color. Anyway, I think pork chops and chicken thighs would also be nice here. In fact, I plan on trying the pork chops next.

Until then, dear reader, I give you: the humble turnip. She walks with kings, nor lacks the common touch.

Chicken w glazed turnips

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large purple-top turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey

1. Sprinkle salt and black pepper on both sides of chicken breasts. In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan (that has a tight-fitting lid), warm vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until each side is deeply browned. Then add the lid to the pan and turn heat to medium-low, cooking with the lid on for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is 170 F. Set chicken aside on a plate and cover with foil. There may be a good bit of brown fond in the pan from the chicken. This is good.

2. Add garlic and butter to skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add diced turnips and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until turnips are dark brown and beginning to caramelize. Add thyme, broth, and honey to the pan and replace the lid. Cook for about 15 minutes, until turnips are cooked through. About halfway through this cooking time, remove lid and thoroughly stir and redistribute turnips.

3. When turnips are tender and cooked, return breasts and any accumulated juices to the pan. Heat together for 5 minutes. Serve each person some chicken and turnips piping hot, perhaps with brown rice cooked in chicken broth.

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pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Cauliflower may be one of my desert-island vegetables. To me, it is the darling of the cruciferous kingdom. Unlike its cousins—cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—cauliflower has a certain irresistible charm. I never understood why babies were said to come from the cabbage patch. The cauliflower patch is the real home of adorable beauties, florets folding in on themselves, worlds within worlds.

It’s versatile, too, and can be worked into tarts, eggy casseroles, gratins, or just roasted, steamed, or pickled, or eaten raw. I had spotted a vegetarian version of this recipe in my trusty Marcella Hazan and wanted to make it into a one-dish meal by increasing the proportion of cauliflower to pasta (I made the version for two noted below, with just one-half pound of pasta to about 2 pounds of cauliflower) and adding a bit of sausage. I also added crunchy bread crumbs, and salty olives. (I find that it is never wrong to pair olives or capers with cauliflower.)

The key to the recipe is timing. If you play your cards just right, you can cook the sausage first while your water is coming to a boil and the cauliflower cooks in the boiling water. Then, as the sausage vacate the pan to make way for the garlic and anchovies (and what have you), the cauliflower will be just finishing up and available to be drained and scooped right into the skillet for a second tour of cooking. Keep your water boiling and dump the pasta in right away—it should finish cooking just in time to be drained and scooped right into the same skillet (with a bit of cooking water to get the sauce sorted out) to finish the dish. While all of this is going on, you can brown the bread crumbs in a smaller skillet on the side. I know it probably seems strange to imagine cauliflower florets combined with pasta. But trust me, it works. The cauliflower is fairly velvety, and clings beautifully to the penne.

Pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Adapted from Marcella Hazan Essentials of Italian Cooking

  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage links
  • 1 head cauliflower, about 1.5 to 2 lbs., broken into florets
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 anchovies, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives (I used Lucques olives)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. small penne pasta (or 1/2 lb. if preparing for two people)

1. In a large skillet, cook sausage until cooked all the way through, and center registers 170 F on a meat thermometer. Set aside. Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water to boil. When boiling, add cauliflower florets and cook at least 15 minutes, until very soft, but not disintegrating. If you time this properly, you’ll be able to take cauliflower straight out of the boiling water and into the saute pan. If not, then remove cauliflower from boiling water and set it aside. And in any case, keep the boiling water simmering and add the pasta to cook while sauce finishes.

2. Add some olive oil to the sausage pan and keep at medium heat. To the warm olive oil, add garlic and cook until light gold in color. Add anchovies and crushed red pepper, and cook until anchovies dissolve. Now, if it is cooked and tender, scoop cauliflower out of boiling water and add to pan. (Or if cauliflower finished too early, simply add the cauliflower.) Break up the cauliflower florets with the back of a spoon, leaving none larger than a walnut. Some of the florets should mash into bits that are quite small. Add the olives as well. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, until flavors combine and cauliflower is sauteed and browning.

3. At the same time, heat a glug of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs to the hot oil. Stir frequently for about 3 to 4 minutes, until bread crumbs are well toasted. When they are a deep golden brown, set them aside in a bowl.

4. Assemble the dish: when pasta is through cooking, scoop the pasta from the boiling water, reserving at least 1/2 cup water to make the sauce. Put the pasta in the skillet with the cauliflower, tossing very well to combine. Add the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to get the sauce to coat all of the penne. Garnish each plate with bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and serve with sausage along side.

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