Monday, May 25, 2015

Braised Belgian Endives

Endive (ON-deev), not to be confused with curly EN-dive, is something that doesn't really exist in out in nature. The white to yellowish (sometimes slightly red) torpedo-shaped vegetable often has the word Belgian in front of it because it was discovered or created accidentally in Belgium around 1830. Seems a Belgian farmer forgot about his chicory roots that he left in his cool, dark, humid cellar. In the springtime he found these shoots growing from the chicory roots. They tasted pretty good and could be eaten raw.

Today, it is grown all over and California produces most of the nation's supply. It's a versatile vegetable that is too often overlooked. Individual leaves can be a healthy substitute for crackers. You can also arrange the leaves on a platter and add a spoonful of your favorite dip on each leaf (as I did a few years ago).

This recipe is adapted from endive grower, Rick Collins, who grows most of the endive we find in stores in Rio Vista. He offers this cooking tip:
"You want to braise these endives beyond al dente. I've seen them served still kind of crisp, but you want these to be really limp. They won't fall apart because of all the fiber in them, and you'll still have to cut them with a knife."

Braised Belgian Endives


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 Belgian endives, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cups of broth
Heat oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron works real well for this). Add endives cut side down and sear for a few minutes. Press down with a spatula. When there is some visible browning, flip endives over and add stock. Reduce to a simmer and braise uncovered until the stock reduces and the endives are soft and carmelized.

Remove endives from the pan and serve hot, drizzled with reduced sauce. 

Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish.

Endive links with more information and recipe ideas:






Monday, May 4, 2015

Asparagus Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

I was recently tasked with bringing a soup to a recent dinner party that had a spring theme. I started with a recipe I received from Joanne Weir but I added to it. This can be a main course with the addition of bread or a crostini. Smaller portions can be part of a larger dinner.

Asparagus is widely available but seasonally they represent spring. This is a good choice for an early spring dinner. The delicate bits of asparagus tips offer a bit of a crunch to this soup. The lemony creme fraiche pairs well and adds a refreshing dimension to the soup.

Asparagus Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche


Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. asparagus
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 6 cups stock
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Aleppo pepper (optional)
Instructions

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Finely chop the flowery tips off of each asparagus and reserve in a bowl. Slice the rest of the asparagus into 3/4 inch pieces. 

Heat butter in a large pot. Coarsely chop the onion. Add minced garlic, onion, salt and pepper to pot and stir occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add 3/4" pieces of asparagus and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Add white pepper. Let soup simmer for 12-15 minutes. If it is too watery, simmer with the lid off to concentrate the soup. Let soup cool for 15 minutes and puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Add 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix together creme fraiche, lemon zest, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Add water to this thin slightly to make it more pourable over the finished soup.

Reheat soup over medium adding in the asparagus tips. 

To serve, place soup in bowls and drizzle some of the lemon creme fraiche on top. Garnish with Aleppo pepper flakes.

Serves 6.

Asparagus is tough to pair with wines. There are ingredients in asparagus that make wine taste metallic and harsh. Stay away from Chardonnays and go for herbal, floral wines. This article offers advice on selecting a good wine to pair with this soup. Sunset Magazine recommends Pinot Grigio.

We brought a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc for that New Zealand style wine and a Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Some preferred the softer Matanzas Creek while others preferred the brighter, steelier New Zealand as the better pairing. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Glazed Turnips

Another rarity arrived in our CSA box: turnips. Not just turnips, but "Tokyo turnips."  Here's how they are described by my CSA:

Tokyo Turnips are a mild, juicy variety of turnip. We eat the tender roots of this plant, which grows in cool weather fall through late spring. Tokyo Turnips are tender, slightly spicy and taste like a cross between a radish and a turnip.

Tokyo turnips are smaller than your typical turnip. They are mostly white but they may have some brown tones on the skin. They lack the purplish hue you see in the typical turnips. Their stems and leaves are also smaller.

Right around the time they arrived in the box, the local SF newspaper had a short article on turnips.

There are various ways to enjoy turnips. They can be eaten raw just like you might eat raw radishes. They can be cooked whole either steamed or roasted. Add them as a side to a BBQ-based dinner. Rub whole or halved turnips with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill until lightly charred and slightly soft (15-20 mins.).

For my venture run, I decided to follow the SF Chronicle's suggestion and go the with glazed turnips recipe which is very similar to the Alice's carrots recipe that has become a staple in the house.

Glazed Turnips

Ingredients:
  • Butter - 1 generous pat
  • 6 Tokyo turnips - cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
  • salt - dash
  • sugar - dash
  • pepper - freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When it foams, add the quartered turnips and shake pan to coat butter. Add pepper, salt, and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes until a golden fringes appear on the edges. Add enough water to come up about just less than 1/3 of the height of the turnip. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower hear and simmer for about 10 minutes until tender. Garnish with herb of choice.


The turnip flavor is very interesting and complex. You get the vegetable blandness of cauliflower but then a bit of mild heat like mustard comes in. A mix of potato flavors and then radish flavors. Looking forward to more opportunities to explore turnips.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Smoked Trout Salad with Arugula and Grapefruit

Smoked trout is increasingly available in supermarkets along side the ever-present smoked salmon. If you eat seafood, it should be added to your repertoire. It's saltier and meatier than smoked salmon and it works well in pastas and salads as well as a pizza topping.

We recently needed to bring a salad to a Mediterranean-themed dinner. I immediately turned to a cookbook I should be getting royalties for. I have given the cookbook as a Christmas gift more than once and when I have brought dishes made from it, I've had people say that they are going home and buying it.

Olives and Oranges, written by Sarah Jenkins and Mindy Fox, is definitely a cookbook I need to mine for more recipes. Jenkins was the daughter of a foreign correspondent and grew up in Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and France absorbing the local cuisine along the way.

This salad was a hit at the dinner and I've made it as a fairly quick weeknight dinner salad.

Smoked Trout Salad with Arugula and Grapefruit

Ingredients:

  • Dijon mustard - 1 tablespoon
  • red wine vinegar - 1 tablespoon
  • lemon juice - juice from one lemon
  • shallot - 1 large, thinly sliced
  • garlic - 1 clove, minced
  • grapefruit - 1 large pink grapefruit
  • olive oil - 1/3 cup
  • smoked trout - 8 oz. package
  • red onion - 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • arugula - 5 - 8 oz.
  • salt
  • coarsely ground black pepper
Preparation:

In a bowl, mix together mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the top and bottom off of the grapefruit exposing the fruit. Set grapefruit upright and carefully cut peel and white pith from the fruit flesh. On subsequent cuts, follow along the pith line from the previous cut. Continue until done and cut away any remaining pith. Now that the outside skin is gone you need to remove the side skins to get to the fruit. Segment the fruit and remove the slices from the side skins.

Thinly slice red onion and set aside.

Remove the skin off the trout and flake the meat into a small bowl. Watch for and remove small bones.


Add olive oil to mustard and vinegar dressing. Whisk into a mixture.

Combine trout flakes, grapefruit, and onions in a large bowl. Stir to mix (looking for more bones).

Add arugula and mix.

Add dressing and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately. The acids in the fruit, vinegar, and mustard break down the arugula very quickly. This cannot be made ahead of time.

Season (optional) with salt and pepper and serve.

Because of the high acid in the grapefruit, pair this with a high acid wine like Verdejo, Sancerre, Vouvray, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

How to get skinless grapefruit segments:



Monday, January 5, 2015

Cream of Sunchoke Soup

We recently got a pound of sunchokes in our CSA box. They used to be called Jerusalem artichokes but they are not from Jerusalem nor are they related to artichokes. From what I read, Jerusalem artichoke is the outgoing name and sunchoke is becoming the preferred name.

It looks like ginger root but it is a tuber. I went with Mark Bittman's advice to not peel them but I just scrubbed them well.

I had received some advice and tips from friends. One said they make great chips. One was about try this recipe. Another warned me of their nickname: fartichokes. I was paging through a recent Bon Appetit and found another option. But after the sunchokes arrived, we had a getaway to Healdsburg and had a great dinner at Chalkboard. They served an excellent Cream of Sunchoke Soup with Dungeness Crab with apple and celery. I adapted it and went with this recipe when I got home. The recipe below can also be adapted for a number of other ingredients. Instead of sunchokes, you can use broccoli, potato, cauliflower, etc.

Cream of Sunchoke Soup (with caramelized shallot and mushroom)

Garnish: Caramelized shallots and mushroom
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 -3 mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (including stalk)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Salt, to taste 
  • White pepper, to taste
  • balsamic vinegar (optional), a dash
Prior to getting started on the soup, prep all of the garnish ingredients. Heat a small skillet and melt the butter. Add the shallots. After about 5 minutes, as shallots begin to soften, add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring on occasion, for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is browned with crispy edges. Transfer to a small bowl. 

Cream of Sunchoke Soup
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. sunchokes, scrubbed well, skin on, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. brandy
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foamy. Add the onions and sunchokes and stir to mix. Saute covered for 10 minutes, stirring one or two times. Uncover and cook for an additional 8 minutes, until vegetables are soft, stirring often so they don't stick. Add in 1 tbsp. flour and 1 tbsp. of brandy. Stir and cook for 1 minute. 

Gradually add 2 cups of broth and stir to mix. Simmer for 5 minutes or longer until vegetables soften. 

Transfer to a food processor (or use an immersion blender) adding up to a cup of stock to desired consistency. 

Return soup to skillet, add half and half and season generously with salt and pepper. Add last tablespoon of brandy and white wine.

Cook until mixed. Serve in bowls and mound the shallot garnish in the center. 

Serve with some toasted, buttered slices of ciabatta or other good quality bread.

Inspiration:



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gingered Carrot Soup

A good friend made this recipe for a recent dinner. It was tasty, complex, and interesting. Normally, you might think of carrot soup as somewhat sweet but the ginger and mint add a whole new layer. A good recipe as we move into the cooler, winter months.

Gingered Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots 
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • sugar to taste
  • salt to taste
  • ground black or white pepper to taste
Preparation:

Slice leek, grate ginger, finely chop mint leaves, peel carrots and cut into 3/4 inch lengths (if using large carrot you can also cut them in half lengthwise).

Cooking:

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek and gingers and saute until the leeks are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and saute until coated with butter. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 30-35 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth (The soup can be made up to this point the day before and refrigerated. Add the orange juice and prep the mint the next day).

Juice the oranges and add juice to pot. Heat the soup gently and adjust seasonings, adding sugar, salt and pepper as needed. White pepper does well with this dish.

Serving:

Soup can be served cold or reheated. If reheating, do not boil.  
Garnish with mint leaves, citrus slices, or orange zest.


Recommended wine:

Riesling

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Waldorf Salad - Revisited

"I'll have the Waldorf Salad."

I think the last time I uttered those words, I was 8 years old in a restaurant in late 1960's somewhere in the Los Angeles area. The Waldorf Salad is, indeed, a classic and an icon. Created around 1896 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, it became a hit for many years. As salads go in the 1960's and 1970, a Waldorf salad was as good a selection as the wedge of iceberg lettuce coated with blue cheese dressing and croutons. Those were your some of your main exotic salad choices back then.

If you have no background on the Waldorf salad, know that the "original version of this salad contained only apples, celery and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts later became an integral part of the dish. Waldorf salad is usually served on top of a bed of lettuce." Follow the link to read more.

So how did the words "Waldorf Salad" get uttered in recent history with me? We were watching the growing pile of apples from our CSA box. Week after week brought even more apples.

Apple pie? We are not sweets people. We'd consume a slice or two and then it would sit and go bad.

Applesauce? I have jars of it from last year and the year before still sitting in the pantry.

Then I heard the magic words: "Can't you--I don't know--make a Waldorf salad or something?"

I hadn't thought about Waldorf salad for the last number of decades. So I got online and found plenty of variations on the original recipe.

But I had a couple of problems. My allergy to brown skinned nuts means no walnuts. Also, we are not big raisins fans. But Waldorf salad IS a good way to make a dent in the apple supply. So I needed to be creative. For the nuts, I found a bag of "not-so-salty" chopped cashews at Trader Joe's. Instead of raisins, I substituted dried currants from the bulk food section of Whole Foods. Everything else is true to the original recipe. But the substitutions were perfect!

Waldorf Salad Revisited

  • 4 apples, cored and chopped
  • juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2-3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup nuts of choice
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants
  • 2-3 cups mayonnaise (can use sour cream or yogurt)
Directions
  • Juice the lemon into a large bowl
  • Core and cut the apples and add them to the bowl as you go. Stir to mix periodically so that lemon juice covers the apples (you can also use ascorbic acid powder in addition to the lemon juice)
  • Zest lemon peel into bowl
  • Slice and add celery
  • Add all other ingredients to bowl
  • Stir to mix and then add mayo and nuts
Put in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors marry. Stir to mix prior to serving.