You've got to feel sorry for the celery root. The lumpy, grey green vegetable is continually overshadowed by its shallow and flamboyant plume (celery has got to be the vegetable's equivalent to the dumb blonde). Even in these days of scarcity, the celery root isn't much to look at. It suffers in comparison to the other roots of winter, the showy beet, golden rutabaga, and red-headed carrot - even the lowly turnip has a rosy blush to its cheeks, like a sturdy farm girl. Only burdock, edges it out in ugliness. And while usually, the French moniker makes a food more palatable (think escargot v. snail), but in this case, celeriac makes me think of celiac's disease - ugh.
It's a shame, because the celery root requires little effort to shine. In fact, it's one of the few underground dwelling vegetables that you don't need to cook prior to eating. It can be mashed, frittered, gratined, and, as in the following, recipe, grated and dressed.
I served this dish, Celery Root Remoulade, at a recent party. It was one of the most popular dishes, I supect in large part, because its unfamiliarity led to a false sense of exoticness. The swan emerged.
With a food processor, this recipe can be made in just a few minutes making it a great weeknight side dish.
Celery Root Remoulade 6 to 8 servings
1 celery root 1/2 lemon 1 cup mayonnaise, either homemade or Hellman's 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard 2 tablespoons capers, drained 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Peel and julienne the celery root - this is easily done in a food processor. Mix the celery root and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Mayonnaise Makes approximately 2 cups
2 egg yolks 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 1/2 cup canola oil Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Food Processor Method: Combine the egg yolks and mustard in the bowl of a food processor. Through the feed tube, pour the oils in a very slow stream while the machine is on. The aioli is done when it’s thick and emulsified. When fully emulsified, the mixture will make a distinctive slapping sound against the sides of the bowl. Mix in the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. By Hand: Combine the egg yolks and mustard in a medium size bowl. Wrap a kitchen towel around the base of the bowl to anchor it. Pour the oils into the egg mixture in a slow stream until the two are emulsified. Mix in the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Fixing a broken mayonnaise: It is almost certain that if you make mayonnaise or aioli more than once, it will break. There’s no need to start over. Simply whisk 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a mixing bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the broken mayonnaise (make sure that you stir it up first to ensure that you get oil and egg in the sample), whisk together until the mixture thickens. Slowly add the remaining broken mayonnaise, whisking constantly until emulsified. Doctoring store bought mayonnaise: If you’re concerned about using raw eggs or are pressed for time, you can easily doctor a commercially produced mayonnaise. Take 2 cups of store bought mayonnaise (I suggest Hellman’s) and add the lemon juice and Dijon mustard called for in this recipe. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by my "Meat and Potato" demo today at Green City Market. If you want to try the samosas at home, here's my recipe for the Squash and Bacon Samosa and also for the Cilantro Chutney that I paired with the little dumplings.
Squash and Bacon Samosas
I adapted the samosa dough from Julie Sahni's book Savoring India that she wrote for Williams-Sonoma. Everything I've made from it has been absolutely delicious.
Makes 16 samosas
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ cup vegetable oil 2/3 cup water less 1 tablespoon white wine 2 tablespoons cornstarch ¼ cup water 1 1/2 cup Winter squash mash 2 medium boiling potatoes cooked until tender and peeled after cooking 1 bacon slice ½ teaspoon cumin 1/8 teaspoon cardamom 1/8 teaspoon coriander 1 teaspoon salt ½ leek, chopped, or 1/2 chopped yellow onion vegetable oil for deep frying
Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of wine to a measuring cup and then pour in enough water to equal 2/3 cup liquid. Add the oil to the cup and stir. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry gradually while stirring with a fork. You want the mixture to come together just enough to be kneaded so you may have some liquid left over. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it forms a soft dough. Return the dough to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rest for ½ hour. In the meantime, make the filling.
Mash together the squash and potato. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain. Add the leek and cook until softened in the bacon fat. Sprinkle on the spices and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape in mashed potatoes and squash and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Roll the dough out to an 18-inch rope between your fingers.
Cut into 8 even pieces. Working with one at a time, roll a piece into a 6-inch circle. Cut it in half. Add heaping tablespoon of filling to one side. Brush with dissolved cornstarch and form a cone. Seal the edges. When finished with a samosa, set it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, wax paper or silicone pan liner. Repeat with reamining samosas. Samosas can be frozen at this point.
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot until 325º F. Fry for about 7 minutes or until browned. If you're cooking them from the freezer, you will need to cook them a little longer. Drain and serve with cilantro chutney.
Cilantro Chutney Makes approximately 1 cup
1 ½ cups cilantro leaves 1 ½ tablespoon chopped tropea or other red onion ½ small red chili pepper ½ teaspoon granulated sugar 1 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil.
Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
You know what they say about the power of the pen. Pair heart-felt words with kid-style handwriting to effect real change to school lunch. This Saturday, from 8:00am-1:00pm at the Notebaert Nature Museum, the Green City Market and Slow Food Chicago co-host "Kids Write to Eat," a letter writing campaign for getting good food into our schools. Paper, pens, and crayons included.
Yes, I know, I've just posted a picture of an empty pan, a very white, clean pan. Certainly, a picture that looks neither luscious nor layered.
But for a little while on Saturday evening, this was filled with luscious, layers of fresh pasta, homemade ricotta, and ground grassfed beef coated with a creamy sauce made from Tomato Mountain roasted tomatoes. This largely local lasagna was our contribution to a regular gathering of friends. While I brought my camera, I wasn't quick enough to snap a shot before it was largely gone. For a moment, I considered shooting the sole remaining piece, but the lonely layers were wrapped and the pan washed before I got around to pulling the camera out.
It was not so popular with the kindergarten set. While my son liked it, it couldn't compare with the promise of playtime with his best school friend. No matter, it left more for the big kids.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 medium onions cut into ½-inch dice 4 medium garlic cloves, minced 1 pound ground beef 1 teaspoon kosher salt ¾ cup dry red wine 42-ounces whole, peeled tomatoes, pureed in a blender 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 pinch red pepper 1 bay leaf ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons heavy cream 2 grinds of black pepper 1 pound fresh lasagna noodles (if so inclined to make your own here's the recipe for fresh pasta) 1 ½ pound ricotta ½ cup grated parmesan cheese 1 large egg 1 teaspoon salt ¼ cup sparkling water 1 tablespoons chives, finely chopped 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped 1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped 1/3 cup grated mozzarella
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add beef and salt; cook until no longer pink. Add wine and bring the liquid to a boil, cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper and bay leaf and cook uncovered for a half hour or until slightly thickened. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cream and pepper and remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, sparkling water, and herbs.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with olive oil. Spread a quarter of the sauce on to the bottom of the pan. Layer a quarter of the noodles on top of the sauce. Drop 1/3 of the filling in gobs of of the filling onto the noodles. Repeat two more times, end with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Put into the prepared pan cut side down. Bake for about an hour or until the cheese on top is bubbling and golden. Remove from the oven and let set for ten minutes.
Even though I'm Lutheran with no Lenten obligation to forgo anything, I'm looking forward to some lean days.
With birthdays, Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, and now this last hurrah of New Orleanian indulgences, I'm all feasted out. Well, almost. I certainly couldn't let this last day of debauchery go unhonored.
We started this year's celebration a little early with a Sunday breakfast of calas - the red headed step child of New Orleans fried doughs. I've never understood why the beignet has outshone it's rice filled relation. While Cafe du Monde's chicory laced coffee is delicious, its yeasted doughnuts don't hold much appeal to me. But the calas, ah, that's an entirely different story.
I'm glad to know that the calas has experienced a resurgence thanks to intrepid New Orleans food personality, Poppy Tooker, and the local Slow Food convivium.
Calas aren't difficult to make, just a little messy, as all fried foods can be. This recipe is adapted from American Traditions: A Classic Guide to Regional Cooking, an eminently usable coffee table book. Serve these little fried delights with top quality jam.
1/2 cup long-grain rice 1 package active dried yeast 1/2 cup water approximately 110 F 3 large eggs 1/3 cup sugar 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract vegetable oil for frying confectioners' sugar
Cook the rice in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1/2 hour or until it is mushy and very soft. Drain and cool to room temperature. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit until foamy. Mix together the dissolved yeast and rice in a large mixing bowl. Cover tightly and set in a warm location overnight. In the morning, mix the eggs, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and extract into the yeasted rice. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 1/2 hour. Heat about 4 inches of oil in a large pot until 350 F. If necessary, add a little more flour until the batter drops slowly from a spoon. Drop large spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Fry until the calas is browned on all sides, turning several times during the frying. Drain on crumpled paper towels. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately with jam.
Teaching 17 kids ranging in age from 4 to 10 how to make samosas and chutney, what kind of madness is that?
Photo Credit, Tab Kejriwal
The kind that ensured at "So Samosa!" held on January 31st at Roscoe Village's Smarty Party. With the assistance of accomplished home cook, Nikita Kejriwal, we rolled, filled, and shaped approximately 75 samosas, frying them up while the kids played a spirited game of Blind Man's Bluff. Two hours later, parents and children alike went home tired, satiated, and more than a little dusty from the flour.
Photo Credit, Tab Kejriwal
Nikita graciously shared the recipes with me to post here. Each variety would be a welcome treat for parents and children alike.
2 cups all purpose flour 1/4 cup melted ghee or vegetable oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt vegetable oil for frying
Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and knead into a semi-soft dough using a bit of water. Cover with saran wrap and let rest for 1/2 hour. Divide dough into 8 to 9 portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Flatten out the dough using a rolling pin and a little oil to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut each circle into 2 semi-circles. Brush the straight edges with a little water. Form into cones by meeting the straight ends of the semi-circle, overlapping slightly. Seal firmly. Fill with stuffing and close the samosa by overlapping the edges slighly. Seal into a triangle. Set the formed samosas on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet until ready to fry. Heat about 4 inches of vegetable in a large pot to 325 F. Fry until the samosas are golden brown. Drain on crumpled paper towels. Serve hot with with chutney.
2 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled 1/4 cup cooked peas 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro 1/2 teaspoon paprika or red chili powder for heat-tolerant palates 1/2 teaspoon garam masala kosher salt to taste
Mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1/2 teaspoon paprika or chili powder 1/2 teaspoon garam masala 2 cups cooked spinach 1/2 cup paneer or drained cottage cheese kosher salt to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add paprika or chilli powder,garam masala, and spinach. Add salt to taste. Cook for 2 minutes. Let the spinach come to room temperature and add cheese.
1/2 raw green mango peeled 2 bunches of cilantro, heavy stems removed kosher salt to taste 1/2 cup lime juice
Puree in a food processor. If you're hard core, you could always grind it into a paste into a mortar and pestle (a great job for little boys).
Here in Chicago, we're lucky to have Rick Bayless. Not only are his restaurants delicious, they're both accessible and share our food sensibilities. As a result, brunch at Frontera and his new Xoco are regular within our family rotation. Plus, he's such a great guy.
I was terrifically lucky to score not one, but two, invites to his garden this summer. The first was a delightful cocktail party on the eve of the Chefs Collaborative Summit where he opened his home to the sustainably minded food professionals who descended on Chicago in mid-September. Because my clunky Canon didn't go with my cocktail dress, I took no pictures that evening. No, these shots are from a few weeks later when I toured his garden with a small group of friends working on improving the food systems on Chicago's south side.
Bayless' garden takes up almost two entire city lots bordering on an old train line. The home formerly was a neighborhood tavern (quite apropos for a restaurateur). One lot is ornamental with beautiful outdoor living space. The second is a working farm/garden that provides produce for his restaurants.
During these gray, cold Chicago winter days, I wanted to share these photos, a reminder of how beautiful the harvest season can be.
In the spirit of sharing, we're having our first blog giveaway. Thor has pulled a number between 1 and 30 from his winter hat. The poster whose post corresponds with that number shall win Rick Bayless's wonderful cookbook Mexican Everyday. Only rule? One post per person.
Today marks both the my son's 6th birthday and the end of a weeklong birthday celebration of restaurant dinners and parties. My mom's birthday is on the 1st and when she and my father arrived from New York we took them to celebrate at local chef Carrie Nahabedian's almost eponymous restaurant, Naha. We were treated like kings and queens by host and staff alike, enjoying a dinner of locally sourced delights. Saturday and Sunday were the family and kids parties, respectively. Today, the very end of the festivities, we'll share a casual dinner for 5 at Thor's favorite restaurant DMK Burger Bar after a classroom celebration of Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins baked into train shapes.
It also marks the 100th post on LITTLE LOCAVORES, another cause for merriment. To thank all of you for reading about our family adventures eating from the farmers' market, I wanted to share one of my top secret recipes, a great favorite in our house. We served this dish at Thor's Birthday Bowl at Smarty Party, inspiring several of his friends to ask for second and third portions. The remainder of the dish pleased the parent/chauffeurs, many of whom requested the recipe.
Macaroni and Cheese 8 to 12 servings
The secret to this recipe is the secret ingredient: beer. It's just a touch, but I think it rounds out the cheese sauce. I tend to use a relatively dark beer and share the rest of it with Mike over dinner. The cheese sauce may look a touch curdled after you add the seasonings, but it all comes together once it's baked.
1 pound whole wheat macaroni, cooked according to the package 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 4 cups whole or 2% milk 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard ½ teaspoon dry mustard 1 tablespoon beer 1/8 teaspoon worcestire sauce Pinch cayenne pepper ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt Freshly ground white pepper to taste 2 cups grated sharp cheddar 2 cups grated comte or gruyere ½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in the saucepan over medium heat. When the foam subsides, whisk in the flour and cook stirring constantly for approximately 2-3 minutes. Add milk to the pan while whisking constantly. Cook until the béchamel coats the back of a spoon distinctly, approximately 7 minutes. Whisk in mustards, cayenne pepper, worcestire sauce, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add cheese and stir until melted.
Butter the baking pan. Carefully add pasta to the cheese sauce in the saucepan. Scrape the pasta and cheese mix into the prepared pan. Mix together the panko bread crumbs, butter and parmesan in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
Do-ahead notes: The pasta and cheese sauce can be mixed and kept in the baking pan 4 hours ahead. The topping can be mixed earlier in the day and spread on top just prior to baking.
Kids' Cooking Tips: Kids will love measuring the ingredients and mixing the sauce. Just be prepared to lose more than a few macaroni in the process.
Stay tuned for our 101st post where we will host our FIRST ever blog giveaway of Rick Bayless' Everyday Mexican.
My son, Little Locathor, delved into political activism last night, writing his first letter to a political official. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the issue that piqued his ire was food-related.
As many of you have already heard, Chicago's health department engaged in some boneheaded, yet ultimately unsurprising, behavior on Thursday. In the course of a health inspection, the city inspectors destroyed twelve hundred dollars worth of granola bars and seven thousand dollars of frozen local fruit owned by small business owners Sunday Dinner Chicago and Flora Lazar, respectively. This jaw-dropping exercise of waste occurred despite the fact that there was nothing wrong or unhealthful about either the fruit or granola bar. The city’s rationale isn’t entirely clear – it seems that they based their action on the fact that the products had been processed prior to the granting of individual licenses to the businesses in question even though they were operating out of a licensed shared use kitchen, Kitchen Chicago.
I knew that this terrible news would affect my son as the products made by both of these small companies are among his favorites. When he returned from school, I relayed the bad news about the destruction. His eye welled up with tears, his voice trembled as he asked whether this meant no more granola bars and fruit candies.
Sadness turned to anger and then righteous indignation. How dare the health inspector waste that fruit? Why couldn’t they have allowed the bars to be donated to the people in need? What was the city thinking?
Unfortunately, I had no answers as these questions were swirling about in my head as well.
He then decided he had to do something. First, he suggested that we offer to Flora some of our stock of frozen fruits so that she could start again. Very sweet, I told him, but neither Flora nor SDC received a business license so our supply would not help. I suggested a letter to the editor, which I would transcribe. I should have known that an editor is not a concept with which he is familiar. Instead, he decided to write a letter to the mayor and here it is, spelled phonetically, of course.
And the question posed to the health inspectors:
Later that evening, we enjoyed the last of our Flora pate de fruits. While delicious, they indeed were a bitter fruit.
On Tuesday, the groundhog saw his shadow. According to the rather unscientific presumption, this means we're in for six more weeks of winter. Hooray!
I've already explained several of my reasons for loving the cold days of January. Well, this irrational adoration carries on to February. I'm not always a glass half full gal - I hate when supplies get low, whether they be chicken stock, my son's kefir, or wine - but for some reason, in the dark days of our Midwestern winter I focus on what I can eat, as opposed to what I can not.
These days, I'm rediscovering citrus. While the navel orange is the perennial fruit bowl staple, there are numerous other varieties that make their appearance at our grocery stores only in these cold months - a bright and sweet gift for these bitter days. Tangerines, tangelos, clementines, clementine-mandarins, pomelos, kumquats, a whole host of delightful and delectable little segmented fruits are at our disposal. I relish every last one.
These days, I've been starting my day with a freshly squeezed glass of grapefruit juice. My mother-in-law sent a whole box of pink grapefruit, which were only mine to enjoy. Even if he didn't take the medication that grapefruit wreaks havoc upon, Mike wouldn't touch the delightfully pink-fleshed softball. We don't even drink sauvignon blanc because of its grapefruity undertones. Witnessing this intense dislike, Thor's been loath to try them. This weekend we'll be serving the Israeli-grown clementine-mandarins in a spinach salad for Thor's birthday party. Blood oranges served as the piquant base for a delicious Moroccan salsa served on Coho salmon earlier this week.
Though my absolute favorite citrus is the one that really shouldn't be eaten out of hand. The Meyer lemon: an extraordinary marriage of orange and lemon with a intoxicating aroma, thin skin, and extraordinary flavor. I still have not met a dish that can not be improved by substituting Meyers for the standard lemon, whether it be lemonade or lemon chicken.
Each year, I make a big batch of lemon curd, which can be sandwiched between eclairs, filled into tart shells, and topped onto scones. A lovely dessert, perfect for Valentine's Day, pairs it with jam made from locally-grown blueberries frozen at the height of the summer season. For those of you who don't love Winter as I do, it will give you a whiff of things to come.
Lemon-Blueberry Tartlets in an Almond Crust
Lemon curd is a recipe that palpably demonstrates all eggs are not created equal. If you use truly farm-fresh eggs for this recipe, the color will be far more vivid. Also, farm-fresh eggs are not necessarily uniform in size. Accordingly, I’ve used weight as the measurement instead of a specified number of eggs. If you don’t have a scale, start with 12 egg yolks. If the curd does not thicken within 15 minutes, follow the instructions in the body of the recipe.
For 6 servings
1 ½ cups raw natural almonds 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/3 cup confectioners sugar 3 tablespoons beaten egg 1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour ¾ cup whole wheat pasty flour ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ teaspoon kosher salt 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 6 tablespoons granulated sugar 12 large egg yolks or 7 ½ ounces egg yolks (see What Came First the Yolk or the White for suggested uses for the egg whites) 1 to 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar 1 cup lemon juice (approximately 6 lemons) or 1 cup Meyer lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons ½ teaspoons kosher salt the zest of two lemons
Almond Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely chop the almonds in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process to combine. Divide the dough in half. For this recipe you will only need one half, the remaining half can be frozen for up to 6 months. Press one half of the dough either into the 9-inch pan or the 6 5-inch pans. The sides of the tart shell should be approximately ¼-inch thick. Bake tart shells for 30 minutes or until golden brown, shifting the position of the pan once for even browning. Blueberry Filling: Combine the blueberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the berries have burst and the filling is thickened – 15-20 minutes. Lemon Curd: Whisk together the egg yolks with 1 cup sugar in a medium-size bowl. Combine the lemon juice, zest, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Pour half of the hot lemon-butter mixture over the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the warmed yolk mixture into the saucepan again while whisking constantly stopping only briefly to scrape the bowl. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened (approximately 12 minutes). The curd will look gelatinous and will coat the back of a spoon distinctly.
If the curd has not thickened after 15 minutes, you probably need more egg yolk. Whisk an egg yolk in a small bowl and add approximately ½ cup of the hot liquid, whisking constantly. Add back to the pan while whisking and cook until thickened. Taste the curd. If it seems too tart, add more sugar until it is to your taste. When thickened, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a heat-proof bowl and stir in lemon zest. Let cool. Assembling the tart: Spread a thin layer of blueberry filling into the tart shells. Spoon 2 cups of the lemon curd on top of the blueberry filling and spread evenly. Do-ahead notes: The tart dough can be made up to two weeks in advance and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator and then continue with the directions above. If you have space in your freezer, you could also press the dough into the tart pans and freeze. Bake from a frozen state for 40 minutes. The blueberry filling will keep up to two weeks and the lemon curd five days in the refrigerator.
Recently I was asked to share my favorite easy, kid-friendly supper. The question was posed during a Q and A after a talk I gave on healthy kid eating, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I was less than truthful. Mumbling the answer, knowing that the real answer would make me look crazy or worse, pretentious, I responded Macaroni and Cheese.
While I have a terrific Mac and Cheese recipe, using whole wheat pasta, a mix of cheeses and a secret ingredient, there are two many bowls and too much mess for this to be considered easy.
My, or more accurately, our, favorite easy family dinner? Souffle.
Okay, before you click the the "x" button at the left top of your screen, let me explain.
A few years ago, I had introduced a family tradition to our household. According to my mom's personal folklore, I was in charge of planning and preparing dinner once a week from the time that I was four. So when Thor crossed this threshold in February 2008, we tried to institute this task. Of course, I think my mom must have been much better organized than I. Week 1 was terrific. We made Mac and Cheese (and a giant mess). I was energized, Thor was excited, momentum was with us. Then week two came, quicker than I expected. Tuesday is really the same day each week? I peered into the fridge - no meat, few veggies (at least ones that Thor would let pass his lips). But we did have cheese and eggs.
Now, I've told this story several times and when I get to this point, many friends surmise that we prepare omelets for dinner - a perfectly respectable meal as long as your husband doesn't have some weird egg allergy. He can eat eggs cooked into cakes, cookies, breads, and even casseroles, but not straight up.
With this in the back of my head, I thought I would give the souffle a go. Yes, it can be pretty eggy, but that protein is so stretched out by the puff of air that I thought it had to have a better impact on Mike's system. It was a huge success, Thor loved it - we even have a video of said souffle and what has become it's theme music. And so, this is how souffle became my family's go-to meal.
Regardless of its fancy French name and its temperamental reputation, souffle is a cinch to prepare requiring really only two things:
An electric mixer (You don't need a fancy stand mixer - though it helps, a hand mixer works pretty well too).
The wherewithal not to peek once it's in the oven.
With these two, a few eggs, some cheese, perhaps even some spinach, broccoli or other soft vegetable, you too can impress your friends and family. The following recipe is a popular way to use up crumbles of blue cheese in our house.
Blue Cheese Souffle Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe in Barefoot in Paris Serves 3-4 depending on appetite and size
4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon for the dish 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for dusting 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup milk, heated to 110 degrees on the stove or in a microwave pinch nutmeg, cayenne 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt freshly ground pepper to taste 5 large eggs, separated 3 ounces blue cheese, chopped pinch of cream of tartar
METHODS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart souffle dish with 1 tablespoon butter and dust with 1 tablespoons parmesan cheese. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring. Whisk in hot milk until smooth and cook stirring for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one by one. Add salt, spices, remaining parmesan and blue cheeses and stir until relatively smooth (there will likely still be small chunks of blue cheese). Cool slightly while beating the egg whites. Put the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, a beat on low speed until frothy, approximately one minute. Add cream of tartar and increase the speed to high and let it go until the whites hold a stiff peak when the beater is lifted. Incorporate a 1/3 of the egg whites into the sauce base by folding very gently. Add the remaining egg whites, combining quickly and softly. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish. Place in the center of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
Want another reason that I love January? Slim pickings at the farmers' markets give me an excuse to eat potatoes with abandon. During the height of the growing season, potatoes seem pedestrian, boring when compared to all the other more exotic, and perishable, options. Come the new year, the potato regain their throne as king of the comfort foods. Mashed, shredded into pancakes, boiled, gratined, scalloped, they return to favor and I wonder why I forsook them.
Before the growing season begins again and we say later to the tater, try this delicious recipe - a simple weeknight Pommes Anna, the most elegant means of bowing to the king of winter. With its crispy top and creamy interior, it's very popular with kids.
Parmesan Potatoes Anna Closely adapted from a recipe from the dearly departed Gourmet Magazine
a scant pound of yellow-hued potatoes 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan (I used Wisconsin's sarvecchio) kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Melt the butter in a medium size bowl. Mix in the olive oil. Pour about half into a 9-inch well seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick skillet. Slice the potatoes approximately 1/16-inch thick on a mandoline (I love my cheap Japanese one). Toss the potatoes in the remaining fats. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the remaining fats over medium-hight heat. Artfully layer the potatoes on the bottom on the pan. Toss the remaining potatoes with the parmesan cheese and layer them in the pan. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned. Loosen the potatoes from the pan with an offset spatula and invert onto a small plate. Sere warm.
Kids' Cooking Tips
Kids will enjoy seasoning and tossing the potatoes, especially if you allow them to use their hands. Just give them a good scrubbing before and after.
Sheesh, a week since my last post. An entire week.
In my defense, it was a very busy week. Between catering Family Farmed Expo's launch party for 250, teaching three (count 'em, three) classes, jury duty, and a dead car battery to boot, I'm exhausted. Before I head to my chill-out Monday ("24," "Damages", and perhaps even an episode from 30something's second season, which arrived late last week from Amazon), I wanted to welcome new readers from the Northside Parents Network talk on "Solving the Puzzle of the Picky Eater." I promised you all my recipe for Parsnip-Fennel Puree, a delicious and familiar way to introduce less than familiar vegetables. This kid-friendly side dish can also become rather adult, topped with seared sea scallops and caramelized fennel.
Parsnip-Fennel Puree Serves 4
½ pound parsnips ½ pound fennel 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Peel and trim parsnips. Cut into ½ inch chunks. Trim fennel by removing the hard core. Slice into ½ inch pieces. Retain about 2 tablespoons of the feather fronds for garnish. Combine the parsnips and fennel in a medium saucepan with lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 20 minutes. When the fennel and parsnip are tender when pierced with a knife, drain and puree in a food processor with the butter. The puree can be made one day ahead and reheated.
I'm completely pumped to announce that this recipe, along with that for Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes, are part of an upcoming cookbook on the fruits and vegetables grown in the White House garden, which will be published by Red Rock Press in May.