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2015 0510 Pickled Hinona Kabu TurnipAdventuresome farmers are my favorites. Those who dare to grow something for market that no one heard of before or sees everyday, whether farmers’ markets, grocery stores, or authentic farm-to-table restaurants. They – like blogs and occasionally newspapers – introduce us to produce, prepared food or techniques that take us back to folkways or transport us to faraway places. That’s how I learned you could grow ginger in New Jersey and that there are hundreds of varieties of eggplant, peppers, and even cucumbers available for the home gardener. Not to mention, there’s a new world of roasting and pickling out there.

I went to one of our several local farmers’ markets last weekend, expecting to buy freshly harvested asparagus, radishes, chard and Hakurei turnips. They were all there, of course, but alongside the picture-perfect globes of white turnip were bundles of long, skinny, hairy, magenta and white roots labeled Hinona Kabu turnips. Huh? This was going to be exciting. 2015 0511 IMG_5860 Hinona Kabu TurnipsThey were wonderful raw, crisper and denser than their Hakerei cousins. They were also wonderful lightly pickled in the traditional Japanese way, salted to sweat out excess moisture and marinated for a few hours in rice vinegar and a little sugar. This pickle is known as Sakura Zuke or Cherry Blossom Pickle. There is a condiment that pickles actual cherry blossoms, but I guess this is so called because of its signature pink color.

I did not peel the turnips since the skin is not tough, but I did remove the hairy roots. They actually rub off quite easily with a rough towel. I decided to cut the turnips into diagonal wedges rather than thin slices or sticks (which would also be nice) because this gave me the option of serving them on toothpicks with raw turnips and sesame rice crackers or dicing them to toss into a salad with raw radishes and fennel. Either way, they were a big hit.

I was so excited by this discovery that I ordered seeds to plant in early summer and again in early fall so that I can enjoy these special turnips any time.

Sakura Zuke, Pickled Hinona Kabu Turnips adapted from Kitazawa Seed Co
I small bunch (12 pieces) Japanese long turnips (Hinona Kabu)
2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt (not iodized)
½ c rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
Remove the greens from the turnips and set aside for another use. Remove the hairy roots by plucking them or rubbing them off with a coarse towel. Do not peel.
Cut the turnips into thick or thin slices or sticks and place them in a medium colander over a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with salt, place a weighted plate on top and let them sweat for 30 minutes. Brush off the excess salt and liquid and place the turnip in a bowl with a lid.
Combine the rice vinegar and sugar. (Scale up the mixture so that the liquid just covers the turnip.) Heat slightly to dissolve the sugar, if necessary. Pour over the sliced turnips. When cool, cover and marinate for 8 hours or overnight. Store in the refrigerator.

2015 0426  Root soup with lovage and orange
I love lovage. You could probably tell that from the banner on this blog. Several times, I have tried to make the banner reflect my big theme – pantry — but I still come back to a field of the herb named lovage. Since it’s one of the first herbs to emerge from my pot garden in spring, it reminds me of regeneration, a time to start again. The prospect of the pantry starts in the garden after all. And so it goes…
Like many names, the word lovage has an etymological history that evolved from culture to culture, generation to generation. Did you ever play the word game called “Telephone?” It’s the one where people gather in a circle, initiate a word or phrase and whisper it person to person all around until it reaches the last one who blurts out something – to everyone’s surprise — dramatically metamorphosed from the original. Well, that’s what happens to words and phrases over history, nuanced by contextual associations and variations in native tongues.

Some say lovage originated as love-ache. We could certainly read into that. Plausible, since the word “ache” (pronounced “aitch”) meant parsley, a similar looking herb. Actually, it seems to trace back to its Latin-named genus, Levisticum, which is related to a like-sounding word referring to Liguria, a section of the Italian Riviera where it grows naturally. Lovage is more closely related to celery and carrots (of the same genus) than to love. Its flavor and the texture of its leaves are reminiscent of celery – no surprise – and faintly resemble the after-taste of young carrot greens.

Here, I combined onion, potatoes and a rutabaga from last fall with homemade chicken stock to create a creamy but non-dairy soup infused with lovage leaves. I stirred in a large spoonful of orange marmalade from the pantry to complement the rutabaga. (Orange and rutabaga are a great combination. I put orange zest in scalloped potatoes and rutabaga with great success.) Garnished with chopped lovage leaves and additional marmalade, this is one of those dishes that cross between late winter and early spring with a remembrance of past bounty and the promise of a growing season ahead.

Potato and Rutabaga Soup with Lovage and Orange Marmalade
1 small onion, chopped
Butter or vegetable oil, or a combination
1 small or half large rutabaga, cubed
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled or not, and cubed
4 c homemade chicken stock or vegetable broth or water
Salt and pepper
Lovage leaves
Orange marmalade
In a large pan over medium heat, saute the onion slowly in butter or oil until translucent. Add the rutabaga, stir to coat with oil and cook for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and a little broth, cooking to braise the vegetables lightly. Add additional stock to cover the vegetables and cook over low heat, covering the pan, until the vegetables are tender and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Add about ¼ c of chopped lovage leaves to wilt them. Puree with an immersion blender or use a food processor. Add more stock, or water, if the puree is too thick for soup. Season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, stir a teaspoon of orange marmalade into each bowl and garnish with lovage leaves – snipped or whole depending on how tender they are – and a little spoonful of marmalade.
Serves 4.

2015 0417 Red cabbage, forbidden rice, parsley and dillAlmost gone. Stragglers from the fall harvest are finally dwindling as the dark days of winter have turned light. It’s a game I play with myself, making sure we use every last bit of fall produce that’s been stored in the fridge before the first spring harvests appear in usable amounts. Sure, I there are over-wintered mustard and hardy speckled salad greens thriving in the garden, herbs poking up in pots, and dandelions stretching their leaves on the lawn. But it’s the last red cabbage, purple kohlrabi and beets that focus my attention. They’ve got to go.

I get excited when I read a recipe that coincidentally uses stuff I have on hand, especially leftovers, and does so in a relevant way. Being an avid reader of Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health column in the New York Times, I was taken by a recipe for red cabbage and black forbidden rice inspired by traditional Lenten recipe for Greek Easter. ‘Tis the season and there was the cabbage. I often melt down red cabbage with vinegar and apples, a technique characteristic of the zone from Alsace to Budapest. Or I stew it with sausage and white beans northern Italian style. This is a variant on those slow cooking methods, but when stewed with a handful of dill and parsley, a grassy essence shines through and takes us across the border from winter to spring, at Easter no less. Perfect.

Black forbidden rice is a flavorful, chewy variety that is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous texture of melted cabbage. I happened to have a half-cup in my pantry, surplus from a collection of exotic rice that I bought in bulk and packaged as Christmas gifts. I’m sure other types of rice would be more typical but this was genius.

Red Cabbage and Rice with Parsley and Dill adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, NYT

About 1lb red cabbage trimmed of outer leaves and core

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 c black forbidden rice or another type of rice

Handful each of parsley and dill, chopped (about 1/3 c)

Salt and pepper

1 c water

Fresh parsley and dill to garnish

Cut the cabbage into fine shreds.

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large wide pan with a lid, and add the onions. Cook slowly until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage, stir to coat with olive oil and cook until it is slightly wilted, 8-10 minutes.

Add the rice and chopped herbs and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and lightly with pepper. Add water, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat as low as your stove allows and cover the pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender, checking every so often to make sure the mixture hasn’t dried out.

Remove the pan from the heat, replace the lid with a folded tea towel and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings.

May be made ahead and reheated. Serves about 4, or more depending on the accompaniments.

2015 0222 Moroccan chickpea stew 4This is a tribute to my pantry, some refrigerator luck and online recipes. I had seen Melissa Clark’s latest video on the New York Times cooking website, which turned out to be a godsend. Perky, quirky and sometimes smirky, her videos are fun and an easy way for people who don’t cook much to see how easy most dishes are to make. This one – a Moroccan Chickpea Stew — sounds involved but isn’t. Once everything is placed in the pot, the stew happily simmers away on its own.

2015 0222 Moroccan chickpea stewDuring a sudden and severe snowstorm last weekend that made the roads instantly impassable, I headed straight home from the office (yes, the office) without the planned detour to the market. Aargh. I didn’t need anything from the store. The trip was just my way of changing the subject. Instead, I stood in front of my pantry and refrigerator, and there, thankfully, were basically all the ingredients for Melissa’s chickpea stew. This is not so much a lesson in preparedness for me but the realization that something pretty spectacular can come from stuff you probably have lying around, plus a few special items like fennel and chard, but those are interchangeable.

2015 0222 Sauteeing vegetables 2

So what did I need? Onions, ginger and garlic, check. Jalapeno, maybe but substitute chilis dried from last year’s harvest, Spices like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin and black pepper, always on hand. Tomato paste, if not from an available tube or can, check the freezer for the frozen leftovers from another recipe. Dried chickpeas, check. I typically keep dried legumes and beans on hand and when I make a batch, I freeze the leftovers for a quick start on another dish. You need dried here or they won’t absorb the liquid, and you need to have soaked them overnight or for an hour in boiled water.

2015 Chopped fennel, carrots, chard stemsThen came the challenge of fresh vegetables – carrots, fennel, turnip and chard. Coincidentally, I had these. Normally, I wouldn’t have had chard and would have substituted locally grown low-tunnel spinach. Other vegetable combinations would work, even carrots alone. Finally, the finishing touches: dried apricots and preserved lemons are usually in the pantry and I did have fresh cilantro. Honey would work instead of apricots since they’re there for sweetness. Wow

You basically sauté the aromatics, spices and tomato paste serially in vegetable oil, add the root vegetables and chard stems and sauté. Then add the chickpeas, cover with water, and simmer for a couple of hours. Add the chard or spinach leaves at the end, along with chopped apricots (or honey) and spunky preserved lemon. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro. This was great on top of couscous or bulgur or quinoa or brown rice. The leftovers are going into tomato soup this weekend and it will be great.

2015 0221 Chipotle Beef ChiliYou’re not in Buffalo anymore, they said. Pinch me. You could have fooled me with all the snow on the ground and ice in the trees as we’re pushing toward March. Yes, I ordered peas to plant on St. Patrick’s Day but the thought of spring-anything is still remote. Meanwhile, hearty soups and stews and pots of beans and chili remain satisfying seasonal fare. I made this chili for Super Bowl weekend and thankfully froze some to break out during weekends like this.

It gets its kick from canned chipotle chilis in adobo, one of those versatile pantry staples that I’ve never figured out how to make from scratch. The beef — cut in large chunks to begin with – becomes tender enough to shred at the end. This reminds me of the texture of a pulled pork chili that’s become one of our favorites for large parties, but is much simpler and less time-consuming to make.

Chipotle Beef Chili adapted from a Whole Foods cook-off

1½ lb chuck steak, cut into large chunks (3 x 4 inches or so)

Vegetable oil (such as grapeseed, with a high smoke point and neutral flavor)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 red peppers, diced (or 1 red and 1 yellow)

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp chili powder

¼ c chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, chopped

¼ c tomato paste

1 qt (32 oz can) whole tomatoes, roughly chopped, juice reserved

2 c beef, chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

2-3 c cooked black beans (two 14-oz cans, drained)

Salt if needed (if using canned ingredients, you won’t need it)

Garnishes: chopped cilantro, diced red onion, queso fresco

Pat the beef dry. In a large pan over medium-high heat, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the meat on all sides and set aside in a heavy pot or small Dutch oven that you will use to cook the chili.

Turn down the heat and add the onions and peppers to the pan, cooking gently until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir. Add the chili powder and stir. Add the chopped chilis and tomato paste and continue to stir until the mixture is well combined. Add some of the tomatoes and their juice to deglaze the pan and pour the mixture over the pot that contains the meat.

Add the remaining tomatoes and their juice, along with the stock. Cover the pot and simmer on the stovetop (or in a 250-degree oven) for 2-3 hours until the beef is tender and falling apart.

Remove the beef, shred it, and return it to the pot with the black beans. Season with salt and additional adobo sauce to taste. If you’ve used canned tomatoes, stock or beans, you probably won’t need salt. Garnish with cilantro, and other ingredients such as diced red onion, queso fresco, et cetera.

Serves 6-8.

2015 0124 Squash, carrot and orange soup 2I had something else to do when I got the soup mandate. My husband said he was willing to shovel snow from the driveway so that I could go on a mission in my car. The bargain was that a big pot of steaming soup would be ready for him when he came inside, stomping snow all over the kitchen. With roasted winter squash in great supply along with abundant carrots from the fall harvest and oranges from a Christmas bushel, I was all set to make soup in the 30-40 minutes it would take him to clear the way. Game on.

 

2015 0124 Orange peel drying 2Whenever I have unsprayed citrus fruit, or organic fruit from a reliable source, and have plans only for the juice, I wash it well in hot water (to release any wax), strip the peel in one long ribbon (like peeling an apple), and hang it on my pot rack to dry. The peels dry in picturesque curls that I store in airtight containers. I threw one of the peels into the soup pot along with the grated orange zest. The juice was added at the end to give a fresh taste.

 

And then, to make the citrus theme complete, I stirred a teaspoon of orange marmalade into each bowl of soup. My husband was impressed at a quick soup that was both filling and refreshing. And I drove out.

Winter Squash and Carrot Soup with Oranges

3 c roasted squash puree (see below for roasting instructions)

1 small onion, chopped

Vegetable oil or ghee

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

Water

Optional: long strip of fresh or dried orange peel (from 1 orange)

Zest of ½ orange (or a whole orange if you are not using the strip of peel)

Juice of 1 orange

Salt and Korean red pepper flakes to taste

If you don’t have squash puree on hand, roast a winter squash in advance. Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and scoop the squash flesh into a bowl.

In a large pot over medium heat, slowly sauté chopped onion in oil or ghee until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes to soften slightly.

Add the squash, strip of orange peel if using, and the zest. Add water to cover and simmer over medium or medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the orange peel.

Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the orange juice. Season to taste.

Garnish with Korean red pepper flakes and a spoonful of orange or mixed citrus marmalade for each bowl.

Serves 6.

2015 0123 Curried squash soup with apple conserveWhat do you do when there are still 25 blue Hubbard squash under your desk? Roast one every weekend and make soup! Remember those cookbooks with names like “365 ways to make hamburger,” or “chicken?” Well, I think I will soon be able to post my 365 ways to cook winter squash. Here, I looked to my pantry for inspiration, finding both some excellent curry powder begging to be used up and a canned apple conserve from the fall.

2015 0123 Curried squash soupThe result is a fragrant, spicy squash soup, made robust with the addition of sweet potato and carrots, and flavored with a spicy curry. Although I like to make my own spice mix, I took the shortcut and used excellent curry powder that I buy in small portions in our local health food store. I make a habit of storing only small quantities of spices bought in bulk since their strength is quick to deteriorate.

2015 0123 Apple raisin conserve

The soup was topped off with apple conserve made with raisins, dried cranberries, port and thyme. I’ve made this several times over the past few years – sometimes with apples and sometimes with pears — and find it to be a versatile condiment in the dead of winter. Traditionally, it would be served alongside a Sunday pork roast. I like it with sweet potatoes and potato pancakes. Here, the dried fruit complements the curry spices of the soup.

Curried Winter Squash Soup

3 c roasted squash puree (see below for roasting instructions)

1 small onion, chopped

Vegetable oil or ghee

1 tbsp curry powder or to taste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and diced

Water

Salt and red pepper to taste

If you don’t have squash puree on hand, roast a winter squash in advance. Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it cut side down on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly and scoop the squash flesh into a bowl.

In a large pot over medium heat, slowly sauté chopped onion in oil or ghee until translucent. Add the curry powder and ground cumin and stir to combine well, cooking for a minute or so until fragrant. Do not let it burn.

Add the squash, sweet potato and carrots, and stir well to coat with the curry mixture. Add water to cover and simmer over medium or medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth.

Garnish with herbs, sautéed cubes of apple or pear or a conserve, a little coconut milk, or a few seeds, or a combination.

Serves 6.

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