Tag Archives: fall

I hate Brussels sprouts.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every time I cook for an audience, someone leans over the table and whispers in my ear. “I hate Brussels sprouts,” they’ll say, or maybe it’s asparagus, fennel or squash. Then, conspiratorially, they share, “but I love what you just cooked.”

These are my proudest moments. Cooking vegetables crisp-tender, lightly salted with bright vinegar and rich butter, is like a music montage makeover, the equivalent of removing big glasses and drawing the bangs from their shining face.

However, faced with beet greens, I thought I was beaten. The purring I’d hear while rattling off ingredients for my weekly cooking demo – Asian pears, cauliflower and blue oyster mushrooms –  would end in a full glottal stop at the mention of beet greens, grins turning to grimaces.

I moved ahead, inspired. Tender, young, deep crimson Bull’s Blood beet greens were earthy-sweet, reminding me of my Mom’s braised red cabbage. Chopped apple and cider drew out sugars while cinnamon and fresh ginger added bright warmth.

The ultimate test was my friend Michael. Who, after three days of urging, finally, standing at my Eastern Market demo, took a bite. “They’re not bad,” he offered. Then he cleaned his plate.

PS I love Brussels sprouts. A lot.

Cider-braised beet greens

Serves 4-6

IMG_3579-1Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
  • 1 pound Bull’s Blood or other beet greens, cut in a chiffonade (ribbons)*
  • 2 tbs Autumn Apple or cider vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs diced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves

*Grab Bull’s Blood beet greens from Gardener’s Gourmet at Eastern Market – they’re the folks who always have beautiful greens out in fun, metal tubs. Autumn Apple vinegar, from Sapore, is indispensable in my Fall pantry.

Directions:

  • Heat butter and olive oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onion until soft, about 3 min.
  • Add apple, and sauté for 4 minutes.
  • Add beet greens, Autumn Apple vinegar, cider, cinnamon stick and ginger. Cover and cook until beet greens are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and cook until liquid reduces, another 3-5 minutes. The greens will give up a lot of moisture as they wilt.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar as needed.
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In a pinch.

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It’s Thanksgiving and I’ve opened up the “help line” on my Facebook page. Someone posted “I told a woman in Whole Foods yesterday to check out your blog for the Caramelized Brussels Sprouts recipe. It’s so simple.”

It is, and here’s the recipe. In fact I just finished halving the blanched Brussels sprouts. We’ll be serving these on our table today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbs Fig Balsamic vinegar, or another good, aged balsamic

Directions:

  • Boil a large pot of water, add 1 tbs salt and Brussels sprouts. Cook 1 minute. They will still be crisp. Remove to ice bath, cool, drain and dry. Cut in half.
  • Warm oil over medium-low heat in a 12” skillet. Add onion and leek and sauté until softened.
  • Add blanched Brussels sprouts and cook over medium-low heat until brussels sprouts turn brown and caramelize, 20-30 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and Fig Balsamic vinegar.

Carpinelli’s Cippolinis

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Some of the world’s best recipes were born of necessity. Like Beef Wellington. I mean, what else do you do when there’s nothing in the fridge but puff pastry, mousse de foie gras and a a whole beef tenderloin?

This dish is just like that. Deep into the sometimes challenging fall produce season, I was staring  at a collection of cippolini onions, broccoli and a new Cranberry Port wine jam from Sapore Oil and Vinegar, that was just calling out for a bacon vinaigrette. A request for recommendations on my Facebook page produced a comment from ginger-haired Steve Carpinelli, and Carpinelli’s Cippolinis were born, dressed in a red cranberry port vinaigrette.

The dish balances mildly sharp cippolinis, sweet jam,  and salty/fatty bacon, all grounded by earthy broccoli. It’s colorful and fun, and offers a nice break to otherwise hearty-rich fall meals.

Carpinelli’s Cippolini Cranberry Salad

For salad:

  • 2 cups cipolini onions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

For dressing:

  • 1 thick slice bacon, diced
  • 2 tbs Arbequina Olive Oil*
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup Cranberry Port Jam*
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar*

*Arbequina is a mild, grassy, Spanish olive oil. Sherry vinegar is a slightly more acidic substitute for Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry. Red currant jam can be found in most grocery stores and used in place of the Cranberry Port.

Directions:

  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch onions for 30-45 seconds. Shock in an ice bath, drain and peel.
  • Blanch broccoli florets in the same water until bright green and crisp tender, about 90 seconds. Chill in ice bath, drain and dry.
  • Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat. When cooked through, remove bacon, leaving fat in the pan.
  • Add Arbequina olive oil as needed to make 1/4 cup fat.. Add shallots and sauté until softened, 3-5 min.
  • Add Cranberry Port Jam and whisk until it “melts” into the fat.
  • Turn heat to medium-high, add sherry, cippolinis and cranberries. Cook 2 minutes while dressing reduces.
  • Season broccoli florets with salt and a splash of Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar. Top with cippolinis and dressing and sprinkle with dried cranberries.

*Make it vegetarian. Leave out the bacon and start the dressing by sautéing the shallot in olive oil.

Richer for it.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

I recently asked the question, “should I use bacon fat?” It was largely rhetorical.

My husband Jason, our friend Sam and I were in the test kitchen working on a recipe for a Brussels sprout slaw. Inspiration had come in the form of Sapore Oil and Vinegar‘s new Harvest Apple vinegar. Expecting apple pie in a bottle, my nose was greeted with something closer to Worcestershire sauce. Though not as savory, the vinegar sang a siren song of Brussels sprouts, sharp, grainy mustard and bacon. It was a song we had heard before.

Around this time last year we answered a similar call. Blanched, shaved sprouts were dressed in a bacon fat, mustard, sherry vinaigrette. This time the results were different. Maybe it was the lower acidity of the Harvest Apple vinegar, or maybe it was the rich, sweet and sour sweet potatoes we had just eaten, but tasted side-by-side, we preferred a light, grassy olive oil over rich, salty bacon fat.

Are we retiring last fall’s bacon fat version? No, with a crisp loaf of bread or a savory celery root soup, the bacon fat version is still our choice. However, sitting amidst a table loaded with stuffing, potatoes, turkey and gravy, the light, bright, more acidic version is a welcome island amidst the starch.

Brussels Sprout Apple-Mustard Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and halved

For dressing:

  • 1/2 cup diced Pancetta
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar*
  • 2 tbs sharp, grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup Frantoio Olive Oil*

*It’s the holidays – treat yourself, and order a couple bottles online at Sapore Oil and Vinegar. If you need a substitute for the Autumn Apple Vinegar, combine 4 tbs Sherry vinegar with 2 tbs cider or apple juice. Frantoio is a light, grassy olive oil. you can sub any good quality oil.

Directions:

  • Blanch Brussels sprouts in salted, boiling water for 1 minute. Remove to ice bath. When cool, drain and pat dry.
  • Sauté pancetta in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels. Reserve fat to fry just about anything.
  • Whisk together shallot, Autumn Apple Vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Thinly slice Brussels sprouts and place in a bowl with some extra room.
  • Whisk Frantoio oil into vinegar mixture. Season to taste.
  • Dress brussels sprouts with 1/2 dressing and Pancetta. Let rest 5-10 minutes and season to taste with additional dressing if needed.

Civil disagreement.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

November 2012 reveals great divide amongst the American people. Tomorrow’s election will leave 45+% of us deeply concerned about the next four years. Thanksgiving day will leave even more people deeply concerned about their fellow Americans’ palates. Forget politics and religion, it’s food that reveals the true regional and familial diversity in this country.

Moving to DC 10 years ago, the Southern traditions of greens and sweet potatoes were exotic and foreign. In New England, the only thing we boil for several hours is brisket, and we don’t add molasses or marshmallows unless we’re serving dessert. This past week, in the heated run-up to Election Day, I was determined to find common ground.

Maple sugar brings sweetness and depth to the potatoes while a complex Autumn Apple vinegar delivers balance and brightness. Nutmeg and white pepper give complexity to these simple, bold ingredients. Richly sauced, the sweet potatoes needed grounding, and earthy kale, quickly fried or baked, adds both texture and grassy greenness to the dish. Best of all, it’s simple and brightly colored, a perfect addition to Thanksgiving tables filled with browns, beiges and whites.

As for tomorrow’s election? We’re a diverse country, currently under great economic duress and social change. The division amongst voters and slow movement of our government reflects a system that is working, awaiting clear(er) direction from a strong(er) majority of voters. Like the growing diversity of my Thanksgiving table, I’ll celebrate the diversity of our country: not just of race or religion, but of the people, geography, industry and education that shapes our beliefs and perspectives.

Whatever you believe, please vote tomorrow. Then we can begin arguing about whether stuffing belongs inside the bird (it clearly does).

Sweet And Sour Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs + 1/2 cup olive oil separated
  • 2 large sweet potatoes cut in 1/2” by 3” wedges
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbs Autumn Apple Vinegar, separated*
  • 2 tbs maple or brown sugar
  • 4-6 cups water
  • Nutmeg
  • White pepper
  • 2 cups Tuscan kale cut in thin ribbons

*While most cider vinegars are overpoweringly acidic with little depth, Sapore’s Autumn Apple provides balanced bite with fresh apple sweetness. To substitute, use a good sherry vinegar and add 2 cups of fresh apple cider to the braising liquid.

Directions:

  • Heat 2 tbs oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Toss in potatoes and cook until beginning to brown, turning once or twice to caramelize on a couple of sides.
  • Deglaze pan with 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar and sprinkle potatoes with sugar. Add water and cook covered for about 15 minutes until softened but still very firm in the center.
  • Uncover potatoes and let liquid reduce as potatoes finish cooking. Add additional liquid if more cooking time is needed.
  • When sweet potatoes are tender in the middle, but not mushy, toss with 2 tbs additional vinegar and let liquid reduce to a glaze. Season to taste with nutmeg and white pepper.
  • While potatoes finish cooking, heat 1/2 cup oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry kale, remove to paper towels to drain. Season with sea salt and serve over potatoes.*

*Kale can also be baked in the over. Toss with olive oil and salt and back ribbons at 400 until crispy. Watch carefully to prevent blackening.

 

Earthy and French

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Photograph by Sam Armocido

God did just fine creating cauliflower. Pure, creamy and white, it needs nothing more than a quick steam before  tossing with salt, pepper and farm-fresh butter. That, however, is not the shortest path to impressing you with my culinary creativity. So, last week in the test kitchen we were faced with a decision: sweet and Indian or hearty and French? We stayed up until 1 AM and tried both. Here’s effort number one.

Cauliflower provides the comforting weight of potatoes with a mouth feel as light as zucchini or yellow wax beans. We found earthiness and luxury in Crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed, finished with thyme and white wine. Yukon Gold potatoes, relatively low in starch, gave heft without weighing our stew down. We needed depth, and found it in garlic and anchovy paste. A spicy, robust olive oil finished the stew richly.

We had achieved cauliflower stew Nirvana: hearty enough for a cold, damp fall night, but light enough that we weren’t crawling to bed from the dinner table.

You’re freaked about the anchovy paste, aren’t you? Your nose is wrinkled in disgust at the thought of that fishy, salty brown paste, oozing like toothpaste from a tube. Anchovy paste adds necessary layers of flavor in a dish that might otherwise feel one-dimensional. You won’t taste it. It’s one of those perfect stealth ingredients, delivering lots of flavor without getting caught. So go ahead, squeeze a little in, and don’t tell your kids or your picky eater of a boyfriend. They’ll never know.

Hearty Cauliflower Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes*, in 1/2” dice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (here’s a quick and simple recipe)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs Moresca Olive Oil**
  • Nutmeg

*This past weekend, Dan at Agora Farms introduced me to the Eva potato. Named after the mother of the Cornell researcher who developed it, Eva is creamy and white, with bold flavor (who knew potatoes could have flavor?!) and medium starch. They make a perfect, creamy mash, just sayin’…

**Sapore’s latest introduction, Moresca is a bold, spicy oil perfect for dipping bread, tossing with pasta, arugula and walnuts and gave great depth as a finish to this stew.

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown on edges. Deglaze with Vermouth. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  • Heat olive oil in same pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds.
  • Add potatoes and cook until onion begins to brown on edges.
  • Stir in the stock, cover and cook until potatoes have started to soften.
  • Add cauliflower and fresh thyme. Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender.
  • Uncover and let broth thicken. Season to taste with Moresca oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

The pumpkin whisperer.

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Photo by Sam Armocido

Good food starts with good ingredients. Like “haste makes waste” and the Lord’s prayer,  this simple truism about food is fixed in our minds, but its meaning is rarely considered. So is the fact that the best recipes begin with thoughtful consideration of the ingredients we use.

Galeux d’Eysines is a pale, peach-skinned pumpkin covered in peanut-like warty growths. Those “peanuts” are the result of abundant sugars building up under the skin. The dense, bright-orange flesh is relatively non-fiberous, delivering the smoothest purée of any pumpkin I know and, though sugary-sweet, the flavor is delicate.

While hearty Hubbard squash and Marina de Chioggia pumpkin inspire rich recipes, the peanut pumpkin wants a lighter touch: a stock infused with its flavorful seed mass, savory boar sausages and mildly-earthy, sweet Shitake mushrooms deglazed with dry Madeira wine.

Being the pumpkin-whisperer probably won’t get me my own television series, but it did deliver a spectacular soup recipe. And that’s far more important, isn’t it?

“Peanut” Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6-8 Shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced, stems reserved
  • 3 cups Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin purée, seed mass reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Wild boar sausages, casings removed*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Madeira or brandy
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • Fig Balsamic Vinegar*

*If you can’t get to Canales Quality Meats at Eastern Market in DC, grab a pork and sage sausage, or just a pork sauce and mix in some dried sage leaves. Fig Balsamic should be on the shelf at your grocery store, but you can definitely order this really good stuff from Sapore Oil and Vinegar

Directions:

  • Simmer stock in a 2-3 qt saucepan, for 20 minutes, with the Shitake stems, pumpkin guts, bayleaf and thyme sprigs.
  • Meanwhile, in a 4 qt soup pot, brown sausage in 2 tbs olive oil. Breaking it up as it cooks. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 1 tbs olive oil and onion to pot and cook until softened.
  • Return sausage to pot, strain in stock and cook for five to ten minutes.
  • While the soup simmers, sauté Shitake mushrooms in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. When mushrooms have softened and edges begin to brown, deglaze pan with Madeira, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add pumpkin purée to pot and cook five minutes longer.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or two of butter. Serve garnished with mushrooms and Fig Balsamic Vinegar.