Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspiration - Winter Box #8

In this week's box:  White and red daikon radish, green cabbage, mixed potatoes, carrots, beets, purple top turnips

I was a little anxious yesterday afternoon as I drove to the farm to get my box.  Worrying about whether you are getting tired of borscht and cole slaw and potato soup.  Wondering if I would be able to come up with some new ideas to help us all get through February.  Hoping that my husband was having fun back in our kitchen - making a Valentine's Day dinner for us.  Guess what - we had roasted root vegetables (parsnips, potatoes, carrots and squash), fresh salad greens from a neighbor's greenhouse, liver pancakes and boiled pork tongue.  (I know, I know.  You are horrified.  Perhaps curious.  Why aren't we eating grilled salmon or steak or chicken breasts at a restaurant like everyone else?  Because we are still finishing off the huge half pig we butchered a year ago, that's why.  The liver pancakes are more like patties - it is a Finnish recipe.  If you like liver pate you would like liver pancakes.  We had them with cranberry sauce since we don't have lingonberries.)

So are you getting tired of cole slaw?  Potato cabbage soup?  I'm not.  When you get down to it, most people really have very little diversity in their diets so it shouldn't be a big deal if you eat borscht 5 or 6 times in a winter month.  How many times a month - year round -  do a lot of people eat pizza or tacos or burgers or heaven forfend chicken nuggets?  Ten?  Nobody thinks that is a hardship.  So why do we get impatient with our February turnips and cabbage?  Why do we wish for the fresh green beans we can't have (at least not locally) when we have beautiful orange carrots beckoning?

Since I am a cook and not a psychologist I will not attempt to answer these rhetorical questions.  What I will do is set forth some ideas for how to turn winter vegetables into satisfying meals.

SOUP
Regular readers of this blog know I am bullish on soup.  Here are a few really simple recipes - healthful and filling. Soup and sandwich still is a great combo.

Karelian Borsch (This is adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas' classic Finnish Cookbook.)
Vegetables: 2 cups beets, peeled and grated; 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped or grated; 6 cups red or green or mixed cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
2 T. red wine or cider vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
2 T. butter or lard or sunflower oil
4 T. flour
8 cups meat broth
1/2 pound Polish or similar sausages, sliced
Sour cream or creme fraiche
Thinly sliced lemons, optional
Saute beets and carrots in fat about 5 minutes in a large pot.  Add salt, flour and vinegar and mix.  Add all other ingredients except sausage, sour cream and lemons.  Before you serve the soup, add the sliced sausages and heat.  Pass sour cream and lemon slices with the soup.

Beet Root Soup
Chop into small pieces:  one onion (peeled), 1 turnip (peeled), a few cups of chopped cabbage, a little celery if you have it, about 1 heaping cup cooked beet.  Boil all together with 3 cups milk and water mixed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When vegetables are soft, puree in a blender (cool a bit first) or rub through a sieve.  Add a few tablespoons of butter or cream before serving.  A pinch of cloves would be a nice addition.

Winter Minestrone
This recipe is based on a version by Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food.  She shows how you can vary basic minestrone according to the season.
Finely chop 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and one onion.  Saute in 1/4 cup olive oil about 15 minutes, until rich golden brown.  Add four cloves chopped garlic, 5 thyme sprigs, 2 t. salt and one bay leaf and cook another five minutes.  (If you don't have thyme, I think crumbled dried sage would be nice.)  Then add 3 cups boiling water.
Meanwhile, cut half a head of cabbage into bite sized pieces and cook until tender in a small amount of boiling salted water.
Add the following to the carrot, onion, celery pot:  1 pound turnips and 1/2 pound potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces. Cook for another 15 minutes.  Then add 3 cups of cooked cannellini or borlotti beans with one cup of their cooking water and also the cabbage and cooking water.  If the soup is too thick, add more bean cooking liquid.
Serve drizzled with more olive oil and pass grated Parmesan cheese.
Fresh ground pepper would be good, too.


SANDWICHES
Beet and carrot sandwich
Butter slices of good quality rye bread.  Grate raw peeled beets and carrots and put a little pile of each on each slice of bread - beet on one side and carrot on the other.  If you have good quality eggs, serve with a raw egg yolk on top of each slice along with a few lemon wedges.  Or top with a poached egg.  Or a dollop of good mayonnaise or creme fraiche.  Fresh dill would be excellent with this dish.


STEWS AND CASSEROLES

Cabbage Casserole
(from Make it Minnesotan, Minnesota's Sesquicentenntial cookbook.  This recipe is from Jill Schafer, Ottertail County.  She says it is like stuffed cabbage, but without the extra work.)  I would probably add some dill or caraway or both and maybe double the rice.  If I had some chopped canned tomatoes around I would add a cup of those.
1 pound ground beef or pork
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cups tomato juice
1 3/4 pounds chopped cabbage
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/2 t. salt
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups beef broth
2 cups sauerkraut, partially drained
4-5 strips bacon
Brown beef and onions, drain off any extra fat.  Mix all ingredients except bacon together and place into a deep heavy casserole.  Place bacon strips on top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees one hour.  Uncover.  Remove bacon and stir.  Replace bacon.  Bake uncovered an additional half hour.

Cabbage Hotpot
This is from an old English cookbook I inherited from my Aunt Evelyn.  It is wonderfully simple and humble.  I might add a few carrots along with the potatoes.  Apple pie and some cheddar cheese would round out this meal.
1 cabbage - sliced and braised in water or broth until partly cooked
 2 large onions - chopped and cooked in butter until soft
1 pound potatoes -peeled and sliced
4 T. butter (1/2  a stick)
salt and pepper to taste
Butter a large baking dish with a cover.  Layer - first cabbage, then onion, then potatoes.  Cover and bake in a moderate oven until potatoes are tender.  Bake uncovered a little while to brown potatoes if desired.

Potato and tomato stew with pancetta
1/4 pound pancetta or lean bacon
1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups roma type tomatoes with liquid
2  pounds all purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup pesto or a little more to taste. (or half a cup of fresh basil if you have some)

Saute pancetta until golden in a large heavy skillet.   Remove and drain on paper towels.  Add 1 T. olive oil to pan and cook onion and garlic about 5 minutes - taking care not to burn garlic.  Add other ingredients and cook about 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Add a little water, wine, stock or tomato juice if stew gets too dry.  Serve sprinkled with the cooked pancetta and some good bread to sop up the juices.

Turnip and carrot gratin
Peel and shred 3/4 pounds each of turnip and carrot.  Mix with 3 T. chopped fresh parsley and 1/2 cup sliced scallion greens.  Place in a shallow buttered dish.
Make a white sauce with 2 T. butter, 2 T. flour and 2 cups warm milk.  Enrich with one beaten egg if desired.  (Remember to add a bit of warm sauce to the egg before adding it to the sauce, to avoid curdling.)  Salt and pepper to taste.
Pour sauce over vegetables.
Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and dot with butter.  Bake at 375 degrees about 45 minutes - or until it is bubbling hot and lightly browned.

SALAD

Crunchy radish salad
Raw grated beet, black radish and white daikon

We are really getting to like winter radishes in our house  - even the infamous Black Radish.  They benefit greatly from being shredded or julienned.
I was cleaning out my refrigerator a few nights ago and made a lovely salad with one raw beet, one black radish and one 8 inch piece of white daikon.  All were peeled and then coarsely grated.  I mixed the radishes in a bowl and added about 3 T. each of rice vinegar and mirin. (you could use 2 T. of sugar) Also a dash of salt.  No oil but a little sesame oil would be fine.  As would a bit of grated ginger.  This made  a tasty and colorful side dish.  I would say this salad is magenta, wouldn't you?

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