TWO UNUSUAL TAKES ON ROASTED VEGGIES

I guess it is the season to turn the oven on at high temperatures and help the house stay warm. Do I like this weather? What do you think? I despise it. BUT, I do love roasted veggies, so I try to concentrate on that instead of the fact that someone decided to make repairs in the heating system of our building and the labs were freezing from Christmas break all the way through the first week of January.  I could see my breath while working, and confess to snapping at a couple of colleagues who had the nerve of greeting me with a  “Good morning, Sally.”  Anyway, I digress. Roasted veggies are a beautiful thing, and today I share two recipes, both delicious, but the second one, the second one blew my little mind away! I kept munching on those little morsels of deliciousness and beating myself for never trying them before.  Without further ado, Roasted Pears and Parsnips and…. drum roll… drum roll increasing…. drum roll at maximum blast:  Roasted Radishes. Now, do not leave. Do not. Even if you hate radishes with all your being. Trust me. You need to roast them. You just do.

roasted-parsnips-and-pears

ROASTED PEARS AND PARSNIPS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1-1/2 lb. parsnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 firm pears, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs.  olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss the parsnips and pears with the oil, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Toss with the vinegar and Herbes the Provence. Adjust seasoning and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I was composing this post, I noticed a new blog entry by my dear friend Maureen, from Orgasmic Chef. She professed her love for Jacques Pepin (we are twin sisters, obviously) and included a short video with our guru talking about what constitutes a recipe, and how we should never follow it blindly. So many variables at play, if you follow a recipe without being aware of its ultimate goal (taste great), you might be doomed for failure. I strongly suggest you visit her post and watch the short video.

These roasted parsnips and pears are a perfect example of Pepin’s wise lesson.  First of all, I think of all fruits, pears might be the most finicky to cook with. So many different kinds, if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use, you could already be set for trouble. Plus, even if a specific type is called for, its level of ripeness will have a huge impact on the outcome. In my first time making this dish, I used regular white pears with light green skin. They were ripe, not overly so, but definitely ripe. What happened is that they were a bit too soft once the parsnips were perfectly cooked. The taste was superb, but had I thought more carefully about it, I would have added the pears a mere 10 minutes before serving time. On my next attempt, I intend to use Bosc pears and roast them from the beginning with the parsnips. They are very sturdy and will stand better to the oven. But don’t let this small detail prevent you from making this unusual veggie roast. It turned out spectacular, paired very well with a juicy, medium-rare standing rib roast, lovingly prepared by my perfect match.

dinner-served

And now, let’s talk radishes, shall we? Let’s suppose when you see a bag of radishes you look the other way, and your lips pucker a little just thinking of how harsh they are. Do not let that prevent you from making this. Talk about a full transformation by heat, that’s what it is. Magic in radish form.

roasted-radishes

ROASTED RADISHES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bag of radishes (or any amount to serve two)
olive oil to coat
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
water
squirt of lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400F.

Cut each radish in half, if you have very large ones in the bag, quarter them.  Place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil to coat them. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Place as a single layer on a baking dish, add about one tablespoon of water, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, moving them around occasionally, until fully tender and starting to get golden brown.  Squirt lemon juice right before serving, not too much, just a light drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I own several cookbooks that include recipes for braised radishes.  I promptly ignored them all. Who would braise a radish, I kept asking myself? Radishes are supposed to be enjoyed raw. Thin slices over baguette smeared with the best possible quality butter, seasoned with salt flakes. That is the way it’s done. So, why did I finally roast these babies? I was browsing a forum on ketogenic recipes, and people were going nuts about them. Granted, it was a more substantial version, one that goes around the net as “Loaded Radishes.”  It is radishes plus olive oil plus butter plus cheese plus bacon. I kid you not. I was not that interested in the super high fat content, but what intrigued me was that every single person who made it compared the radishes to potatoes in taste. Gone was the sharp, almost bitter taste that makes radish… a radish!  I had to find out if they were onto something, so I more or less used the steam-roasted method of my recent past, and came up with this recipe. It is absolutely delicious, and yes, think about very light potatoes, and you’ll be on the right taste path. Of course, braised radishes will be on our menu very soon. I just know I’ll fall in love with them too…

Note to self: a mind open is a beautiful mind.

two-takes-on-roasted-veggies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ARE YOU AFRAID OF CELERY ROOT?

If I had to choose a word to define my childhood and even teenage years, fear would be it. To name a few of my fears: darkness, sleeping alone, mirrors, clowns, dolls, sleepovers,  odd numbers (don’t ask), heights, cockroaches. There were many more, but let’s keep it simple, shall we? Glad to report that just as my pickiness to eat, those fears are a thing of the past. Except heights and cockroaches. The former I still try to work on, cockroaches are out of question. I am talking about the tropical kind, with their scary dimensions and uncanny ability to fly across a room. I shiver just to think about them. Growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing  celery root in our home, but being the easily scared self I was,  I bet I would be afraid of it too. It does look like a large potato under the spell of black magic. Something that belongs in the setting of Hansel and Gretel’s tale (which as a matter of fact gave me nightmares for months after reading it as a child).

ingredients
But, don’t let celery root (aka celeriac) looks prevent you from enjoying it. Under that harsh appearance, lies a beautiful white entity, with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of celery, but much more complex.  Yes, it is a bit hard to peel, and if you are not careful a finger or two could be hurt in the process, but keep calm, peel on, and make soup before the weather gets too hot.  Too hot. What a silly statement. Sorry, sometimes I make no sense.

Parsnip&CeleriacSoupCELERIAC AND PARSNIP SOUP WITH TOASTED COCONUT
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery rib, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut in chunks
3 to 4 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut in chunks
salt and black pepper
dash of nutmeg
4 cups water
lemon juice to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Sautee the shallot with the celery until fragrant and shallots become translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Add the pieces of parsnips and celeriac, saute for a few minutes, moving them around.

Add water, making sure it cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, cook until parsnips and celeriac pieces are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the veggies with some of the water to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two batches, being careful while processing hot liquids (using a blender keep the lid open and cover the top with a kitchen cloth).  Use only enough water to get the consistency you like.

Return the processed soup to the pan on low heat, adjust consistency with the reserved water if needed. Season with nutmeg, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with coconut flakes (unsweetened) sautéed in olive oil or butter, lightly seasoned with salt, or with any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite
This was a delicious soup, the lemon juice at the end does that citric magic I am very fond of. If I had a dollar bill for every time I use lemon juice in my cooking, I’d be rich. You can make this soup a bit more luscious adding a touch of cream if you want, or using chicken stock instead of water, but I often like to keep things simple and let the flavor of the veggies take the spotlight.  I am not quite sure about the nutmeg. I love nutmeg with cauliflower and in bechamel sauce, but I might omit it in this soup next time. Maybe I used too heavy a hand, I thought the flavor was a bit too strong. Anyway, if you make it, go easy with it and taste it.

Before I say goodbye, here is a small collection of recipes to help you lose any residual fear of celery root… just in case you need it  😉

SWEET AND SOUR CELERIAC SEPHARDIC STYLE, from Tasty Eats

CELERY ROOT, APPLE AND WALNUT SALAD from Cooking and Traveling in Italy and Beyond

CELERY ROOT LETTUCE WRAPS from The Wimpy Vegetarian

CELERY ROOT REMOULADE, from Kitchen Riffs

FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT, from Martha Stewart

POACHED EGGS OVER CELERY ROOT LATKES, from Fresh Start

POTATO AND CELERY ROOT ROSTI, from Martha Stewart

I hope you enjoyed this small tour on celeriac possibilities, and if you are a celeriac virgin, you will give it a try in the near future. Nothing to fear, I promise!

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ORANGE POMEGRANATE CHICKEN: A WORK IN PROGRESS

This recipe, from a recent compilation in Fine Cooking called “One Pot Meals”, went from the page to a pot in the blink of an eye.  It called for all kinds of goodies that I love: chicken, root veggies, pomegranate and the perfect spices to tie them together.  The glaze roasted into a sexy ruby color, and the skin of the chicken will make anyone smile.  So, why is it a work in progress, you might ask?   Read on….

ORANGE POMEGRANATE CHICKEN
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 large orange, zested and juiced
1 cup pomegranate juice
1-1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 leeks, white part only, cut in 1/4 inch slices
4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium saucepan, Combine the orange juice and pomegranate juice in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce it to 1/4 cup (about 20 minutes). Add half of the thyme (eye balling is fine), all the cinnamon, and black pepper (about 1/4 tsp or according to your taste). Divide the mixture between two small bowls. To one bowl add 2 tsp. of the oil and 1/2 tsp. salt. To the other add the chicken broth, all but 1 tsp. of the orange zest, and 1/4 tsp. salt.

Scatter the sweet potatoes, parsnips, and leeks over the bottom of a dish that measures about 10 x 15 x 2 inches. Toss with the remaining 4 tsp. of oil and the rest of the thyme.  Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the vegetables and brush with all of the juice-oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375°F. Pour the reduced pomegranate-chicken broth mixture around the chicken pieces and scatter the walnuts around them.  Return the pan to the oven and roast until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F in several pieces of chicken, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish.  Remove the veggies and walnuts with a slotted spoon, season them lightly with salt, sprinkle the remaining orange zest all over the meat and veggies. Pour the liquid from the roasting pan in a pyrex type container, remove as much fat as possible.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a pitcher to serve with the food.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  Make sure you use pure pomegranate juice (yes, it is expensive compared to blends, but  worth it in this case, because you will concentrate it quite a bit).  I’d love to give this recipe two thumbs all the way up, but it had some problems.  Many of the pieces of sweet potatoes and parsnips were not completely cooked: their centers were still hard.  I tested some with a fork before removing from the oven, but as Murphy’s Law would have it, those were perfect… (sigh).  Next time I’ll cover the dish with foil during the first 30 minutes, then pour the liquid all over it and roast it uncovered, perhaps adding a little more water if the veggies dry up during the final roasting.  I suspect that with this minor change it will be a winner.

One pot meals are such life-savers for a busy cook, and this recipe, apart from reducing the pomegranate/orange juice, doesn’t require much work. Even better, the reduction could be made a couple of days in advance.  With a nice loaf of bread or a green salad, dinner is ready!

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MAGICAL LAMB STEW with PARSNIPS, PRUNES, and CHICKPEAS

This recipe goes into the category of  “Perfect Saturday Night Dinner.”  From the recent issue of Fine Cooking magazine (number 102), contributed by David Tanis,  it has a  sexy flavor with a North African flair. The many tastes in this meal reminded me of the exotic couscous we used to savor on cold Parisian evenings by the Seine.
plate2

LAMB STEW WITH PARSNIPS, PRUNES, AND CHICKPEAS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine # 102)

For the Lamb
3 lb. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and stuck with 1 whole clove
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

For the stew
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbs. paprika
2 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp. coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed
12 pitted prunes, halved
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 lb. medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb with 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. In a large Dutch oven combine the lamb, carrots, onion, cinnamon, bay leaf, and add water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and cook in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2-1/2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve over a large bowl. Discard the vegetables and spices. Cool the lamb and broth, and refrigerate separately. Skim the fat from the broth before continuing.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan. Add the diced onion, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas, prunes, tomato purée, and a pinch of salt. Add the reserved lamb and 4 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the parsnips and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with cilantro.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments – this is an unusual stew in the sense that the meat wasn’t browned before braising.    If David Tanis wasn’t the man responsible for the recipe, I’d have had second thoughts about trying it, but he is one of the chefs devising the dishes at Chez Panisse,  the famous Berkeley restaurant.   If he skips the browning, I’ll skip it too. 😉   But, after the 2.5 hours of  braising in the oven, I wasn’t too optimistic.  The meat looked pale and bland, like hospital food.  Without much choice (apart from dialing for pizza),  I finished the stew, and it was like a Phoenix born from the ashes…. the dish beautifully came together!   The lamb was super tender, and the spices permeated the meat, perhaps better than when it’s browned in advance.

We enjoyed it with couscous and a little naan bread.

I had visions of a magic carpet ride!  Maybe it will happen to you too…  😉

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