Carrot Tops Are…Edible! And Make Great Pesto.

Did you know that? Did you? Did you huh?

I'm EDIBLE? --he seemed to say. Photo from rottentomatoes.com

I’m EDIBLE? –he seemed to say.
Photo from rottentomatoes.com

No. Not that kind of Carrot Top. (Not without a nice, long braise, anyway, and who has that kind of time?)

Thaaaat's more like it.

Thaaaat’s more like it.

This kind of carrot top. Yes way! I know, right? What I had always sort of considered a kind of…curious produce by-product is, in its own right, an overlooked potential addition to the dinner table. We got our CSA delivery this week, brimming with all sorts of vegetal goodness, and great fluffy frondy carrots.  Hmmm, I said to myself. It would be a shame if this went to waste. I wonder…. To the internets!

Totally edible. Not poisonous. The stems are a little woody, so they require a bit of work, but in general? Delicious. Kind of carroty and sweet and bright, with a little bit of a parsley bouquet that you almost taste in your nose. I came across a few recipes for pesto, but they served as inspiration more than an actual recipe, so I’m going to claim full ownership of this one.  🙂 Take:

  • One bunch farmer’s market/CSA carrot greens from your delicious carrot bunch, which you’ll use for dinner (if you have a smallish bunch, like mine, have some additional spinach or baby arugula on hand)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 handful (about a half a cup) walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful parsley
  • 3 slices cotija (or some other crumbly, salty cheese, like pecorino romano)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste. If you use cotija cheese, DO NOT USE SALT until the very end, if you need it. The cheese is very salty.
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey, for balance
  • Olive oil, as needed

First things first: Toss walnuts in a dry pan and toast them for five minutes, or until they’re fragrant and their flavors have deepened, but they’re not burnt. If you make more than you need, you’ll have extra to snack on, so don’t worry about fastidiously measuring them. Set aside to cool.

Clean the carrots and carrot tops. Chop the carrot stalks into bite-size-ish pieces.

They're so fresh they practically emanate goodness.

They’re so fresh they practically emanate goodness.

If you have mostly stalks (like I had) rather than the airy fronds, you may want to blanch the stalks for a minute or two in a pot of boiling water, just to soften them up and make them more pliable. Drain them, then assemble your goods.

Garlic, cheese, lemon, carrot greens. Sounds like a party!

Garlic, cheese, lemon, carrot greens. Sounds like a party!

A word about cotija cheese: Cotija is a dry, crumbly Mexican cow’s milk cheese used like parmesan. It’s crumbly. It doesn’t melt. It’s salty-salty. It’s DELICIOUS if you crumble it on top of things. And it’s got a brisk, clean taste. I chose it partly because I have it in my fridge, but I also have parmesan and pecorino romano. I wanted cotija for its clean, yet salty, taste. For the purposes of this recipe, if you don’t have cotija, use pecorino romano rather than parmesan. Parmesan’s a little too nutty. Moving on.

Zest the lemon, then juice it. Toss the zest, carrot tops, spinach or arugula if you need it, garlic, cheese, honey, half the toasted walnuts (to start), about half the parsley, and a couple of glugs of olive oil into a food processor, and grind in as much black pepper as you can stand. If you want, you can also put in a couple of shakes of crushed red pepper and some fresh-grated nutmeg. Because I did. And yum.

Let's get rrrrrready to rrrrrrumble!

Let’s get rrrrrready to rrrrrrumble!

Give that a whirl, then taste it for flavor and make requisite adjustments; is it tart vs. peppery vs. oily vs. texturally correct? What do you need?  Does it need a little more oomph because it’s too pasty, or not punchy enough? Toss in some lemon juice. Is it not rich enough? Toss in some oil. Is it too sharp? Add some more walnuts. Does it need to be “green”-er?  Parsley!  And so on. If you pay careful attention to what you want a pesto to taste like, and what’s in front of you, you can tinker until it becomes one harmonious mix of carrot greens and all other good things.

Pestolicious!

Pestolicious!

OK. So you’ve got your pesto. Now what?

Slice an onion into half-moons and caramelize the whole thing. You probably won’t eat all of the onions today, but you’ll thank me tomorrow when you’re looking for something to perk up your salad at lunch.

Cut the carrots into thin slices. We also had a small handful of baby beets from our CSA; I took the stems and leaves and separated them to cook with some kale (recipe coming soon) for a lovely side dish. As for the beautifully sweet baby beet globes, I washed and peeled them and cut them thinly, roughly as thick as the carrots.

And the little stripey chiogga beets are so pretty!

And the little stripey chiogga beets are so pretty!

Then toss them in a pan with some oil, ground fennel, and salt and pepper. Saute them for…oh…however long it takes. Fifteen minutes?  They’re both hard root vegetables, so they do take a while to saute, but they’re also tender baby versions, so exercise judgment. Taste as you see fit. Let them go for at least ten minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. When they’re almost cooked and ready to eat, take some white balsamic vinegar and pour it in a slow drizzle once or twice around the pan. Let that cook down for another two or three minutes to create a light glaze.

Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!

Toast some bread. Put down a layer of pesto, add some beets and carrots, and top with caramelized onions, a dash more fresh parsley and another grind or two of cracked pepper and voila! You’ve got a great, summery, no-oven, open-faced sandwich that is as close to nose-to-tail cooking with vegetables as you can get.

I liked it so much, I had it again for lunch.

I liked it so much, I had it again for lunch. Note the beet greens and kale in the background. Don’t worry, I’ll get that recipe out to you.

Served with a green salad and the braised kale and beet greens, this dinner was insanely satisfying. Each bite of the open-faced sandwich ran a wonderful gamut of flavors, from peppery and savory to sweet and brisk and cheesy-rich. Served with a side dish of bitter greens laced with an obscene amount of garlic, this is the sort of dinner that covers all the bases. Relatively easy to make, no oven, barely any refuse to clean up, delicious. What are you waiting for?

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SCORE!

I was in the flea-markety basement of Street of Shops, the closest thing I’ve seen to a bazaar for freaks, weeding through old dishes and dated cookbooks and discarded dolls and rusted cookie tins. Lest you wonder why I was there, you can find treasures at the Street of Shops. I’ve found the dishes I use every day. I’ve found some great furniture.  And today, I found…this.

BRING ME SOLO AND THE WOOKIE.

BRING ME SOLO AND THE WOOKIE.

That’s right. It’s an orange lucite deer, chained around the throat to its own fawns.  And the whole deer family looks a little deranged.

A boy's best friend is his mother, Norman.

A boy’s best friend is his mother, Norman.

Not that it’s not understandable. Because as much as I love my mother, I don’t think I’d thrive if I was chained to her.

I LOVE MURDER.

I LOVE MURDER.
And apples.

I have them set up so that they’ll blaze bright every morning in the rising sun, because who doesn’t want to feast their eyes on that every day while making one’s coffee?

Seriously. What.

Seriously. What.

Even my adorable woodland deer salt and pepper shakers look on in bewilderment. George pointed out to me that I paid good money for them and I maintain that they would be a bargain at twice the price. Because you don’t just come across beauties like this every day.

I can’t believe someone got rid of them in the first place.

Score!

Nosh: Roasted Kohlrabi Chips

Kohlrabi.

Kohlwhatti?

Kohlrabi!

Gesundheit.

In my relentless pursuit of discussing unfamiliar produce, let me introduce the uninitiated to the joys of kohlrabi.  A member of the cabbage family, this bulby thing is, ummm…is, errrr…

Just what the hell is it? Photo from restaurantwidow.com

Just what the hell is it?
Photo from restaurantwidow.com

This, friends, is kohlrabi.  And it’s crunchy and kind of watery, and versatile, and can add an unexpected, cruciferous, broccoli-ish mellowness to a meal.  Which, you know.  Can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about mellow broccoli.  George doesn’t care for it all that much.

Unless, of course, you cut it into chips and roast it.  Changes the game entirely.  True story: the first time I made these, I burnt the hell out of them.  They were totally brown, almost black, definitely useless.  Or so I thought.  George couldn’t get enough of them, told me not to throw them away because he would absolutely eat them.  Ummmm…OK?  I tried one, and I got his point.  It goes from kind of watery to deeply flavored, roasted and crisp, even crunchy if you cut it thin enough.  And the flavor totally morphs into…well, imagine the best kind of gnarly, down-home, thick-cut potato chip you’ve ever had.  Then imagine it was roasted in the oven and is actually good for you.  Bonus!  Here’s what you need:

  • As much kohlrabi as you’d like (dinner for three, we had three kohlrabi, which made plenty for feasting plus some next-day nibbles)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Your seasonings of choice (I used grated parmesan and Aleppo pepper, but feel free to use whatever you’d like)
  • A mandoline slicer or a very sharp knife (I used a knife. Partly because I like to work on my knife skills but also because I really need a better mandoline, as mine kind of scares me and I’m accident-prone…but I digress

Heat your oven to 350°.

Trim your kohlrabi.  You don’t even have to peel it for this dish, but you should cut off the weird little pointy thick nodes that grow off its sides.

IMG_0099-001

Who you callin’ cabbage?

Tip: If you’re cutting these by hand, they can be a little unsteady because they’re round and that can be daunting, especially if you’re working on your knife skills but don’t quite feel that you’re “there” yet.  Just cut off a bit of the round part so it lays flat on the cutting board, and then have at it.

No waste, flat surface, fingers are safer. Win!

No waste, flat surface, fingers are safer. Win!

Once they’re very thinly sliced, you can rejoice, for the hardest part is over, and that wasn’t so bad, now, was it?  Then…

See?  Not paper thin.  Manageably thin.

See? Not paper thin. Manageably thin.

…get them greased up and ready to go.  Because they’re so flat, and I like shortcuts when they work, and who needs to lay out a trillion rounds of kohlrabi to painstakingly dab with oil on one side, then the other, then transfer to a pan?  Not me.  Oil the pan you’re going to lay them on.

Let the baking sheet do the work for you. Kind of zen, no?  ~~~Be the baking sheet~~~

Let the baking sheet do the work for you. Kind of zen, no?
~~~Be the baking sheet~~~

Then you just have to worry about daubing the tops of the kohlrabi slices before they go into the oven.  To the purists who would argue that both sides aren’t getting properly seasoned I say: these slices are about 1/8 inch thick, possibly less.  Between the salt and the pepper and the Aleppo pepper and the parmesan, they’re getting plenty seasoned.  The whole thing will taste fine, you can calm down.

Once you have what you want on them, you can just put them right in that nice hot oven.

I want some. Like, right now. For breakfast, I don't care.

I want some. Like, right now. For breakfast, I don’t care.

Set a timer for 15-20 minutes (you do want to keep an eye on them; experience is the best teacher, and they will burn).  You do want to flip them midway through cooking (and, you can always add more seasonings at that point; if you must, then I advocate more cheese, because cheese, that’s why) and then put them back in for another 10-15 minutes, until they’re browned and crisp and fully cooked.  It doesn’t get any more complicated than that.  If you cut them by hand then inevitably you’ll find that some are thicker and less crunchy than others, so a mandoline would eliminate inconsistencies.  Or you could experience the wide range of roasted kohlrabi, from the thicker slices whose innate, mild sweetness has been deepened by the roasting process, to the crispy, crunchy, super-thin ones that are like little umami-bombs.

How could you say no to a plate filled with this?

How could you say no to a plate filled with this?

We served this with butternut squash pasta, bread with tapenade, roasted cauliflower (recipe coming soon), and a green salad.  It was a perfect vegetarian dinner and a great way to greet the colder weather.  Let me know how you like this recipe!  It made George a kohlrabi convert, and I had all but given up hope that that was possible.  🙂

Enjoy!

Nosh: Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese.

You read that right.

Whipped goat cheese.

WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE.

whipped goat cheese

Yes.

How, you wonder, does one go about preparing such a culinary delight?  Such a feast for the senses?  Such a groovy thing to do with cauliflower?

Easy!  It takes a little time, but that doesn’t change the “easy” factor.  Here’s what you need for the cauliflower.  I’ll talk about what to do with the goat cheese later, mostly because I’m evil and want to heighten your anticipation.  Can’t bring it home too early, see.  Anyway.  Cauliflower.

  • 2 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon and juiced lemon remains
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar/honey/agave nectar
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Cooking this cauliflower requires two steps; braising makes the cauliflower tender and infuses it with a variety of flavors, while roasting coaxes out the savory nuttiness and gives it a crusty texture.  Plus, it looks and sounds elegant as hell.  (Is that a legitimate term?  Who cares.  You all dig, I’m sure.)  I’m a hearty advocate of making things that sound impressive to boost my cooking cred.

Oh, yeah.  P.S., it tastes great.

Trim the cauliflower so it’s cleared of leaves and its stem is pared down so that the cauliflower can sit flat on a serving plate.  Assemble all the ingredients you need for the braise.

Pretty uncomplicated ingredients, I'd say.

Pretty uncomplicated ingredients, I’d say.

When choosing the braising wine, make it as dry as you can stand.  You don’t necessarily want the cauliflower to become oaky or sweet, you just want it to become fragrant and delicious.  So go dry, and make it a decent bottle.

Put the wine, salt, butter, oil, lemon (juiced, and then toss in the halves as well because why not?), sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a large pot and get them cooking over a high heat.  I did add some red pepper flakes when I made my cauliflower but frankly, I didn’t think they brought much at all to the party, so meh, only add them if you’re really committed to their presence.  When everything’s going along at a pretty steady boil, add the cauliflower.  CAREFULLY, so you don’t cause a big splash and burn yourself with water and boiling oil.

Hooray for the incredibly practical mesh spider!

Hooray for the incredibly practical mesh spider!

If you think you still need a little extra cooking liquid in the pot, feel free to add some water or broth.  Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 15-20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is soft enough to sink a knife in but still offers some resistance.  You don’t want it to be mush, you just want it to be soft-ish.  When it’s ready, take it out and let it drain.

The nice thing about this dish is, you can park the cauliflower here for a while if you need to take care of other business in the kitchen; once the braise is done you’ll only have to worry about getting it in the oven when you’re in serious dinner-prep mode.

When you are ready for Phase Two: Roasting, make sure your oven is pre-heated to the not-messing-around temperature of 475° and that your oven rack is positioned roughly in the middle of the oven.  Put the cauliflower in a baking dish, give it a light drizzle of olive oil and toss on some salt and pepper.  Then?  In it goes, for 30-40 minutes.  Turn it once halfway through.  You’ll want to pull it out of the oven when it’s nice and browned and toasty on the outside.  It should look something like this:

Roasted cauliflower perfection.

Roasted cauliflower perfection.

While it’s roasting you can whip your goat cheese.

Because seriously, words fail.  Just saying it is sexy: Whipped goat cheese.  Yes!  It’s that good.  You need:

  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces feta
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Greek yogurt (or more, in the interests of a smooth and creamy texture)
  • drizzle of honey
  • Fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Measure out your ingredients.

That extra 1/8 oz is a nibble for the cook. :)

That extra 1/8 oz is a bonus nibble for the cook. 🙂


And then…ready for this?  Put all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process.

That’s it.

I mean, taste it and see what you need to add.  I don’t say you should add salt because feta and goat cheese are plenty salty on their own, but if you feel like the salt–or the pepper, or the honey–are lacking, then adjust accordingly.  If you think it needs to smooth out a little more you can add some more yogurt, or some milk or water, but only do so in small increments so as to not make it too soupy.  You want it to stick to the cauliflower, not run off.  As further evidence that this may seem complicated but isn’t really, your goat cheese can be whipped ahead of time.  I made mine the night before and it was perfect, I just had to let it warm up to room temperature and give it a couple of stirs to loosen it up.

Your guests, your family, your dining companions will be dazzled sho’ ’nuff when they walk in your kitchen and see this waiting for them.

I repeat: Elegant as hell.

I repeat: Elegant as hell.

It’s soft enough to cut with a serving spoon, so don’t be afraid to dive into the cauliflower, dress it with a happy dollop or seven of goat cheese and feast yourself silly.  A dish this gorgeous makes every dinner better.  Set aside a little time.  It’s worth it, if for no other reason that it’s ultimately really simple and if you do what the dish requires (braise, roast, food process), you’ll look like a kitchen rock star.

What Cookery Is This? My Great Recipe Cards, 1984

I remember being completely fascinated by my mother’s set of Betty Crocker recipe cards when I was but a wee paisley.  At that point in my life I was in the running for the title of Pickiest Eater: Anything Not a PB&J, but those cards…there was something about them that always drew me in.  I would look through them and reject them on principle.  Onions?  No.  Peppers?  Gross.  Mushrooms?  HA HA!  HA HA!  HA HA!  All I had to learn was that they were a fungus and then?  Profoundly no with an irritated hand flip for good measure.

But those cards…they were shiny and…well, shiny…and they held the promise of exotic meals that I’d never heard of and probably wouldn’t have eaten anyway, often presented curiously.  Who in their right minds would put spinach in a clear glass trifle dish?

Elegance fail.from davidstable.com

Wee me deemed this an elegance fail. Nothing personal, Betty Crocker.
from davidstable.com

Spinach was something that was meant to be hidden away in the darkest recesses of our unholy present, never to be spoken of again.  Betty Crocker people, you so crazy!  And just to be clear, despite my current infatuation with the kitchen,  I didn’t care one bit about cooking at that point in my life.  Who knows why I found them so mesmerizing?  I just did.  I’m not sure if my mother got them in the mail (it could be that someone gave them to her, and it’s not as though she was consulting me on her cooking choices at that point in my life) but I do remember climbing up to the top of the fridge to get my tiny little meat hooks on that plastic box with the clamshell cover.

And so I lust for a set of my own.  The other day, my boyfriend and I were trolling the aisles at our local and amazingly awesome flea market when we stumbled upon an incomplete set of not-Betty-Crocker.  The cards we found were from My Great Recipes, circa 1984-1988 but you know what?  Still craptastically satisfying.  The foodie revolution had not yet begun except, perhaps, for Alice Waters‘s small corner of northern California and so much of the food presented largely originated out of cans and bags.  Food photography has also come a long way since 1984, so there’s a lot of cheesetastic, era-defining food horror contained in a relatively small amount of cards.  And the pack I found was only a–one, singular–dollar.  You can’t go wrong with that.

Thus, without further ado…a completely biased sample of the My Great Recipe card set.  There will be more to come as I work my way through the cards.  Prepare brain bleach.

Mmm, appetizers!

Mmm, appetizers!

Apparently, deep in the confines of this hallucinatory green nugget of Astroturf, there lives some boiled, shredded chicken breasts.  Two things: the only time I’ve willingly eaten boiled chicken breasts is when I was so sick I could only handle a bland diet.  Yeah!  Where do I sign for more memories of the stomach flu?  And, they want you to wilt spinach, then unfurl it.  Which is sort of akin to unfurling wet tissue paper.  It CAN be done, but more likely than not will require a scanning tunneling microscope so you can successfully move the spinach atoms without tearing the leaves.

Remind me not to bring this to a barbecue.

Remind me never to bring this to a barbecue.

Charred forearm of a burn victim, served with broiled fatty tumors.  It’s what’s for dinner.

Aloha, chicken!

Aloha, chicken!

The good people of Hawaii should stage a revolution in response to this…this…”chicken aloha”.  First of all, this recipe is an express ticket to Diabetesville, since it involves pineapple chunks in syrup, yams in syrup, and an unreasonable amount of currant jelly.  Would you like some chicken with your sugar?  And at first I couldn’t figure out the name (no matter how much you try and argue differently, Hawaiian is not made by pineapple alone) until I remembered, “aloha” can mean both “hello” and “goodbye”.  So I think it actually means “goodbye, chicken” and “hello, whole roasted juvenile pelican“.  Because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s in the pan.

Even I'm at a loss for words on this one.

Even I’m at a loss for words on this one.

Hi.  My name is Hannibal Lecter.  For my dinner this evening, I would like to order a half-cup of mayonnaise served on a cross-section of human ass, please.

Rare.

Thank you.

Ummmm...

Ummmm…

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer the slabs of granite left over from your countertop installation, served with soothing river stones and watercress?

Erhmm...

Erhmm…

Ooh, tempting.  But no, I’ll take the crusted meat that’s been left out to dry for three days, topped with your phlegm and melted plastic reduction.

Savor the flavor.

Savor the flavor.

And for dessert, perhaps some sliced grapes with welts?  Sitting in a pastry crust and covered with slime?  Perfecto!

True story: I was visiting some friends for a long weekend, with a (now-ex) boyfriend.  He was going out to the store and wanted to know if I wanted anything.  I asked him to get me some fruit, I wanted fresh fruit, I needed to at least try and counter some of the effects of a weekend house party with something healthy.  And something like this?  Was what he brought back, only that version had kiwifruit, too.  I’ve been laughing about it for years.

I hear the cries for mercy.  And there’s only so many of these I can look at at one sitting.  So we’ll call this quits for now.  Just remember, there’s more coming!

Roasted Beet Galette

On a recent trip to the Boston area, we stopped at Russo’s in Watertown, a farmstand-turned-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WHAT DON’T THEY HAVE that I try to make a point of visiting whenever possible.  I like that they’ve got a lot of interesting things in non-perishable containers, like vinegars and jellies and groovy crackers.  But they also have a huge selection of vegetables, some of which aren’t immediately perishable, and it was there that I first feasted my eyes upon a box of beautiful golden beets.

Oh hell yes.

Oh hell yes.

It makes no sense to me why golden beets are significantly less common than your basic red beet; they pretty much taste the same (they’re actually a little milder) and have almost the same nutritional value, they cook exactly the same, and they don’t stain your hands…and your cutting board…and your countertops.  But!  Despite the fact that I live in the middle of farm country, belong to a CSA and have been a foodie for a long time, it’s been years for me between golden beet sightings.

I have a hard time believing it’s because they’re reclusive creatures adept at hiding in the wild.

Anyway.  So I got my reclusive beets from the One of Everything Store annnnnd…then what?  Because they’re kind of special, hard-to-get beets I wanted to make something beautiful, and because my spring CSA is going to start up again fairly soon, I have a gigantic pile of pickled beets looming in my very near future.  So.  I thought and I thought, and ended up borrowing heavily from one recipe and substituting what I wanted instead of what the recipe called for and in the process, I made an amazing beet galette.

A galette is, basically, a tart with a pastry crust that isn’t molded into a pan.  The term is broad and can be interpreted in many ways, from a particular kind of large buckwheat crepe to a fruit-and-pastry dessert to a savory dinner tart.  Most of the recipes I found online used a CA-RAZY amount of butter in the crust and frankly, I don’t really like to cook like that if I can avoid it.   Or, they would chop the beets into a dice and I wanted to make pretty flat rounds.  Then I remembered this recipe and thought…wait a second…why don’t I use this as my template?  I’ll make this crust, put in my own fillings?

This?  Is what we call a plan, and here’s a reconstruction of the cobbled-together recipe and how I put it all together.  So.  Onward!  But forewarned is forearmed: this is not a dinner that you can just toss together in 20 minutes.  Save this for a cold, snug Sunday when you want to be productive but don’t feel like leaving the house.

Bear in mind: you can certainly make this recipe using the readily available red beets, if you can’t find golden like I almost always can’t.

First, make the crust.

Pulse your walnuts in a food processor until they’re ground fine.  If you don’t have a food processor, then try a blender, maybe.  Or put them in a bag and crush the daylights out of them with the bottom of a heavy frying pan.  Or go out to the store and buy a food processor, I’ll wait.  Mix the ground walnuts with the flours, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh herbs.  Use whatever herbs you prefer; in this batch I used parsley and thyme because I had them handy.  If you don’t have fresh herbs you can use dried, but use about half the amount as the recipe calls for because their flavor is concentrated and therefore a little stronger.  When your dry ingredients are mixed make a well so you can add the wet ingredients.  What does that mean?

What's that, Lassie?  Billy fell in the well?

What’s that, Lassie? Billy fell in the well?

It means you dig a hole in your dry ingredients and put your wet ingredients in said hole.  It helps you incorporate the ingredients quickly and thoroughly.  That’s important for this crust because it’s really hearty and you don’t want to overwork it and develop the glutens; that will just make it tough.  Who needs a tough crust?  Not this girl.

So knead the dough just until it comes together, then wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it out.  Preheat your oven to  425° and get going on your beets and onions.  Thinly slice them both, toss with some oil, salt and pepper and put them on baking sheets and into the oven.  You’ll get nicely wilted beets and onions that are ready for the next stage of usefulness.  Drop the oven temp to 375°.

All hail the discs f golden deliciousness!

All hail the discs of golden deliciousness!

While these are cooking, toss your goat cheese and feta (if you’re using it) in the freezer (I’ll get to this in a moment, hang on) and chop your garlic.  Since you’re not going to cook the garlic any other way than baking it in with the galette, make sure you chop it fairly small or slice it super-thin.  I went for super-thin.

See?  Thin.

See? Thin.

But really, it’s whatever you think is easiest, so long as you remember that your objective here is to not bite into a hunk of par-baked garlic, because no.

Now, this thing about the frozen cheese.  If you’ve ever tried to cut goat cheese you surely know that it crumbles and sticks to the knife and doesn’t cut evenly and is generally a pain in the ass to manhandle.  Much the same can be said for feta.  But if you put the cheeses in the freezer for a little while–it doesn’t have to be long, fifteen minutes or so should to the trick–they become easier to cut in even, non-sticky slices.  Or grate like Parmesan.  So. Before you start slicing and dicing your cheese, take your  dough out of the fridge, unwrap it and place it on baker’s parchment or a non-stick baking mat that has been lightly dusted with flour.  Roll out the dough into a rustic, 15-inch or so circle, then take the cheese out of the freezer and cut the goat cheese into even, easy-to-disperse slices.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Goat cheese is so much easier to manage this way.

Starting about two inches in from the outer edge, put half the goat cheese on your rolled out dough.  Sprinkle on the garlic and grate some feta over it on a nice, fine grater.  Like it was Parmesan.  (I know I’ve said this before but I do believe it’s the best analogy I can think of.)

See, it's all about building a solid base.

See, it’s all about building a solid base.

Then start layering in the veggies.  Put in a layer of beets, then onions, then beets again.

I don't know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.Who am I kidding?  I want to eat this.

I don’t know if I want to eat this or put it in a vase.
Who am I kidding? I want to eat this.

Add the rest of the goat cheese, and another shredding or two of feta if you’d like.  Remember, feta is salty, so if you intend to use it in this dish watch your salt content elsewhere and plan accordingly!  Carefully fold the edges inward and remember–they won’t reach the middle of the galette.  If the crust breaks at all where you fold it, just crimp it back together and move on.  It’s supposed to be rustic.

It's not "perfect" by any stretch of the imagination.  And that's just fine.

It’s not “perfect” by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s just fine.

Take hold of the parchment or baking mat and slide it, galette and all, onto a baking sheet.  Put it in the oven and let it cook for 50 minutes, and then let it sit for ten.  I served it with a gorgeous salad with lemon vinaigrette and some roasted potatoes.  And it was as good as I’d hoped.

Voila!  Dinner, is served.

Voila! Dinner, it is served.

Nosh: Roasted Turnips and Pasta

I came home from a visit with my family with a giant bag full of turnips.

Turnips.

There are few things that are less sexy than a turnip.  The word is unsexy.   The raw root in its un-manhandled state is unsexy.  And most people, when they think of how they’ve eaten turnips, think of them mashed.

Image from food.com

Image from food.com

which looks like baby food.  By definition…unsexy.  Delicious, maybe.  But unsexy.

Not that I always need my food to bring the sexy at all times but it’s nice to think of other things to do with it an ingredient that…well…doesn’t remind you of baby food.  And turnips are good!  They’re bright and peppery, but their flesh can be a little watery and thus marginally difficult (marginally; let’s not make this seem more bleak than it really is) to manage in the cooking process.  This is where roasting comes in.

I have come to the conclusion that roasting makes everything better.  Kale?  Sure!  Tomatoes?  Roast ’em slow for a few hours and then just try to contain yourself.  Parsnips?  Brussels sprouts?  Yes and yes!  I just roasted grapes and shallots to stuff into some crêpes.  I even roast lemons when I make lemon risotto, because it deepens and mellows the lemon flavor so you don’t bite into a tart lemonade-flavored pile of hot rice.  Because roasting is a (relatively) dry heat it can help eliminate the water in the turnip and temper its peppery bite, especially if it’s a larger, older turnip.

Anyway.  I had these turnips and…what else?  Since I saw this as a great opportunity to clear out some stuff in my fridge it became a little bit of a kitchen sink dinner (as in, “everything but the…”).  I wrote out a rough draft of the recipe, but it’s written to accommodate how I think (and I always plan for leftovers) so it’s probably best if you read along in the blog first.

Heat your oven to 350°.  Prepare your garlic first.  Why?  Because you can start it roasting while you prep the veggies and said garlic will be ready earlier.  This means you can let the garlic get cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves while everything else finishes in the oven, and mix them in with the ricotta cheese without missing a beat.  Cut an entire bulb straight across the top, exposing the cross-sectioned cloves.  Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.

IMG_0036-001

Mmm…roasted garlic…

There are two things to bear in mind regarding roasted garlic.  One: if it’s too much for you, or you don’t like or can’t eat garlic, don’t worry.  Skip this step entirely and mix something like pesto or maybe roasted red peppers in with the cheese.  Be creative.  It’s your dinner.  And two: if you don’t have a fancy clay garlic roaster, don’t sweat it.  Neither do I.  Or rather, I think I do but I have no idea where it is.  Notice that the garlic is on a big piece of aluminum foil?  That’s there for a reason.  Fold the foil up around your garlic, crimp the edges together and voila!  Instant garlic roaster.

Peel your turnips and onions, and cut them and the zucchini into roasting-friendly chunks.  Put them all in pans and toss them with salt-pepper-oil, and let them roast for a half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes, checking on them and giving them a stir after the first twenty.  Do you want to sprinkle the veggies with thyme?  All right.  Or, do you want to toss them with some balsamic vinegar?  Go for it!  I just wanted the pure vegetable/garlic combo the day I made this but you know, try what you think will make you happy.  It’s all good.  I do admit, I had way more turnips to start with than this recipe needs, but in the interests of making my life easier I roasted all of them at once.  Whatever’s left over the next day can be topped with breadcrumbs and reheated as a side dish…or stuffed into peppers…or loaded into a quesadilla…the possibilities are endless.

Loads of veggies ready to roast!

Loads of veggies ready to roast!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I tend to cook in “one”s.  One onion, one zucchini, one bulging bag of turnips, and if I cut too much or cook too much, I incorporate what’s left into something else.  Who wants to measure things?  Not this girl.  Anyway.

I had about a half a cup of ricotta cheese left in my fridge and it was at the “use it or lose it” point…you know when you buy something to make one, specific thing, and then you’ve got that pathetic, almost-but-not-quite useless amount lurking on your shelves until you finally, months later, give up and throw it away?  Yeah.  It makes me crazy; I hate to waste food.  So why not use it here?  I also had a reasonable chunk of Swiss cheese that was approaching “use it or lose it” so I ask again: why not?  You could also use that lonesome piece of mozzarella you have left over from pizza night, or that chunk of muenster your kids won’t eat because they think it’s “monster cheese”.  Creative use of straggler food is what makes for a great kitchen sink dinner; you are virtuously not wasting either food or the money you spent to buy it while in the process making a healthy meal for you and your loved ones, and who doesn’t feel good about that?

Ricotta, garlic, Swiss, and some hot pasta water.  Dinner is mere moments away.

Ricotta, garlic, Swiss, and some hot pasta water. Dinner is mere moments away.

If your veggies are approaching doneness then your pasta should be boiling by now.  Mash howevermuch garlic you want into the ricotta (or, see above for non-garlic suggestions), reserve one cup of your pasta water, drain your pasta and then prepare for major assemblage.

Put a few handfuls of cleaned spinach into a bowl.  Shake some red pepper flakes on it and toss it with some of the hot, starchy pasta water so it begins to wilt.

Step one: Complete!

Step one: Complete!

Then: add the ricotta and garlic mixture and the rest of the water, and give that a good stir.  Pour the steaming pasta on top of that, and then top with your veggies.  If you think you roasted more turnips or zucchini or onions than you want in the pasta, that’s fine, only add as much as you think is right.  Mix in the Swiss cheese and, if you want, more fresh-ground pepper or some fresh herbs like parsley or chives.  Stir to combine, and let the Swiss cheese get all ooey-gooey-melty.  Have some Parmesan on the side for grating and serve with a green salad, and you’ve got one heck of a lovely turnip dinner.

Yes.

Yes.

For the record, my sister–who only ever associates turnips with mashing and of which she is not a fan–stopped by the night we made this.  I asked her if she wanted to try a little; she stayed for a whole plate.  It has the power to convert.  Don’t be afraid.  Just take the leap.

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