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January 31, 2007

Rutabaga Stories

I recently bought a couple of rutabagas on a whim recently. We used to eat rutabaga quite frequently when we lived in Massachussetts when I was a child. At some point, it stopped appearing on the family dinner table. (Probably when we moved to Florida. There is something fundamentally un-Floridian about a rutabaga.) I probably haven't eaten rutabaga for more than twenty years, and I can't say that I missed it for most of that time. I didn't dislike it (I think I've yet to meet a vegetable that I didn't like), but it was never a particular favorite.

But I've gotten more interested in cooking root vegetables lately. (Because not much else is at its peak in the dead of winter.) So I picked up a few rutabagas. I ended up using both of them in soups, one of which was very successful - I'll post a recipe as soon as I finish writing it up. The other was just okay - the basic concept was sound, but the seasoning needed a little work. I think the flavor of the rutabaga works well in soups - it tastes something like a cross between a carrot and a potato, and if you cook it in a flavorful broth, it soaks up the flavors and becomes really meltingly delicious.

While I was slicing up the rutabaga for soup #2 last night, I tasted a bit of it raw and was surprised to discover that I liked it. I think it would be great with hummus.

The rutabagas I've gotten recently seem to be paler yellow and slightly milder in flavor than the ones I remember eating as a child. I wonder if the flavor difference is because my taste buds have changed, or because growing conditions are different.

I was also surprised to discover that rutabagas have very little vitamin A, which implies that their yellow coloring comes from something other than beta carotene. I wonder what it is?

Posted by spaceling at 11:08 AM | TrackBack

January 28, 2007

Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

This is another one from Nigel Slater's Appetite. This was the first time I had worked with store-bought puff pastry (or any kind of puff pastry for that matter). It's a great way to make something elegant with relatively little effort.

Though the technique is easy, this particular recipe is not quick, because you need to caramelize the onions. I think it took at least an hour, possibly longer - I didn't really keep track, because I was puttering around the kitchen with a friend, making other stuff, and just giving the onions the odd stir now and then. If you were pressed for time, I think the tart would be equally delicious with sauteed mushrooms, or cooked spinach, or thinly sliced artichoke hearts, or perhaps some sauteed eggplant and tomato, or...the possibilities are endless. Expect to see other tarts appear in this blog. (Though probably not right away - with the richness of the puff pastry and the cheese, this is definitely a "sometimes food".)

I served this cut up into itty bitty squares as a party snack, but it would work as a main dish paired with a nice green salad.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In your largest skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Pile in the onions, and cook, stirring now and then, until the onions are deep golden-brown and caramelized, at least 45 minutes, possibly longer.

    If you're like me, you're probably going to spend the first twenty minutes of this process looking at the onions and thinking, "Uh oh, they're not getting brown. It's not going to work." Patience. It will work.

  2. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. Lightly flour a baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry onto it.
  3. Score the pastry lightly with a knife to create a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Prick the area inside the border all over with a fork.
  4. Cut the cheese into small slices or break it up into small chunks.
  5. Spread the caramelized onions over the puff pastry inside the scored border. Tuck bits of cheese into the onion mixture.
  6. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Cut into squares and serve.

Posted by spaceling at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Chorizo and Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika and Sherry Vinegar

This soup was inspired by my coming across some apparently Spanish-style chorizo while shopping at Mollie Stone's. I'm not sure what made me decide to throw in rutabaga, because as far as I've been able to tell, it doesn't feature at all in Iberian cuisine. However, the Portuguese do make a stew that includes kale and potato, so perhaps the rutabaga is subbing for the potato. In any case, it tastes quite good.

This soup is very quick for something that tastes as rich as it does. I'll definitely be making it again.

I added the vinegar at the end of cooking because the soup tasted like it needed just a little something to pick up the flavors. It worked wonderfully. Something I need to keep in mind the next time a stew tastes a little blah - add some acid.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Brown the chorizo in a soup pot. If a lot of fat has rendered out, you might want to tip some off before proceeding.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring, until it gets fragrant.
  3. Add the rutabaga, kale, beans, chick peas, broth, paprika, and saffron. Simmer until the rutabaga is tender, about 20 minutes or so.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the sherry vinegar. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.
  5. Posted by spaceling at 09:48 PM

    January 07, 2007

    Farmers' Market Haul - 1/7/07

    This was a typical mid-winter farmers' market in many respects. You can find anything you could want, as long as all you want is citrus, beets, or winter greens.

    But I did score that item that I've been eagerly anticipating since winter began: Meyer Lemons!

    I still don't think I've figured out how to use Meyer lemons to fully bring out their distinctiveness, but I love them anyway. They're lovely to look at, and they smell great.

    Anyway, the total haul was:

    • 6 Meyer lemons

    • 1 bunch red chard

    • 1 bunch lemongrass

    • 1 bunch cilantro

    Total expenditure: $4. (I'm already thinking, "Man, I should have bought more lemons!" Maybe there will be more next week.)

    I've been disappointed in the lemongrass I've gotten at supermarkets recently, so we'll see if the stuff from the farmers' market does better.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:34 AM | TrackBack

    January 06, 2007

    My First Hachiya

    For those completely unfamiliar with persimmons, they come in two types: astringent and non-astringent. The astringent type, of which the most common example is the 'Hachiya', is bright orange, sort of acorn-shaped, and is unpalatably bitter until it is allowed to get very soft. (A process called bletting.) The non-astringent type, of which the most common example is the 'Fuyu', looks like a squat, squarish orange tomato, and can be eaten while still relatively firm.

    I'm a big fan of Fuyu persimmons. They're sweet, and taste sort of melon-like, without whatever quality it is in melons that I dislike. (It is my secret food shame - I can't stand most varieties of melon. I want to like them, but I just don't.) It's an easy fruit to make a pretty presentation out of - lately I like to make thin slices and fan them out on a plate as if I'm presenting a fruit sashimi.

    Many serious persimmon lovers have told me that while Fuyus are nice, they prefer the flavor of Hachiya persimmons. So, I finally got over my fear of bletting, and purchased a couple of Hachiya persimmons at the market. I put them on the counter and waited for them to get soft.

    And waited. And waited. I think it took about two weeks. Some online sources said that the persimmon should feel 'like a water balloon'. I didn't let it get quite that jiggly, but it was very soft all over when I finally cut it open, scooped out the flesh with a spoon, and ate it.

    And...I don't quite get what the fuss is about. It tasted like a persimmon. (There was certainly no hint of astringency, so at least I got it ripe enough.) If anything it was less intensely flavored than the best Fuyus that I've had. (I'm perfectly willing to believe that this was not the best Hachiya obtainable.)

    I still have a second one sitting on the counter. I expect it will be ready in a day or two. I might puree it with yogurt to make a smoothie or something, which might be kind of fun.

    Persimmon season is just about over as far as I can tell, so I probably won't get another chance to experiment with hachiyas until next year. Maybe then I'll figure out what the secret is.

    Posted by spaceling at 05:39 PM | TrackBack