Entries from October 2011 ↓

Parsnips – who knew?

As a child I was granted by my parents one, and only one, food item I would not have to eat.

I picked cooked carrots.
I still dislike them intensely. So when we received parsnips in our CSA box this week I was suspicious. They seemed entirely too carrot like for my comfort. But since CSA was overly generous with this last box of the season and our refrigerator protests by icing up when the crispers are too full, I needed to move some product in last night’s dinner – quick.

One of my standard go-to’s these days is roasted vegetables – super easy aside from the washing, peeling and chopping. Oven around 400°, toss with olive oil, herbs and spices and roast with a toss or two for about 30 – 45 minutes depending what’s in it. Cut hard dense things (beets, potatoes, radishes,  parsnips!) a bit smaller than light wet things (mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli)  and they’ll all get done around the same time. It’s a pretty much fail-safe non-recipe.

I figured that if the parsnips were nasty, at least we had plenty of other veggie nuggets to eat. Well, man was I surprised – they were the best of the bunch. Their texture is like roasted potatoes, crispy on the outside, dense by fluffy on the inside. And the taste (at least to me) is nothing like what happens to poor carrots when they are subjected to heat. There is something spicy and a bit sweet about them that combined with that texture could get addictive.

Just goes to show that it pays to be open to new tastes and experiences.

Say it loud, say it proud – Soyrizo!

photo: Jeff Moser

Although we aren’t vegetarian, life has conspired to prevent us from cooking meat at home, or at least mostly.  This has led to some need for creativity with protein sources and I wanted to share one of our best finds. Soyrizo! Vegan, no GMO, healthy, kosher & absolutely delicious. Not usually a fan of soy meat alternatives, I was surprised and happy about how much we love this. Foodie friends make shake their heads, but they really don’t know what they are missing.

A  favorite way to use soyrizo is fried up with onions and some cooked cubed potatoes in tacos or tostadas with fresh tortillas, salsa, cheese, lettuce, avacado – the works. So good.

The other night I made a version of the traditional Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde, by frying some up with paprika, garlic and onions, adding sliced potatoes and a couple cups of broth and cooking for 15 minutes. Then a big bunch of chopped kale went in and was wilted. This was amazing and perfect for the chilly fall weather setting in.

Also try it with scrambled eggs,  burritos, chile and black or white beans. It’s greasy (but healthy), crumbly and a bit messy to get out of the plastic casing, but worth an extra swipe of the sponge. Trader Joe’s makes a version that is equally tasty and may cost less depending on where you live.

So give it a try – it’s really tasty, I promise! Don’t just take my word for it – even folks at Chow Hound love it (well some of them anyways).


How to Make a Potluck Winner (aka Cheesy Veg Bake)

There is a bit of a background story on this one so scroll on down if you just want the recipe. Oh, and sorry I didn’t get photos like I planned :(

Since we joined our local Grange a few months ago one of the highlights has been the food at the pre-meeting potlucks (where all the real work gets done, btw). While I have always had a bit of performance anxiety around bringing something crowd worthy to communal food gatherings, these folks really raise the bar. I live in a community of exceptionally good cooks. With big gardens full of the freshest ingredients. It can be a little intimidating. Last time I brought what I thought was a lovely Caesar Pasta Salad, only to be a middling contender amongst half a dozen pasta salads. We brought home half the dish – which was darn tasty the next day, but still…

You see my goal is to bring home an empty container, and if I’m honest, I wouldn’t be upset if lack of getting seconds of my dish caused some mild grumpiness.

But on the flip side is my “Made Up Food” personality and the fact that I just can’t seem to bring myself to follow a recipe to the letter. Plus we really didn’t have the time or inclination to haul ourselves to the store. So what can be made with this week’s CSA veg?

I’ll be posting more about my methods, and asking for new ones soon, but suffice to say I did what I always do and scoured a bunch of recipes to steal bits from. I have come to believe that most vegetables taste best roasted, so instead of the common boiling, that’s what I did. It does take a bit more time and effort but I think it is the key for this dish. I hold up the fact that my big Pyrex casserole was squeaky clean before anyone had seconds. And it had some serious competition at what was the best potluck yet.

Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli & Potato Cheese Bake

  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 3-4 medium/small potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • fresh herbs or dried such as rosemary, thyme, basil and/or oregano
  • sprinkle of chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Clean and chop vegetables in bite size pieces, toss with olive oil, herbs & spices on lightly greased baking sheet and roast in 375 ° oven for 15 minutes, check and stir/flip pieces.

Roast for another 15- 20 minutes until browned and tender. When they are done transfer them to a casserole dish. I used a big 13 x 9 but you can do a thicker layer in a square or round if you increase the backing time.

Once they are on the final stage you can get busy with the
Cheese sauce

  •         2 tablespoons butter
  •         2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •         3/4 – 1 cup milk
  •         2/3 cup milk + 2 TBSP plain Yogurt ( because I ran out of milk, a happy accident)
  •         about 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I added a bit of Parmesan)
  •         1 teaspoon good mustard
  •         1/2 tsp mustard powder (if you have it)
  •         chili powder ( I think about 1 tsp)
  •         cayenne pepper to taste
  •         salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter, and stir in flour. Gradually whisk in milk, and increase heat to medium. As the mixture thickens, whisk in the spices. Add the mustard and continue whisking until a thick sauce has formed, being careful not to allow the mixture to boil. Sprinkle in 2/3 of the cheese, and stir until melted.

Pour sauce over broccoli and cauliflower. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese during the final 10 minutes of cooking. This part only took 20 min + 5 for me since the big dish yielded a fairly thin layer. This also resulted in more cripsy bits per square inch, so that was a good thing.

There it is, a lick your plate clean potluck option. The only sad part of this story is that dear husband missed out on tasting the final product because he was too polite on the first round and it was gone by the time he went to refill his plate. Based on his dismay, I don’t think that’s going to happen next time.