Category Archives: Vegetables

Our Best Turnip Harvest Ever & 3 Delicious Turnip Recipes

DSC_2469Flipping out, I am, about our beautiful turnip harvest. For the first time, we planted a lot of fall turnips–almost 200 linear feet, which translates to hundreds of turnips. Better still, the greens are lush and not riddled with pest holes. The bulbs are plump and beautiful and also (so far) pretty damage-free. (We harvested the first roots yesterday and more today.) With the drought we’ve had, we were forced to turn the sprinklers on every day, and I think maybe the turnips really appreciated it.

And while we still have pears in mind from last week’s post (I’m doing another batch of honey-vanilla-roasted as I write), I wanted to remind you of one of my favorite quick recipes for roasting turnips and pears together and finishing with rosemary before I forget! (I’m pretty psyched that we have pears and turnips together on the farm stand right now, but I keep forgetting to put copies of that recipe out there!) But there are two other great ways to use turnips here on Sixburnersue.com. The first is in a great-technique for a stovetop slow sauté, a recipe called Caramelized Turnips, Potatoes & Carrots, with Onion and Thyme. And the second is in a beautiful winter salad. I also have many more turnip recipes in my books, including Honey Roasted Baby Turnips with Cremini Mushrooms in Fresh From the Farm. That’s a super easy recipe. So if you stumble upon some fresh turnips this weekend at your fall farmers’ market, don’t say I didn’t let you know what to do with them!

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How to Cook a Pattypan, A Shisito, A Fairy Tale, A Fingerling

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We’re growing a few fun and different veggies this year—in addition to the old favorites—just to keep things interesting. (Fun and different=Cute names, too!)

DSC_7426 The most beautiful? This Bel Fiore Radicchio.

The most trendy? Shisito peppers. Well, oops, apparently (according to this hysterical mock restaurant menu on Eater.com) this trend is now passé in certain circles, or at least ubiquitous, which is never a good thing. But for a market gardener, a cook, or an eater, Shisito peppers are a total win-win-win. The plants are prolific, the cooking is super easy—just toss with oil, cook in a hot cast-iron pan or in a grill basket until blistered (a few minutes), and season with sea salt. Eat the whole thing—absolutely delicious. Summer-crowd appetizer friendly, too.

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The most colorful?

photo-77photo-76 Our crazy collection of eggplants, including new additions Orient Charm (the lavender beauty) and Hansel and Gretel (the mini purples and slim whites). The cute little Fairy Tales are still new to many shoppers, and I do get some questions about how to cook them. (Hopefully I can write a full blog on eggplants before the summer’s out—most of the slim eggplants are really interchangeable, though Fairy Tale most definitely has a creamier flesh than the others.)

photo-74 And yet despite these less familiar vegetables, it’s something kind of classic (it’s a squash after all!) that seems to confound people the most. Every single day, I put all the green zucchini and the yellow pattypan squash in a big basket together. And every single day the zucchini quickly sell out before the pattypans. The pattypans do have their admirers—our Sunburst variety is so cheery—and there are some shoppers that exclaim, “Oh, my favorite!” and buy 5 or 6 at a time. But I finally realized it’s the shape that stumps many folks.

Because in reality, the texture of a pattypan is no different than a zucchini (as long as neither is overgrown) and you can dice or slice or grate or chop them both.  (The Sunburst pattypan, despite being yellow, does not have the seedy, watery texture of a crookneck or summer squash, but the firmer texture of a zucchini.) I think the flavor of a pattypan is actually a little sweeter than a zucchini.

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But when you look at a pattypan, especially a full-grown one, as opposed to the minis I’ve written about in the past (apparently my obsession with this subject has not waned), you do have to stop and think, now how am I going to cut this thing?

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DSC_7572Hence, my first suggestion: Slice it and roast it. Specifically, slice it North Pole to South Pole (not through the equator), with one of the Poles being the stem end. Slice it thinly, but not too thinly, brush or toss the pieces with oil and salt, and roast in a 425° degree oven until golden brown and tender, 18 to 20 minutes, turning over with tongs once if you like (see finished photo at top of blog). In the last few minutes, you can sprinkle with a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmigianno and parsley if you like (right). Serve as a sidedish with a squeeze of lemon. Or sandwich a bit of goat cheese between warm slices when they come out of the oven and drizzle with a black olive vinaigrette. (There’s a recipe for Grilled Antipasto of Green and Yellow Zucchini with Black Olive-Lemon Vinaigrette in Fresh from the Farm. You can also grill, rather than roast, the slices (just cut them a little thicker).

The slice shape also works just dandy in a vegetable gratin like this one—just replace the zucchini slices with the pattypans.

DSC_7721 For smaller pattypans, cutting them in wedges (as if you were cutting a pie) gives you nice chunky pieces to stir-fry, sauté, or cook in a grill basket on the grill.  As with any summer squash that contains a fair amount of moisture, using relatively high heat will brown up the vegetable before it has a chance to get mushy. Caramelization brings out the sweetness, too. (Find a stir-fry recipe here.)

Now for those of you who’ve been asking about cooking those little Fingerling potatoes, I’ve got a treat for you. Click here!

braisedfingerlings

 

 

 

 

 

How DO You Cook Those Japanese Baby Turnips, Anyway?

DSC_5455bunch 2We are just coming to the end of our first-ever harvest of Tokyo turnips, aka Japanese baby turnips. They aren’t really babies, but they are really delicious and beautiful and tender and juicy. (The greens are delicate and tasty, too.) We’ve never grown them (or a similar variety called Hakurei that’s popular at farmers’ markets) before, so I am pretty darn excited that they did well, and I can’t wait to grow more. I’m sure our cool weather helped, so I probably won’t seed again until fall.

It’s unusual for me to sell a vegetable at the farm stand that I haven’t cooked with much. And while I could certainly guess by the juicy raw texture and flavor that both minimal cooking (steaming, quick-braising, glazing) and browning (roasting, sautéing and stir-frying) would probably work with these, I couldn’t quickly reference one of my own recipes to help people cook them.

photo-64Fortunately, many of our farm stand customers are adventurous and competent cooks, so several of them forged ahead without me! One woman found a recipe for a nice sauté with potatoes in my fellow Island cookbook author friend Cathy Walther’s Greens, Glorious Greens, and on FaceBook, another cookbook author friend, Diane Morgan, suggested finishing a sauté with miso butter. I don’t have Cathy’s Greens book, though I know it’s a classic and well worth checking out, but I do have Diane’s award-winning Roots, and I can tell you there are more than a few really delicious recipes for turnip dishes in it, including one called Kashmiri-Style Turnips with Greens that led me to think I wasn’t crazy to want to pair cilantro (and ginger) with the baby turnips. The cilantro is flourishing in the cool spring garden, alongside the turnip bed.

Today (thank God for the rain!) I finally got a chance to mess around with the Japanese turnips in the kitchen. Since we had sold all the good-sized and blemish-free roots at the farm stand, I was left with only teeny-tiny roots and some bigger damaged roots, so I had no choice but to cut everything about ½-inch in size. (That meant no cutting for the teeniest mini-marbles.) But I think I would favor that size anyway—or wedges if all my roots were similar sized—for the quickest cooking. I did both a quick par-boil and a quick sauté, adding the greens only briefly to wilt at the end in the sauté , and with lemon and butter, found that the baby turnips really do make a super-quick spring side dish.

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DSC_5233Then I indulged my desire to go Asian, and did a stir-fry with soba noodles—and ate the whole thing for lunch. (It would have served two easily with some grilled shrimp. Photos very top and below.) Originally I thought I might go all the way and turn it into an Asian noodle soup, as the greens would be so perfect for one of these. (And one small turnip—generally about 2 inches in diameter—has a lot of greens attached.) But I was afraid the turnip roots would get lost in the soup, so I kept it noodle-y. I’m including the recipe below in narrative form, as I wouldn’t want to give you a set-in-stone recipe without testing again with more uniform turnips and more exact proportions.

 

To make Soba Noodles with Stir-Fried Baby Turnips, Ginger & Cilantro: DSC_5470

Cook a handful of soba noodles separately in boiling water. (Follow the package directions, but shorten the cooking time a bit.) Drain and hold. Get out a non-stick stir-fry pan or a big non-stick sauté pan and heat just a couple teaspoons of vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil) over medium heat. Add about a cup of diced baby turnip roots (trimmed) and a couple big pinches of kosher or sea salt. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger, one-half teaspoon of chopped garlic, about ¼ cup thickly sliced spring onions or scallions, and a couple tablespoons of quartered, sliced radishes. (If I’d had a small Serrano pepper, I would have added a bit of it, chopped, too.)

Stir, cooking, until fragrant and a bit softened. Add a half cup of chicken broth or other broth and about 2 cups torn, stemmed turnip greens. Stir until the greens are wilted. Add the soba noodles and stir well to combine. Add a mix of fresh lemon (or lime) juice and soy sauce (one-half to one teaspoon of each or to taste) and a tablespoon or more of torn fresh cilantro leaves. Stir, remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a bit more cilantro and some sliced spring onion or scallion green tops.  (Serves 1 or 2)

 

photo-66P.S. I almost completely forgot. The first thing I actually did with the baby turnips a few days ago was to add them to one of my slow-sautes with carrots and potatoes. I’d forgotten I had a few in the fridge, and cut them just as a i was starting to cook the potatoes and carrots. They cook a little more quickly than purple-topped turnips, so you can certainly use them deliciously in one of these, but I might add them half-way through cooking.

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Ten Things to do with Celery Root

croot 2This week marks the 4-year anniversary of sixburnersue.com. Yay Sixburnersue! Whew. That’s a lot of blog posts. To celebrate, I’m going the “Throwback Thursday” route and reaching into the archives to repost one of the earliest—and believe it or not, most popular—posts I have done. And yes, I’m talking about celery root. The reason people frequently land on this post (actually two posts–you might want to read Cinderalla Celery Root first!) is pretty simple, I think: There isn’t a lot of great info out there about cooking celery root (celeriac). So when people search for it, they wind up here!

croot 3So, you’re in luck if you happen to be harboring a few of these hairy, gnarly looking roots. You can click straight through to the delicious Creamy Celery Root and Potato Gratin recipe. Or you can peruse this list of 10 ideas and get started down the road to celery root bliss!

1. Slice celery root into thin matchsticks (or grate it coarsely) and toss it (raw) into a winter salad of endive, sliced pears, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese.

2. Make roasted celery root “chips.” Slice the root in half and then into quarters; then slice each quarter as thinly as possible. (A santoku knife is great for this). Toss the pieces in enough olive oil to coat, sprinkle with salt, spread on a heavy-duty sheet pan; and roast at 350°F until they are mostly a deep golden brown, with some white left. (I think the darker ones are crispier, but too dark and they’ll taste bitter.) Let them cool on the sheet pan to finish crisping up. Sprinkle with more salt and snack on the couch with your favorite DVD.croot 4

3.  Since celery root and potatoes are such a great match, use them together in a hearty winter soup. Sauté lots of sliced leeks in butter, add cubed celery root, potatoes, and chicken or vegetable broth, simmer until tender, puree, and enhance with a touch of cream, a little lemon zest, lots of chopped fresh parsley and crispy croutons.

4. Apples and celery root are also happy partners. Use them raw together in a salad, or try roasting them first and adding them to a warm escarole salad with crispy strips of ham and a warm Dijon vinaigrette.

5.  Make a celery root “galette” by lining a tart pan with a couple layers of thinly sliced circles of celery root and gruyere cheese. Bake at 400°F until browned and tender. (Cover for the first half of cooking.) Let cool and slice into wedges.

6. Try a “quick braise” of celery root. Brown diced celery root in a combination of butter and olive oil in a sauté pan, then add just enough liquid (a little broth spiked with apple cider), cover and reduce the liquid to finish cooking the vegetables. Uncover, toss with a little spiced butter, and serve warm.

croot 57. Instead of chips, you can also dice celery root for roasting. Make a quick weeknight side dish of roasted celery root and Yukon Gold potatoes with honey and rosemary. Cut the vegetables into ½-inch dice, toss in olive oil and salt, and roast on a sheet pan at 425°F until browned and tender. Dress lightly with a combination of melted butter, honey, and chopped fresh rosemary.

8. Celery root  is also a good flavor match with seafood.  A bed of celery root puree for a sear-roasted fish filet is delicious. Cut the root (and a few small potatoes) into pieces and simmer them with a few small garlic cloves until tender. Puree the vegetables with a little of the cooking liquid, a bit of cream, and salt and pepper.

9. Instead of a puree, make a celery root “mash” by hand-mashing cooked celery root and potatoes together with butter and milk and a little sautéed garlic. Serve with pot roast.

10. For an elegant holiday side dish—or even a hearty weeknight main dish with a salad—make my recipe for a celery root and potato gratin I use a combination of heavy cream and chicken broth so it is rich but not too heavy; this is a good dish to introduce celery root to folks.

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Of Fish Gifts and Fingerlings

Really, it is too hot to write a blog. (No, my “office” in the old farm house is not air conditioned.) I thought I’d seen heat, what with growing up in Washington, D.C., and spending summers in North Carolina in un-airconditioned cabins. But I guess I’m old. And I guess farming is really one of the worst activities to do in a heat wave (or humidity wave, I should say). I keep trying to get up earlier and earlier to harvest, but it doesn’t matter what time I get up—it’s already hot. (Doing anything in the middle of the day is out of the question.)

Today, three tee-shirts and two (outdoor) showers later, I’m sitting at my desk, but really none the cooler.

Earlier in the week, I was all blasé about this heat thing, and actually did some cooking. In fact, I turned on both the oven and the stove (several burners). I was all excited because our neighbor Ralph Savery brought us a bucket of quahogs. First I made a quick chowder with some of our fingerling potatoes, onions, and fresh thyme. Delicious. The next night I made spicy linguine with clams. There are still a few clams left, which Roy is threatening to turn into Clams Casino—if we ever turn the oven (or broiler) back on at this point.

Back in the old days (before-Susie, before-farming), Roy got to go fishing every once in a while. Even the two of us would occasionally harvest mussels or go crabbing. Not anymore. Luckily, friends take pity on us and bring us stuff. I am grateful.

A few weeks ago, a new friend brought me a double-bonus: A very freshly filleted piece of blue fish caught that morning by her husband Jeff, and a copy of her new cookbook, Living off the Sea. Melinda Fager and her family spend summers on Chappaquiddick Island, and make their meals almost exclusively off what they catch and forage. Before I’d even met Melinda, I was asked to review the galleys of her book this past winter. I fell in love with the photos, the stories, and with the recipes—simple, fresh, and perfectly in tune with casual summer living. So if Roy doesn’t get his hands on those last clams, I’m going to make her Stuffed Quahogs. (And I’ve got quite a few other recipes from Living off the Sea tagged—from Blueberry Bread to “Blue Dogs” to Victoria’s Chappaquiddick Gumbo.)

In the spirit of making the most of what you’ve got, I’ve also been cooking a lot of our own fingerlings. Every time we pull a plant, we get a bunch of little tiny tubers in addition to the bigger potatoes that everyone loves. I think the tiny tubers are the cutest darn things, and I’ve tried packaging up and selling them in half-pints. But they don’t move too fast, I think because many of our farm-stand shoppers are cooking for a crowd and don’t think they’ll stretch.

But I’m suspecting that folks also may be wondering what to do with them. Well, not only are they the quick dinner’s best friend (boiled and dressed in less than 10 minutes, no peeling), but they make especially tasty roasted potatoes (before photo above). With that ratio of skin-to-flesh, they get all crunchy and poppy. Libby gives them a 10. We just toss them with olive oil, fresh rosemary, and a little MV Sea Salt, spread them in one layer, and roast at 400 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. (If you don’t have teeny-tiny potatoes, try cutting red potatoes into small dice—they’ll roast up nice and toasty, too.)

But don’t try that tonight if you live on the East Coast in an un-airconditioned home. Turn on the grill or go to the beach and wait for the thunderstorms to blow us through a little cool air. And then, by all means, turn your ovens back on!

 

 

Summer Veggies Have A Mind of Their Own

Harumph. I am so not very patient, and just cannot believe that the summer vegetables are on their own schedule, not mine. I mean, really. Hurry up, already!

I am all disgruntled partly because while I did a good job on my spring planting, I once again under-planted for early summer. Peas and carrots are all gone, lettuce has bolted, bok choy a distant memory. And I apparently have still not mastered the art of controlling insects that eat chard and kale—argh! So I am putting undue pressure on the squash, beans, peppers, eggplants, flowers, and yes, tomatoes, to hurry up. (Fortunately, we’re getting a great yield on our potatoes, which Roy has been harvesting every day, and eggs are flying out of here as fast as we can gather and wash them.)

Finally this week we started to harvest a little of each of the summer veg. But am I grateful? Noooo, of course not. All I can do is complain (to myself) that there aren’t more. It takes a while for everything to really start producing, but I can’t wait! To make myself feel better (Roy does not seem at all concerned about this), I’ve been madly weeding and replanting the open beds with carrots, turnips, fall squash, more kale, more summer squash (to foil the squash borers) and whatnot. And, um, lecturing the eggplant. (“Could you try to produce more than one fruit at a time please?”) The poor eggplant—it’s a new variety called Orient Express, and it’s already providing fruit three weeks ahead of last year. (Apparently my patience gets shorter and shorter every year.)

At some point I realize that these conversations I’m having with myself and the vegetables are not very productive. And that, in reality, we have more of the summer veggies planted than we’ve ever had, so we should be overflowing in August. So when I start complaining about all the time we’re spending harvesting beans and tomatoes, you can just kick me. Or something.

In the meantime, I’m offering a few pics of this week’s goodies. They do make my heart sing!

 


Pretty in Purple—Pak Choi for the Plate and Palate

It’s only May 1 and already we may have grown the prettiest vegetable we’ll see all season. (You can remind me I’ve said this when I start waxing on about peas and cherry tomatoes and Fairy Tale eggplants.) But honestly, this little purple pac choi (aka bok choy) is simply stunning. We can’t keep it at the farm stand for a minute, and I’m hoping I’ll get another round transplanted before it gets too hot. If you’re interested in growing this ethereal veggie (sweet, crunchy, tangy and light), you can still order seeds from Fedco and plant it in the fall.

Me, I think I’d better start eating more of the stuff. The purple color is the result of anthocyanins, which supposedly improve memory. I could use that, since I  completely forgot to make time for the blog post this week (a lot of farm work going on around here!) and now I am off to Maine to teach two classes at the fabulous Stonewall Kitchen this weekend. Wish you could all be there to join me!

New at the Grocery Store: Baby Kale + 10 Ways to Use It

We are just going to ignore the fact that 7 inches of snow fell here last night and pretend that it truly is spring.

So let’s talk about spring greens, specifically baby kale. I am very excited that baby kale is finally making it into mainstream supermarkets. I’ve seen more of it just in the last couple months, since I first mentioned it in a blog post back in February. Now I’ve seen boxes (right) or bags of it in three different grocery store chains. (One to look for is Earthbound Farm’s Mixed Baby Kales.)

Mostly I am excited because baby kale is a much more versatile veggie than mature kale. (See ideas below.) It is also tastier, more tender, and a whole lot more palatable. Roy and Farmer both eat the stuff without blinking.

I’ve never been a big fan of the tough leaves of huge, curly-type kales, and in fact, when I wrote Fast, Fresh & Green four years ago, I insisted that everyone par-boil kale before using it in most other dishes, or confine it to soups and braises. I still think it’s a good idea to soften kale first before adding it to pastas or gratins, but now I don’t necessarily freak out when I see chefs and cooks “sautéing” raw kale. With a young or tender variety, a simple sauté is just fine. (But try “sautéing” the older, tougher leaves and you will still have something pretty chewy on your plate.) I’m even embracing kale salads!

I’m also kind of excited about this baby kale trend, because I’m quite sure it came straight from the farmers’ markets. Market growers have been selling baby kale for a while, first in baby salad green mixes and then on its own. I have to laugh, as I stumbled into selling mostly baby and small leaves of kale at our farm stand (see mix at top), because I have trouble controlling damage from cabbage worms, which for some odd reason like the older, bigger leaves better than the little tender ones. Also, I can harvest the first baby kale leaves very early in the spring time, so it gives me something to sell while I’m waiting for other things. In fact, I’ve got the first little leaves of Red Russian Kale forming in the hoop house now (left).

It’s also fun to see that the baby kale mixes in the grocery store are featuring a few different varieties of kale so folks can begin to notice the differences. The mix I bought yesterday has some baby Lacinato in it. This is the variety of kale (also called Tuscan Kale or Dinosaur Kale–shown growing at right) that really won my affection, and now I grow both a green and a purple variety of it.

Best of all, baby kale, whether you get it at the grocery store or the farm stand, is pretty much an instant side dish—even easier to prepare than spinach, since it is cleaner. (Small stems can be removed or not). Because kale grows upright, several inches off the ground, it doesn’t harbor dirt the way spinach does.

Okay, so here are some ideas for using baby kale. Why, you could practically eat the stuff every day. So now you have no excuses for avoiding this nutritional powerhouse:

1. Cook a simple sauté: Mince a clove of garlic and a half inch of fresh ginger, heat in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes until sizzling. Add kale leaves and a sprinkle of salt and toss until wilted.

2. Trick up the sauté: Do the above and add a combination of a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and maple syrup in at the end. Stir and let thicken for a minute. Remove and eat right away. (Or sub soy sauce for the balsamic.)

3. Make a kale salad: Make a quick vinaigrette of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, a wee bit of anchovy (and/or a touch of honey) if you like, salt and fresh pepper. Toss the leaves well, rubbing the dressing in a bit with your hands. Let sit, then toss with crumbled fresh goat cheese or feta and toasted pine nuts or toasted almonds.

4. Make a frittata/savory bread pudding (like we did last night) with cubes of toasted English muffin, cheddar cheese, sausage, thyme, Dijon, and wilted baby kale. (Cook the sausage first and wilt the kale leaves with it.)

5. Make a topper: Put the salad (see No. 3 above) on top of grilled bread, pizza, toasted pita, naan or other flatbread.

6. Make a filler: Take the simple sauté (No. 1) and combine it with caramelized onions and a good aged cheese to make a yummy quesadilla filling or taco stuffing.

7. Make a quick soup: Infuse store-bought chicken broth with flavor by sautéing sausage, garlic, and shallots until brown. Simmer, add store-bought tortellini; add lots of kale leaves–and a dash of lemon or vinegar–at the end. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with grated Parmigiano.

8. Pair with seafood: We eat a lot of our local bay scallops while they’re in season (now–soon to be over). I often do a quick scallop sauté (very high heat to cook them quickly, and again I use ginger and garlic, and usually a bit of lemon zest and/or orange juice) and fold kale leaves in at the end for a main-and-veggie-in-one supper, served over mashed potatoes or rice. You could do the same thing with shrimp. Or wilt the kale separately and use it as a bed for roast cod or salmon or halibut.

9. Try chips & drinks: Yes, you can make kale chips and green smoothies out of this stuff, too, but you’ll have to talk to someone else about that!

10. Don’t forget slaw: Add baby kale to coleslaw (right) or any other marinated veggie dish.

 

P.S. If you’re inspired and want to grow kale in your garden this year, here are three nice varieties: Red Russian, Lacinato, and Rainbow Lacinato. The latter—a cross between Lacinato and Redbor kale—is my favorite—a beautiful crinkly purple leaf with a tender texture. (You can get a hint of it in the couple of baby leaves shown in the top photo–the color is stunning.) Don’t spend money on kale starts (six-packs); it’s not necessary since kale germinates well and grows quickly. Sow seeds directly as soon as the soil warms up to about 50°. You can sow the seeds thickly if you are going to harvest baby greens, but later you’ll want to thin the plants to about 8 to 10 inches apart. You can let those plants grow and harvest new and bigger leaves all summer (and fall—and even into winter).

 

Photo below—greens from my friend Jessica Bard’s garden.

 

Midwinter Midweek Mahogany Mushrooms

Except for an ill-fated attempt to grow mushrooms in a box last winter and the occasional mini-fungi that pop up in the garden mulch, we do not grow mushrooms here on the farm. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve neglected writing much about this most meaty of vegetables.

But yesterday I was paging through Fast, Fresh & Green, looking for appropriate recipes for two classes I’ll be teaching at Stonewall Kitchens in Maine in May, and I stumbled upon these Mahogany Mushrooms. Oh, I’d forgotten how much I love cooking mushrooms like this. Chunky, fast, hot, browned, glazed–yum. Wan, undercooked, undercolored mushrooms are not my thing. If you follow this technique, that fate will not befall you.

Just to check, I made a batch this morning and Farmer and I ate them for lunch with some scrambled eggs. He gave the mushrooms ten licks (his rating system—it has to do with how much he licks his chops after sampling a dish). We did have a little problem with a slightly smoky kitchen since the front door is taped up for the winter and of course there is no ventilation hood in our antiquated kitchen. So when Roy got home from roofing, he was kind of wondering what Farmer and I had been up to. But he wonders that most days.

Seriously, I think Mahogany Mushrooms are a perfect side dish or antipasto for this time of year and that’s why I’m sharing them with you. Great with hamburgers or roast chicken or sautéed winter greens, or yes, eggs.

Mahogany Mushrooms

Sautéing over pretty high heat keeps these mushrooms juicy while getting them brown at the same time. A tangy glaze gives them a beautiful sheen, too.

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1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ketchup

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound Cremini (or baby bella) mushrooms, quartered if large, halved if small

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

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In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water and set the bowl near the stove. Put a shallow serving dish near the stove as well.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms and the salt and stir right away. Continue stirring just until the mushrooms have absorbed all the fat.

Let the mushrooms sit undisturbed and cook for 2 minutes, then stir once. Don’t worry; the pan may look crowded and dry, but keep the heat up at medium high. Let sit and cook again, stirring infrequently (they will “squeak” when you stir them), until the mushrooms are shrunken, glistening, and some sides have developed a deep orange-brown color,  9 to 10 minutes (the bottom of the pan will be very brown).

Turn the heat to low and add the garlic and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk the soy sauce mixture again and very carefully add it to the pan. You’ll need to scrape out the brown sugar, but don’t stand directly over the pan as there will be sputtering. Stir and cook just until the liquids thicken slightly and coat the mushrooms, another 15 to 20 seconds. Quickly transfer the mushrooms to a shallow serving dish, scraping all of the sauce out of the pan with a rubber spatula. Let sit for a few minutes and serve warm.

Serves 4

 

Winter Squash Taste Test: Geeky, Yes, But Don’t You Want to Know the Results?

Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Take my boyfriend, Roy, for example. I’m sure when he met me, he had no idea that one day he’d be standing around the kitchen island (which he built for me) with seven spoons and a heap of roasted squash in front of him. Fortunately, what I didn’t know (but suspected) when I met him, is that he’s a really good sport. Last Sunday, he agreed to do the winter squash taste test with me. Lucky him.

I dreamed up this little experiment after we found ourselves in possession of several different kinds of winter squash. I’ve loved taste comparisons ever since I was introduced to them at culinary school years ago. We did a lot of them at Fine Cooking, too, in order to recommend brands of chicken stock or canned tomatoes or olive oil to cooks. The worst taste test we ever did was butter. Tasting 8 different brands of butter in one morning will make anyone feel sick. The best? Bittersweet chocolate, of course. In fact, I’ve learned so much about flavor differences in both natural and manmade products over the years from taste tests, that I’m constantly urging other cooks to conduct their own at home. (A great place to start is with something you buy and use a lot, like extra-virgin olive oil. Buy a few different grocery-store brands and taste them side by side to find your favorite—you’ll be amazed at how different they are. Lately I’ve been liking Trader Joe’s Spanish olive oil.)

But not to belabor the point, here’s how we conducted the squash test: I cut each of the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, seasoned them ever so lightly with a little salt, and roasted them, cut side-down, on buttered parchment paper, until they were completely tender and lightly caramelized (about 1 hour 20 minutes on average). I turned the squash over, let them cool a bit, and scooped some of the flesh out of each for us to taste side by side. We each had one or two bites of each squash, and I took notes on the taste, texture, and color.

The first thing I noticed of course, before we even tasted, was the big range in color and texture among the squash. (To identify the squash, see the photo at the end of the blog with IDs underneath.)The Red Kuri, Buttercup, and Butternut squash have deep orangey-red flesh and a dense texture. The Delicata, Acorn, Sweet Dumpling, and Carnival all had a more yellowy golden flesh, although within them, the texture varies (Delicata and Dumpling being creamy, Acorn and Carnival more fibrous.) The cool part of the comparison, though, was how different they all tasted. Here’s what we thought.

Butternut—smooth, rich, dense flesh with a distinctively nutty flavor
Red Kuri—texture like a baked potato, very robust smoky-nutty flavor, intensely “squashy” in a good way; deeply colored (Susie’s favorite)
Buttercup—dense flesh with a very flavorful flesh reminiscent of caramel and peanuts
Delicata—very creamy flesh, light and bright tasting, flavor hints of summer squash
Carnival—moderately fibrous flesh, light sweet-sour flavor, our least favorite (sorry, Carnival)
Sweet Dumpling—flesh is a bit fibrous but creamy too, very sweet with a bit of tang, a light flavor
Acorn—fibrous texture but with a complex nutty-sweet-bright flavor (Roy’s favorite)

So there you have our unofficial and biased results. I’d recommend trying the Red Kuri if you haven’t, and I’d consider using it or Buttercup in place of Butternut in soups for a richer flavor. Though Carnival is a beguiling looking squash, I’d definitely stick with the similar but better tasting Acorn for stuffing, or go with the pleasantly sweet and creamy Delicata or Dumpling.

Squash IDs, clockwise, starting from top left: Butternut, Acorn, Carnival, Red Kuri, Buttercup, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling