Archive for the ‘About Food’ Category
April 26 is National Pretzel Day and I wanted to share my recipe for traditional Italian
pretzels called taralli.
Just about anyone of Italian descent is familiar with taralli. Common all along the southern provinces of Italy, taralli are crunchy and pretzel-like and are eaten as bread or enjoyed as a snack.
These baked snacks are often referred to in English as biscotti, because technically it is cooked twice (the definition of biscotti). But the end product is nothing at all like a biscotti. In both appearance and texture, these are more like hard pretzels.
Believed by many to have originated in Puglia, where bread reigns supreme and bread-like products are abundant, taralli start off much the same way as other pretzels: they are shaped, boiled, and baked until hard and crisp. There is a subtle difference between taralli and pretzels, though. Pretzels are often made with eggs, which give them a “softer” crunch flakier texture than taralli, and the spices added to taralli make them the perfect accompaniment to meals.
I never had much of a sweet tooth, not even as a child. I got this trait from my mother, who would (and still does) pass up a slice of cake for a tasty cracker and some grapes anytime. This proclivity, plus a desire to avoid giving her family too many sweets, my mother has always made taralli for us to snack on.
The crunchy, pretzel-shaped treat and, fennel seeds give these biscuits their unique flavor and aroma, but sweeter versions can also be found.
Although taralli are eaten throughout the year, production by bakeries and home cooks alike ramps up around holidays. This Easter, I helped my mother make the taralli and here are some shots of the process, as well as her recipe, which appeared in my cookbook, What, No Meat? Traditional Italian Cooking the Vegetarian Way. Enjoy.
Biscotti di Mamma (My Mother’s Pretzels)
1 package active dry yeast
5 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons fennel or anise seeds
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/3 cups corn oil
Sprinkle the yeast into 1 cup very warm water. Let it sit until it is murky, about 5 minutes. Stir until all the yeast is dissolved.
On a kneading board, make a well of flour. Have about 2 cups warm water nearby. Sprinkle the salt and seeds over the flour. Place the remaining ingredients in the center of the well and begin mixing by working your way around the inside of the well with your hand and pulling in the dry ingredients, a little at a time. Mix all the ingredients well. If the dough is too dry, add a little water as you mix. Knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be firm but not tough. If it is too wet, add a little more flour and work it in. If it is too dry, add more water and work it in.
Cut the dough in half. Cover one half with a bowl until you are ready to use it. Cut off several 1-inch pieces from the other half and cover the rest with a bowl. Roll a piece out into a 1/4-inch-thick rope. Fold over the ends of the rope to make a criss-cross shape. Press the ends in firmly or they will come apart. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.
As you are shaping the last few pretzels, bring a large pot of water to boil. Place several pretzels into the boiling water (this will give them a flaky texture and a shiny exterior). When they rise to the surface, remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and place them on a clean cloth towel to dry. They should only take about 30 seconds to rise. If they don’t rise after a minute, nudge them a little with the spoon—they sometimes stick to the bottom of the pot. Boil the remaining pretzels and allow them to dry out, about 10 minutes.
As the pretzels are drying, preheat the oven to 375. When the pretzels are dry, lay them directly on the oven racks, about ½ inch apart, and bake them until the undersides are a golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn them over and bake until their undersides are deep golden brown, another 10 minutes. If they burn quickly, lower the oven to 350º. They will not all brown at the same rate so keep checking them. Remove the ones that are done and replace them with others.
Serve them as a snack or as an accompaniment to antipasto or dinner.
Store the pretzels in a tin or loosely covered in a basket up to 2 months.
Makes 70 to 80 pretzels.
Yes, I said deliciousness. No other nut makes me as happy as pecans. In fact, when I travel down South, I try to find a place to buy pecans in bulk to take home. The problem with pecans, you see, is that they’re also one of the most expensive nuts around (I think the most expensive ones are macadamias and pignolis). But they are cheaper in the South, where they are grown and harvested. When I’m in the vicinity of Montgomery, AL, I stop by Priester’s Pecans, on I-65 South, in Fort Deposit, AL, and get myself a 5-pound bag.
The word “pecan” comes from an Algonquin word meaning “nuts that require a stone to crack.” Pecan trees are native to North America and planting began as early as the 1600s. By the 1700s, pecans played an important part in American commerce, and were exported to various parts of the world. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to love pecans.
Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. In terms of vitamins, they are an excellent source of vitamin E and B vitamins (such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid), vitamin B-6, and folates. They also contain manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
March 25 is National Pecan Day, so in honor of this most excellent of nuts, here’s my recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Pecan Dressing. Enjoy!
|Roasted Cauliflower with Pecan-Breadcrumb Dressing|
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons of the oil,* and salt and pepper. Combine well. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until tender and lightly browned.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil; add the breadcrumbs and pecans and toast over medium-low heat, stirring often, until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn them. Add the cauliflower, mix well, and cook 1 minute longer.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
*If you find that not all the cauliflower is coated in oil, add a bit more.
As you might suspect, it’s believed that oatmeal cookies got their beginning in Scotland, where oats are an integral part of life. They began as oat cakes and eventually evolved into the cookie we know today. The first written oatmea- raisin cookie recipe appeared in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook in 1896, in which Fannie Merritt Farmer referred to them as “health food.” Quaker Oats began putting a recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies on their boxes of oat,s and by the early 1900s, it was a household dessert.
So, in honor of National Oatmeal Cookie Day, March 18, here’s a basic recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup quick oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a couple of large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Using a mixer, cream together the butter with the 2 sugars. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture and blend well. Finally, stir in the oats and raisins.
- Place the dough by the tablespoonful on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.
Although blond brownies, or blondies, aren’t as popular as brownies, it is believed that they may have predated brownies. Foodtimeline.org states:
According to old cookbooks, blonde brownies (also known as “Blondies”) predated chocolate brownies, though under different names. The primary ingredients of blondies (brown sugar/molasses and butter) compose butterscotch, a candy that was popular in America in the mid-19th century. Some 19th century American cookbooks contain recipes that combined traditional butterscotch ingredients with flour and a leavening agent (baking powder or soda). Presumably, these recipes would have produced something similar to the blonde brownies we enjoy today.
I’ve made some pretty good blondies, rivaling the many brownies I’ve made and tasted. I’ve
also been experimenting a lot with making gluten-free/wheat-free baked goods because I’ve been getting a lot of requests for them and I tried my hand at blondies. For people who have a wheat allergy but not Celiac Disease, I found that a 1:1 substitution of spelt flour works very well.
Also, generally speaking, blondies can be boring to look at. Unlike a brownie, with its dark, alluring, chocolaty sheen, blondies don’t exactly draw you in with their plain-jane appearance. Topping are how you will appeal where blondies are concerned. I don’t think frosting is a good idea, because they can easily be mistaken for one of those Entenmann’s-type cakes in a box (not that I have anything against Entenmann’s). Plus, frosting is boring. Toppings give the blondies some zip. You can try chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, etc.
This is my version of blondies, with spelt flour and walnut-chocolate chip topping.
|Nut-Chocolate Chip Blondies|
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 2 cups packed brown sugar
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup milk (regular, soy, almond, or coconut)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Using a mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and blend well. Add vanilla, milk, and egg and blend until smooth.
- Pour into baking pan and smooth it out. Spread the nuts and chocolate chips evenly across the top.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Blondies can be a blank canvas for many different flavor profiles. Try using different chips, like white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, or cinnamon, or adding coconut, dried fruit, sesame seeds, or M&Ms.
The problem is that in order to get a really good black cake, you have to begin the process at least several weeks in advance, and who’s thinking about Christmas in September? (Okay, well, many of you probably start your Christmas shopping in July, but the way my life has been going the past several years, my thoughts about Christmas have had me on the brink of nervous breakdowns trying to find gifts on Christmas Eve.)
But this year, I was determined to make a black cake, so I marked my calendar for September. That’s when I was going to initiate the process. And so I did.
Black cake/Christmas cake is also sometimes called plum pudding because it is derived from the traditional British Christmas cake of the same name. Plum pudding is basically fruit cake and the addition of brandy was to keep it fresh on long voyages across the seas (plus it tastes good). (Plum pudding is traditionally lit aflame at presentation time. I suspect that this was done the first time by accident as a result of someone getting a little too close to it with a candle or something.) When the British began trading through the Caribbean, the plum pudding went with them. But rum, rather than brandy, was the liquor available on the islands, and sugar and molasses became the sweeteners. The addition of allspice and nutmeg are more Island touches on the old recipe.
It is said that the original recipe for plum pudding dates to Medieval times, when it called for 13 ingredients—1 for Jesus Christ and 12 for his apostles—and was to be made on Christmas Eve. Since then, it’s become a more elaborate affair. As other fruit cakes, a black cake contains various dried fruits that are macerated in rum and, sometimes, port wine for weeks. The ideal time to bake it is a couple of weeks before Christmas, and as the days go by, it is occasionally basted with more booze.
So, in September, I put my fruit—raisins, golden raisins, plums, figs, dates, and cranberries—in a large container with a cover and poured in a wee bit of rum and port wine and let that sit until December. About a week before Christmas (I couldn’t get around to it before then), I baked the cake, basted it a few times, and brought it for Christmas Eve dinner. It came out fabulous. It was moist and incredibly flavorful, and even though it was loaded with alcohol, the rum and wine had mellowed into a fruity liqueur-like flavor. It’s not like any fruit cake you’ve ever had, I guarantee it. Normally, black cake is served as is, but I wanted it to look a little more festive so I iced it with a basic powdered sugar icing (which eventually melted). The only thing was that my cake was not as dark as it should be (it is called black cake, after all). So, I increased the browning in the recipe. Browning is also known as burnt sugar and can be found in West Indian markets.
I share this with you now so that you can prepare ahead of time for next Christmas. Enjoy!
|Jamaican Black Cake (aka Christmas Cake)|
- 4 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, currents, prunes, citron, cherries, dates, figs, etc.)
- 1 cup white rum
- 1 pint port wine
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 tablespoons browning*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup nuts
- Rinse the fruit under running water and drain well. Place in a sealable bowl and mix in the rum and port wine. Seal bowl and refrigerate and let sit for about 2 months. If the liquid gets completely soaked up, add more rum as needed.
- On the day of baking, drain the fruit over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Using a food processor or blender, grind half the fruit until it’s in small pieces (but not a paste).
- Grease a 10-inch cake pan; line it with parchment paper. (You can also use aluminum foil, but make sure to grease the foil.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder; set aside.
- Using a mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until batter is smooth.
- Add half the flour and mix in; add remaining flour and mix in.
- Add the browning, vanilla, almond, molasses, lemon juice, spices, and zest. Add 1 cup of the reserved liquid and beat until well blended.
- By hand, blend in all the fruit and nuts.
- Bake for one 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Begin checking it at 1 hour.
- When done, place pan on a cooking rack and let it sit for about an hour. Invert it and remove the paper. Let cool completely. Baste every now and then with leftover liquor until ready to serve.
Makes 1 10-inch cake.
* Browning, also known as burnt sugar, is available in Jamaican/West Indian markets and sometimes in markets that have a wide variety of ethnic products. It’s used mostly for coloring. If you can’t find it, double up on the molasses.
I’ve been a little behind in my blogging the past couple of weeks (I do a few others besides this one) and I’m trying to catch up. Between dealing with Hurricane Sandy, stupid stuff at work, and an-out-of-town trip, I just haven’t been able to keep up the blogs. But I’m getting back into the swing.
Speaking of out-of-town trips, I just got back from visiting someone in Alabama. Trips to the South mean some very interesting culinary adventures. This time around, I had myself a fried MoonPie. Yes, I’m referring to the round cake-and-marshmallow treat that have been around forever.
MoonPies were created in 1917 by Earl Mitchell, a bakery salesman. He visited the Chattanooga Bakery, which catered to the local miners. The miners told him that they wanted a snack that was substantial and filling because they didn’t always get to break for lunch. When Mr. Mitchell asked them how big they wanted this snack, a miner made a round shape with his hands and said, “About that big.” He went back to the bakery, where they were already making cookies dipped in marshmallow, and told them what he wanted. It’s unclear from the history on Moonpie.com who came up with the idea, but someone suggested adding another cookie so that the marshmallow sat in between, and then coating the entire thing in chocolate. They got an excellent response to it. By the 1930s, it was a standard treat in the South. During World War II, the Chattanooga Bakery sent MoonPies to troops overseas.
The advent of the vending machines lead to the creation of the double-decker MoonPie. Evidently, the original, single-decker MoonPie would slip through the spaces in the machine. So, the three-cookied MoonPie was born.
MoonPies became particularly important in Alabama. During Mardi Gras in Mobile—which is considered the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the U.S.—MoonPies were thrown into the crowd from parade floats. And, according to Sam Walton’s’s autobiography, Made in America, a MoonPie-eating contest takes place every year in Oneonta, Alabama. This supposedly was started by a Wal-Mart employee who ordered too many MoonPies and had to do something with them.
And it was in Alabama that I had my first—and, I’m quite sure, my only—fried MoonPie. It was on the dessert menu at the Railyard Brewing Co., a brew pub in Montgomery. After a fine lunch, it was impossible to resist. It was disgustingly delicious, the kind of good that you know you shouldn’t like because the combination of ingredients and technique were completely contrary to all that we know about healthy eating and uniquely designed to harden your arteries instantaneously. But like you shall, because the marshmallow in the middle was smooth and creamy, while the outer shell was crispy, sweet, and not at all greasy. When you break into it, the marshmallow and chocolate ooze out just a bit and I found myself chasing it around the plate. Accompanied by a bowl of vanilla ice cream, sliced bananas, and caramel sauce, the fried MoonPie was a fun experience that I can now cross off my list. After all, I want to live a while.
Last week, I had the opportunity to have dinner at Mari Vanna, a traditional Russian restaurant on E. 20th Street in Manhattan. It was my first “dine-around” dinner with the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and the date also happened to be my birthday. So, it was a nice way to celebrate.
Ambiance is part of any great dining experience, even if it’s non-ambiance, as in the case of some mom-and-pop places where the food is the focal point. The word “ambiance” really doesn’t even fit Mari Vanna. They’ve created a sense of place. A world, in fact.
Upon entering Mari Vanna, you feel like you are entering a turn-of-the-19th-century shop/café, with its trinkets and small café tables. The furniture is mostly (I think) baroque and reminiscent of an Old World country home. There was one woman at our table who happened to be Russian (she’d been born in Moscow but moved here when she was 7) and she described the restaurant as “like going to grandma’s house.” Indeed, a china cabinet was jammed with plates, baking dishes, gravy boats, candy dishes, soup bowls, and an assortment of other culinary vessels and utensils. It was so much like many a grandma’s kitchen.
The layout of the place was interesting, too. The main dining room was separated from the kitchen by windows, which made it seem as if beyond those windows was a garden. You can easily peek in and watch the staff cooking your meal.
There was also kitsch. Along the buffet table, and throughout the place, there were examples of Russian folk art: dolls, toys, and colorfully painted bric-a-brack. It brought a sense of charm to a room that might otherwise seem a bit stuffy. I loved the bathrooms! With its old-school pump faucets and wall-mounted toilet tanks with the chain, you really felt as if you’d stepped into another world…except for the fact that there is graffiti all over—and I do mean ALL OVER—the walls and doors. This is part of the décor and I think they actually encourage guests to scribble their own personal messages. When you exit the bathrooms, there’s an old wall-mounted rotary phone, above which is an old Stalin-era military propaganda poster. I had no idea what it said, but it did give you a sense of the atmosphere in which Russians lived in that era.
I suppose I should talk about the food. The menu consists of traditional Russian dishes, from blini with caviar to cured herring and Siberian pelmini. However, for our group, the chef and one of the NYWCA women worked on a creating a special menu. We had:
Cocktails (choice of one)
Signature vodka shot or signature martini
Salo Plate (Assortment of salt-cured pork fatback)
Meat Plate (Assortment of cured meats and charcuterie)
Soleniya (housemade picked vegetables)
Blini with Red Caviar
Smetannik (signature dessert with strawberries and cream)
All are classic Russian dishes. The dilly bread, as well as the raisin bread and pickles, was a tasty starter. The Olivier (potatoes, Russian sausage, and sage mayo) is similar to American potato salad, in that it is made with mayo, but it has a different mixture of elements (sausage, peas, and, in this case, halved quail eggs). The salad has a Hollywood folktale attached to it. Legend has it that it was named for the actor Sir Lawrence Olivier. In truth, it was named for its creator, a Belgian chef named Lucien Olivier, who created it in the 1860s at his renowned Moscow restaurant, Hermitage. (For more info on it, click HERE.
The sunflower salad consisted of tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, and—with a nod to more Western European ingredients—arugula, and topped with, of course, sunflower seeds. The vinegret was a kind of beet salad, and beets are a staple food of Eastern Europe. Speaking of beets, the borscht was exceptionally delicious and was my favorite dish of the evening. It was deeply flavored and warming (as opposed to the cold beet soup on the regular menu). By that point in the evening, though, I was already getting full and needed to leave room for everything else.
The pirogki, wheat dumplings stuffed with meat and potato-cabbage) were fun and so well balanced in cabbage and spice flavors. The blini were more like crepes than the little pancakes that are usually associated with blini, and were accompanied by red caviar and an assortment of condiments. They were light and delicate and buttery.
I’m not big on meat, but I did taste a bite of the beef stroganoff. The flavor was good, but the meat was a bit tough. The branzini, on the other hand, was delicate and cooked just right.
The desserts were all delicious, but I have to say that the Napoleon was not flaky. The smetanik was like a strawberry shortcake and cheesecake combined. The onegin was sort of like a Napoleon, but was more of a sponge cake with dried fruit and almonds.
The coordinator of the event, Wendy, was nice enough to have them put a candle in one of the cakes for my birthday. The entire staff came out with tambourines and sang a Russian song to me. I have no idea what they were saying, but it was enthusiastic and loud. As Wendy said, that’s something that will probably never happen to me again!
Of course, their specialty is their infused vodkas. There is a long list of choices and I’m sure you could spend a very long time trying out each one in a variety of ways. I had the cherry vodka with cherry soda. I thought it needed a bit more soda to sweeten it up a bit but I didn’t say anything because I was desperately fighting off a stomach bug and I didn’t think it wise to get crazy with the booze anyway. Although I did try a strawberry vodka shot after dessert. It was just so vibrantly red that I couldn’t resist. Delicious.
And that was my interesting journey through a long-ago Russia. I recommend it for the experience alone–it will definitely be a memorable one.
41 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003
Between Park Ave and Broadway
By phone 212-777-1955
Yes, I’m talking about the same chia seeds that get watered on a head or little ceramic kitties and grow into a little mini landscape.(Remember those commercials?)
Those seeds contain antioxidants, essential minerals—such as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium, and more iron than spinach—and more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. Like quinoa, chia seeds are one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein, and have been used for hundreds of years for sustained energy. They were once a staple of Native American (both North and South) diets. In fact, I’ve read that “chia” is a Mayan word for “strength.”
Chia seeds purportedly increase strength and energy, help retain hydration, and aid in weight loss. They’re great for diabetics because they lower blood sugar levels. It’s also been said that chia seeds help in relieving thyroid conditions, IBS, acid reflux, hypoglycemia, and even Celiac disease.
You can use chia seeds in just about anything you would use flax seeds in: salad dressings, smoothies, yogurt, or just sprinkled on top of any dish. If you’re looking to replace eggs in baked goods, chia (or flax) seeds will fit the bill. The quantity depends on how many eggs are called for in the recipe, but here’s a general formula:
To replace 1 egg:
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds—grind in a spice grinder
Mix with 3 tablespoons water.
Note that products made with seeds instead of eggs will have a chewier consistency, so be judicious about what products you’re using them in.
This is my recipe for Beet-Apple-Chia Salad, which I like to have for lunch. Between the walnuts and chia seeds, there’s enough protein in here to get you through the afternoon. It makes 2 portions if you’re making it to serve alongside something else. But for lunch, I eat the whole enchilada.
- 4 small beets, roasted or boiled, peeled
- 1 tart apple, cored but not peeled
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds*
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the beets and apples into bite-sized pieces. Combine them in a bowl, along with the walnuts, chia seeds, oil, and vinegar. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
- *Chia seeds can be purchased in natural/health food stores, but may also be found in larger supermarkets with an organic/natural food selection. I found my bag at Trader Joe’s.
Parsley roots look very similar to parsnip, but they are completely different. Parsley root’s color is usually a much starker white than parsnip and is usually squatter and fatter. Both the parsley root and its leaves have a celery-like flavor and make a flavorful addition to any dish that would call for celery. The leaves of the parsley root look the same as “regular” parsley but the two are different types of parsley and are grown slightly differently (the root variety are planted further apart to allow for the growth of the root). And although their flavors are slightly different, the leaves of the root can certainly substitute for standard parsley.
Not as widely used in the U.S., parsley root is a common ingredient in Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisines. As Americans are expanding their palates and embracing unknown “ethnic” ingredients, I’m seeing more and more diverse produce in the markets, which heavenly for cooks everywhere.
I was curious as to how parsley root is most commonly used, so I did a search and downloaded a couple of recipes. In the end, though, I kept it simple. I cut up the parsley root, along with some carrots and onions, tossed it all in olive oil and seasonings, and roasted them.
Roasted vegetables is one of my favorite things in the world to eat, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a roasted vegetable I didn’t like. Parsley roots were no exception. They were sweet and delicious. The interesting thing is that the entire batch of cooked vegetables had a pronounced celery flavor. At first, I thought it was from the little bit of celery that I’d thrown in (I had a piece of celery left over from a different dish, so I thickly sliced it and threw it in the roasting pan). But then I realized that it wasn’t the celery, it was the parsley root. Very interesting. Anyway, here’s my recipe. It’s easy, simple and just in time for the fall. I chose not to include another other white root vegetables (such as potatoes or parsnips) so that I could easily distinguish the parsley root. If you can’t get parsley root, just use any root vegetables you like.
|Roasted Autumn Vegetables|
- 2 large parsley roots, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ chopped herbs (such as rosemary, parsley, thyme, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the vegetables in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and herbs; add the oil and mix. Make sure all the vegetables are coated. Spread them out in a roasting pan and roast about 30 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Stir them occasionally.
I came to find out that what I was given was amaranth leaves.
Callaloo is the name of a dish that originated in West Africa but has become a traditional dish in many Caribbean nations, particularly Jamaica. As a result, greens that are used in callaloo are often referred to as callaloo as well. These greens are usually amaranth leaves or taro leaves. In other Caribbean countries, callaloo refers to something entirely different: In Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, it’s the name for okra.
Callaloo the dish has many variations (depending on the country), but the star of the show isalways the greens. Other ingredients may or may not include coconut milk, okra, chiles, or yams.
Rather than make the traditional callaloo with my treasure, I decided to make something much simpler because I wanted to taste the leaves without too much obscuring its flavor. So, I treated them as I would spinach or chard or any other leafy green and sauteed them in garlic and olive oil. It was great. The leaves were tender, almost silky, and mild and had a slight spinach-like flavor. That was one night one.
On night two, I took some of that sauteed callaloo and combined it with cherry tomatoes from my garden, fresh barlotti beans that my mother had made, and tossed it with whole wheat spaghetti. I topped that with a good shaving of fresh Argentinean parmigiano cheese. It was tasty, filling, comforting, and it smoothed out the graininess of the whole wheat pasta.
Amaranth leaves can be found in Asian and Indian markets. I’ve seen it in both, except that I didn’t know what it was. It’s hard to say what name will be on the sign because they go by different names throughout different regions in Asia, Southeast Asia, and India. They are either solid green or green and beautifully streaked with purple. Taro leaves can also be found in Asian and Indian markets if you’re interested in making callaloo (the dish).
Here is my Whole Wheat Pasta and Callaloo recipe. I hope you like it. Note that ½ pound of leaves will look like a lot but it will shrink down a great deal.
|Whole Wheat Pasta and Callaloo|
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 6 large garlic cloves, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ pound callaloo (amaranth leaves)
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup cooked barlotti (roman) beans (or other beans)
- 2 tablespoons grated parmigiano or pecorino romano
- Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a wide pan. Add half the garlic and saute just until it starts to brown; add the red pepper flakes (if using) and saute another few seconds. Add the paprika and quickly add the amaranth leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover. (If the leaves don’t all fit, add half and wait until they cook down a little; then add the rest and stir it in.) Cook until leaves are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Take half the sauteed greens and set aside to have as is. Enjoy.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente. Do not drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil; add the remaining garlic and saute a minute. Add the tomatoes (watch for splattering) and saute one more minute. Add the remaining sauteed greens and the beans. Stir to combine cook until beans are heated through. If the pan gets really dry, add a little water from the cooking pasta. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Keep the flame on very low until pasta is cooked.
- When pasta is cooked, use tongs or a large pasta fork to remove it from the water; add it to the pan. Add about ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan. Turn up the heat and stir. Keep it on the heat for about a minute.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top and stir it in. (You can add more on top when serving, if you like.)