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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

OK, truth be told, this is probably more accurately described as “vegetable soup with some beets thrown in”.  It doesn’t have that full-blown, beet-topia experience that one gets at Veselka.  It’s still pretty tasty, and when it’s 30 degrees and sleeting, it’s a nice thing to warm up to.

serves 4

  • 3 medium golden beets, scrubbed and trimmed, with the greens separated, washed thoroughly and reserved
  • about 4 c of Vegetable Stock
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 large celery stalk, washed and trimmed
  • 2 c crimini mushrooms, washed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the beets in half, place in a baking dish and cover; roast in the oven until tender, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare the Vegetable Stock.

When the beets are done, remove them from the oven to cool (keep them covered, though, so that the skin comes off easily).  In a medium-sized pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic clove.  Roughly chop the carrots, onion and celery and add with several pinches of salt to the garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Slice the mushrooms into 1/2-inch thick slices and add to the vegetables.  Saute until tender, another 10 minutes.

Peel the beets and roughly chop.  Add the cooked beets to the other vegetables; stir to incorporate.  Stir in the Vegetable Stock and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until the soup comes together (you’ll know it when you see it), about 20 minutes.  Serve piping hot with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

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When you’ve had all the turkey-cranberry sandwiches and reheated mashed potatoes that you can stand, it’s time to make croquettes with the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Croquettes are essentially breaded and deep-fried anythings.  Usually, these anythings include bechamel sauce as a binder.  The key, then, to post-Thanksgiving croquettes is to make a big ol’ batch of rather thick bechamel and to mix it with any and all of the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables and/or turkey.  The recipe for the Rather Thick Bechamel:

  • 1/2 c olive oil and/or butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • nutmeg for grating

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil (and melt the butter, if using) over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, to cook some of the rawness out of the flour, about 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in about 1/2 c of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the rest of the milk.  Reduce the heat to low and add the bay leaf.  Peel and smash the garlic cloves and toss them in as well.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes; the bechamel should feel like thick cream.  Grate in a little nutmeg and some black pepper; add salt to taste.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and allow the bechamel to cool.  It should set up like that paste you remember eating in kindergarten.

This year, by food-processing the bechamel with an equal amount of filling, I made turkey croquettes; sweet potato and almond croquettes; and mushroom, arugula and Fontina croquettes.  (Don’t overprocess the croquette batter:  You want the filling to have some texture, hence the almonds mixed with the sweet potatoes.)  I also made potato croquettes with leftover mashed potatoes, but I didn’t add any bechamel to this:  I just stirred in an egg and a handful of flour to give the potatoes some more structure.

At this point, if you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve done plenty of the work for the day.  You could put the croquette batters in the fridge (or freezer) and wait until later before assembling the croquettes.  However, if you’re ready to press on…

Create a frying station like you see in the picture above.  Get out three medium mixing bowls and a large baking sheet; line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the first mixing bowl, add several handfuls of flour; stir in some Seasoning Salt.  In the second bowl, crack two eggs and stir them together.  In the third bowl, add a bunch of bread crumbs.  Take a spoonful of croquette batter (vegetarian croquettes first, please).  Drop the batter into the flour; toss it around to coat, and try to work it into roughly a dumpling shape.  Put the croquette in the egg and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquette to the bread crumbs; toss to coat completely.  Place the croquette on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining croquettes.

Again, at this point, you could call it a day and freeze the croquettes until tomorrow, or until next Thanksgiving.  If you’ve gone too far now to turn back, pour an inch of oil into a cast-iron skillet and place it over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, CAREFULLY place five or six croquettes in the oil, starting at the back of the skillet.  When they’re golden brown on the bottom, after 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the croquettes and cook on the second side, about 1-2 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet; you can keep the croquettes warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.  Serve hot on a bed of greens with leftover cranberry sauce (preferably homemade cranberry-orange relish).

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If I accomplish nothing else through this blog than encouraging a few people to try persimmons, then I will have done my small part to make the world a better place.

Persimmons have a lot going for them:  They’re photogenically attractive fruits; they offer a bright note of summery, almost citrusy sweetness in a mellow, autumnal package; they’re portable, durable and easy to eat (no messy rind to peel off, no seeds to spit out).  Since I’m obsessed with savory salads based around fruit, the discovery of persimmons and pomegranates at a recently opened nearby produce market inspired me to create this salad for a crisp October day.

I think one thing that may discourage people from buying persimmons, though, is the existence of two distinct and very different types of persimmons:  Fuyu, which can be eaten when they’re as hard as an apple (as the sticker attached to my persimmons told me), and Hichaya, which are painfully astringent at any point of ripeness shy of custardy-soft.  (This article from NPR nicely expounds on the virtues of these two fruits.)

Use Fuyus for this salad.  If you have a mandoline, you can make quick work of both the persimmons and the fennel.  The pomegranates add enough tartness to the salad that vinegar or lemon juice is unnecessary:  Just drizzle with the best extra virgin olive oil that you have and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

  • 4 Fuyu persimmons
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 pomegranate
  • olive oil

Wash the persimmons; trim off and discard their ends.  Using a mandoline (or your kung fu knife skills), slice the persimmons to a 1/8-inch thickness and add to a large mixing bowl.

Wash the fennel.  Using scissors, snip off some of the fennel fronds (say, 1/4 c worth); set aside.  Cut off the stalks and reserve for the vegetable stock bag.   Trim off and discard the root end of the fennel.  Slice the fennel bulb crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Add to the persimmon slices.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the pomegranate in half.  Working over a separate mixing bowl, remove the red seeds from the yellow pith; add the seeds to the bowl and discard the pith (and any gray or rotten-looking seeds).  Add the pomegranate seeds to the persimmon and fennel.

Roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds.  Add to the persimmon, fennel and pomegranate.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and add a healthy amount of salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Serve.

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Two questions:  How could it possibly be October already?  And why in the world is there a picture of raw ground beef on TMCCFHVW?

Mea maxima culpa for the extended absence, my loyal and intrepid readers.  Major events in the life of The Militant Carnivore have caused me to neglect my blog for a while, but I’m back on the horse, and will be attempting to post something new once a week from this point on.  Thanks for bearing with me.

As for the “ground beef” above, look closely.  What you’re looking at is actually this:

A roasted beet and a roasted potato, about to be run through a food mill.  Nary an animal product in sight.  What we have here are the makings for beet gnocchi.

I’ve long made gnocchi with sweet potatoes, and the latest Bon Appetit had a recipe for butternut squash gnocchi, which I found perplexing:  How could that possibly have a high enough starch-to-moisture ratio to stick together?  The answer was that the recipe called for two parts potato for every part butternut squash.  I couldn’t decide if the addition of potato to “butternut squash” gnocchi was dishonest and deceptive or brilliantly elegant, but I figured I’d steal the idea anyway.

I’ve just recently gotten into beets, and I’ve realized that they’re a lot of fun to play with.  They provide a welcome sweetness to many savory dishes, and their inimitable color is unlike anything else in the vegetable world.  I figured that mixing some potatoes into the dough would work just as well for beet gnocchi as for butternut squash gnocchi, and a simple brown butter with rosemary would be the perfect sauce for these bright fuchsia orbs (which look somewhat like uncooked meatballs and which are therefore likely to shock and horrify your vegetarian guests before they realize just how delicious these gnocchi are).

By the way, some people make perfect-looking gnocchi; I don’t.  I add only as much flour as needed to make a dough that has barely enough cohesion to form spheres and to stay together in the cooking water.  While these gnocchi will never be pretty enough to feature on the cover of Saveur, they are deliciously tender.  If you want more traditionally shaped gnocchi (with the characteristic ridges created by rolling the gnocchi off the tines of a fork), add more flour:  Your gnocchi will be chewier, but if you’re careful not to knead the dough too much, they shouldn’t be tough (I think).  The choice is yours.

  • 1 large beet, roasted and peeled
  • 1 large russet potato, roasted and peeled
  • flour, as needed (at least 1/2 c)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • olive oil, a slug or two, as needed
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, plus more for mincing and garnishing
  • 1/2 c Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

Pass the beet and potato (which should be good and thoroughly cooked) through the coarse holes of a food mill into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then cover with a good coating of flour.

Stir together with a spoon.  The mixture will be extremely sticky.  Stir in more flour until the mixture is just dry enough to be handled.  You should be able to roll it into logs.

Stick the gnocchi dough in the fridge while you bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When it’s at a rolling boil, salt it generously.

Smash and peel the garlic clove.  Add it along with the butter, olive oil and the spring of rosemary to a large skillet over medium heat.  Take out the gnocchi dough and cut it into 1-inch pieces.  Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water.  Cook until the gnocchi rise to the surface and are pleasantly firm, about 3-5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the butter-olive oil mixture.  Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, to coat the gnocchi with the brown butter mixture.

It still looks like raw meat, I know.  But trust me:  It’s good.  Mince up a little bit of rosemary and strew it with the grated Parmesan over the gnocchi.  Serve immediately.

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One of my favorite brunch dishes is salade lyonnaise.  Building off the theory that everything tastes better with bacon and a poached egg on top, it is one of the greatest salads around, but perhaps not one that is fit for weeknight dining, and certainly not one that is vegetarian-friendly.  Removing just the bacon for the non-meat-eaters or removing just the egg for the oophobes would throw the entire salad out of whack:  Bacon’s smoky saltiness complements the rich creaminess of eggs beautifully.  After all, bacon and eggs go together like, well, bacon and eggs.

I wanted a simpler, vegetarian salad that still highlighted the bracing bitterness of frisee with notes of smoke, salt, crunch and creaminess, all tied together with a tart vinaigrette.  Nuts were a no-brainer substitution for the crunch factor; blue cheese provided welcome creaminess and replaced some of bacon’s salt and savoriness.  To balance the blue cheese with some brighter notes, and to add the missing smoky element, my eyes turned to the bowl of cherries on the counter.  (I find myself making a lot of recipes with cherries and pecans, and that’s because they’re so damn good together.)  Ever since I got Seven Fires by the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, I’ve been wanting to grill, sear and char everythingCooking fruit and incorporating it into savory dishes might be my new favorite culinary trick, and it works here:  The smoky charred cherries mingle beautiful with the vinaigrette and add bright treble notes to offset the bass of the blue cheese.

Best of all, it’s a much simpler salad to make than salade lyonnaise.  The pecans and cherries can be cooked in the same skillet, and that’s the only pan to wash up.  I’m not saying this will be the featured dish at a special brunch, but it can certainly be served as a quick and fast weeknight dinner, as well as a delicious side dish to heartier fare.

  • 1 head of frisee (and/or escarole)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans
  • 1 bowl of cherries (about 2 handfuls)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil, as needed (about 1/2 c)
  • 2 oz. excellent blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag, etc.)

Cut the root end off the frisee.  Wash and dry thoroughly.  Tear into pieces into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the pecans and toast carefully, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Watch them carefully:  You don’t want burned pecans.

Add the pecans to the frisee.  Return the empty skillet to the burner and set the heat to medium-high.

Tear the cherries in halve and remove their pits and stems.  (I find it easier to tear and pit the cherries with my fingers than to cut them with a knife.)  When the skillet is good and hot, add the cherries cut side down.  Don’t touch them for a good 2 minutes:  Let them get a nice sear on them.  When they have some char on them, flip them over with a spatula and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.

While the cherries are cooking, make the vinaigrette:  Mash the garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste with the mortar and pestle, then stir in the mustard and the vinegars.  (I’m just about over balsamic vinegar, but here it adds a little sweetness that rounds out the dressing and bridges the cherries with the blue cheese.)  Whisk in enough olive oil to form a creamy vinaigrette.

When the cherries are ready, add them to the frisee and pecans.  Add the vinaigrette and toss the salad.  Crumble in half of the blue cheese and toss the salad thoroughly.  Transfer the salad to a serving dish, making sure some of the pecans and cherries end up on top of the salad, then crumble on the remaining blue cheese.  Serve.

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A great picnic salad, especially pretty if you use red quinoa.  Now that asparagus season has passed, you could try this with green beans or zucchini instead.  Go ahead and toss in a little chèvre, if you’re so inclined.

makes enough quinoa salad for 2 or 3 picnics, or for a week of light lunches, mid-afternoon grazing and midnight snacks

  • 1 c red quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (quinoa must be rinsed to remove its coating of saponin, which is not something you want to eat)
  • 1 bunch pencil-thin asparagus, washed, ends trimmed (and reserved for vegetable stock)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 t coriander seeds
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 orange
  • olive oil, as needed (at least 1/2 c)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you have a large pot with a steamer that sits at the top, then you can cook the quinoa and the asparagus in the same pot:  Fill the pot halfway with water, making sure that it doesn’t come up to the level of the steamer.   Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.  Stir in a large pinch of salt and the quinoa; reduce the heat to medium-low so that the quinoa cooks at a gentle simmer.

Put the steamer basket over the simmering water and put the asparagus inside.  (If the asparagus is too long, snap it in half.)  Cover the pot and steam the asparagus until bright green and just tender, 3-5 minutes.  (Err on the side of undercooking the asparagus:  It needs some snap to have some textural contrast with the quinoa, and besides, mushy asparagus is yucky.)  Set up an ice bath (a lot of cold water and ice cubes in a large bowl).  When the asparagus is done, immediately transfer it to the ice bath and completely submerge it to stop the cooking.   Let it cool for a few minutes, then drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, start mashing up the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt.  Once the cloves are in smaller pieces, add the coriander seeds and mash them into the garlic.  (The garlic will keep the coriander seeds from flying around like miniature BBs.)  Once the garlic and coriander are pureed, stir in the mustard.  Juice the orange and stir the orange juice into the garlic-mustard mixture.  Transfer this to a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil until a creamy vinaigrette (well, citronette) is formed.

When the quinoa is done (you should see a well-developed spiral in the middle of each quinoa grain, and most of the water should be absorbed), drain the quinoa in a fine sieve or colander.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Now we’ve got the asparagus, the dressing and the quinoa:  The only thing left is the pecans.  Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, crushing them lightly as you do.  Bake for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, just to warm them up; they should start to smell toasty and incredible.  (Be careful, though:  Nuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly, and burning does nothing good for their flavor.)

Chop the asparagus into 2-inch lengths and add to the quinoa.  Add the nuts to the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add enough of the dressing to coat the salad and stir to combine thoroughly.

If you wanted to add some crumbled goat cheese or feta, or perhaps a few chopped herbs (dill?), this would be the time to do it.  Try to refrain from eating the salad immediately:  It definitely benefits from an hour or so in the fridge.  Serve a dozen of your closest friends at a springtime picnic, or enjoy having a ready-made delicious and nutritious meal in the fridge for a week.

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You might have to wait until next summer to make this dish, but if your zucchini or summer squash are flowering, grab the blossoms and use them for some of the tastiest vegetable fritters you’ll ever have.  Squash blossoms are just begging to be filled with stuffing:  A simple puree of soft cheese (ricotta, chevre, mascarpone) with any of your favorite members of the onion family (chives, scallions, shallots) is just right.

This is one situation where deep-frying—or, at least, battering the blossoms and pan-frying—might be safer than simply sauteing:  Without a protective coating of batter, the blossoms splatter furiously in the hot oil.  As with all fried foods, season them right out of the oil and serve immediately.

serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 12 zucchini (or other squash) blossoms
  • 3 scallions, washed and trimmed, or handful of chives
  • 1/2 c ricotta
  • 1 c flour, separated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c or more club soda, enough to thin the batter

Wash the squash blossoms inside and out, being careful not to tear them.  (Do check inside the blossoms, though, in case the random errant insect is hanging out in there.)  Pat dry.

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan with deep sides, add olive oil (or other vegetable oil) to a depth of 1 inch and place over medium heat.

Meanwhile, you can either mince up the scallions with a knife and stir them in with the ricotta and a pinch of salt and pepper, or you can throw everything into a food processor and give it a few pulses.  Check for seasoning.  Carefully spoon in about a tablespoon of stuffing into each squash blossom:  You need to open the blossom with one hand while spooning carefully with the other hand.  Again, try not to tear the leaves too much.  (If they do tear, just sort of mash the torn edges into the stuffing:  The ricotta will act like glue to keep everything together.)

Divide the flour evenly between two mixing bowls (one medium and one large).  Add salt and pepper to both bowls and whisk to combine.  Add the egg to the large bowl and stir to combine.  Using a whisk, stir in enough club soda into the flour-egg mixture to form a batter; it should be the consistency of a thin pancake batter, or of heavy cream.

When the oil in the Dutch oven is hot (a drop of batter will bubble vigorously and immediately rise to the surface), dredge four of the stuffed blossoms in the seasoned flour, making sure they are thoroughly coated; shake off any excess.  Put the dredged blossoms in the batter and turn to coat completely.  CAREFULLY (I recommend tongs or a slotted spoon for this) add the battered blossoms to the hot oil:  Start at the back of the pan and work your way forward.  Fry over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until the edges of the blossom are golden brown and firm.  Using tongs, carefully flip the blossoms:  Again, start at the back of the pan so you’re not reaching across spattering oil.  Fry for 1-2 minutes more until the second side is done.

Remove the fried squash blossoms to a rack set over paper towels (or brown paper bags or old newspapers or whatever).  Season immediately with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve hot to your eagerly waiting friends as you cook the next batch.  (A slice of lemon or perhaps a little marinara sauce and a dusting of grated Pecorino Romano would not be unwelcome accompaniments.)

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