Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Celebrating the End of Summer with Corn

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

We are still eating corn in western Massachusetts. Corn is the perfect late-summer vegetable. Its color reflects the hues of the sun and the goldenrod-filled fields. Its subtly sweet taste reminds us to savor summer’s beauty while we still have it.

Along with most Americans, I believe that fresh corn is best enjoyed boiled or steamed briefly and then slathered with butter, salt, and pepper. In recent years, I have learned to skip the butter, but I keep it on the table for corn-consuming guests.

Unfortunately, I am seldom able to restrain myself from buying more ears of corn than I need at local farm stands. This can be a problem. As readers probably know, corn is ideally cooked and consumed the day on which it is picked.

What’s a cook to do? I tend to cook corn briefly as soon as possible and then save some of the cooked corn in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. I can make corn fritters, corn salad (it goes with lots of other vegetables), corn chowder, and so forth.

I recently used leftover corn in a risotto. I share that recipe below. Risotto can sometimes seem daunting because it requires the cook to pay attention throughout the cooking process.

I handle the challenge of risotto in a couple of ways. First, I invite my guests to come into the kitchen with me to sip cocktails or whatever beverage they choose. That way, I don’t miss out on any scintillating conversation while I stir my risotto.

Second, I remind myself to let the risotto talk to me. The process of making it entails adding liquid a little at a time as needed. If I monitor the bottom of the pan for dryness as I chat with my friends and relatives, this is fairly easy.

The risotto tells me when it is done by creaming. This is a magical process. The cook has to taste the rice grains frequently. Suddenly, the risotto will reach a point at which it still has a little chew but also tastes rich and creamy. I promise, if you keep tasting (the proverbial tough job that somebody has to do!), you’ll know this point when you get there.

 

Sweet Corn Risotto

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1-1/4 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine (approximately)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups lightly cooked corn kernels
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (plus a little more if you like)
4 cups simmering chicken or vegetable stock (or as needed; you may use water if you run out of stock)
2 tablespoons diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus a bit more if desired)
a little more chopped parsley or tiny basil leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil. Stir in the onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add 1/2 cup of the wine plus the chopped bell pepper and a little of the corn, and stir. Add 1 cup of stock and keep stirring.

As the mixture cooks and dries up, add the remaining stock a bit at a time. Stir frequently but not constantly. Cooking will take quite a while—somewhere between half an hour and 45 minutes. The corn is done with it suddenly tastes creamy.

Just before serving, add the tomatoes; the parsley; the remaining wine, corn, and butter; and the cheese. Serves 6.

Here’s my video for this recipe:

Tinky Makes Corn Risotto

https://youtu.be/-518nFR08j8

 

 

Springtime Carrot Cake

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Here’s a carrot recipe before I move on to asparagus and rhubarb. I love fruit- and vegetable-based cakes. They are moist and flavorful, and one can delude oneself that one is getting nutrition. (One is, of course, but one is also getting fat, flour, and sugar. Sigh.)

I confess that I have posted a version this recipe before. The previous recipe was slightly different, however, and it made a big cake. I don’t always want a big cake. If you don’t have a six-cup bundt pan, you may use an 8-by-8-inch square pan; just check the oven a little sooner. But I highly recommend getting the smaller bundt pan. I use mine all the time when I’m serving a small family or crowd.

Thanks to my cousin Deb Smith for the original recipe!

The Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1-1/2 cups grated carrots (about 1/2 pound)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan. Combine the butter, the oil, and the sugar; then add the eggs, followed by the salt, the cinnamon, and the baking soda. Stir in the flour, followed by the carrots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the cake for 20 minutes; then remove it from the pan and cool it completely before icing it with cream-cheese frosting. Serves 8.

And now the video to go with the cake!

Tinky Makes Carrot Cake

Waffling My Way to Hanukkah

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

At this time of year, as the days shorten and the sun dips lower in the sky, many cultures and religions help offset the weather with holidays that celebrate light. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which begins at sunset this evening (Thursday, Dec. 10), is one such holiday.

In fact, Hanukkah takes place at what is arguably the very darkest time of the year. This lunar holiday takes place just as the moon joins the sun in getting closest to its darkest time. It lasts for eight days.

Also known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah recalls a time in the second century B.C.  when the Israelis book back their land from Syria and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem.

They lit an oil-powered menorah (candelabrum) that was supposed to burn continuously. Unfortunately, they had only enough oil to keep the flame burning for a single day. Miraculously, it lasted for eight days and nights, until more oil could be brought to the temple.

Hanukkah celebrates several things: a Jewish victory (not a common thing in world history), the strength of religious faith, and above all the power of light.

I love lighting my menorah each night of this holiday. AI was fortunate to have a Christian parent and a Jewish one. Consequently, our family celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah.

When I was a child, I saw this as a plus mainly in terms of presents: the month of December was one long series of gifts. (My birthday falls in December, adding to the pile.)

I still enjoy giving and receiving gifts at this time of year. As I get older, however, lighting the menorah and trimming the Christmas tree help me to remember my parents and their families and to celebrate my rich dual heritage. Those activities also brighten my home at this darkening time of year.

Naturally, as a food writer, I celebrate the season with food. The main food associated with Hanukkah is oil, in commemoration of the miraculous oil that burned for so long in the temple.

Olive oil, a mainstay of Middle-Eastern cuisine and life two millennia ago, was the oil used in the temple in Jerusalem, but one may use pretty much any oil one likes in cooking Hanukkah treats. For frying I often choose a neutral oil like canola oil.

The most popular Hanukkah recipe is for latkes, potato pancakes. I’ve posted several latke recipes here over the years. This year I decided to make my latkes slightly differently—in the waffle iron.

I got the idea from Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa. Her most recent cookbook features hash browns prepared this way. I reasoned that hash browns and latkes aren’t really all that different.

I call my creations (drum roll, please) … WaffLatkes.

To be frank, the Wafflatkes can’t QUITE match the crispiness of the fried version of this dish. They are pretty tasty, however, and the waffle pattern is fun. They’re also exceptionally easy to make and lighter than traditional latkes.

Happy Hanukkah! Enjoy the light and the yumminess….

WaffLatkes

Ingredients:

2 large baking potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten (you may need another one!)
chopped fresh chives to taste (optional but tasty and colorful if you have them on hand)
2 to 4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
canola or olive oil for greasing the waffle iron

Instructions:

Wash the potatoes well. Grate them with a box grater or with the grater attachment of a food processor. Wrap the potato shreds in a dish towel. Carry it to the sink, wring it out, and allow the potato pieces to drain while you get out the rest of the ingredients and maybe drink a cocktail or two.

In a medium bowl combine the egg, the chives (if you’re using them), 2 tablespoons of flour, the salt, and the pepper. Stir in the onion and potato pieces, followed by the olive oil.

If the batter doesn’t seem to hold together at all, stir in a little more flour and/or another egg. Don’t worry about making it perfect, however. Wafflatkes are allowed to be a little ragged.

Brush your waffle iron with oil. Preheat it to a medium-high setting. When it is ready plop small spoonsful of batter onto its quadrants. Flatten them a bit if you wish. (The waffle iron will do this for you, but I tend to become a little paranoid.)

Cook the little cakes just a little longer than you would normally cook waffles, making sure they are golden brown. Serve the waffles immediately as they come out of the iron—or pop the first ones into a 300-degree oven until you have finished cooking the rest. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

And now the video, Tinky Makes WaffLatkes

Zucchini Bars

Friday, July 31st, 2020

 

My farm share has included zucchini now for a couple of weeks. I’ve put it in a lot of stir fries. Yesterday, however, I felt compelled to bake … so I made these easy bars or squares or brownies or whatever you’d like to call them. They’re light and chock full of the green stuff.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted sweet butter
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup sugar
1 egg. beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with foil and then grease and flour the foil.

Stir together the melted butter and the sugar, followed by the grated zucchini. Mix in the egg, stirring well to incorporate; then add the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir in the flour, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the concoction comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Makes about 16 squares, depending on how big you cut them.

Art Week at Home: A Divine Dip

Sunday, May 10th, 2020
I’m not really cross-eyed, but this was a selfie, and I was trying to keep both eyes on the camera. Sigh….

I was scheduled to teach a hands-on cooking workshop today for Art Week, a culture-filled annual event here in Massachusetts. Obviously, no one will be coming to my home to cook and tell stories this afternoon, but I’m sharing one of the recipes we were planning to make as part of Art Week at Home.

I wish I could do the cooking online, but the internet here is weak. So please just pretend that you’re with me, singing and cooking and telling stories around my great-grandmother’s old oval table. I’m going to walk you through one of the recipes I planned to make today.

In this crazy time, I am grateful every day for the natural beauty around me. Each time my dog Cocoa and I walk down the road, it seems to me that we observe a new sign of spring … another flower in bloom, another tree starting to bud, another tuft of grass springing up greener than the one before it.

We actually had a little snow yesterday, but it has fortunately departed, leaving everything even greener than before.

The color green is my theme these days. It’s a color of hope and renewal. It’s a theme indoors as well as out. Spinach is coming into season, bringing with it vitamins and minerals and that gorgeous deep color.

I eat spinach and cook with it a lot … in quiches, in quick sautés, in salads, in scrambled eggs. Like the cartoon character Popeye, I feel “strong to da finich ‘cause I eats me spinach.”

A few years back, I devised an onion-dip recipe loosely based on my mother’s formula for French onion soup. I love commercial dips and dip mixes, but I feel a little queasy when I read some of the ingredients on their labels. I don’t like to put foods in my body that I can’t pronounce.

My dip contained only normal foods. And caramelizing the onions for it made my house smell delicious.

With spinach on my mind, I recently decided to add a little spinach to the onion dip. The addition was a success. The spinach adds vitamins, a hint of flavor, and a lovely green color.

The recipe takes a while, between caramelizing the onions and letting the dip’s flavors meld in the refrigerator. Most of this time isn’t hands on, however, so you’ll have plenty of leisure to do other things while you’re cooking. Just make sure to keep your nose active while you’re caramelizing the onions.

Make the dip early in the day, and honor your mother with it by evening. My mother isn’t with me anymore, but I love to remember her on Mother’s Day. Making a dip inspired by one of her recipes gives my family a delicious way in which to enjoy the memories.

My Mother in 1968


Spinach and Sweet Onion Dip

If you happen to have fresh parsley and/or dill in the house, you may add sprigs of them before blending the dip at the end.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices, with each slice cut in half (sweet onions are best, but any onion will do in a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 generous splash dry sherry
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier, and if your onions are really huge you may increase the amount to 2 cups)

Instructions:

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly over low to medium-low heat, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour; they will be ready when they are ready. Add a little water from time to time if burning seems likely.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least 5 minutes. Add the sherry and the spinach and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears and the spinach wilts.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the vegetables and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Place the vegetables in a food processor and combine them briskly; then add the sour cream and mix well. If you don’t have a food processor, an electric mixer will do, but you will have bigger chunks of onion and spinach. My food processor is broken so I used my mini-chopper. I had to chop the vegetables a little at a time, they were chopped.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors meld for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with raw vegetable strips or chips. Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.