Latkes with half-baked potatoes

December 17, 2020 at 11:03 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, Jewish, Root vegetables, Starches, Website / blog)

Derek wanted to make latkes for Hanukkah this year, and he found a New York Times recipe that called for pre-baking the potatoes (well, partially) then grating them. The recipe looked really simple. The only ingredients were the potatoes, salt and pepper, and the oil for frying.

But we found the recipe a bit challenging because it called for 4 large Idaho or Russet potatoes, and although we can get similar starchy potatoes they are not nearly as large. We weren’t sure how many pounds that should be, or how to adjust the cooking time. The recipe says to cook “until they are hot throughout but still raw in the middle.” That wasn’t so easy to ascertain, but we did our best.

Other than that, the recipe seemed to work okay, but we found the latkes bland. We want to add onions and maybe egg next time. Perhaps we will try this more traditional recipe.

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Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

September 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I first made this beet and potato gratin recipe back in 2010. I have since forgotten where the recipe originated. I’ve modified the recipe quite a bit in the intervening years. (The original recipe is at the end of this post if you want to see it.) Here is my current recipe. It has more cheese and less butter and cream than the original, and I’ve added walnuts and rosemary and omitted the breadcrumbs. The recipe is not really hard, but it is somewhat labor-intensive. I usually make it once a year, twice at most.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbs. butter (or however much you need to grease your pan)
  • 1 cup / 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (or use another cheese like aged gouda)
  • 1/2 cup / 2 oz. grated gruyere cheese (or use another cheese like comte or tete de moine)
  • 1 tsp. salt (I’m totally guessing on the amount. I just sprinkle a little salt on each layer.)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (ditto)
  • 3 to 4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 200g / 0.85 cups heavy cream
  • lots of walnuts, pretty finely chopped (I think I use about 3/4 cup chopped walnuts maybe?)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets and potato until tender when pierced with a knife. Note that even though the gratin cooks for another 30 minutes in the oven, you need the veggies to be tender before they go in the oven. They don’t really soften up otherwise. You can steam the veggies on the stovetop, but beets take a while, so I usually steam my veggies in my Instant Pot. I put the beets in first and cook them until they are about 3/4 done. (The exact time depends on their diameter–tables are online.) Then I add the potatoes and finish cooking both. Ideally you should do this well in advance so the veggies have time to cool and you aren’t trying to peel or slice boiling hot beets!
  3. When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the beets. Depending on your potatoes you might want to peel them after they are cooked, but I usually don’t bother.  Cut both the beets and potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  4. Choose a gratin dish large enough to hold four layers of the sliced vegetables. (I use a 9×13 inch pyrex pan.) Grease the dish.
  5. Build a gratin with 4 layers: beets, potatoes, beets, potatoes. After each vegetable layer sprinkle one quarter of the parmesan, gruyere cheese, salt, and pepper on top of the vegetable layer. After each layer sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnuts and rosemary. (I don’t put walnuts and rosemary on the top layer of potatoes because I’m afraid they will burn, but maybe it would work if you put them under the cheese?)
  6. When all four layers are assembled, pour the cream evenly over the top.
  7. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese on top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Update Oct 11, 2021:

Alma has never liked this dish, but today she said it was “delectable” and ate thirds. I thought it came out really great as well. Derek said it was tasty but needed more cheese.

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

I shattered my 9×9 inch pan a few months ago, so we used a 9×13 inch pyrex dish. It was bigger than necessary, but worked fine. I think next time maybe I’ll increase the amounts of veggies to make more gratin in the same pan. I forgot to measure my beets this time but I know I used almost 2 pounds of potatoes. I think maybe I used 5 medium/small beets (about 2.5 inches in diameter), so maybe only about 2 pounds?

I cooked the beets in the instant pot for 10 minutes under high pressure, left them for a bit, then did a quick pressure release and added the (medium-large) potatoes and cooked them for another 10 minutes under high pressure with a natural release. The beets came out perfectly–easy to peel but not mushy. But 10 minutes was too much time for the potatoes. They were way too soft. The skins were falling off and they were hard to slice. I couldn’t use the mandoline at all. They would have been great for mashed potatoes, but next time maybe I’ll try 15 minutes for the beets + QR and then only another 5 minutes extra once I add the potatoes.

This time we forgot to add walnuts but I definitely want to try adding them next time!

Definitely make sure your potatoes are on the top layer. They get nice and crispy, which doesn’t happen to the beets. And maybe reserve a bit more than 1/4 of the cheese for the topping?

I’ve made some version of this recipe a few times in the last couple of years, and Alma has never liked it. She will take a few bites of the cheesy top, but then rejects it. (She’s never liked non-crispy potatoes.) Tonight (at 5.5 years) she had a bit more than she has in the past, but we had challah on the table, so she mostly focused on that and wasn’t interested in the gratin.

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

Derek and I went to a local German restaurant a while back and I got a beet and potato gratin that had walnuts in it.  I really loved the beet and walnut combo, so I decided to try adding walnuts to this French recipe.  The recipe says to steam the beets and potatoes separately, then peel and slice them.  That was a huge pain.  I also don’t like peeling potatoes, as the skin is the best part.  The steaming instructions confused me because they say to steam until tender but then you bake the gratin for another 30 minutes or so.  I was worried that the veggies would get overcooked, so I didn’t let them get totally tender.  That was a mistake, as the beets in the final dish were just a tad undercooked.  Once the veggies are steamed you slice them and then make a layer of beets, a layer of potatoes, and a final layer of beets.  Between the layers you sprinkle salt and pepper, rosemary, small amounts of parmesan and gruyere cheese, and dotted butter.  You then pour a mixture of cream and milk over the whole thing, and top it with bread crumbs and 1 Tbs. dotted butter.  But 1 Tbs. of butter is not enough to cover a 9×13 pan, and the bread crumbs ended up just like dry, sandy breadcrumbs.  Derek said he liked the topping though, despite its dry, sandy quality. He liked the dish a lot, actually.  He kept saying how flavorful it was, and tried to eat all the leftovers for breakfast.  My guests seemed to like it too, and even asked for the recipe.

I used less butter and added walnuts.  I used a light cream not heavy cream, and lowfat milk.  If I made this again I would double the rosemary and try it without pre-cooking the vegetables.  Steaming the beets and potatoes separately is a pain.  I might also try adding more cheese and skipping the cream altogether–just using milk.

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup fine dried, bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside.  Steam the potatoes separately in teh same way;  they should also be tender in 20 to 30 minutes.  (You can also boil instead of steaming.)  When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  3. Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables.
    1. Layer 1:  Grease it with 1 Tbs. of the butter.  Arrange half of the beets in the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with one third each of the parmesan and gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    2. Layer 2:  Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets.  Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    3. Layer 3:  Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary.
    4. Final topping:  In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top.  Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
  4. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

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Instant Pot Saag Aloo with sweet potatoes and chard

February 13, 2020 at 10:26 pm (C (1 star, edible), Dark leafy greens, Indian, Instant Pot, Root vegetables, Website / blog)

I have been craving Indian food, and so I printed out a bunch of new Indian Instant Pot recipes to test. I gave Derek the stack of recipes and he picked this Vegan Richa recipe for Instant Pot Saag Aloo, which was convenient because I happened to have a lot of chard and sweet potatoes. Also, we really like Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot lasagne soup, so I was hoping for another great dish.

Unfortunately, it was not a success. Alma (at age five) took one bite and then wouldn’t touch it, and even Derek only ate a few spoonfuls. It ended up very watery, not sure why. Maybe I mis-measured the water? But even ignoring the wateriness, nobody liked the flavors. Too much cinnamon maybe? Derek said it was just too sweet tasting. Did I screw it up, or is it just not for us?

To try to improve the texture, I pureed it all together and then served it with pan-fried paneer for breakfast this morning. That was okay, but we still didn’t like the sweet potato / chard / cinnamon combination very much.

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Sweet potato chickpea kale tahini buddha bowl

January 3, 2020 at 4:23 pm (Beans and greens, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Sauce/dressing, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I like the idea of a buddha bowl, but I’ve never figured out a combination that (a) everybody likes, (b) isn’t a ton of work, and (c) doesn’t get a million dishes dirty. But I found this recipe on the Minimalist Baker website and it looked like it might be quick and easy. Alma likes chickpeas and kale and sweet potatoes and tahini, so I figured there was a good chance she would like the recipe.

I couldn’t find any broccolini, so I just left that out. I cut my sweet potatoes into quarters so they’d cook a bit faster. I cooked the veggies on a baking sheet covered in tin foil, to reduce cleanup time. The recipe only calls for a few handfuls of kale, which didn’t seem like much, so I steamed the remainder. I roasted the kale in the oven for about 5 minutes and it was starting to brown (burn?) in places. I don’t care for kale once it’s turned brown, and Alma didn’t even liked the non-brown portions of the roasted kale, although Derek liked the roasted kale a lot. Alma and I preferred the steamed version.

The method for cooking the chickpeas wasn’t great. I don’t know if I screwed up or not, but they never really got crispy. And I got a big skillet dirty. The seasoning was fine, but I think next time I might try throwing them on the baking sheet with the sweet potatoes (or maybe even before the sweet potatoes).  To save on cleanup, maybe I could mix the chickpeas with the spices in the same pot I use to steam the kale. Then I’d just have to clean that one pot and steamer basket.

We didn’t love her tahini sauce. It was too sweet and a little bland. The sauce doesn’t have any salt in it even. Maybe I added more maple syrup than I was supposed to, but still. It’s boring. I added a lot of extra lemon to try to perk it up, but we still didn’t love it.

We had a lot of ripe avocados languishing in the fridge, so we added some avocado to replace the missing broccolini. Radishes might also have been good, but I forgot I had them.

Alma didn’t end up eating a buddha bowl. She ate everything (except the onions) separate with no sauce. Typical.

Derek said everything tasted good but afterward he felt unsatisfied.

Another buddha bowl non-success? Still, with my modifications it’s a pretty easy, colorful meal. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime. How could I make it more satisfying?

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Simple parsnip puree

December 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm (A (4 stars, love), Fall recipes, French, Other, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan) ()

If I find nice parsnips at the store then about 90% of the time I roast them. I find that if you try to roast them directly them end up dry and burnt. They turn out the best if they are steamed first, then roasted. But occasionally I get a big bag of parsnips from my CSA and I’m not in the mood for roasted parsnips. Then what? I like to grate them and use them to make chard parsnip patties. Occasionally I’ll serve them mashed with potatoes and topped with balsamic-roasted seitan. But sometimes I just want pure parsnip flavor, and then this is the recipe I turn to. I first made it last fall and since then I’ve made it at least four times.

Unlike mashed potatoes, parsnip puree reheats well. I’ve even brought it to a potluck before. The recipe is pretty easy, but somehow tastes much fancier than it actually is. This recipe is based on a recipe from the cookbook Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, but I’ve changed it to reduce the cleanup a bit. Moulton says she got the idea of reducing the cooking liquid from Julia Child.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick.
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or 4 Tbs. cream
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice the parsnips. (Save the stem ends and peelings for vegetable broth.) Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) and barely cover with boiling water. (The parsnips on top don’t have to be entirely submerged.) Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer (uncovered) until tender. If your top parsnips aren’t totally submerged, give them a stir about halfway through. Moulton says this step should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but I think it’s closer to 15 minutes? Max 20.
  2. Drain the parsnips, but reserve the cooking liquid! Leave the parsnips in the colander and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat.
  3. Return the parsnips to the pan and add the butter or cream. Use a stick blender to puree the parsnips. (For a finer, perfectly smooth puree you can use a food processor, but I find that a stick blender works well enough and is much easier to clean.) Season with salt and pepper. If you need to, need to return the pan to very low heat to warm the puree up again before serving it.

This recipe makes about 3 cups, or about 4 large side servings.

Tonight I made the parsnip puree and green beans (steamed from frozen). Derek had them with duck, and I had some chorizo veggie sausages. I really liked the combination of the spicy, salty veggie sausages with the sweet parsnip puree and slightly chewy, moist green beans.

Last year Alma would never eat this dish. (She doesn’t like mashed potatoes either—something about the texture I think.) But tonight (at almost 5 years old) she ate her entire (small) serving! We’ll have to see what she thinks next time, but for now I’m marking this recipe preschooler approved.

Update Sept 23, 2020: I made this dish tonight, but I think I cut my parsnips too thick, and they took a long time to fully soften. By the time they were really soft almost all of the cooking liquid had boiled away. So I skipped the draining / liquid reducing step and just pureed the parsnips right in the pan. I ended up adding a bit of milk to think them down a bit. They turned out great. No lumps at all. Even Alma, who at first said “yuck,” admitted they were really good. Derek said the meal tasted like something he would get at a fancy restaurant. 🙂 I also made a butternut squash puree. (I cooked it in the same pan as the parsnip, but it cooked much faster.) Alma said the butternut squash puree was fine, but she preferred the parsnip. Derek said he though the butternut squash puree would be better in a burrito. Maybe I put too much nutmeg in it.

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Chard parsnip patties

October 10, 2018 at 3:44 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, Root vegetables, Website / blog) ()

I chose this recipe for chard and parsnip patties because the author says her kids like them. They have some flour and cheese, but mostly the patties are just veggies. Alma (at 5 years old) likes them. She usually dips them in yogurt. I like to call them charsnip patties. Derek groans and Alma giggles at my bad joke.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch chard [I used the thick stems from two chard leaves and all six leaves from one bunch of chard]
  • 1 large parsnip [about 200g edible portion should make about 2 cups of tightly packed finely grated parsnip]
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese [1/4 cup grated]
  • 1 ounce Cheddar cheese [1/4 cup grated]
  • 3 ounces finely chopped onion [about 1/3 cup]
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 55 grams (0.44 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 very large eggs [I use German size L]
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons of oil (for shallow frying)

Instructions

Below are my instructions for how to make the patties in the food processor. You could also grate/chop everything by hand, but it is a pain to chop the chard small enough.

  1. Prep the veggies: Clean, wash and pat dry the chard. Roughly chop the stems. Peel the parsnip.
  2. Grate: Using the fine grating blade in your food processor, grate the parmesan and cheddar cheese. Grate the parsnip and then transfer the parsnip and cheeses to a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Chop: Switch the blade of the food processor to the chopping blade. Add the onion, garlic, chard stems, and cilantro. Process until everything is finely chopped. Add the flour, salt and pepper and process briefly to mix well.
  4. Mix: Transfer the ingredients to the bowl with the parsnip and cheese and mix well. Finally, add the 2 eggs and use a spoon to distribute the eggs evenly.
  5. Cook the patties: Heat a cast-iron frying pan. When hot, turn the heat to medium and add about 2 tsp. of oil to the pan. (You can use more or less depending on your personal preference.) Using your hands form the mixture into golf-ball sized balls, and carefully drop them into the hot pan. Use a small spatula to flatten them into a disk shape. Cook them on medium for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Keep a close eye on the heat — the veggies are raw so you want to cook them on both sides slowly without the patties getting too brown. When the patties are done cooking, transfer them to plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Repeat for the remaining 3 batches.

Update from 4/17/2020: I made these tonight to go with lentilish chili and Alma and Derek scarfed them up. The only issue was that they were a tad undersalted. I think I used about 1.25 ounces of cheddar and 1/2 tsp. of fine salt. Next time I want to try a bit more salt. I might also try including one more chard stem (my bunch had 6 thick stems and I only used 2 of them) and see if the patties still hold together. Finally, I want to try to skip peeling the parsnip.

Notes from first attempt 10/10/2018:

I had both chard and parsnips from our CSA a few weeks ago. I decided to try this new recipe for chard and parsnip patties, since the author says her kids like them, and I was hoping that Alma might like them.

The first time I made the recipe I had a really hard time getting the patties to stick together. I think I didn’t chop the chard up finely enough. I ended up doubling the flour to get them to stick together at all, and still it was a challenge getting them to form into patties. The recipe says the chard should be “chopped” but I think it really needs to be more minced. The second time I made the recipe I used my food processor to mince the chard  and it worked much better. I also used the food processor for the onions and garlic, and to grate the parsnips.

Derek and I thought the patties were really tasty. I could taste both the parsnip and the chard well. The only problem was that I used quite a bit of oil to cook them. Also, Alma wouldn’t eat them. Maybe because of the cilantro? The second time I tried dividing the mixture into two halves and making one big “pancake/hashbrown” in my cast iron skillet. It was certainly much faster, but it didn’t get as nicely crispy and browned. But Alma ate them the second time around—not sure why.

This is definitely a recipe I would like to keep playing around with, especially in the autumn when we’re getting lots of chard from our CSA.

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Simple, French-style pureed soup, especially for toddlers

May 1, 2016 at 8:09 pm (French, Root vegetables, soup, unrated, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()

I recently read the book French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen LeBillon. I quite enjoyed the book, and—when it comes to preparing food for Alma—it gave me lots of “food” for thought. (Sorry!)

There are a number of interesting observations LeBillon makes in the book, but I’ll save them for another post. Today, I wanted to focus on the idea of starting dinner with a simple pureed vegetable soup. LeBillon says that the French start their meal with a soup several times a week. This soup is almost always a vegetable soup, and often a simple pureed vegetable soup. These soups supposedly make great starters for babies and toddlers, as they’re an easy way to introduce them to a lot of different vegetables. Also, it gives them a vegetable at the start of the meal, when they are most hungry. Finally, they’re really fast to make. Just saute some aromatics, throw in your veggies and broth, simmer briefly, and puree. All in all, that’s pretty easy, which is definitely a plus when it comes to cooking with a busy toddler underfoot. Finally, they freeze really well. You can freeze the soups in small jars and then defrost them quickly when needed—no need to scramble to put something healthy on the table at the last minute.

I thought I’d give it a try. I started with LeBillon’s simple French carrot soup with dill recipe.  Although most toddlers seem to like carrots, Alma usually does not, I’m not sure why—maybe a texture issue? I thought  pureeing them was worth a try. The first time I served it, Alma ate one very tiny bowl of it (a mise en place bowl), without too much complaint. She didn’t love it, but it helped that she’s just learned how to use a spoon, and so anything that requires a spoon is therefore very exciting. I had made quite a bit of soup, so I decided to take half of the leftovers and add in some roasted red bell pepper and jarred tomatoes, and pureed the soup again. I refrigerated a little bit of each soup, and froze the rest in small glass jars. The version with red bell pepper and tomato was definitely a bigger hit (with both Derek and Alma) than the straight carrot soup, but over the last several weeks Alma has eaten the plain carrot dill version several times, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes less so.

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Brown rice supper with tofu, peanut sauce, and stir-fried carrots

December 31, 2015 at 12:07 pm (C (1 star, edible), Deborah Madison, East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Grains, Root vegetables, Sauce/dressing, Spring recipes, Tofu, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

In the 70s and 80s many vegetarian restaurants offered some kind of brown rice bowl, which consisted of some combination of borwn rice, tofu, beans, veggies, and a sauce. In NYC in Angelica Kitchen they called it the Dragon Bowl. It’s simple, hearty, co-op food—nothing fancy, but tasty and filling. So when I asked Derek to pick a recipe for dinner last night, he picked this “brown rice supper” menu from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celeriac and lentils with hazelnuts and mint

September 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Ottolenghi, Root vegetables, Salads, Winter recipes)

This is another recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. My mom picked it to make last week, as she had never tried celeriac before. I’ve mostly eaten celeriac pureed in soups or raw in salads, so I was also excited to try this recipe—the celery root is boiled but not pureed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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What we’ve been cooking this week

May 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm (Beans, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, East and SE Asia, Georgeanne Brennan, Indian, Isa C. Moskowitz, Menus, Middle East / N. Africa, Nancie McDermott, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

I say what we’ve been cooking instead of what I’ve been cooking, because with the new baby, Derek has been doing about as much cooking as I have, if not more. In the first few months he was mostly just making old standbys, but in the last week or two we’ve finally started to branch out and try some new recipes. I don’t have time to write full blog posts about each one, so I’ll write a short blurb here for each. Read the rest of this entry »

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Za’atar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

November 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm (C (1 star, edible), Middle East / N. Africa, Ottolenghi, Root vegetables)

I’ve seen this Yotam Ottolenghi beet dip recipe show up on several blogs lately, and although beets and goat cheese is a standard combination, I’ve never tried beets and goat cheese with Zaatar before. It sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I used pre-cooked, pre-peeled beets, and so the recipe was pretty easy—just put everything but the garnishes in the food processor and blend. The puree tasted okay, but I could barely taste the za’atar, which was the reason I had picked the recipe in the first place. I ended up adding quite a bit more as a garnish on top of the puree. as well as more hazelnuts and goat cheese and scallions. (The garnishes seemed to disappear much faster than the beet dip.)

We ate the dip with pita bread, but it seemed to last an awful long time, given that it was only made from 6 beets. (Normally Derek and I could polish off 6 small beets in one or maybe two sittings.) Derek liked the dish more than me, but after we finally finished it I asked him if we should make it again, and he said no.

I think my main problem with the recipe is that it’s a dip. I just didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t figure out what to dip into it other than pita bread, and I didn’t really want to eat a massive amount of pita bread. I think I would have liked it better as a salad with sliced beets.

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Yam and Peanut Stew with Kale

November 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, One pot wonders, Root vegetables, soup, Uncategorized, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

My sister loves this recipe for a yam and peanut stew with kale, and has recommended it to me several times. She mentioned it again last week and coincidentally I had (almost) all the ingredients on hand (everything but the roasted and salted peanuts and the scallions). Hanaleah said that I could leave off both, since they’re just garnishes. So I decided to make it for dinner.

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Turnip gratin

May 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Necessarily nonvegan, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

It’s (still) turnip time! So on to new turnip recipe #2 for this year: a rich and satifying turnip gratin inspired by this photo recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miso tahini soup with turnips and colorful veggies

May 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Japanese, Miso, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

It’s turnip time! My farmer’s market here in Saarbruecken is full of beautiful bunches of white turnip, with the greens still attached. The name for these turnips is Mairübchen, literally “little May root” or “May root-let.” But they’re not little. Each turnip is about 2 to 3.5 inches in diameter. I’ve been buying lots of turnips just so I can eat the greens, but I had to figure out what to do with the turnips themselves.

I’ve never been a huge turnip fan, and I don’t have so many go-to recipe. I like them raw in salads, in soup (with leeks, potatoes, and chard), and in stews (like this tagine or Thai curry).  But I had one last delicata squash from the fall that was turning soft and needed to get used up, and some leftover brown rice int the fridge, so rather than making an old recipe, I decided to try a new recipe for miso tahini soup from 101cookbooks. I love Peter Berley’s miso-based tortilla soup with avocados, so the addition of avocado didn’t seem that odd. But a miso soup with tahini and lemon? I could not imagine it. Read the rest of this entry »

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The optimal way to bake sweet potatoes

March 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Root vegetables)

I was going to be home late on Tuesday, and so I asked Derek to bake some sweet potatoes, so that they’d be ready to eat when I got home. He asked me how and I said I didn’t remember exactly, but that they’re pretty forgiving. When I got home I found that he had rinsed them off, pricked the sweet potatoes with a knife in a few places, and put them on an (unlined) cookie sheet. He had been baking them at 375 for about an hour and they were not even close to being soft. I was surprised, as I feel like sweet potatoes are usually done after an hour in the oven. They were were quite large, but I think that even large sweet potatoes shouldn’t take much longer than an hour to get soft.

After 20 more minutes the potatoes were still hard. I poked the sweet potatoes a few more times and turned the oven up to 400. I also turned the sweet potatoes and added some water to the cookie sheet, to keep the skin from burning before the flesh got soft. After another 30 minutes or so they were finally done, but the cookie sheet was covered in burnt sweet potato juice. What a mess.

Clearly this wasn’t the optimal way to cook sweet potatoes. So what is? I did some quick internet research to try to figure it out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted sweet potato fries

February 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm (Fall recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Uncategorized, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I’ve decided to go on an elimination diet for a month, to see if it helps my allergies. I chose the foods to eliminate based on how allergenic they seem to be in general, as well as the results of a skin-prick test I had years ago. I decided to eliminate the three big allergens—soy, dairy, and gluten—as well as a number of other foods.

Today was my first day of what I call my “allergy-free” diet and I got home from work quite late and found very little in the fridge, since we were out of town all weekend and I didn’t get a chance to do my normal Saturday morning shopping. Normally I would throw together a pasta dish or a stir-fry with veggies and tofu, but today I had to be a little more creative. I found some sweet potatoes and a jar of giant white beans in the pantry, and so I improvised what turned out to be a quite tasty dinner of sweet potato fries and white beans with leeks and dill and parsley. (I had chopped herbs in the freezer.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Miso harissa delicata squash with kale and pepitas

December 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

Derek always loves what he calls “harissa pasta“, so I figured I should try out the one other harissa recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. This recipe was originally called roasted delicata squash salad, but that’s pretty boring so I re-dubbed it with a more descriptive name.  The recipe has some problems, primarily that the ratio of vegetables to sauce seems way off.  It calls for a pretty small (3/4 pound) delicata squash, 1/2 pound of potatoes, and just 1.5 ounces of kale.  We prepped all the veggies and then just stared at them, amazed at how little food it was. So we added another 1/2 pound of potatoes and some more squash, a total of about 1 pound 2.5 ounces before removing the seeds.  The only other change we made was steaming the kale briefly, because our German kale was extremely tough and very unpleasant to eat raw.  Also, my harissa isn’t the best so I added some cumin to it.  The final dish was very rich and very tasty, with strong salty, acidic, umami, and spicy notes, but  all in perfect balance.  The squash even contributed some sweetness, so it was really hitting all six tastes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fermented ginger carrots

September 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm (Root vegetables, unrated, Website / blog)

Jessica and I had a “fermenting afternoon” last week in which we made sauerkraut, kim chee, and these lacto-fermented ginger carrots.  I was skeptical about the carrots for some reason, but ended up loving them.  The carrots are not particularly sweet nor are they particularly gingery, but they add a nice crunch, a bit of salt, and a hit of brightness (both colorwise and flavorwise) to whatever you eat them with.  They only ferment for three days, so they’re not particularly funky tasting, just very slightly acidic / vinegar-y / pickle-y.  And they are quite versatile.  They seem to go well with everything.  Okay, maybe not oatmeal.  But if it was a savory oatmeal made with miso and scallions and sesame seeds … Read the rest of this entry »

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Baked sweet potato falafel

September 29, 2013 at 10:47 am (101 cookbooks, Beans, F (0 stars, dislike), Root vegetables)

I love falafel, but I’ve never made them successfully myself.  It doesn’t help that I detest deep frying.  So I was quite curious about this baked sweet potato falafel posted on 101 cookbooks, originally from the Leon cookbook.  Derek made these for dinner, and after “all that work” (okay, they weren’t really that much work) was quite disappointed with the final outcome.  They weren’t totally bland, but the flavor didn’t excite us too much, nor did it remind us of falafel.  And the soft, mushy texture was quite off-putting.  We wouldn’t make the recipe again, even with major changes.

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Autumn latkes with beets, carrot, and sweet potato

September 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Root vegetables, Winter recipes)

I wanted to title this post “Oven-baked autumn latkes with beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and fennel seeds,” but that seemed like a mouthful. In any case, these latkes are striking—they really show off the jewel tones of autumn.  Plus, they’re tasty and satisfying. The sweet potato adds lots of natural sweetness and the beets contribute their great earthy depth. And I’m always a sucker for fennel. The original recipe is from Veganomicon, and is, as you would expect, vegan, but I un-veganified it because I generally think of latkes as having eggs in them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tacos with roasted winter vegetables and red cabbage slaw

March 6, 2013 at 12:22 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Root vegetables, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

My friend Jessica and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner.  I wanted to use up some red cabbage, so she picked out this very seasonal recipe for tacos with roasted winter vegetables and red cabbage slaw.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Smoky potatoes and eggs

February 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm (breakfast, Deborah Madison, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, unrated, Winter recipes)

This recipe is from another cookbook that I “borrowed” from Spoons and Kathy:  Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.  When I returned home from California, my fridge contained (in addition to sauerkraut) a pack of eggs.  And there were some soon-to-be-seeing potatoes in the pantry.  So this recipe seemed like a good fit for a welcome home dinner.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted vegetables

December 28, 2012 at 12:38 am (Fall recipes, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Tofu, unrated, Winter recipes)

I wanted to update my post on mixed roasted vegetables, but when I went to look for it I discovered there wasn’t one!  I’ve been roasting vegetables for years, and I have never posted about it?  Wow.  Normally I roast vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet, but today I wanted to try to heal my cast iron dutch oven, and so I decided to roast the vegetables in it instead.  I’ve always thought that a baking sheet (with its low sides) is better when it comes to roasting, because it lets the moisture escape and yields crispier edges.  But my dutch oven roasted veggies turned out great.  Better than normal, I would say.  But I changed a few other things as well, so I can’t really make a direct comparison. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chipotle roasted potatoes

November 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

This is the recipe that Peter Berley (in Fresh Food Fast) pairs with the baked escarole and eggs recipe that I blogged about yesterday.  The potatoes are steamed briefly (to speed up the roasting time) and then tossed with crushed cumin, garlic, salt, chipotles in adobo sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme, and paprika.  Then the potatoes are baked on a cookie sheet at a very high temperature until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  Berley warns in the headnotes that these are “some really spicy roasted potatoes,” but I chose small-ish chipotles, and our potatoes turned out spicy but not as fiery as I expected.  I liked the potatoes a lot, and Derek loved them.  There’s something about spicy, crispy roast potatoes that’s just very satisfying on a cold autumn day.  And the lemon juice and garlic add a little acidity and bite, which contrast nicely with the dark, roasted, smoky flavors of the cumin, paprika, and adobo sauce. Read the rest of this entry »

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Moroccan-style vegetable tagine

July 2, 2012 at 10:39 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Middle East / N. Africa, Other, Root vegetables, Seitan)

I haven’t posted to this blog in a long time.  Partly it’s because I’ve been traveling a lot, and partly because I’ve been cooking old, familiar recipes instead of trying new ones.  But mostly it’s just that I’ve gotten behind.  I have a stack of recipes that I’ve cooked and keep meaning to blog about, but never seem to get to.  And the longer I wait the less I remember.  But last night I made a new recipe that’s definitely worth blogging about.  It’s a Moroccan-style tagine from the Angelica Home Kitchen cookbook by Leslie McEachern.   Derek and I have tried vegetarian (or at least meatless) tagines at Moroccan restaurants before, and never really cared for them.  The broth is always a bit boring and the vegetables bland and overcooked.  And the couscous never really excites us.  I decided to try this tagine recipe because it didn’t look like what we’ve gotten in restaurants!  There are lots of spices and not much broth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sardinian chickpea, fennel, and tomato soup

February 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Della Croce, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) (, )

This recipe from The Vegetarian Table: Italy (by Julia Della Croce) is for a Sardinian version of pasta e fagioli.  It didn’t look too exciting to me.   I like all the ingredients, but there didn’t seem to be anything to give it punch.  But a friend told me it was one of his favorite recipes from the cookbook, so I figured I’d give it a try.  It turned out it was delicious—much more than the sum of its parts.  I have no idea why. Even Derek, who complained bitterly about me making soup again, liked it a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spicy coconut sweet potato soup with collard greens

January 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm (East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Winter recipes)

This is another coconut curry with winter vegetables, but this one is from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, and I actually made it a few weeks before the recipe I just posted about.  Unlike McDermott’s recipe, this one doesn’t call for curry paste. Instead you add the seasonings individually—garlic, jalapeno, ginger, ground coriander seeds, and turmeric. McDermott has you saute the curry paste and onion in some of the coconut milk, but Berley calls for 2 Tbs. of olive oil. Given that there’s a whole can of coconut milk in the recipe, I think I’d use McDermott’s method next time.  The previous recipe called for mixed winter vegetables, but this one calls for only one large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch chunks.  Berley doesn’t give a weight for the sweet potato, but he does say that once cut it’s supposed to make 4 cups.  That seems like a large sweet potato! Towards the end of cooking Berley’s recipe calls for 1 small bunch of collards greens cut into strips.  I can’t get collards here, so I subbed in curly kale.  The final step in the recipe is to garnish the stew with cilantro and lime juice.

The soup was paired with a recipe for crispy tempeh strips. The combination sounds good but I couldn’t get myself to deep-fry tempeh. It just seems like such a waste of oil!

Neither Derek nor I cared for this dish very much.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it per se—it just tasted underseasoned. And unfortunately the kale wasn’t a good substitute for the collards.  I guess kale just doesn’t go with these southeast Asian flavors.  Although we didn’t like the dish that much, we had a guest over for dinner who quite enjoyed it.  He said he doesn’t normally like coconut curries, but this one was excellent!

Rating: B-
Derek: B-

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Red curry with winter vegetables and cashews

January 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Seitan, soup, Starches, Winter recipes)

Back in Pittsburgh I used to make this recipe several times each winter.  This dish has all four essential Thai tastes: sweet, salty, spicy, and sour. It tastes just like the curry you’d get in a restaurant, except the addition of vegetable broth results in a lighter dish that’s less overwhelmingly rich. The crunchy cashews make a nice textural contrast to the silky broth and creamy-soft vegetables.  Based on a recipe from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chard and potato terrine

March 10, 2011 at 12:43 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Necessarily nonvegan, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

I had some chard and potatoes that needed to get eaten, and found this recipe in Georgeanne Brennan’s cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table.  It looked pretty decadent (lots of butter plus cheese and a bit of heavy cream), but Derek liked how the picture looked and encouraged me to try it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter vegetable ragout with caramelized whole shallots

March 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm (Dark leafy greens, F (0 stars, dislike), Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Middle East / N. Africa, Root vegetables, Winter recipes)

I was looking for a recipe that called for turnips, and came across this winter ragout in France: the Vegetarian Table by Georgeanne Brennan.  It’s basically an oven-roasted stew full of big chunks of parnsips, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots.  (I couldn’t find any rutabagas so I subbed in potatoes.) The stew also calls for ribbons of chard and caramelized shallots.  At first glance I thought this recipe was for a French-style stew, but it’s seasoned with turmeric and raisins, and you’re supposed to serve it with yogurt and a mixture of dill, tarragon, mint, and chives.  So there’s definitely a North African influence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beet and fennel salad with hard-boiled eggs

February 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm (Derek's faves, My brain, Root vegetables, Salads, Spring recipes, unrated, Winter recipes)

Beet and fennel salad is a standard combination.  You’ll find hundreds of recipes for it on the internet.  Some recipes call for roasting the beets and fennel, but I prefer the contrast of the crisp, raw fennel and the silky, smooth roasted beets.  Many recipes omit the lettuce, but I think it helps bring the salad together, both literally and conceptually.  Finally, I like to add hard-boiled eggs to this salad.  It’s not traditional but I think beets and hard-boiled eggs just go great together.  Traditionally this salad is dressed with a simple vinaigrette, sometimes made with the juice from the beets.  But I like it with Annie’s Goddess dressing, of course.  Even Derek, who groans whenever I say I’m making salad, really likes this salad. Read the rest of this entry »

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Balsamic-roasted seitan over garlic mashed potatoes and parsnips

January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Seitan, Starches, Winter recipes)

I asked Derek to choose something to make for dinner, and he picked this menu out of the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  It was a big undertaking!  The menus in this book usually take under an hour, but I had to first make my own seitan.  Even after the seitan was made, this menu took longer than an hour, mostly because peeling the shallots took forever.  Luckily Derek liked the dish a lot, and I enjoyed it as well, so all that effort wasn’t wasted.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Lemon mint lentil potato ragout

December 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm (AMA, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Root vegetables, Starches)

The lentils and potato in this stew create a hearty base, while the lemon, mint, and feta add brightness and lots of flavor.  A bit of spinach adds more lovely green color, and more nutrients.  Based on a recipe in the AMA cookbook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Carrot mint salad

December 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Salads, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Winter recipes)

This recipe is quite simple but extremely tasty, and quite refreshing.  The vibrant orange of the salad adds some loveliness brightness to our otherwise grey European winter days.   The recipe is based on a recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, but I’ve modified it a bit to suit my own tastes.  Here’s my in-progress version of the recipe.  I’ve doubled the amount of carrots because carrot salad makes such nice leftovers, and I can eat it days on end without getting tired of it.  If you don’t have a food processor and don’t feel like grating 2 pounds of carrots by hand, by all means cut the recipe back down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Black bean and yam stew with sofrito

December 10, 2010 at 10:51 am (AMA, Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Caribbean, Root vegetables, Starches, Winter recipes)

Derek liked the Jamaican bean dish from AMA so much I decided to try another bean recipe from the same cookbook.  This one looked somewhat similar to my black bean and sweet potato burritos, but much easier to put together. Read the rest of this entry »

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