Eat Your Vegetables

vegetable

Right about this time of year people are just starting to get a wee bit weary of root vegetables, winter squash, and bitter greens. Face it, after the romantic rush of collard greens kissed by frost and the seductive aromas of roasting roots, kitchen life can get a bit dull. Roots become a rut. Sweet potatoes are no longer nature’s candy. Face it, it’s a challenge to stimulate the senses — and your family — with a rutabaga.

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Even though I most often cook for two or more, there’s a recent new cookbook that offers a very refreshing look at vegetables and is guaranteed to spice things up. It’s called Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook by my friend and colleague Joe Yonan. I adore Joe’s approach to food and cooking and featured his first book, Serve Yourself, in my blog a few years ago. He’s the food editor for the Washington Post. Check out his witty, smart piece on lentils. Mama loves him. She calls him “that handsome boy from DC”.

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Well, that handsome boy has written a great cookbook that you need in your kitchen.  It’s perfect for anyone looking to expand their vegetarian and produce-based repertoire. The recipes are eclectic, flavorful, and yes, inspired. The ideas are fresh and out of the box. This cookbook will help you get more plants on your plate — even in the dead of winter. Yes, it’s a cookbook for cooking for one, but I’ve found the many of the recipes are very agreeable to scaling up or, as with the recipe I am featuring below, the portions are fine to share with one person. The main thing is that this book will help you think about cooking vegetables in a whole new light.

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Today, I am sharing Joe’s recipe from Eat Your Vegetables  for a Sweet Potato Galette and just to prove these rustic roots can be rewarding, my recipe for a Revved Up Rutabaga Puree. I’m certain you will like them both.

A safety note about knives – rutabagas are hard and dense, much like winter squash and celery root.  I have found that the safest way to cut these tough vegetables is to press the chef’s knife against the vegetable, but do not force the knife through the vegetable. Hold the knife firm to the vegetable, and using your other hand, actually rock the vegetable back and forth into the knife. Try it. It’s a revelation.

Please look for Shrimp and Grits in my column Down-Home Comfort later this week on FoodNetwork.com. I kicked off the series with Collard Greens & Whole Grain Cornbread and last week was Brunswick Stew. The response has been really great, so thanks for reading!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

vegetables

Revved Up Rutabaga Puree
Serves 4 to 6

Root vegetables, unlike green vegetables, need to start cooking in cold liquid, not boiling liquid.

4 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced fat low sodium chicken broth
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the stock, cubed rutabaga, and butter in a medium saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rutabaga is tender to the point of a knife, about 30 minutes.

To make the puree, using a slotted spoon, transfer the cubes to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade or the jar of a blender. Add the garlic and process until a smooth puree. If the mixture is too thick, add some or all of the cooking liquid, if necessary. If too thin, transfer to a clean saucepan and cook over low heat to evaporate some of the moisture. Add thyme leaves and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. If needed, re-warm the puree over medium-low heat. Serve immediately.

sweet potato galette

Sweet Potato Galette with Mushrooms and Kale
Serves 1-2

1 cup lightly packed kale leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón), or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (for more heat)
1 very small onion or large shallot lobe, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces oyster or other variety meaty mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
Kosher or sea salt
1 small (6- to 8-ounce) sweet potato, scrubbed but not peeled, cut in 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons grated Comté, Gruyère, or other nutty mountain cheese
2 tablespoons raw unsalted pecan or walnut halves
1 green onion, trimmed and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Strip the kale leaves from the stems and coarsely chop the leaves. Thinly slice the stems and keep them separate from the leaves.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the pimenton and let it sizzle and bloom for a few seconds, then add the onion, garlic, and sliced kale stems and sauté until tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they collapse and release their liquid, then add the kale leaves and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt to taste and remove from the heat.

Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into a small, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Carefully arrange half of the sweet potato slices in the skillet in concentric circles, overlapping to form a couple of layers; sprinkle each layer with a little salt as you go. Spoon on the mushroom-kale mixture, and top with the grated cheese.

Arrange the remaining sweet potato slices on top, sprinkling each layer lightly with salt as you go. Press the galette with a spatula, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

While the galette is baking, sprinkle the pecans into a small skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the nuts start to brown and become fragrant, a few minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool; if you leave them to cool in the pan, they can burn. Once they are cool, chop them.

Remove the galette from the oven and take off the foil. Turn the oven to broil and slide the skillet under the broiler element or flame until the sweet potatoes just brown on top.

Let the galette cool for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the skillet to loosen it. Invert a plate over the skillet and, using oven mitts, hold the skillet and plate together and quickly flip the two so the plate is on the bottom and set it on the counter. Lift off the skillet. Some of the potato slices may stick to the pan; use a spatula to scrape them out and patch up the galette.

Sprinkle with the green onion slices and nuts and eat. (If you prefer, you can leave the galette in the pan and cut wedges out of it for eating.)

All Photos by Virginia Willis – except the Sweet Potato Galette

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Sweet Potato Galette: Reprinted with permission from Eat Your Vegetables by Joe Yonan, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Food Photography credit: Matt Armendariz © 2013

Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.