How to Cook Vegetables: Rev it Up! Wednesday, Jan 15 2014 

Eat Your Vegetables


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.

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”.


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.


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 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!


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

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

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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.

Cooking for One: Easy Recipes for Serving Yourself Friday, Jul 22 2011 

Scary, isn’t it? Pantry shelf meat? Whoa. When I am in Atlanta I am alone as often as I am not, but even if I come home from traveling to an empty refrigerator , I don’t reach for the “pantry shelf meat.”

You know I love to cook. I cook when I am happy, I cook when I am sad. I cook when I am hungry or just bored. Yes, I cook to eat, and I cook to work, but I also cook to relax. Cooking for me is more than the ability to put food in my mouth. The physical action of cooking nourishes me.

Maybe you eat alone sometimes, too. You might be a single parent and the kids are away at camp or your spouse is traveling for business. Perhaps you are divorced, never married or “partnered”, or sadly, your mate passed away. Maybe you are between girlfriends, boyfriends, or just plain old taking a break. Maybe you are simply decidedly, happily single.

As much as food is about sharing the table and bringing family and friends together – the table should also be about nourishing yourself, just yourself, all by yourself.

There are a lot of reasons for cooking for one. One friend bakes a sweet potato or just nibbles on cheese and crackers when she is by herself. Now, I love a sweet potato, but not night after night. Some single folks I know have nothing but diet coke in the fridge and go out to eat every last meal. Another friend who lives alone is admittedly rarely by herself and entertains friends or family nearly every night.

If I am by myself, I cook dinner for myself. Scarfing down a frozen Kashi pizza or opening a can of tuna is a desperation dinner for me, not a nourishing meal.

My friend and colleague Joe Yonan, food editor for the Washington Post has written a great book called Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures of Cooking for One. It’s packed with interesting, inventive, and enticing recipes for cooking for one.

Joe has shared with me a couple of recipes to share with you. This, to be clear, this isn’t necessarily meant to be a menu, instead it’s meant to show you a couple of really delicious recipes you can cook all by yourself! No need to limit yourself to a baked potato or feel yourself forced into inviting over hoards of friends. No pantry meat, no frozen pizza, canned tuna, or salty, soggy takeout. You, just you.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Or, maybe that needs to be Bon Appétit, You!

Fig , Taleggio, and Radicchio Pizza
Serves 1

So, no, I don’t keep pantry meat, but I do keep dried fruit, nuts, and cheese that will last for a while when I am away. I also keep frozen store-bought pizza dough in the freezer that I pick up at Whole Foods Market and even my local Publix bakery sells fresh pizza dough. Easy breezy. I LOVE Joe’s technique of cooking the pizza on an upside-down cast iron skillet. Absolute genius.

3 dried Mission figs
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons raw walnut pieces
All-purpose flour
1 (6-ounce) No-Knead Pizza Dough with Spelt (see below) OR 6 ounces store-bought whole wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small head radicchio, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
2 ounces Taleggio or another pungent cheese, cut into small pieces

If the dough has been refrigerated, transfer it to the countertop to let it rise for about 1 hour before making pizza.

Preheat the broiler with the rack set 5 inches from the element or flame. If you are using a cast-iron skillet or griddle pan for the pizza, set it over medium-high heat until it gets smoking hot, about 15 minutes. Transfer the skillet (turned upside down) or griddle pan to the broiler. If you are using a baking stone, heat it in a 500°F oven for an hour, then carefully transfer it to the broiler.

Put the figs in a small skillet set over medium heat, pour in the wine, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the figs soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

Toast the walnut pieces in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking the skillet frequently, until they are very fragrant and starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a plate, let cool, and then coarsely chop.

To shape the dough, dust a work surface liberally with flour and put the ball of dough on it. Sprinkle with flour and knead a few times until the dough comes together and holds its shape when you form it into a ball. Add more flour if necessary. Form it into an 8-inch round by pressing from the center out toward the edges, leaving a 1-inch border thicker than the rest.

Make sure you have all the topping ingredients measured out and ready before you assemble the pizza, because once you place the dough on the cooking surface you can’t easily move it.

Open the oven or broiler door, and quickly slide out the rack with the cooking surface (skillet, griddle pan, or baking stone) on it. Pick up the dough and quickly transfer it to the cooking surface, pressing it back into shape if need be, while being careful not to touch the cooking surface with your fingers.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil onto the dough, scatter the walnut pieces on top, then the radicchio, then the chopped figs, and then the cheese. Slide the broiler rack back into the oven and close the door.

Broil the pizza until the crust has puffed up around the edges, the pizza has blackened in spots, and the cheese has melted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the pizza with a wooden or metal pizza peel or a square of cardboard, transfer it to a cutting board, and let it rest for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top, cut the pizza into quarters, transfer it to a plate, and eat.

Here’s a short video of Joe showing you how to get that crispy crust at home.

No-Knead Pizza Dough with Spelt
Makes 5 (8-inch) pizza crusts or 10 (5-inch) flatbreads

1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
2 1/2 cups white bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast (also known as rapid-rise or bread machine yeast)
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Combine the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.

Pour the water and oil into another bowl or measuring cup, pour the liquid into the flour mixture, and stir until blended.

Lightly coat a large clean bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature (about 70 degrees F).

After 8 hours, the dough should have risen and be bubbly on the surface. The timing is very forgiving here; you can let it continue bubbling and very slowly expanding for several more hours if you like. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator for about an hour before dividing, so it’s easier to work with. Lightly rub your hands and work counter with olive oil. Turn out the dough onto the counter in one piece. Lightly dust it with flour and fold it onto itself a few times, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough comes together and holds its shape when you form it into a ball. Cut into 5 equal pieces (for pizza), about 6 ounces apiece, or 10 equal pieces (for flatbread), about 3 ounces apiece.

Refrigerate or freeze what you’re not going to use right away. Transfer the balls to individual freezer-safe plastic food storage bags, drizzle with olive oil, and turn the dough to coat it in the oil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Sprinkle the piece(s) you are going to use immediately with flour and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour.

Proceed with pizza recipe.

Note: If you have refrigerated the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rise for about 1 hour. If you have frozen the dough, defrost in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours, then transfer it to the counter to rise for an hour. The dough should be pliable and able to be easily stretched into shape.

Mahi Mahi with Kiwi -Avocado Salsa with Coconut Rice

According to my friends over at Seafood Watch, catching Mahi Mahi (dolphinfish) using pole-and-line or trolling gear limits accidental catch of other species. Pole-and-line and troll-caught mahi mahi from the U.S. Atlantic is your “Best Choice and all other sources are a “Good Alternative.” U.S. longline is another “Good Alternative” but “Avoid” all imported mahi mahi caught with a longline.

1 (6-ounce) mahi mahi fillet (or substitute halibut)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup coconut water
1/3 cup jasmine or other long-grain white rice
1 kiwi, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 scallion, white and green parts, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 fresh jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon honey, or more to taste (optional)

Pat dry the mahi mahi with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small skillet or saucepan fitted with a lid, combine the coconut water, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat until the liquid is barely bubbling. Place the mahi mahi fillet on top of the rice, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the coconut water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice and fish stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.

While the rice and fish are cooking, make the salsa. In a small bowl, stir together the kiwi, avocado, scallion, jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and add a touch of salt if necessary and a drizzle of honey if it’s too tart.

Transfer the rice and fish to a plate, top with the salsa, and eat.

Reprinted with permission from Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan copyright copyright 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: Ed Anderson copyright 2011

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

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