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

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.

vegetable-www.virginiawillis.com

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

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, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Keep up with me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest.

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.

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Lady Luck: Black Eyed Peas and Greens Tuesday, Jan 1 2013 

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Eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day is a special Southern tradition, and folklore says it brings luck and money in the upcoming year. However, eating greens actually isn’t a rarity for me. We eat greens 3 or more nights a week. I buy bunches at the farmer’s market, but I will admit to taking a shortcut with the pre-washed and pre-chopped bags of greens, too. They are just so easy and so good! It’s simple to simmer a couple of handfuls with an onion and a little vegetable or canola oil, just until they are tender. Meme used to cook them for hours and hours with salt pork or fatback. The salty, delicious greens would be so soft and tender they would practically slide down my throat. I like them prepared the old-fashioned way, but I also like them a bit more toothsome.

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In the spirit of clean-eating and starting out the new year with a new you, I  am  sharing a recipe for a Black Eyed Pea Paella from my friend and colleague Kim O’Donnel. Kim is such an inspiring person, writer, and friend. Her most recent book is The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebration: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into). Her recipes are flat out delicious and, they just happen to be meatless. They are built on sound technique and good flavor. This book is a beautiful follow-up to her first book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour. Her recipes are about good food, first. She’s a meat eater — she eats meat, just not as much as she used to.

Kim is very involved in the global movement Meatless Mondays. Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Meatless Monday premise is that going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. One pound of commodity ground beef – meaning not grass fed or all natural – takes 2000 gallons of water to produce. That’s astonishing. Thoughtful and mindful eating is a good way to make a small change in our health and our lives. The tiny step of going meat-free one day a week can make an impact on your own health, and the health of the global community.

Often at this time of year people make resolutions. I find those grand proclamations can be perfect set ups for massive failure. Instead, I prefer the Japanese concept of kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency. Lordy Mercy, I know I am flawed and I have plenty to work on. If I think of all the things I should work on in my life, it’s far too overwhelmingBut, if I think about improving my life a little bit at a time, it’s manageable. Kaizen.

Here are a few tips for cooking black eyed peas and greens from a recent interview with  the Charlotte Observer. I also have an article in this month’s Fine Cooking on Hoppin John. Meaty or meatless, you’ve got the recipes for a lucky start to the New Year. Many wishes for a safe, prosperous, and healthy 2013.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

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VA’s Lucky Greens
Serves 4 to 6

Kale, collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens are dark leafy winter greens that are nutritional powerhouses and familiar friends on the Southern table. Look for brightly colored greens free of brown spots, yellowing edges, or limp leaves. The best way to clean greens is to first remove the tough stalks and stems. Fill a clean sink with cold water. Place the greens in water and swish around, allowing the grit to fall to the bottom the sink. Lift greens out of the sink and transfer to a large bowl and rinse the sink. Repeat the process at least three times or more as needed until no grit remains.

2 pounds assorted greens, such as collard, kale, mustard, or turnip
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
2 cups water
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce, for serving

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil, gradually stir in the greens, allowing each batch to wilt before adding more; season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, until greens are just tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Black eyed pea paella

KIM’S BLACK-EYED PEA PAELLA
Serves 6 

Kim says, “I learned how to make paella many years ago from one of Spain’s great culinary ambassadors, chef José Andrés. Using the technique Andrés taught me, I have created a meatless version with
black-eyed peas, a new twist on New Year’s hoppin’ John.”

The amounts below are for six hearty servings. Ideally, you’ll
want to use a 15-inch paella pan to ensure the most even cooking
results, but don’t worry if that’s not an option. Use a wide and
shallow skillet (lid not necessary) as close to 15 inches in diameter
as you can get. For a half-batch, use a pan about 10 inches wide.

Saffron, which is a spice derived from a variety of crocus, is a
traditional seasoning in paella, for both flavor and color. For this
dual tribute to the Catalan and the American South, the saffron
is not as integral to the final dish as is the pimentón (smoked paprika),which adds layers of flavor to the beans. You can do this
dish without the saffron, but in my humble opinion, you can’t do it
without the pimentón.

4 cups vegetable stock
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion (more than 1⁄2 medium-size onion)
1 cup seeded and diced bell pepper of your favorite color (about 1 medium-size pepper)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen black-eyed peas, or 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, cooked*
1 1⁄2 teaspoons smoked paprika (also known as pimentón)
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 1⁄4 cups tomato puree
1⁄2 teaspoon crumbled saffron (optional)
1/2 cup white wine you enjoy drinking
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice (1 pound)
Optional garnishes: Pickled peppers, chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest

*To cook dried black-eyed peas: Soak the peas for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Drain the peas, then place in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a lively simmer over medium-high heat.Cook at a hard boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender to the bite. This should take about 1 hour.

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: In a medium-size saucepan, warm the vegetable stock until heated through and keep covered, on low, until ready to use.

Over medium-high heat, heat a 15-inch paella pan until it’s too hot to place your hand about 3 inches above the pan. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, tilting the pan so that the oil coats the entire bottom surface. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning or sticking.

Add the bell pepper, stir well, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and smoked paprika, stirring until the vegetables are evenly coated with the spice, about 90 seconds.Transfer the black-eyed pea mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe the pan clean with a dry paper towel to remove any burnt, stuck-on bits. Add the remaining olive oil plus the garlic and cook over medium heat until, as chef Andrés says, “they dance.” (When
heated, the garlic moves around the pan in the bubbling oil.)

Add the tomato puree and stir often, over the next 5 minutes, until the color has transformed from red to a more golden, orange-brown shade. Add the saffron, if using. Then add the white wine and increase the heat to medium-high, stirring to keep from burning.

Return the black-eyed pea mixture to the pan. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, taste for salt, then season accordingly. You want the mixture to be slightly salty. This is also your last chance to add salt before
the rice is added.

Add the rice and set a timer for 16 minutes. For the first 6 minutes, gently stir the paella, to minimize burning and sticking. For the remaining cooking time, please heed the advice I learned from chef

Andrés: no more stirring or touching. Otherwise, you
will have a gummy rice concoction. This is also why you cannot add salt at this stage.

At minute 16, taste a grain of rice for doneness. It should be slightly al dente, like risotto. Turn off the heat and allow the paella to sit for at least 5 minutes. The results should be dry, not soupy. Serve hot in bowls.

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, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2012 Virginia Willis Culinary Productions, LLC.

EZ Does It: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Wednesday, Sep 8 2010 

Fall is just around the corner. This morning in Atlanta the low was 64 degrees – yes, it still got up in the 90s, but the morning was cool.

I love, love, love mornings like today. I slowly opened my eyes, took in my surroundings, and smiled.

I have a lot of reasons to smile and be thankful.

Lot’s happening lately – we shot a TV pilot on harvesting shrimp for What it Takes, a show about what it takes to get the food on your plate.

Saveur Magazine decided I was one of the sites they love! Yippeee!! They featured my Grilled Chicken with Mama’s BBQ Sauce recipe for Labor Day.

Food News Journal decided my friend and colleague Rebecca Lang were both worthy of their “Best of the Blogs” on the same day!

And, yes, I am still on deadline for my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections from a Southern Culinary Journey. It’s filled with simple, doable basic recipes much like in Bon Appétit, Y’all. In addition, each recipe has a paragraph with a short recipe, presentation tip, or technique on how to transform the Basic recipe into something Brilliant and more chef-inspired.

So, yes, a lot going on…..

Given my schedule, something EZ would be really nice. Put it on and forget about it. That’s where my friend and colleague, Judith Finlayson and her book, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker come in.

In the continued spirit of The Pork Chop Theory, I want to share with you a few of Judith’s recipes. With over 200 delicious she demonstrates that by using a slow cooker, even the most time-pressed person can arrive home to a ready-to-eat and delicious home-cooked meal. She’s got updated recipes for standard and traditional vegetarian dishes. Additionally, classic meat dishes have been recreated in vegetarian versions, with vegan-friendly recipes clearly identified. It’s a must have cookbook, appealing to a wide range of tastes including the flexitarian, aka “the sometime vegetarian” and people who like just like good food, meatless or not, like myself.

Thanks so much, Judith even though there’s not a pork chop in site, your generosity and sharing fits the bill.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Beet Soup with Lemongrass and Lime
Serves 6

This Thai-inspired soup, which is served cold, is elegant and refreshing. Its jewel-like appearance and intriguing flavors make it a perfect prelude to any meal. I especially like to serve it at summer dinners in the garden.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

1 tbsp olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed and
cut in half crosswise
2 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
6 cups vegetable broth, divided
6 beets (about 21⁄2 lbs/1.25 kg), peeled
and chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 long red chile pepper, seeded and diced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt, optional
Coconut cream, optional
Finely chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 2 cups (500 mL) of the vegetable broth and stir well. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Add remaining 4 cups (1 L) of vegetable broth and beets. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until beets are tender. Add red pepper, and chile pepper, if using. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes, until peppers are tender. Discard lemongrass.

Purée using an immersion blender. (You can also do this in batches in a food processor or stand blender.) Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in lime zest and juice. Season to taste with salt, if using. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with coconut cream, if using, and garnish with cilantro.

Arugula-Laced Caramelized Onion Sauce
Serves 4

I love the bittersweet flavor of caramelized onions but on the stovetop caramelizing onions is a laborious process of slow, constant stirring. Made in the slow cooker, caramelized onions require almost no attention. In this recipe, I have added sugar to the onions to ensure deeper flavor. Serve this luscious sauce over whole wheat pasta, polenta, or grits. Complete the meal with a tossed green salad topped with shredded carrots for a splash of healthy color.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

2 tbsp olive oil
6 onions, thinly sliced on the vertical
(about 3 lbs/1.5 kg)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 tbsp white or red miso
3 cups tomato sauce
2 bunches arugula, stems removed and
chopped
Cooked pasta, preferably whole-grain, polenta or grits

In slow cooker stoneware, combine olive oil and onions. Stir well to coat onions thoroughly. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour, until onions are softened.

Add sugar and peppercorns and stir well. Place a clean tea towel, folded in half (so you will have two layers), over top of stoneware to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours, stirring two or three times to ensure that the onions are browning evenly and replacing towel each time.

Remove towels, add miso and stir well to ensure it is well integrated into the onions. Add tomato sauce and arugula and stir well to blend. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes, until mixture is hot and flavors have blended. Serve over hot whole-grain pasta, polenta or grits.

Coconut-Laced Black Sticky Rice Pudding
Serves 8

Rice pudding is a dessert I love and this is one of my favorite versions. It’s exotic and delicious. You can serve it if you’re looking for a Wow! factor but it’s so easy to make you can also prepare it for a personal treat.

• Small (2 to 31⁄2 quart) slow cooker
• Lightly greased slow cooker stoneware

4 cups water
11⁄2 cups Thai black sticky rice
1⁄2 cup raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or
other evaporated cane juice sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 can (14 oz/400 mL) coconut milk
Chopped mangos, peaches or bananas,
optional
Chopped toasted almonds or toasted
shredded coconut, optional

In a small saucepan, bring water and black sticky rice to a vigorous boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt, then transfer to prepared slow cooker stoneware.

Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or overnight or on High for 4 hours. Stir well, then stir in coconut milk. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with chopped fruit and/or toasted almonds, if using.

Excerpted from The Vegetarian Slow Cooker © 2010 Judith Finlayson.
Text, cover and photographs © 2010 Robert Rose Inc.Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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

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