Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turnips?? Rutabagas?? Swedes??

Growing up in a large Irish-American family, turnips to me meant that big yellow, waxy bulb that you can't cut without a cleaver. They'd turn up at the holidays--Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas-- prepared by my Grandma Brown. Simply boiled, mashed, and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. None of us really seemed to like the turnips (and in those days the gathering was large-- with just my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins we were over 20 at the table(s)). But we all had a dollop of turnips on our plates, to make Grandma happy.
I now know that what we called turnips are really rutabagas-- called 'swedes' in the UK-- a winter root vegetable that is best boiled and mashed. Not so yummy raw. The turnips I get in my CSA share are white and purple, the density of potatoes (as opposed to rocks), and have a distinctive peppery taste. Young specimens can be enjoyed raw. You can treat them a bit like potatoes-- keeping in mind that they do bring their own distinctive flavor to however you are preparing them. I've become quite fond of the turnip -- I liked the recipe for Scalloped Turnips with Apples so much, I had seconds last night. It's a perfect fall dish, warm and creamy, marrying the root vegetable with local apples.
Scalloped Turnips with Apples
1 large or 2 medium white turnips
1 large apple
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the turnips and the apple. Cut them into thin slices. Peel the onion and slice thinly. 
Place half of the turnips in a single layer in the bottom of a gratin or baking dish. Sprinkle half the apples and half the onions over the turnips. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with 1 Tablespoon of butter and sprinkle one Tablespoon of flour over all. Repeat with remaining turnips, apple, onion, butter and flour. 
Pour enough milk over all to come halfway up the vegetables. Cover tightly (use aluminum foil if the baking dish does not have a tight lid) and bake 30 minutes.
Remove cover, return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes, until the turnips are tender and the milk has thickened slightly. Serve hot.

What To Do With TURNIPS

1. Eat them raw: Young fresh turnip is crisp and refreshing with a mild spicy flavor, much like radishes but milder. Julienne it and add it to salad or coleslaw, or as a crisp contrast in chicken salad 
2. Roast them: Either alone or with other root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Cut the vegetables into similar sizes and preheat the oven to 375. Toss with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper (for fancier seasonings there are recipes in the book). Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the size of the vegetables, until tender.
3. Braise them: Cut them into cubes and sauté with onions in butter or oil until just changing color. Cover with chicken or vegetable stock and maybe a little white wine and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. You can then remove the turnips and turn the heat on high to boil the sauce to reduce it. Serve the turnips with the sauce.
4. Boil them: for large turnips, peel and dice and place in a pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes or longer, until tender. Drain. Serve cubed, dressed with butter and salt and pepper, or mash with butter.
5. Pressure cook them: Peel and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Cover with 1 cup of water and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Microwave them: Peel and cut into wedges. For each medium turnip add 1/2 tablespoon of water and cook, covered, on high, for 3 minutes.
7. Fry them: Cut into 1/2” strips, and fry in 1-inch of water until crisp, turning often. Serve with ketchup, or mayonnaise mixed with horseradish.

HOW TO STORE TURNIPS:  Do not wash. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 4 months.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Plethora of Peppers

In May I planted a variety of peppers in my little courtyard garden... Thai Poinsettia, habanero, jalapeno and anaheims. I've really enjoyed having them, as well as fresh herbs- some from pots included in my CSA share, some perennials, and some I planted. It's been great to pad out in the morning and grab some basil and a pepper to add to scrambled eggs, or shred and sprinkle over a bagel and cream cheese. Now we're getting ready for the first frost, and it's time for me to pick what's there and think about pulling them out for the winter.
So I went out in the cool of the morning and picked everything there. Here's a picture of this morning's harvest. I couldn't bring myself to pull up the plants just yet--flowers on the pepper plants promised more peppers in the cool, sunny days to come. While I was out there, I also picked a bowlful of green grape tomatoes.
But... now I have a plate-full of really spicy peppers to use!! Here's the plan:
Spicy Pepper Sherry, simple as can be. In a few weeks I'll have a condiment to sprinkle on veggies, maybe brighten up a soup or some rice or a baked potato. Use in stir fries and other Asian dishes.
Green Tomato Salsa. Using the the unripe grape tomatoes, some corn from this week's share, basil, oregano, chilies, and adding garlic, lime juice, and a little cumin and olive oil.
Chiles Rellenos. Dinner! This recipe will use the eggs from my farm share this week, leftover Corn Milk Tortillas from last week and the above mentioned Green Tomato Salsa.
Spicy Pepper Sherry
Using the garlic and ginger will definitely give this an Asian flare. If you want it to be more versatile, leave out the ginger.
1 bottle sherry (I'm using Fino, 'cause that's what I have, but any sherry will do)
5 jalapeno peppers
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled (optional)

Make sure the peppers are super clean. Peel the garlic and ginger. Pour out 1 cup of sherry from the bottle and push the peppers, garlic and ginger into them (cut them if you must, but try not to). Top off with as much of the sherry you removed as fits. Cap and store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Wash the sherry bottle with hot soapy water and pour the strained sherry back into the bottle. Use in soups, stews, stir fries, sauces for chicken wings or ribs.

Green Tomato Salsa
You don't have to use grape tomatoes. If substituting regular sized green tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces before measuring.
2 cups green grape tomatoes
1 ear corn
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh basil or cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh chives OR 1 scallion
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut the kernels off the corn cob. Cut off the stems of the peppers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and veins from the peppers. Peel the garlic. 
Place the tomatoes, peppers, corn and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until minced. 
Store in the refrigerator.
Chile Rellenos
If using fresh peppers, charring them first is important. You can use canned, peeled peppers in the winter. 
6 Anaheim or Cubanelle (aka 'Italian Frying") peppers
8 ounces cheddar cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
oil for frying

1. Char and peel the peppers: Inside-- if you have a gas stove, turn a burner on high (turn on the vent) and place the whole peppers right on the flame. Turn as the outsides blacken. When they are all charred, place in a paper or plastic bag and let steam. When cool, rub off the charred skin by running them under cold water. OR place under a broiler until charred, place in a bag and rub off the skin. Outside-- place directly on coals or over a high flame on the grill. Turn as the skins turn black. Follow the directions for steaming and removing skin, above.
2. Cut a small slit, lengthwise, near the top of each pepper at the stem end, about 1-inch long. 
3. Cut the cheese into pieces that will fit into the peppers, estimating the length and width of each pepper (better to be a bit smaller than large when doing this estimation). Carefully ease the cheese into the pepper through the slit.
4. Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites to a soft peak (this takes me about 2 minutes by hand with a wire whisk). Fold in 2 Tablespoons of flour and the egg yolks.
5. Dredge the peppers in flour.
6. Heat 1-inch of oil in a heavy skillet. When a drop of batter fluffs up immediately, place one pepper into the batter. With a large spoon turn it around until coated by the batter and carefully place in the hot pepper. Repeat with remaining peppers (you probably can't fit them all into your skillet, so do it in batches). When the batter puffs up and is golden, turn over and continue to cook until both sides are lightly browned. Remove to paper towel lined plate.
7. Serve with salsa and sour cream. Good side dishes are rice, refried beans, and/or tortillas.

My share this week included broccoli, lettuce, eggs, corn, turnips and collard greens. Here's where everything went:

Giant chef salad with hard cooked eggs, lettuce, and some broccoli
London broil with Brazilian Greens and sweet potato (from last week's share)
Beef burritos using leftover london broil, lettuce, tomatoes, green tomato salsa
Chile rellenos with green tomato salsa and corn milk tortillas from last week
Oven Fried chicken, Herb baked corn on the cob, steamed broccoli

Have a great week!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mello's Farm Stand and Corn-Milk Tortillas

Laura and Art Mello wear many hats. During the school year, Art coaches basketball and girls' soccer and Laura teaches science at the local community college. Year 'round they are parents of 10-year old Sarah and six-year old Cooper. And from spring to fall they are farmers and retail produce sellers. Mello's Farm Stand in Portsmouth, Rhode Island offers the produce that Art and Laura grow on 30 acres in Tiverton and Little Compton as well as other fruits, vegetables and honey that Art buys wholesale for the stand. They provide produce for Brown University dining services, sell wholesale to Whole Foods, and sell at the East Side Marketplace in Providence and have a small CSA program. Teacher, coach, Mom, Dad, farmers and entrepreneurs- the Mellos are busy people! They take pride in what they do, and include the children in both the farming and the business. Sarah designed the canvas bags used by the CSA members for their shares each week- a cheerful representation of the Mello family's work ethic.

Back home in Connecticut, I've been trying to figure out different ways to use corn. Yes, corn. As much as we look forward to the first taste of corn each summer, I'm getting bored with it. So today I husked 5 ears from the week's share and grated it into a large bowl, producing 2 cups of 'corn milk'-- liquid and grated corn. And I stared at it for awhile. Put in a load of laundry. Took the dog out. Thought I'd put it in a yeast bread but couldn't find yeast (what's that about? I always have yeast!). I thought about corn bread or corn muffins, but they're not that flexible, and am I really going to eat a dozen muffins? I could give them to the neighbors....
Finally I decided to make flour tortillas, but use the 'corn milk' instead of water. I didn't know if it would work. Would the corn make the tortillas break up too much to be rolled thinly? Would the starch content in the corn react with the flour gluten in some way, making the dough too elastic or not elastic enough? There's only one way to tell. So I used my standard flour tortilla recipe, and literally just substituted the corn milk for the water. They rolled out really easily, and are delicious!! Perfect for breakfast or a lunch wrap. You can really taste the corn in them, without the graininess of cornmeal.
"Corn-milk" Tortillas
5 ears fresh sweet corn
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces butter or lard

Husk the corn, making sure to remove all the silky strands. Using a box grater, grate the ears, removing as much liquid as possible. You should have about 2 cups of 'corn milk'. If not, add water to make 2 cups.
Place the flour in a bowl and add the salt. Mix to combine. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter or lard until all pieces are the size of petite peas.  Add the corn milk all at once and stir. The mixture will seem dry. 
Turn out onto a very lightly floured board and gather the mass together. Knead gently, squeezing the dough together to make a fairly smooth ball. 
Divide into 12 to 16 pieces and form into balls (if you don't start out with a circular ball, it will be hard to make the tortillas round as you roll them out). Heat two cast iron skillets or a griddle over medium high heat.
Roll out each ball of dough, turning frequently and using flour as needed to avoid sticking to the surface until the tortilla is quite thin, about 10-inches in diameter. Place on the hot, ungreased skillet or griddle and cook until you can see little puffs in the tortilla- less than one minute. Flip over for 30 seconds or so and remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Serve hot with butter or cheese, frijoles or any kind of burrito filling, or use as a sandwich wrap.

Have a great week!