The Heart of the Jack-o’-Lantern

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You’re carving your jack-o’-lanterns now; soon you’ll buy canned pumpkin for pie. Join the club. Almost no one in this country cooks fresh pumpkin.

Yet the pumpkin — or those squashes whose non-English names translate as “pumpkin” — is a staple the world over, turned into substantial dishes celebrated for their sweetness and density. So-called sugar pumpkins, which are smaller and more flavorful than anything you might carve, are the best for cooking and available even in supermarkets. But you can tackle the big boys too.

All four of the recipes are global classics, and all use cubes of pumpkin flesh; admittedly, getting at the good stuff is the tricky part. And of course you can use any orange-fleshed squash in any pumpkin recipe. But given the season, let’s assume you’re working with a pumpkin. Start just as if you were carving a jack-o’-lantern: cut a circle around the stem, then pull up on the stem and discard it. Using the cavity as a handle, peel the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Yes, it will take a while. To read the entire article click here.

Posted in American, Produce

Pears: The Other White Fruit

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Pears, for some reason, are always second to apples. Nobody ever goes pear picking. Yet there’s nothing you can do with an apple that you can’t do with a pear. In fact pears are more versatile, because they’re not only good when they’re underripe and crisp; they’re also fantastic when they’re perfectly ripe and creamy. I know that with endless varieties of both apples and pears piled high at the market, you’re most likely going to buy more apples. That’s just the way it is. But I’m here to persuade you to reconsider the pear.

To make my case, I offer you 10 saladsthat can be used with any variety of pear. You’ll most commonly find green (and, increasingly, red) Anjou, yellowy green Bartlett and brownish Boscs; of the common ones, these last are best. But all are sweet and will soften with time, and without special treatment. Just be patient. When the “shoulders” soften, they’re ripe. Read the rest of this article here.

 

Posted in Produce

Snacks Worth Their Salt

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NOT long ago, edamame — the young, green, mostly still-in-the-pod soybeans — were exotic: new, fresh and unusual. A little treat to begin a meal at a Japanese restaurant; the equivalent of olives, or even bread and olive oil.

Incredibly, for almost everyone I know, that is the way they remain. Yet tucked in the freezer case of most supermarkets, at least here in the Northeast, edamame is as common as peas and carrots, sold in 12-ounce or 1-pound plastic bags and sold cheap.

So cheap that for four or five bucks you can buy a pound of organic edamame, and for considerably less than that, a pound of nonorganic. Since I figure you’re getting a quarter-pound or less when you order them at a restaurant, and paying (no doubt) up to seven bucks per serving, this alone should be an incentive to buy a bag.

Read the rest of this column and see the video here.

Posted in Produce

Bell Peppers, 16 Ways

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The sweetness of bell peppers — they’re never hot, unlike nearly all of their relatives — is especially pronounced in summer, which is also when you’re most likely to wind up with one that was grown domestically. Even a green pepper — which is unripe — is sweeter when the weather is hot.

A good red pepper is the sweetest and most flavorful of the lot — yellow and orange are simply other varieties — but there’s no denying that a multicolored tangle of peppers is a beautiful thing, and that even the relative bitterness of green peppers adds complexity to the mix. In any case, you can use any color pepper you like in any of these recipes.

Unless noted, use a pound of peppers in all of them. That’s roughly equivalent to two whole large peppers, three cups sliced or 2 1/2 cups chopped. Core and seed everything. My favorite method is just to cut around the core, standing the pepper up and slicing it like an apple from the outside.

One of the most basic and wonderful preparations for bell peppers is roasting; a roasted red pepper with olive oil, capers or anchovies (or all three) remains one of the great, simple joys of this territory. Put whole peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast in a 450-degree oven, or broil, turning the peppers as each side browns, until they have darkened, even blackened, and collapsed. (A hot grill is even better.) Gather the corners of the foil and wrap up the peppers; cool until you can handle them, about 15 minutes, then remove the blackened skin and seeds. (Do this under running water to make it easier; you probably won’t get all the skin off, and that’s O.K.)

The recipes are thorough, but far from exhaustive. Peppers combine beautifully with eggs, with vinegar and with eggplant and probably a dozen other ingredients I didn’t have the space to get to.

 

Posted in Produce, Recipes

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Roasted Peppers

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By Alaina Sullivan

Aside from color, a roasted bell pepper bears little resemblance to its raw counterpart.  After a stint in the oven, the skin becomes charred and wrinkly, sagging around the flesh it once held so tautly. The molten inside easily sheds its blistered skin – emerging incomparably more succulent and sweet than the raw version. The transformation is magical and delicious, and can easily be achieved in the oven, under the broiler, or over an open flame. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Back to Basics: How to Cook Vegetables

I was on the Today Show this morning (the first of three days in a row) demonstrating vegetable cooking techniques from my new book, How to Cook Everything: The Basics. For me, the easiest way to think about it is to group vegetables into three categories: greens, tender vegetables, and hard vegetables. You can cook the vegetables within each category pretty much the same way, so once you learn a few basic techniques, you’ll be able to cook any vegetable you can think of. Check out the video (above) and a simple recipe from each category here, and stay tuned for techniques for cooking meat (tomorrow), and desserts (Thursday).

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

Carrots and Cumin: 2 Ways

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By Alaina Sullivan

Carrot and cumin is a flavor pairing worth tattooing into your brain. Here, dressed simply in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, the carrots are roasted at high heat until they become tender, caramelized, and smoky. You can eat them straight from the baking sheet, or turn them into soup as I did (see below.) Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Roasted Carrots with Cumin*

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

1 to 1 ½ pounds baby carrots, green tops tripped, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds (you can also use ground cumin)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

The Minimalist: Baked Broccoli Rabe with Parmesan

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Broccoli rabe usually doesn’t make it past a sauté pan with garlic and olive oil, nor does it need to. But the extra step of baking it in the oven with a shower of grated Parmesan on top – which was suggested to me by the chef John Schenk, now at the Strip House, and which I wrote about in a 1997 Minimalist column — is one you should try.

Blanch the broccoli rabe until it’s bright green and nearly tender, then cook it in a pan with golden toasted garlic. From there, put it in a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until it the cheese melts, which Parmesan does unevenly — but in a good way. This is a recipe that you can easily start cooking, stop, and pick back up later if you need to, either after the blanching or after the sautéing. You can also serve it at room temp, so despite the three-step cooking process, it’s pretty flexible.

You can use almost anything green and leafy in place of the broccoli rabe, too — spinach, escarole, kale, broccoli and so on — and you can certainly play around with other cheeses in place of the Parmesan. But there’s something about the bitterness of the broccoli rabe combined with the spicy-sweet garlic and rich, salty Parmesan that’s just right.

Click here for the video and recipe

Posted in American, Produce

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

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By Alaina Sullivan

Broiling Brussels sprouts evades the risk of turning them mushy by quickly rendering the sprouts crisp and charred. Simply dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper, it takes less than five minutes under the intense direct heat for the sprouts’ edges to crisp up (keep a close eye so they don’t burn). The high heat heightens the spicy-pungent flavor of the sprouts and makes for caramelized leaves that are slightly sweet.

Brussels sprouts have an inherent nutty quality as well, which makes chopped nuts a natural pairing. Hazelnuts work beautifully (in this batch I used walnuts). If you fancy a meaty component, fry some type of fatty pork – bacon, chorizo, pancetta, prosciutto – chop it up and toss with the nuts and sprouts in the final minutes of broiling. You’ll get an intensely savory melding of flavors, at once nutty, meaty, smoky and brightened at the very end with fresh lemon juice and parsley. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

Heat the broiler. Trim about a pound of Brussels sprouts and pulse in a food processor—or use a knife—to chop them up a bit. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss. Broil the sprouts for about five minutes, until browning on the edges. Meanwhile pulse a handful of hazelnuts (or chop them). Shake the pan to flip the sprouts, add the nuts and broil for another three minutes. Sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and plenty of fresh parsley.

 

Posted in Produce, Recipes

12 Ways to Cook an Apple

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When you transform an apple by cooking, you may make it soft, fluffy, chewy, savory, sweet or creamy — the potential is enormous. Yes, an apple loses some juiciness and freshness when you cook it, but as an ingredient it’s just as versatile as a potato. (You probably know that in French the potato is called pomme de terre, or “apple of the earth.”) The surprise from a raw apple comes from the variety and the season, whereas the surprise from a cooked apple comes from what you do with it.

Just as long as you don’t make sauce. The goal here is to offer you some other options.

(Read the rest of this article here.)

Posted in Produce, Recipes