Sweet winter squashes, jewel-toned root vegetables, and hearty potatoes make local eating easy and delicious in the colder months of autumn and winter. Whether these vegetables are gathered straight from the garden, from a well-tended root cellar, or the market, their delectable flavors and nutritional benefits pack a powerful punch. With more than 250 easy-to-follow recipes that include Celery Root Bisque, White Lasagna with Winter Squash, and Thai Cabbage Salad, this collection will inspire you to explore the deliciously versatile world of root-cellar vegetables.
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About the Author
Andrea Chesman is the author of The Fat Kitchen as well as many other cookbooks that focus on traditional techniques and fresh-from-the-garden cooking. Her previous books include The Pickled Pantry, Serving Up the Harvest, 101 One-Dish Dinners, and The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How. She teaches and gives cooking demonstrations and classes across the United States. She lives in Ripton, Vermont.
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RECIPES from the ROOT CELLAR250 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables
By Andrea Chesman
Storey PublishingCopyright © 2010 Andrea Chesman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHearty Greens and Cabbages
HEARTY GREENS, as opposed to salad greens, stand up to cooking, though cabbage is delicious raw in a well-dressed salad. Hearty greens include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and mustard greens. (Spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, and beet greens are tender greens that are mostly unavailable in the winter.) Most of the hearty greens belong to the Cabbage family, all descendants of the wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea var. oleracea.
These vegetables stand up to some pretty cold growing conditions in the garden and can be counted on to store reasonably well in a refrigerator or root cellar. Best of all, they are all very nutritious, ranking high as sources of vitamins A, C, and E and calcium and well regarded for their sulfur-containing phytochemicals, which are thought to provide significant protection against several different types of cancer. One of the best things you can do for the long-term health of your eyes is to enjoy a serving of greens a few times a week.
You could also call these greens strongly flavored or assertive greens, because their flavors are strong - even bitter sometimes. There are plenty of people who think they don't like the hearty greens. Usually these are people who are particularly sensitive to the bitterness of certain strongly flavored greens, such as mustard greens. You can tame the bitterness by blanching the vegetables for 5 to 7 minutes in plenty of boiling salted water, which will leach out some of the flavor compounds and give the greens a silken texture. Then prepare the recipe, sautéing or braising as the recipe directs. In my family, we love the bitterness, so I don't usually bother blanching.
When preparing leafy greens, you'll want to wash the leaves carefully; the more crinkled the leaves, the more likely they harbor grit or insects. The tough stems should be removed before cooking: Working one stem at a time, hold the stem in one hand and use the thumb and index finger of your other hand to strip the leaf off the stem. Discard the stem. Stack the leaves together, roll them into a cigarlike shape as best as you can, and chop into ribbons. Especially tough greens, such as collards, will cook more quickly if the ribbons are thinly cut.
It is challenging to measure greens accurately. If the greens are fresh out of the garden, the leaves stripped off the stems will be resistant to being packed in a cup, producing more volume. A wilted bunch, on the other hand, compresses into a cup easily, resulting in less volume. At the beginning of the harvest season, greens have lighter stems, yielding a greater volume of leaves per pound. At the end of the season, though, the stems are woody and heavy, yielding a lesser volume of leaves per pound. The solution to this problem? Use more or less greens, depending on what you have on hand. Use your judgment, and don't worry about getting the measurements exactly right.
You can use kale, collards, and mustard greens interchangeably in most recipes. Collards seem to require a little extra cooking, in my opinion, so adjust the timing as needed when swapping greens in a recipe.
Brussels sprouts are gaining popularity. A good indication of this trend is that they are becoming available almost year-round in the supermarket, whereas not so long ago the supply ended around the first of the year. Their rise in appeal may have something to do with the fact that many people have discovered that their unruly flavor can be tamed by roasting.
Unruliness can be avoided entirely if you harvest your own Brussels sprouts or buy fresh ones (since the strong flavors develop in storage) and do not overcook them. The flavor also benefits from a light frost; red- or purple-tinged leaves are a good sign that the sprouts have experienced weather cold enough to improve their flavor.
Brussels sprouts do come from Brussels, or at least Belgium, where the plant was developed as a dwarf cultivar of savoy cabbage. The "sprouts," which emerge from the tall stalk, are made up of tightly packed leaves, each resembling a miniature cabbage head.
Freshly harvested Brussels sprouts appear in eastern markets in the fall and generally last through the end of December. The harvest season in coastal California is year-round, with both spring and fall crops.
Since Brussels sprouts withstand the cold well, there is no reason to harvest them until the ground begins to freeze. Sprouts will keep in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator or root cellar for 3 to 5 weeks; they keep longest in damp, cool conditions (near 32?F, with 90 to 95 percent humidity). An excellent, low-fuss way to store the Brussels sprouts you grow yourself is to lift the whole stalk out of the garden, strip off the leaves, and hang the stalk from the rafters of your root cellar.
How to Buy
Brussels sprouts grown in warmer climates tend to be sweetest when picked small. In cold climates, Brussels sprouts taste best after a few frosts, when the leaves are tinged purple or red. Select compact heads with no hint of yellow. The cut end should be dry, not slimy, and green, not dark brown. If you are picking the sprouts individually from a bin, select ones that are uniform in size so they will cook evenly.
Trim away the ends of each sprout. Remove any damaged or yellowed leaves. Cut in halves or quarters as needed to make them uniform in size. If you're going to add them raw to salads or use them in a stir-fry or sauté, you can slice the sprouts into thin ribbons (chiffonade).
The cabbagey flavor of Brussels sprouts is most easily tamed by roasting. But don't stop there. Stir-fries with garlic, ginger, and sesame oil do wonders for the flavor. Brussels sprouts are also excellent sautéed, particularly when paired with strong flavors, such as smoked bacon or sausage. They are lovely braised and can be finished with a touch of cream or mustard.
Brussels Sprouts Math
1 pound Brussels sprouts = 3 to 3 1/2 cups whole sprouts = 3 cups halves
Cabbage: Green, Red, Savoy, and Chinese
I regard green cabbage as the workhorse of the winter kitchen. It is the backbone of winter salads and stir-fries. It melts into sweet tenderness when cooked slowly in braises or soups. It is easily pickled as sauerkraut. If I had to choose just one vegetable to get me through the winter, I would probably choose cabbage.
Long-keeping cabbage comes in four basic forms. Green cabbage, which has a white center, is the most common. Red cabbage looks like green cabbage, except for its vibrant maroon color; it tends to be tougher in texture than green cabbage and turns a blue-purple when cooked. As a color accent in a salad, red cabbage is exceptional. Savoy cabbage has tender, crinkled leaves with a mild flavor. Savoy cabbage is increasingly rare in U.S. markets but worth seeking out. When cooked, it holds its green color well, making it an attractive choice for a stir-fry or sauté. It is the cabbage of choice for cabbage rolls. Chinese cabbages fall into two groups: Brassica rapa chinensis and Brassica rapa pekinensis (sometimes you just have to resort to Latin to keep it all straight). The chinensis group includes bok choy (also called pac choi) and has juicy white stems with dark greens attached. The pekinensis group includes napa cabbage, which is a mild-flavored cabbage with long, oval-shaped bunches of pale green leaves. Both types of cabbage are excellent in stir-fries, and napa cabbage makes excellent salads. Baby bok choy is a treat that should be lightly steamed and enjoyed with a drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil.
Cabbage of every type is available in supermarkets all year long; it is grown and harvested year-round in California. Savoy cabbage is not commonly stocked in supermarkets, so you are much more likely to see it in the fall at farmers' markets.
Solid, firm heads keep well in a root cellar at 32? to 40?F and 90 percent humidity (the same conditions root vegetables require). Place the heads on shelves, several inches apart, with the root ends up, or suspend them from rafters by the root. You might consider wrapping the heads in newspaper, which will help them retain moisture. If your root cellar is in your basement and not well ventilated to the outdoors, you may find that green cabbage releases an unpleasant odor that creeps into the house (Chinese cabbages do not).
Green and red cabbages keep better and longer than savoy cabbage and Chinese cabbage. If you've grown Chinese cabbages, simply pull up the plants, roots and all, and replant them in boxes of dirt in your root cellar for long-term storage. Or refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag for a week or two.
The conventional wisdom is that unwashed, firm heads will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. In reality, cabbage keeps for at least a month. As cabbage ages, it loses its vitamin C content. It also toughens and is best suited to being cooked rather than used in salads.
How to Buy
Buy whole heads when possible. Choose unblemished, compact heads that are heavy for their size, which means they have not lost their moisture.
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, then rinse the head under cold water. Slice the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core, then slice, grate, or shred as the recipe requires. Specialized cabbage slicers are available, but a food processor or a sharp knife works just fine.
If a cabbage you want to use raw is tough, sprinkle it with salt and let it drain in a colander for at least 30 minutes. Then taste for saltiness. If it is too salty, rinse under cold running water. If it isn't too salty, just use it as is, but adjust the salt the recipe requires and season with more salt only if needed. Salting and draining cabbage in this manner before dressing it softens the cabbage and prevents the dressing from becoming watery.
Cabbage loses volume when cooked, so don't worry when a dish calls for 8 to 12 cups of sliced cabbage; it will quickly cook down.
Above all, do not overcook cabbage, which results in a mushy texture and a strong flavor. Cabbage can be delicious boiled (think corned beef and cabbage), but overcooked boiled cabbage is what has given cooked cabbage a bad name. It can also be steamed. It really shines when briefly cooked in a stir-fry. Both green and Chinese cabbage can be stir-fried with every kind of meat or tofu and are compatible with any Asian sauce or seasoning. They are used as the filling for spring rolls, egg rolls, and all manner of dumplings.
Slow cooking renders cabbage meltingly tender and sweet. Try slowly sautéing a mixture of cabbage and onion over low heat for 10 to 20 minutes. Combine it with freshly cooked egg noodles and sour cream to make a delicious eastern European dish known as haluska.
There are plenty of really terrific "peasant-style" cabbage dishes that should not be ignored, beginning with bubble-and-squeak, which takes its name from the sound cabbage is supposed to make as it cooks: Sauté shredded cabbage in butter, then add left over mashed potatoes and press down to make a pancake. Brown on both sides. Or braise cabbage in beer with sausages: Brown sausages in a large skillet, add beer, and simmer until the sausage is almost cooked through. Add sliced or shredded cabbage, cover, and continue to simmer until the cabbage is tender crisp and the sausage is fully cooked. Chlopski is a similar dish made with bacon and braised in water, wine, or broth. Caldo gallego (Spanish) and garbure (French) are rib-sticking soups made with white beans, cabbage, and an accent meat, such as bacon, salt pork, or ham, for flavor.
Of course, cabbage does not need to be cooked at all to be delicious. Coleslaw is an all-American standard, and it can be made in dozens of different ways (see pages 50 to 56).
1 small head green cabbage = about 2 pounds, trimmed 1 medium head green cabbage = about 3 pounds, trimmed 1 medium head bok choy = about 2 pounds 1 pound cabbage = 4 cups shredded = 2 cups cooked
I once met a grower who spends half the year in Florida and half the year in Vermont. When in Vermont, he can't grow enough beet greens to meet demand; in Florida, the beet greens don't move but the collards fly out of the market. Collard greens just aren't that well-liked in New England, but they are deliciously popular in the South.
This member of the Cabbage family has flat, round, blue-green leaves on tough, fibrous stems. Collards and kale are genetically quite similar and both are ancient plants, much like the original nonheading cabbage from which all the Cabbage family plants evolved. Like kale, you can harvest the outer stems of the collards (roughly one-quarter of the plant at a time) to keep the plant producing more leaves.
Collards probably came to the New World from Africa via slaves who brought them into plantation kitchens. The tradition of long-simmering collards and drinking the juices from the greens (known as "pot likker") is of African origin. Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year's Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year, perhaps in reference to the leaves' resemblance to folded bills.
If you enjoy eating kale, you are likely to enjoy eating collard greens, and the two can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Collard greens do not have to be cooked until they are a soft, Southern-style mess o' greens if a more toothsome dish is desired. But I highly recommend trying Southern-style greens (simmered with salt pork, bacon, or a ham bone, and doused with apple cider vinegar) before making any judgments on what you think you like.
Collards, like kale and other greens, cook down to one-quarter to one-eighth of their original volume. A brown-paper grocery bag filled with unpacked leaves is just about the right amount for serving collards to a family of four as a main course.
Collard greens are available from September through June and are considered best after a few light frosts.
Where winters are mild, keep the collard greens in the garden. Where winters are harsh, leave them in the garden until a killing frost or heavy snow threatens. Then harvest the leaves and store them in perforated plastic bags in a cold, damp root cellar (32? to 40?F, 90 to 95 percent humidity) for a week or two, or in the refrigerator for about a week. Blanched or cooked collard greens can be frozen.
How to Buy
Avoid yellow or limp leaves. You'll need about 2 pounds to feed four people as a side dish.
Wash the leaves carefully to get rid of any grit and insects. Stories abound of people washing large quantities of greens in a washing machine, but I can't verify that it is a good idea. Remove the tough stems before cooking: Grasp the end of the stem with one hand. Run the thumb and index finger of your other hand right along the stem, ripping off the leaf.
You can use collards anywhere you would use kale, but slightly increase the cooking time. Collards can also replace cabbage in soups and stews.
Collards are good as a sauté: Blanch for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain. Sauté with olive oil and garlic or butter and pine nuts and finish with a dusting of Parmesan. You can also cook blanched collards with rice or grits, or you can combine them with canned or cooked beans, seasoned with hot sauce or vinegar.
For traditional Southern-style collards, cook the greens slowly in water with a ham bone or piece of salt pork until meltingly tender. Serve over cornbread, and pass hot sauce and vinegar on the side.
2 pounds collards = 1 pound collard leaves (with stems removed and discarded) = about 12 cups lightly packed = 2 cups cooked
Like collard greens, kale is a nonheading cabbage. It has been grown extensively in Europe, where it is more common than collards. It is more tender than collards, but the two are oft en used interchangeably in recipes.
There are several varieties of kale, and each variety has its fans. Blue-green curly kale, the type most common in the United States, is known simply as kale or curly kale. Lacinato kale goes by many names, including Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, black kale, and cavalo nero. Its leaves are a dark, dark green and more ridged than curly. Red kale, also known as Russian kale or Siberian kale, has red-veined, greenish purple leaves that are frilly and shaped somewhat like oak leaves. The varieties can be used interchangeably, though curly kale is the best choice for roasting.
Excerpted from RECIPES from the ROOT CELLAR by Andrea Chesman Copyright © 2010 by Andrea Chesman. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
1. An Introduction to Winter Vegetables....................1
2 Salads and Pickled Vegetables....................41
4. Simple Vegetable Dishes....................129
5. Beans, Rice, and Grains....................201
6 Vegetarian Main Dishes....................227
7. Main Dishes with Fish and Seafood....................267
8 Main Dishes with Poultry....................289
9 Main Dishes with Meat....................319
10 Baked Goods and Desserts....................349