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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celery Root and Apple Pureé

This is one of the most surprisingly good recipes I've ever tasted. I thought it would be good, which is why I made it in the first place, but I had no idea how savory and complex it would be! This pureé is restaurant-quality. I never knew you could cook with the root of celery before coming across this. The recipe comes from Ina Garten's "Back to Basics" cookbook. In this cookbook, she talks about key spices and ingredients to use in order to really bring out the flavors of certain foods without overpowering them. The combination of fragrant fennel with celery root and the addition of tangy apple cider and apples make this pureé worthy of taking the place of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. And I think mashed potatoes are pretty amazing, so you know that this recipe must be great!

There is quite a bit of peeling and chopping involved with this recipe, so it's better to make it with someone else to help share the work. I used Earth Balance, which is an all natural trans-fat free margarine, instead of the butter, and I used almost 3/4 cup instead of the full 1 cup. I also used low-fat milk instead of heavy cream. The potatoes in this dish make it thick and creamy enough without justifying the extra fat in heavy cream. With those two lower-fat changes, this is a comfort food you can eat more often than just holiday dinners.

Celery Root and Apple Pureé
Makes 4-6 servings

about 3/4 cup Earth Balance
1 cup large-diced fennel bulb, tops and core removed
2 pounds celery root, peeled and diced
8 ounces (about 1 cup) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add fennel, celery root, potatoes, apples, salt, and pepper, and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add cider, tightly cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are very soft. When the vegetables are cooked, add the milk and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is blended but still a little chunky. If you like, sprinkle some fennel fronds on top for a garnish.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hearty Broccoli Soup

I'm a fan of broccoli. My favorite way to have it is steamed with a little bit of butter and salt. It's so simple and delicious. The only problem with it is that it gets cold really fast. Whenever we make it as a dinner side, as soon as I add the butter and salt, I tell Justin, "Come on, we have to eat now! The broccoli is getting cold!" By the time I get to my third broccoli spear, sadly, it's already cold.

So this hot soup recipe is a nice alternative to cold broccoli. It's thick and cheesy but not high in fat. I found the original recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks called Simply in Season. I made a couple changes to it, such as replacing most of the milk with water (there is plenty of creaminess without all that extra dairy) and using whole wheat flour instead of regular. You could use light cheddar cheese to make it really low in fat, but I think it would sacrifice some of the taste. Besides, one cup of regular cheddar throughout a whole batch of soup is perfectly acceptable. Your body needs some fat!

Another thing I did with this soup is use some broccoli leaves as well. The head of broccoli I received from the food co-op still had quite a bit of leafy greens on it, so I threw them in with the soup. The following week I received only broccoli leaves with no spears. I made the soup again, and the leaves worked just as well as regular broccoli. You could also use cauliflower instead, or you could do a combination of broccoli and cauliflower and swap out the carrots and celery. The sky is the limit with this hearty soup. Give it a try!

Hearty Broccoli Soup
Makes 4-6 servings

2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup minced celery
4 cups water, divided
2 cups chopped broccoli and/or broccoli leaves
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook together potatoes, onion, carrots, and celery with 1 cup of water over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft. Add 3 cups water, vegetable bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper and heat to boiling. In a separate small bowl, stir together flour and milk until smooth. Add to soup and cook just unil thickened. Turn off heat and add cheddar; stir until melted.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

How many of you out there like chard? My guess is not the majority. I used to not even know what chard was before last year. After joining a food co-op, I received it monthly and had to figure out what to do with it. I have to admit, I wasn't too crazy about it at first. But then I came across this recipe on Epicurious with raisins and pine nuts, and it doesn't just make it bearable, it makes it tasty! This is a good recipe all on its own. I made a few changes by cutting out some of the oil and increasing the amount of raisins and pine nuts. I had to share it with you, especially if you also wonder what to do with this leafy green. Without further ado, here it is:

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Makes about four servings

1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard (preferably rainbow or red; from 2 bunches)
3/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins, finely chopped
1 cup water

Submerge chard into a big bowl of water. Swirl around to get rid of any dirt. Pat dry. Tear chard leaves from stems, then coarsely chop stems and leaves separately. Toast nuts a dry 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Heat oil in pot and add onion, stirring occasionally for 1 minute, then add chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add raisins and 1/2 cup water and simmer, covered, until stems are softened, about 3 minutes. Add chard leaves and remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until leaves are tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Saturday morning pancakes. Have I mentioned it's a tradition? I just love it - after a long week, the combination of a Friday night movie and Saturday morning pancakes can rarely be topped. It doesn't always happen every weekend, but Justin and I definitely take advantage of it when we don't have other plans. And sweet potatoes are so tasty and versatile. We've made sweet potato pancakes before, and they have always been good, but the real kicker of this recipe is the Brown Sugar Syrup, which Justin found online. It truly completes the pancakes. The delicious base recipe I use for the pancakes is from Gourmet Magazine, and I found it on Epicurious. Add a cup of mashed sweet potatoes, sprinkle some toasted pecans on top, and it's like eating the Autumn season for breakfast!

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Makes about 10 pancakes

3/4 cup oats (rolled or quick cooking is fine)
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons Earth Balance (or other trans-fat free margarine), divided
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 cup coarsely mashed cooked sweet potatoes

If you don't have buttermilk, measure 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and add enough milk to it in order to make 1 cups. Let stand 5 minutes. Mix together first seven ingredients, set aside. Mix together egg, buttermilk, two tablespoons of melted butter, and brown sugar. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stir just until combined, and fold in sweet potatoes. Pour by 1/4 cupfulls onto buttered hot griddle. When bubbles form on top, flip and cook a few minutes longer. Drizzle with brown sugar syrup and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Brown Sugar Syrup
Makes just a bit more than enough for one batch of Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
pinch salt

Measure out ingredients into saucepan. Bring to a boil, and once sugar is dissolved, the syrup is ready.

Toasted Pecans
Heat dry saucepan over medium heat. Add about 1 cup of pecans to pan. Toast for about 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Once you really start to smell the pecans, they're close to done.