Cooking Hints and Vegetable Tips
MORE VEGETABLE TIPS
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Recently, I have been avoiding butter. As my asparagus have been
profuse giving me frequent cuttings, I have needed a substitute for my
favorite, Hollandaise. I have been using a fruity olive oil, lemon
juice, coarse salt and butter. I put them on the table so that people
can dowse their own. Incidentally, Hollandaise, Bearnaise and Beurre
Blanc can all be kept warm in a thermos. This is important as they
reheat so badly.
Visit my blog to find a recipe for a Lightened Hollandaise Sauce—as sexy as the classic one but less heavy and fattening—less cholesterol as
Bok Choy (Brassica rapa)
This concerns those lovely urn-shaped Chinese cabbages, bok choy, shading from green at the bottom to almost white at the top of the leaves. One thing to note when cooking these delights that may be very small and up to about eight inches long is that they continue cooking after their dish is made and should be cooked as close to the eating time as possible. It is not an attempt to get them al dente which I do not like but a warning that they will almost dissolve into the liquid with prolonged waiting. For more on bok choy, see pages 557-559 of Vegetable Love.
Capers (Capparis spinosa)
I thought I had said
everything I knew about capers. Turns out I was wrong. There is an
addictive, crisp and tasty garnish that is easy to make. It requires
salt-packed capers. Bring a half inch layer of olive oil to frying
heat--about 350-375 F. in a shallow pan. Throw in a fistful of capers.
Let cook one minute, stirring once. Remove to double layer of paper
towel with a skimmer. Serve hot around fish and bland vegetables.
For more on capers, see page 560 of Vegetable Love.
Carrots (Daucus carota sativa)
If carrots are young and
tender they don't need peeling. Just scrub them with a dark green
synthetic scrubbing pad (not steel wool or other metals) to quickly
remove the thin layer of peel. For more on carrots, see page 561-563 of Vegetable Love.
Celery root is not
prepossessing. It is actually very
ugly, with dirty brown, coarse, hairy skin. Peeling it is a bit of a
requiring a sharp knife and determination. The reward is the aromatic
flesh whose texture is much like that of jicama although it is less
not quite as crisp. If jicama is unavailable for Tex-Mex salads, celery
a good substitute.
The best way
to peel celery root is with a paring knife. Cut off the top leaves, if
any. It is easier to peel if it is first cut into quarters lengthwise.
Peel from the bottom to the top, trimming off the gnarled parts.
For more on celery root,
see pages 565-566 of Vegetable
Fiddlehead Ferns (Matteuccia pensylvanica)
Fiddleheads should be green
and tightly furled when bought, without any black tips to the stems,
although these can be cut off if necessary. Store in plastic bags in
the refrigerator. Use as soon as possible; they keep badly.
Fiddleheads require no preparation besides a quick wash and the cutting off of any discolored stem ends—unless
they are the kind with cinnamon-colored fuzz on the outside. Then they
need to be lightly rubbed with hands or two dish cloths to remove the
fuzz. For more on fiddlehead ferns, see page 584 of Vegetable Love.
to chop garlic is to whack the whole
clove, still in its paper, with the side of a heavy knife. Pick off the
coating. The clove will already be half-chopped; just go from there. If
slices or whole cloves are needed, remove the paper with a paring
starting at the flat root (not pointy) end of the clove. The root end
always be removed. Also, if there is a green shoot in the middle of the
when it is smashed, it should be removed if the garlic is to be used
in the season this green shoot is bigger—the
germ—and needs to be removed for
any use as it is probably bitter. Now is the time to plant your garlic
(Visit Ask Barbara for more on garlic. Another great source of
information is Chester Aaron, an expert on the subject who can be
Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)
Molokhiya (Corchorus olitorius)
Leek greens need not be
discarded. When washed, cut into 2-inch pieces and put in a stockpot,
they make an excellent broth. Add liquid—about
6 cups broth or water for the greens from 4 pounds of leeks. Bring to a
boil. Cover; reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours. Strain.
Anyone who wants to try molokhiya (malokhei)—pages 603-604 and 340-345
in Vegetable Love—fresh and is unable to find it, can grow it from
Seeds are available on the web page: evergreenseeds.com/evergreenseeds/vegetableseeds.html.
I'm looking forward to growing it myself this summer.
Most of these are not in season and have stickers saying that they come
from Mexico—probably politically incorrect—but they show up in the pasta
sauce on today's blog. Beware buying mushrooms in plastic enclosed
exotic ones that may sell less frequently. Look carefully to see if any
of them look soft, wet or translucent; they will be over the hill. You
are better off with ordinary white mushrooms.
Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa)
Choose parnips that are firm,
not wrinkled, and unblemished. Medium-size ones are safer. If they are
too big, they can be fibrous or have hollow cores.
Scrub them and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will
keep for months. There is no need to freeze them. For more on parsnips,
see pages 619-620 of Vegetable Love.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
Purely by chance, I discovered an interesting way to deal with baked
potatoes in a low calorie way. I baked potatoes for 50 minutes at 500
degrees. Rather than putting butter or oil on the potato, after I had
slashed it and crushed it to make it soft and mealy, I cut up some of
my salad of Boston lettuce, wedges of of tomato and thinly sliced raw
onions. I had started by salting the onions and tomatoes to draw their
juices. I tossed in the lettuce, a little olive oil and salt
and pepper. I spooned the salad over the potato and it was
delicious. I needed both a fork and spoon, but fingers would
Purple Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa)
In San Miguel
de Allende, Mexico I found a variety new to me of a vegetable that I
thought I knew well. It was a tomatillo that was a dark—almost
black—purple under the usual brown husk. When they turn up in our
stores as they surely will, they are worth trying.
Choose ones that are slightly soft, really ripe. The taste is deeper
than the green ones but still rather acid. I made what was a beautiful
to look at into a satisfactory tasting salsa or dressing. Having shucked
the tomatillos, I cut out any green flesh at the stem and cut them in
eighth-inch cubes. I seeded and also cubed a red-ripe jalapeno as well
as a quantity about a quarter of that of the tomatillo. I sprinkled
this mixture with salt and let it sit about a half hour and stirred in
a fistful of chopped cilantro. Instead of serving it as a dip, I added
about a tablespoon of good olive oil and poured it on top of hot,
freshly steamed-in-the-jacket tomatoes. It was a great first course.
to be the
season for fresh shiitake mushrooms. They are not as strong in taste as
the dried but make a lovely component in risotto once
olive or butter. The stems have to come off just as with the dried, but
then they are easily sliced.
Well, my venture at going on
line and finding seeds for snake gourd and planting them this spring
paid off. My specimens have a light green skin—edible when young—are
about 15 inches-long and about an inch and a half across at the the
somewhat club shaped longer end. Cut across into quarter-inch slices
and tossed into boiling salted water, they take five minutes to cook.
The texture and flavor are half way between a squash and and a not too
sweet yam; no visible seeds. I let them cool and added their pale
yellow to a composed summer salad. Good. The same size pieces cut into quarters make a good addition to a stir fry—quicker than potatoes—but with some of the same substance. More to come. Let me know your results.
Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
all tomatoes except grape and cherry, it's necessary to remove the core
on top where the stem was attached. The easiest way to do so is to take
a sharp paring knife and make a conical cut around the stem area,
removing it and the whitish pith underneath.