Not-Yet-Spring Comfort

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sous Vide Compote

Since we’re still waiting on the polar vortex to release its death grip once and for all, the only real novelty at the farmers market the past couple of weekends was the return of Taproot Farm’s lovely golden-yolked eggs. I decided to feature them as prominently as possible in dessert form, which meant a vanilla-rich creme anglaise served over a very simple compote of apples, raisins and toasted nuts.

We recently acquired a sous vide machine, so I used it to make both components. Although it makes the custard foolproof and significantly less work than making it the usual way, you certainly don’t need a sous vide for this recipe. I’ve included instructions for making it both ways.

If you’re still in new year healthy eating mode, this is actually a fairly low-sugar dessert, since there’s no added sweetener in the compote.

Apple Compote with Creme Anglaise
Serves 4

For custard:
5 egg yolks
2 cups half and half
6 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1 vanilla bean

For compote:
6 firm eating apples, peeled and cored, and sliced in 1/2 inch thick wedges
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (if not cooking sous vide)
3 tablespoons apple cider (if not cooking sous vide)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Using a sous vide machine:

Follow these instructions for the creme anglaise, and chill for at least several hours before using.

Toss the sliced apples with the raisins, lemon zest and just enough of the juice to lightly coat them.  Vacuum seal the apple mixture or just use a zip-top bag and press out as much air as you can.  Cook at 185F for about an hour, until the apples feel tender through the plastic.

Without a sous vide machine:

Split the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to a small saucepan with the half and half, bringing it just up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes, then pull out the vanilla pod.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt.  Bring the half and half back up to a simmer, then pour in a thin but even stream into the yolks while continuing to whisk.  Scrape the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat a spoon, around 2-4 minutes.  Clean the bowl you used for the egg yolks and set it in the ice bath.  Pour the custard through a strainer into the smaller bowl to get any stray egg filaments, leaving the custard over the ice bath until it’s at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator, tightly covered, to chill thoroughly.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice.  Toss in the pan until the edges begin to caramelize just slightly, then add the cider and raisins and cover the pan, cooking a few minutes more until the apples are tender and the raisins are plump.

To serve:

Decant the warm apple compote into pretty bowls or stemware.  Pour a few tablespoons of creme anglaise over each serving, and top with the nuts.  Circulate a pitcher of the remaining custard for your guests to add more to their taste.

Posted by Gabriela on 03/05 at 07:01 PM

Bubble and Squeak

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Singaporean Bubble and Squeak

I’m sure they don’t eat bubble and squeak like this in Singapore, but in theory they could, and given how awful the weather has been since around Thanksgiving, pretending to be in Singapore is highly appealing at the moment.

The “Singaporean” element in this version of the traditional British use for leftover vegetables is a curry-esque spice blend, which brightens up the potatoes and works nicely with the poached egg that makes this a meal instead of a side dish.  It could be replaced with the regular curry powder of your choice.  Although I prefer this with brussels sprouts, you can use cabbage or any other leafy green you can find in the markets for the next however many months this winter’s going to last.

Singaporean Bubble and Squeak with Poached Eggs
(Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg, 2011)
Serves 2

2-3 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons vegetable stock
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Penzeys Singapore Seasoning, or 1 teaspoon curry powder
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, then drain and set aside while preparing the brussels sprouts.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and add the sprouts, cut-side down, leaving them untouched long enough to brown nicely. Add the stock and cover the pan for a few more minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the sprouts are cooked but not mushy.  Remove from the pan.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the onions until soft and golden but not browning, then add the garlic and Singapore seasoning and cook two more minutes.  Tumble in the potatoes and lightly break up and mash them with the spatula to encourage more browning as you periodically stir the vegetables.  When the potatoes are brown and crispy enough for you, add the brussels sprouts and cook a few more minutes while poaching the eggs.

Bring a few inches of water and a splash of white vinegar to a strong simmer in a small sauce pan.  Crack each egg into a teacup for easier transfer, and using a slotted spoon, create a quick whirlpool before slipping the eggs from their cups into the water.  Simmer gently for 3 minutes, lift them quickly out with the slotted spoon, and gently turn them onto a plate lined with paper towels to finish draining them.  Snip away any stray wisps of egg white to make them prettier if you like, though I don’t bother.

Divide the bubble and squeak between two shallow bowls, and top each mound with a poached egg.  Gently break open the membrane over the yolks just enough to let you salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Posted by Gabriela on 01/30 at 06:34 PM

Mixed Mushroom Tart for the Holidays

Sunday, December 22, 2013

This tart of mixed, flavorful local mushrooms was the vegetarian main course at Thanksgiving this year, although you could really make it year-round. It would be lovely as a make-ahead summer brunch item, for example.

I think the variety of textures that this combination of mushrooms offers is ideal, but it would also be good with plain cremini mushrooms, if that’s all you have. If you use portobellos, just be sure to remove the dark gills first, as they tend to turn everything unpleasantly black.

Mushroom Tart
(Adapted from Michael Ruhlman, Ratio, 2009)
Serves 6-8

9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, in small pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 ounces ice water

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, preferably a combination of maitake, shiitake and oyster, cleaned and roughly torn
1 cup half and half
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds each of fresh nutmeg and black pepper
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Several sprigs of fresh thyme

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, and work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until no pieces are larger than a pea.  Gently mix in the water a bit at a time, just until the dough holds together.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or a zip-top bag, and refrigerate an hour or more.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a 9-inch tart pan, and press into the pan, cutting away any excess.  Cover the surface with a layer of foil or parchment paper, and fill with rice or pie weights to prevent buckling. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and bake 15-20 more minutes, until golden brown.

In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and cook down the onions until dark gold.  Spread them evenly in the bottom of the baked tart shell.  Raise the heat under the pan slightly, add the remaining oil, and toss in the mushrooms, sautéing until any liquid has evaporated and the surfaces are gold and crisp in spots.  Top the onion layer with enough mushrooms to mostly fill the tart shell, setting aside any extra for another use.

In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the half and half, eggs, salt, nutmeg and pepper, and gently pour into the tart.  Sprinkle the top with the cheese and the thyme leaves stripped off the stems.Set the tart pan onto a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any drips, and bake at 325 F until the custard has just set (a little bit of jiggle in the very middle is fine) and the top has browned nicely, around 30 minutes.  Cool at least to warm room temperature before serving.

Posted by Gabriela on 12/22 at 04:27 PM

A Holiday Fruit Cake (not Fruitcake)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Apple Quince Cake

As should be pretty clear by now, quinces are one of my favorite fall/winter fruits, and since they’re sadly a bit of a luxury to find, I generally mix them with apples to stretch them further, and because they get along so well together, as in this fragrant and holiday-appropriate cake.  If you don’t care for or can’t find quinces, you can make the cake with just apples and apple butter, as the original recipe did, and it will also be great.

If you don’t make your own quince jam, you can often find it in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets. More likely, you’ll instead be able to find the dried and pressed Spanish version, dulce de membrillo, at your local cheese shop, which will work just fine once loosened back up with a bit of extra liquid.

Apple-Quince Bundt Cake
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours, 2006)
Serves 12

1 large quince, or 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup quince jam, or quince paste gently heated with enough water to loosen to a jam-like consistency
2 tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped

1/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons apple cider or milk

If using the quince, peel and core it, then chop it into four or so large pieces.  Poach the quince in just enough water to cover until it has changed color (anywhere from buttery-yellow to salmon, depending on the variety) and is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain off the liquid, chop the quince into small dice, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter and flour a large (12-cup) bundt pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.

Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream together until smooth and thick.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions, then beat in the quince jam at lower speed.  Mix in the grated apple, followed by the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Fold in the diced quince or raisins and the hazelnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden and springy, and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake and cool completely.

To glaze the cake, mix just enough cider or milk into the powdered sugar to make a thick but free-flowing icing.  Drizzle the icing evenly over the cake, letting it run down the sides.  Let the icing firm up before slicing the cake.

Leftovers keep well in an airtight container for 2-3 days, although it’s best to glaze it the same day you serve it.

Posted by Gabriela on 11/30 at 11:08 AM

Keeping Your Cool

Thursday, July 11, 2013

White Gazpacho

Gazpacho is one of my main strategies for getting through July and August.  Preparing a big batch on Sunday not only makes wonderful use out of all the seasonal produce pouring into the markets, but also gives you a ready-made, colorful and refreshing dinner to look forward to when you’re slogging home through the sweltering humidity on Monday evening.  It’s also perfect as a festive first course for barbecues and brunches all the way through Labor Day.

While tomato-based red gazpacho is fantastic, especially when made with a mix of heirloom varieties, white gazpacho is an equally traditional way to highlight cucumbers and the fresh garlic now making its first appearance.  The base of almonds and bread creates a soup that’s creamy and silky without being overly rich or heavy.  While the straining step is a bit of extra work, the soup still comes together in minutes (not counting the half hour of chilling in the fridge), and doesn’t raise the temperature of your kitchen by a single degree.

White Gazpacho
(Adapted from Jose Andres, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America)
Serves 4

8 ounces blanched, slivered almonds
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
2 ounces stale French- or Italian-style bread (not whole grain)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups filtered or mineral water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the almonds and garlic in a large bowl or liquid measuring cup and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for a few minutes, drain, and repeat with more boiling water.  Drain and place in the carafe of a blender.

While the almonds are soaking for the second time, moisten the bread in cold water just long enough to soften.  Squeeze dry and add to the blender, along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. 

Pour the gazpacho through a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer set over a large bowl.  Once most of the liquid has passed through the cheesecloth, gather up the ends of the cloth to completely enclose the solids, twist the top of the gathered ends tightly, and squeeze to extract the last of the soup.  Discard the solids.

Pour the gazpacho into a pitcher, cover tightly, and chill at least 30 minutes.  It is normal for the gazpacho to separate as it sits; just give it a quick whisk before serving.

Posted by Gabriela on 07/11 at 11:52 PM

Summer Crepes

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Buckwheat Crepes

For some reason, I always associate crepes with colder weather, but the truth is that they’re accommodating all year round, as demonstrated by these vaguely Provencal-style ones filled with zucchini and mushrooms, and topped with a bright, uncooked tomato sauce.  As the summer moves along, you could augment the filling with eggplant, fresh peas, pattypan squashes, etc., and you can make use of the rainbow of heirloom tomatoes that will start showing up in a couple of weeks.

These make a very satisfying dinner as-is, or if you want to serve these for brunch, you could quickly scramble a few eggs and tuck them into the crepes before the vegetable filling.

Zucchini-Mushroom Buckwheat Crepes with Raw Tomato Sauce
(Crepes adapted from Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown, The Greens Cookbook, 1987)
Serves 6-8

For crepes:
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil for cooking

For sauce:
2 ripe tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For filling:
3 small zucchini, grated
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
2 small cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients for the crepe batter except the oil in a tall measuring cup and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Alternately, you can do this in a regular blender.)  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To prepare the sauce, halve the tomatoes and grate them, cut side down, on the large side of a box grater set over a bowl.  Discard the skin you’re left with when the flesh has all been grated.  Finely mince the garlic (I just use a microplane grater) and add it to the tomatoes, along with the olive oil and salt to taste.  Let sit at room temperature while making the filling and crepes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic, sautéing briefly before adding the zucchini.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is softened and the liquid has cooked off, then remove from the pan.  Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the rest of the olive oil and the mushrooms, cooking until the edges have browned.  Turn off the heat, return the zucchini to the pan, and season to taste.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small nonstick pan or crepe pan over medium heat.  Give the batter a quick whisk before ladling about 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan and swirling the pan quickly to evenly spread the batter.  Cook until the crepe has set and is beginning to crisp at the edges, then flip and cook the other side briefly.  Remove the crepe to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more oil every three or so crepes, or whenever they show signs of sticking.  Adjust the temperature as necessary to prevent excessive browning.  If the batter is too thick to swirl easily in the pan, whisk in a little more water to thin back to the consistency of heavy cream.

To serve, fill the bottom half of each crepe with a few spoonfuls of filling, flip over the other half of the crepe, and fold in half to get quarters.  Place two or three filled crepes on a plate per person, and top with a generous spoonful of the sauce.

Leftover unfilled crepes, filling and sauce will all keep well for at least a day in the refrigerator, although both the crepes and the sauce are best freshly-made.

Posted by Gabriela on 06/29 at 03:27 PM

An Easy, Icy Summer Treat

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rhubarb Granita

This sprightly pink granita is just about the perfect Memorial Day barbecue dessert, since it’s the most refreshing use of the strawberries and rhubarb that are in the market together right now, and also really easy to prepare.  No ice cream makers or other special equipment needed; just a fork and a little patience and time.

I do have to confess that when I made this two weeks ago, I had to use frozen berries, because fresh ones hadn’t arrived yet.  I generally find that the window when both strawberries and rhubarb are available is pretty narrow, so there’s normally only about one magic week or two to make strawberry-rhubarb pie or what have you using both fresh rhubarb and local berries.  This is why I over-buy rhubarb pretty much every time I see it, clean and trim the extra portion as soon as I get home, and throw the sliced rhubarb into bags and freeze for use in July and beyond.

In fact, if you cheat with both frozen rhubarb and frozen berries, you could make this granita all the way into the fall and winter, when, served in little shot or liqueur glasses, it would make a smashing palate-cleanser between courses during your fancy holiday dinner.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Granita
Serves 4-6 as dessert, 8 or more as a palate cleanser

3 cups white wine
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons mild honey
1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
Pinch of salt
1 12-ounce bag frozen strawberries, or 3 cups fresh, hulled and halved
2 to 2 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon orange extract or orange liqueur
Juice of half a lemon

Combine the wine, sugar, honey, orange peel, salt and strawberries in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook 10 minutes, then remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon.  Add the rhubarb and return to a simmer, cooking until the rhubarb has softened but before it falls apart, around 5-6 minutes.

Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl, stirring the rhubarb frequently to remove as much of the glowing magenta liquid as possible.  Stir in the orange extract and lemon and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.  (The cooked rhubarb can be mixed with the strawberries and used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, etc.)

When the syrup has chilled, pour it into a 8 x 8 Pyrex baking dish or other similarly sized, shallow, freezer-safe container.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until the syrup begins to form ice crystals around the edge of the dish, around 40 minutes.  Using a fork, stir and scrape to break up the crystals and distribute throughout the unfrozen syrup, re-cover the dish, and return to the freezer.  Repeat this process every half hour or so until all of the syrup has frozen and formed a fluffy mass of crystals.

Scoop the granita into shot or cordial glasses to serve as a palate cleanser between courses, or into larger glasses for dessert, garnishing with mint or sliced strawberries if desired. 

Leftover granita should keep for a few days in the freezer, although you may need to re-scrape if the crystals have formed larger clumps.  If it completely solidifies, you can either let it melt and repeat the process above, or break it up into large chunks and run it through the blender with more berries and some additional orange juice to serve as a slushie, or with rum or tequila for a frozen cocktail.

Posted by Gabriela on 05/25 at 04:02 PM

Last Year’s Jam

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Walnut-Quince Rugelach

I’m not a super-preserver or anything, but by this point, I’ve established a regular seasonal pattern of jam-making: sour cherry at the beginning of summer, plum at the end of summer, and quince in the late fall.  While I’ve also finally achieved a decent amount of cabinet space in my kitchen, it’s not unlimited, which means right around now I start thinking about clearing out some space to prepare for the cycle to begin again.

I used some of the plum as a cake filling a couple of weeks ago, and this week I rolled a jar of the quince into some buttery, flaky rugelach. (The sour cherry, alas, never seems to make it past a few months, because I love it too much.)  You can use whichever jar is pushing its way to the front of your pantry, or whatever looks good at the market this weekend.

Walnut-Quince Rugelach
(Adapted from Rugelach, Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010)
Makes 48 cookies

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
8 tablespoons (1 8-ounce block) cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

To assemble:
1 cup jam needing to be used up, in this case quince
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the flour, sugar and salt for the pastry in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to blend the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix on low until mostly broken up and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix in the cream cheese just until a damp, shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean countertop and knead briefly to create a mostly cohesive block.  Divide into four equal parts and pat into 4-inch disks, tightly wrapping each individually.  Refrigerate at least two hours and preferably overnight.

When ready to bake, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll one disk of pastry between sheets of parchment paper to a diameter of 12 inches and a thickness of about a quarter inch.  Spread the pastry with a quarter of the jam, and evenly coat with a quarter of the walnuts and a small pinch of salt.  Using a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife, slice the pastry into 12 approximately equal wedges.  Starting with the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point and place, point-side down, on a lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining wedges, setting the cookies 2 inches apart.  Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to firm the cookies back up as you repeat the process with the remaining pastry disks, jam and walnuts.

Bake each sheet of cookies on the center rack for 25-28 minutes, until pale gold on top and a slightly darker golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans as necessary for even browning.  Immediately transfer the baked cookies on their parchment to cooling racks and cool completely.

Cookies will keep well in airtight containers for up to 5 days.

Posted by Gabriela on 05/01 at 02:10 AM

Happy Spring?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I really hope this is the last of the winter produce recipes until Thanksgiving, not because I don’t love hard squashes, cabbages and brassicas, but because I am really just sick of winter.  My longing for asparagus and rhubarb is starting to become acute, and each of these spring snows is making me despair that tomato season is never coming.

While we’re all cursing the groundhog, this butternut squash spread is at least a bright and sunny color, and warmly spicy enough to maybe convince yourself that you’re in the Mediterranean, if you close your eyes.  It’s adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem, and combines caramelized roasted squash and tahini into a hummus-like dip.  This version has been made vegan by replacing the original yogurt with soft cooked red lentils and a hit of lemon juice, and instead of plain cinnamon I used a Syrian spice mix.  You could use za’atar, ras el hanout, berbere, or any similar blend if you prefer.

Roasted Butternut Spread
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, 2012)
Serves 6-8

For roasting the squash:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Middle Eastern spice mix of choice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the spread:
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons tahini
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Toss the butternut cubes with the oil, spice mix and salt in a roasting pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the squash until soft all the way through and slightly caramelized on the edges, approximately 1 hour.  Cool completely.

Boil the lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the lentils have completely broken down, adding just as much water as needed to prevent them from drying out until they reach that point. 

Combine the roasted squash, cooked lentils, tahini, garlic and lemon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until chunky.  Add more lemon juice and salt as needed, then add the olive oil and pulse a few more times to combine.

Serve in a shallow bowl, garnished with an additional drizzle of olive oil, and with pita chips or crudités on the side.

Posted by Gabriela on 03/28 at 10:27 PM

Vegetarian Carbonara

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Traditional spaghetti carbonara is pasta tossed with crisped pancetta and a mixture of raw eggs and parmesan, which cooks just enough from the heat of the pasta to form a silky, creamy sauce.  It’s not vegetarian-friendly, obviously, which is why when I decided to use the beautifully golden-yolked eggs from the market in a carbonara-esque dish, I had to replace the meat with something sufficiently flavorful and colorful.

The answer was a combination of shredded brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes in the pasta itself, and a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, crisped in olive oil and seasoned with a combination of garlic and Spanish smoked paprika.  Brussels sprouts keep well, stay wonderfully green as long as they’re not overcooked, and add both brightness and a punchy contrast in flavor.  The tomatoes add both a bright pop of color and a slightly chewy texture, and the crumbs add both the missing crunch and the smokiness that comes from the pancetta in the original dish.  The smokiness is further enhanced by a handful of shredded smoked cheese after the pasta is sauced.

This recipe is very, very loosely adapted from one in Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown’s The Greens Cookbook (1987).  In theory, you could further adapt it into a still-flavorful and pretty vegan dish by leaving out the eggs and cheese, although you couldn’t really call it carbonara at that point. (Then again, most people wouldn’t consider it carbonara the minute the meat is taken out.)

Spaghetti Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Smoky Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

For breadcrumbs:
3 slices multigrain bread (the heels of the loaf are fine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, run through a microplane grater or garlic press
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste

For pasta:
8 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 dry pint brussels sprouts, shredded
1/4 cup dried tomatoes, diced

2 eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda or other semi-firm smoked cheese

Roughly tear the bread slices and pulse in a food processor long enough to form medium-sized fresh crumbs.  Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a wide nonstick sauté pan over medium heat just until the garlic begins to release its aroma, then add in the breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat in the oil.  Continue cooking, tossing or stirring frequently, until the crumbs are well-toasted and crisp, stir in paprika and salt to taste, and remove from the pan.

Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente, according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, heat the garlic and chili flakes in the remaining oil in the pan until the garlic begins to color lightly.  Add in the brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, sautéing just until the sprouts have wilted but remain brightly green.  Taste and adjust salt as necessary.

Just before draining the pasta, quickly whisk the eggs and parmesan together in a large bowl.  Drain the pasta and immediately place it into the bowl containing the egg mixture, tossing quickly with tongs to completely coat the spaghetti.  Add the brussels sprouts mixture and smoked cheese and continue tossing until everything is evenly distributed and lightly coated. If the egg mixture appears too raw, return the pasta to the pan and very briefly cook, tossing continuously, to desired doneness.

Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkling generously with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Posted by Gabriela on 02/24 at 08:03 PM

For the Bleak Midwinter

Friday, February 01, 2013


We’re in the time of year when things start looking a little bleak, produce-wise, and you start longing for spring to change things up again.  That doesn’t mean you can’t create some wonderful things from the sturdy winter items that do hang around the markets this time of year, though. 

This vegetarian version of cassoulet makes good use of the root vegetables and hearty greens that can easily be found, and is the perfect way to warm up on an icy, stormy night.  Being vegan, very low-fat and high in all kinds of nutrients is an additional bonus, if you’re trying to stick with any New Year’s resolutions or just detox from the holiday excess.

White Bean, Parsnip and Kale Cassoulet
(Adapted from Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl, The Millennium Cookbook)
Serves 8

5 cups white beans, cooked or canned
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 bunch kale, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large, oven-proof pot with a lid, combine the beans and vegetables.  Mix together the stock, mustard, maple syrup, herbs and spices in a large measuring cup and pour over the bean mixture.  Cover with the lid and bake for 60-75 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened.

Add the kale to the beans, re-cover, and bake 15-20 more minutes, until the greens are tender but not mushy.  Remove the bay leaf and serve as a main course or side dish.

Posted by Gabriela on 02/01 at 01:38 AM

Cusp of Fall Produce

Thursday, September 29, 2011

As much as I love the berries, stone fruit and corn of summer, I honestly think the best time for produce in this area is early fall. This time of year, you can find both the best of the late-summer fruits and vegetables and the apples, pears and pumpkins of autumn.  In my garden, I have a handful of straggling green tomatoes and peppers turning red right beside the hard squashes swelling on their vines.

This baked dish is the perfect thing to make with the fruits of this season, since it’s just a little bit heartier than I would want in the heat of August, when I’d be wanting to make a salad instead.  This is a more comforting and warming configuration for those same ingredients, much more suited to the somewhat drippy weather we’ve been having this month.  I’m especially pleased with the fact that everything is local except the wine and the feta, and a fair bit of it was even home-grown.  The twisty red frying peppers, green bell pepper, tomatoes and herbs all came from containers on my patio, while the onion and darling little pale-purple fairytale eggplant came from the Saturday Chestnut Hill farmers market.  Later this fall, it can be made instead with big Italian eggplant and good canned tomatoes, but for the next few weeks, I urge you to take full advantage of the fact that the ingredients can still be found fresh in the markets!

Fairytale Eggplant Baked with Peppers, Tomatoes and Feta
(Adapted from Diane Kochilas, The Greek Vegetarian)

¼ cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
1 green bell pepper, sliced in thin rounds
2 red frying peppers, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup chopped tomatoes (approximately 4 small)
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 quart fairytale eggplant
4 ounces feta cheese
Salt to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat and add the onions, cooking until wilted.  Add the peppers, red pepper flakes and garlic, cover and cook for another 8 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and wine and bring to a simmer, cover again, and cook 10 more minutes.  Stir in the oregano leaves and salt to taste.

Trim the tops off the eggplant and cut into wedges about an inch wide.  Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and fry the eggplant pieces until golden and beginning to turn tender.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Brush a medium-sized baking dish with 2-inch sides with oil, and layer the bottom with half the eggplant.  Cover with half the sauce mixture, and repeat with the remaining eggplant and vegetables.  Crumble the feta in an even layer on top. 

Cover loosely with foil and bake until the eggplant is fully tender and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes if you’d like the feta to brown a bit.

Posted by Gabriela on 09/29 at 12:46 AM

Taste test: Fattoria Fresca Jersey Fresh Crushed Tomatoes

Thursday, December 31, 2009

When I was last at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market, I decided to buy a can and try it out. Let’s face it, most canned tomatoes are crap to middling. But in the spirit of my commitment to local foods, it deserved a chance.

And I’m so glad I did. I ate a spoonful out of the can, and it was delicious. Not merely good, but a great, deep, tomato-ness. Salt and basil are in there (although I couldn’t detect the basil and would prefer to add my own anyway), but otherwise the can says no water, sugar, citric acid, concentrate, puree, or paste. At $3.00 for 28 ounces, it’s not inexpensive, but a can of imported San Marzanos will cost you more than that, and because there’s no water added, what you might call the “usable volume” of the Fattoria Fresca tomatoes is greater than the same size can of something else. Try them—I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Posted by Allison on 12/31 at 11:32 PM

November GRID is out

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


The new GRID magazine is hitting the shelves at local coffee-shops, co-ops and businesses near you. Check out the issue for more bicycling articles, how to cook dried beans, just what is a green roof, local fashion designers, community garden, a green event calendar, and much more. Or, read it online HERE.

Posted by Erin on 11/04 at 05:58 PM

CSA Report:  Blooming Glen Farm

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

blooming glen crop share: 2009 10/06 week 20

(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names/quantities of share.)

Well look at that—a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.  Those farmers at Blooming Glen Farm seem to always have a surprise for us!  I have no idea what te future has in store for that pumpkin, but it’ll have to wait, as my kitchen is chock-full of wonderful, vitamin-rich, hearty and delicious root vegetables right now.  Here’s my go-to recipe for celeriac, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, etc.:

Root Stew with Barley

3 tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups vegetable stock
4 - 6 cups of scrubbed, but unpeeled* diced root veggies
1/2 - 1 cup of chopped fresh herbs (dill works well, but any one or two will work)

*Except the celeriac. Go ahead and peel those gnarly, dirty bad boys. Most of the nutrients in root vegetables live close to the surface; by peeling them you’ll inadvertently loose the good stuff.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened (about five minutes). Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Stir in barley and vegetable stock. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low, skim off any froth, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add root veggies.  Cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes more, or until barley and vegetables are tender. Just before serving, stir in herbs. Salt and pepper to taste


So delicious and easy!

Posted by Mikaela on 10/07 at 08:17 PM

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