Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back to Our Roots

root vegetablesGotta love New England in January. Snow, drizzle, flurries, a peek of sunshine, a little thaw, some freezing rain. And that was just one afternoon last week.

Perfect weather for some ice cream. The girls and I have been treating ourselves to sundaes, but it's not a long-term strategy. So in between the frozen treats I've been focusing on stews and casseroles and roasts. Root vegetables have starred in several of these meals; not only are they widely available this time of year, but they also hold up well in the long-cooking, kitchen-warming dishes that I reserve for winter.

We found an array of root vegetables and other wintry things (like squash, and, um, gelato!) at the winter farmers' market in Wayland. It's worth a visit if you are in the area, but go early: We apparently missed out on some greenhouse-grown Swiss chard.

Part of the farmers' market haul wound up in this stew:

Vegan (and Fat Free) Winter Vegetable Stew
(adapted from the International Vegetarian Union web site)

Peel and cube:
1 rutabaga
3 turnips
3 to 4 carrots
1 sweet potato
2 to 3 white potatoes

1 large onion

Rinse well:
1/2 cup barley

Put everything into a large stew pot (mine holds 8 quarts), and add water to cover (about 11 cups). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about an hour, until all is nearly tender.

1/3 cup red lentils
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Simmer until the lentils have cooked, fallen apart and thickened the stew, about 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

Notes: The recipe yields a ton (about 16 cups), so keep that in mind if you have a vegetable-averse household. Like most stews, this one tastes even better the second day. Leftovers will continue to thicken because of the barley.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Twisted Start to the Year

I suppose the following recipe violates the general purpose of my blog: It does not feature anything local, seasonal, or even vegetable. File this one under regional nostalgia.

You see, growing up in Philadelphia, soft pretzels are a part of my culture, and they are one of the few foods associated with that city that I actively seek out (along with the occasional tuna hoagie.) They're fun to make at home, and a good recipe to make with kids: Lots of opportunities to play with dough.

Caboodle and I whipped up a batch of these on Sunday, and they gave us the fortitude to shovel out the driveway. If you make some for yourself, remember to eat them warm, preferably with a smear of mustard. (Gulden's Spicy Brown, thank you.)

Philadelphia-style Soft Pretzels
(adapted from The Philadelphia Inquirer)

For the dough:

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, plus up to 1 cup extra flour
Canola oil, for greasing bowl and baking trays

For the boiling:

4 tsp baking soda
4 cups water

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in one-quarter cup warm water. Stir in remaining water. In a large bowl, combine the salt and four cups of flour. Stir in the yeast water. Add more flour, as needed, to make a stiff dough. Knead dough for 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, turning to coat dough. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Separate dough into 12 pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll each piece into a coil, about 18 inches long and 3/8 inch in diameter, and twist into a pretzel shape. Set shaped pretzels aside, loosely covered, in a warm place.

Dissolve the baking soda in four cups of water and bring to a boil. Drop in the raw pretzels, one at a time, and let boil for one minute or until the pretzel floats. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Transfer the boiled pretzels to a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Optional: Brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. (Personally, I consider butter a sacrilege. Real pretzels need mustard.)

CSA: Danvers (Season 3)

Wanna keep your resolution to eat more vegetables? Easy! Just sign up for a CSA.

Connors Farm patrons can now lock in their shares for 2010.