Okay, my precious peeps, today you’re gonna get a cooking lesson – and I know some of you need it. I recently attended a cooking class in which I learned how to conjure all sorts of delectable seasonal dishes, including Caramelized Apple and Onion Soup (with Parmesan Lace Crisps – a little bonus yumyum); Spicy Squash Butter on Molasses Quick Bread; Green Salad with Gorgonzola, Pear Brittle and Warm Mustard Vinaigrette; and Sweet Potato Gingersnap Crumble. Now doesn’t that get your mouth watering? What a smorgasbord! But now I’m gonna let you down – I’m not going to give you those recipes. Instead, I’m plattering up what I thought was the best part of the class – the last ten minutes when the instructor waxed poetic about all her favorite ways to prepare various fall and winter produce. You know how you sometimes have produce on hand but aren’t sure what to do with it, or you don’t feel like getting into some involved recipe? These little dishlets will solve that problem – and you’ll be healthier, smarter, cooler, and more attractive after eating them. I mean, the instructor got all hot and bothered just talking about them, so she must be on to something…
Chard: You know how you always just toss those stems out? Well, keep ‘em, because they’re actually quite healthy and tasty – if you like a bit of crunch. You can use the stems in farro salad (or any other type of grain salad, presumably) and soups. Or you can sauté them with garlic and onion for a tasty side dish. As for those leaves, the instructor said to squeeze and “massage” them a little bit before you eat them raw in a salad, as this makes them easier to chew and digest. You can also cut the leaves into long ribbons and sauté them with garlic, onions, apple bits, walnuts, and some balsamic vinegar. So just give those tasty greens a little squeeze, and they’ll be sure to love you right back. Also, with greens in general she said to make sure they’re very dry when you store them (place a towel in the bag with them), and don’t overcrowd your crisper drawer.
Golden beets: Wrap them in foil (with the skin on), roast them in a shallow baking pan with a little water in it at 425° for about 1.5 hours. Then take off the skin and eat them as is, or toss them into risotto or salads.
Parsnip: I’m deeply saddened to say that I’ve never had a parsnip, and in fact, am not even sure what one looks like. That’s going to change, because the instructor called them the “most underrated winter veggie”. Apparently, roasting them makes them sweet, so roast them to your heart’s content and then have yourself some veggie candy.
Pears: Quarter them (leave the skin on), remove the core, and combine them with 3 cups red wine, a stick of cinnamon, and 1 cup sugar. Poach for 20 minutes. She said this is a delicious fall/winter dessert.
Pie pumpkin: Cut it into eights, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Place the slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops with oil (don’t use water in the baking pan). Bake at 450° for 45 minutes.
Overripe tomatoes: Use them in tomato sauce. And she said to never store tomatoes in the fridge, but rather in a dark, dry place.
Tomatillos: Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oil, then roast them (with husks on) at 425°. Mash them and use in salsa verde (a mixture of chopped green peppers, green onions, lemon juice, garlic).
All root veggies: You can slice them very thin (use a mandolin slicer), sprinkle with salt, pepper, and vinegar (any type you’re crazy about) and eat them raw or in salads. The thin slicing process makes them more digestible. Or you can roast them ‘til they’re crispy.
Some miscellaneous tips: smaller produce = bigger taste, so favor the little guys when you’re shopping (ie., instead of going for that gargantuan, head-sized tomato, pick up the little one instead; he’ll be more delicious); try to combine sweet and savory ingredients in your concoctions to give them more depth; think about “umami”, the extra little savory something that will really yummify your dishes. Aged cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, potatoes, carrots, and green tea all qualify as umami ingredients. Adding them to your food will infuse savory depth, making your little morsels even more delicious.
Now see, aren’t those some great ideas? I feel so comforted knowing that I have some simple, quick, healthy ideas for munching on my veggies all throughout the dreary fall and winter. Do my readers have any other ideas? Share them in a comment!