Recipes for Vegetables

The Perfect Dish for this Cold Winter Day

March 20, 2018

Almost spring, but you’d never know it looking out the window. Snow, snow, still snow.  Bare black branches reaching for the sky. Icy cold.  Except for the hawks, all the birds are hiding and there’s not a deer in sight.

This cold weather makes me long for something spicy – and these rice sticks with shrimp are exactly what I feel like eating.  Perhaps it’s because I first tasted them at Momofuku – and today I read that David Chang is closing Ma Peche.

Spicy Korean Rice Sticks with Shrimp and Vegetables

Shopping list: 300 grams Korean rice sticks, 2 Tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (kochujang), 1 pound asparagus, 1/2 pound shrimp, 3 scallions

staples: brown sugar, cayenne pepper, 3 cloves garlic, vinegar, vegetable oil, 1 onion.

Serves 2.

Korean rice sticks (Ddeok) were a completely new ingredient to me, and I loved experimenting with them.  Left to their own devices they are innocuous and rather bland.  But they play very well with other ingredients.  This recipe offers you the crunch of rice sticks, the joy of crisp vegetables, and the chile-garlic heat that characterizes Korean cooking. 

Rice sticks usually come in 300 gram packages, and I’ve found that they’re best fresh. If the ones you find are frozen, just let them sit on the counter to defrost. Do not buy the kind that are labeled “unfrozen”; they have an odd, almost dehydrated texture and won’t work for this recipe.

Koreans usually eat rice sticks boiled or cooked right in with the vegetables, but to me they taste best pan-roasted, which gives them a delightfully crunchy exterior.  Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes and roast the rice sticks just until they begin to brown.  Remove them from the heat, and if you want them in smaller pieces, cut them up.

Make a sauce by mixing two tablespoons of the gochujang (the Korean red pepper paste), with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon of  cayenne,  3 cloves of smashed garlic, a splash of soy sauce and another splash of balsamic, sherry or rice vinegar.

Heat a wok, add a bit of neutral oil and toss in a thinly sliced onion until it just begins to send its perfume into the air. Add an equal amount of sliced cabbage, sliced broccoli or asparagus, and a half pound of small peeled shrimp, tossing until the shrimp begin to turn rosy.  Add the sauce and the rice sticks, and if it looks as if it needs it, a bit of water. At the very end, add a sliced green onion, toss well and serve.  

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Perfect Fall Soup

October 31, 2017

Easy, vegan, beautiful: who could ask for anything more?

Butternut Squash Soup

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 3/4 inch dice

1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch chunks

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 1/2 cups boiling water

garnishes: diced Granny Smith or other crisp apple, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.

  1. Put onion, carrots, celery and olive oil into a large casserole and cook for about ten minutes, until they become soft.
  2. Add squash, potatoes, and salt. Stir in boiling water, bring to a simmer, and allow to cook for about half an hour, until the squash and potatoes are very soft.
  3. Puree, in batches, in a blender.  Be cautious; hot soup can be dangerous.
  4. Taste for seasoning. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and/or balsamic, and the diced apple.

Serves 4.

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Things I Love: Purslane

June 24, 2017

I will never forget the farmer in Venice who laughed uproariously when I asked her to give me the purslane she was weeding from her fields.  “This is not for humans,” she said contemptuously, handing over great heaps of the thick slightly lemon-flavored weed. Yes, it’s a weed, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, weeds are just plants whose virtues we have yet to discover.

I’m a longtime fan of this particular weed. Googling around I found this article I wrote almost twenty years ago extolling its many virtues. Thoreau was another fan. “I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries.”

It puzzles me that purslane, with its satisfying crunch and easygoing flavor, isn’t better known. You can eat it raw, in soups or simply boiled. Here’s a Mexican favorite.

Purslane tacos.

Shopping list: purslane, tomatillos, a green chile, corn tacos, queso fresco.

Staples: onion, garlic.

Begin by making a quick green salsa.  Peel the papery husk off 4 tomatillos, wash them and toss them into a blender with 1 small green chile, half a small onion and a clove of garlic.  Whirl them into a thin liquid.

Take a big heap of purslane, wash it well, chop it well, and boil it for about 10 minutes. Drain.

Slick a skillet with oil and add the salsa. Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down and add the purslane. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Diana Kennedy adds cumin as well, but I prefer the tacos without.) Cook it down until it’s thickened into a lovely sludge.

Sprinkle some queso fresco across the top and served wrapped into warm tortillas.

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How to Stuff a Pumpkin

October 11, 2016

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Swiss Pumpkin

I originally called this pumpkin soup, but it’s really a gratin baked right inside the pumpkin. I was 21 when I developed the recipe, and oblivious to richness so I used nothing but cream. Today I mix the cream with chicken broth (about a cup of cream and a cup of broth). You could also use milk. It’s STILL pretty much of a heart-stopper but it’s irresistible. 

Go out and buy a fairly small pumpkin (about 4 pounds) with a flat bottom. Cut off the top, as if you were going to carve a jack-o-lantern, and hollow it out. Spread the seeds out and dry them to eat later.

Now get a good loaf of French bread, cube it, put the cubes on a baking sheet and toast them lightly in a 350 degree oven for about 9 minutes.  Leave the oven on.

Grate a good amount of one of the Swiss cheeses – Emmenthaler, Gruyere or Appenzeller (you’ll need about 12 ounces). Layer the bread and cheese inside the pumpkin until it’s almost full (leave a half inch on the top because the filling will expand a bit).

Mix 1 cup of chicken stock into a cup of cream. Add a teaspoon of salt. Grind in some black pepper and grate in some nutmeg. Then fill the pumpkin almost to the top with as much of this mixture as you need, replace the top of the pumpkin, brush the outside with neutral oil, set it on a baking sheet, and bake for about 2 hours.

Bring the whole pumpkin to the table. When you serve it be sure to scoop out the pumpkin flesh with the cheese and the cream.

Serves 4

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Red and Robust

September 11, 2016

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Went to the farmers market in Great Barrington yesterday, where I encountered Gray Kunz with his adorable grandson, Jean-Luc.  Gray is one of the chefs I most admire in the world, and when he said he was buying all the tomatoes he could carry, I hastened to follow in his wake.

I’m sure the great chef is doing something unimaginably fantastic with his haul. But I came home and made this simple soup. Incredibly easy, and extremely satisfying.  I’m just hoping we don’t eat it all; this will be the most wonderful freezer find when the snow starts to fall.

Roasted Tomato Soup

2 pounds tomatoes (about 5), cored and cut into quarters

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

cloves garlic

2  onions, quartered

extra-virgin olive oil

1-3 cups water

1/4 cup cream

Heat an oven to 375 degrees

Place the tomatoes, onions, and garlic pieces on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, shower with salt and splash generously with olive oil. Put into the oven for about an hour.

Squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their skins and put them, along with the tomatoes and onions into a blender or food processor. Add 1 1/4 cups water and blend.  Add more water if you’d like thinner; I think 2 cups of water is about right, but you might like more or less.

Taste for salt, reheat a bit and then swirl in a little cream before serving.

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