January 2011 Archives
Romanesco Cauliflower: Found at Weiser Family Farms stands at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: Choose regular cauliflower.
I have been curious about this fantastical looking vegetable ever since I first noticed it at a street market in Rome, about 5 years ago. Now it is available in Los Angeles, but so far I have only seen it at farmers’ markets. Its wondrous shape, reminding me of a bouquet of tiny cones, is described mathematically as a fractal
, but I like to think of it as a natural art form. The flavor is more delicate than regular cauliflower, with slightly nutty nuances, and it has a more tender texture.
Roasted, this highly nutritious vegetable makes a satisfying side dish, or, as in the recipe below, can be the star of a pasta creation. Simply cut off the florets, starting at the base and working up towards the tip, and then toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a hot oven until brown in spots, crispy on the outside yet yielding in the center.
The just picked fruit, vegetables, and herbs I find at local farmers’ markets are loaded with flavor, and therefore it takes very little effort in the kitchen to create marvelous, healthy dishes when using them. They are what inspire my cooking. I intend to frequently highlight produce I bring home from the markets, and tell you about the easy preparations I make. These dishes are simple to prepare without complete recipes, they are more ideas than formulas.
German Butterball Potatoes
: Found at Weiser Family Farms
stand, at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: choose Yukon gold potatoes instead.
The season will soon be over for these buttery tasting heirloom potatoes, but they are so outstanding, I encourage you to try them before they disappear. They are round to oblong in shape, with light brown smooth skin, and yellow flesh.
Their flavor is intense; therefore little butter is needed to make divine mashed potatoes. I cut them into 1-2” pieces with the skin still attached, and cook in boiling salted water until tender. After draining, I mash them with a little olive oil and chicken broth or milk, and season with salt and pepper, occasionally adding a small pat of butter- but the butter really isn’t necessary. Topped with sautéed mushrooms, and served alongside simply roasted or sautéed chicken, fish, or meat, they make an easy meal memorable. For an even simpler preparation, cut the potatoes into wedges about 1-inch thick at the widest part, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast them at 450°F until crispy and brown on the outside and yielding inside, for about 35 minutes. These are addictive, and great with almost anything.
: Found at several stands at local farmers’ markets. I have been purchasing them from Mello AG, at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and Vital Zuman Farms at the Topanga farmers’ market. From the grocery store: Gelson’s and Whole Foods Markets carry chanterelles, but they are costlier than at farmers’ markets. Button mushrooms or shiitakes can be used in the suggestions below; they will be tasty, but won’t offer the same woodsy flavor or substantial texture.
I’m happy to announce that my new cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, is now available. It can be found exclusively at Williams-Sonoma stores this month and February, and then in March it will also be in bookstores. It can be preordered on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for March shipment.
The recipes are inspired by my weekly trips to farmers' markets, and reflect the way I cook at home: lots of fresh veggies, small amounts of olive oil, vivid flavor. Many of the recipes are for complete meals, or I offer suggestions for quick ways to round out the plate. I had great fun creating the food for the book, and we ate well during the months I worked on it.
As a preview, here is a recipe for a robust chicken braise. It makes a perfect dinner during the cold snap we are experiencing. I created the dish last winter, with produce I found at the Topanga farmers’ market. Of course, the squash and turnips are also available at every grocery store. I spooned the lusty chicken and vegetables over rice, and then enjoyed the leftovers on another night with crusty bread, to soak up the richly flavored juices.