Brussels Sprouts are hot!

I’ve been a fan of Brussels sprouts since childhood. When I made my first Thanksgiving dinner for friends forty years ago, I fixed Brussels sprouts the way I remembered from family meals.  I cut a little “X” in the stem end and boiled them, watching closely and removing them as soon as the center was tender, but the outside was still green.  Guests politely took one or two while I and the few other fans finished the rest.  Some Thanksgivings later, a friend offered to bring the Brussels sprouts, steaming them, adding bits of crispy fried bacon and cloaking all in a mustard cream sauce. These rich, disguising flavors made some converts, and this preparation held for many years.  Then, fifteen years ago, deciding to feature the nutty, delicately cabbage-like flavor of Brussels sprouts, I thinly sliced each sprout and sautéed the slices in butter.  For the first time, nearly everyone ate Brussels sprouts.  For Thanksgivings since then, I’ve served Brussels sprouts this way or, in another great variation that features the flavor of Brussels sprouts, I’ve halved or quartered each sprout, tossed the pieces in olive oil and roasted them on sheet pans in a hot oven.  Caramelized Brussels sprouts are popular with just about everyone.

My and guests’ experiences with Brussels sprouts mirror a trend among chefs and home cooks.  Over the past decade, restaurants began serving roasted Brussels sprouts as appetizers and sides.  Creative recipes for Brussels sprouts began appearing in cooking magazines, newspaper articles and blogs.  And in the Skagit Delta this fall, rows and rows of Brussels sprouts stretch across the fields to meet the demand for this lovely vegetable.

Always on the lookout for recipes that celebrate the new popularity of Brussels Sprouts, I was intrigued by a recent New York Times Cooking recipe by Susan Spungen for Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad. In the introduction, she writes: “If you like a good kale salad, or any type of crunchy salad, then you will love this one, which combines shredded raw brussels sprouts with roasted brussels sprouts leaves.”  I did love it and have made it several times with the Brussels Sprouts growing in my winter kitchen garden. I’ve also developed a delicious variation with cabbage and kale that uses the same raw and roasted techniques.

Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small shallot, halved

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

Black pepper

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ ounces Pecorino Sardo, or other sharp sheep’s milk cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1 scant cup)

 cup whole raw almonds, roughly chopped

Trim the sprouts, cutting a good 1/4-inch off the bottom. Pull off the large leaves (you should have about 2 cups of them); set aside. Shred the remaining sprouts thinly, using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, or use a knife to halve them through the core, then thinly slice them. You should have 5 to 6 cups

Toss the shredded sprouts with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and massage with your hands to tenderize them. Set aside.

Finely mince half the shallot and mix with the sherry vinegar, mustard, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. While stirring, slowly pour in 4 tablespoons oil, then drizzle the dressing onto the sprouts, mixing thoroughly. Toss in the cheese and place in a serving bowl. (Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, if not serving right away.)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the other half of the shallot, and on a small baking sheet, combine the shallot with the reserved sprout leaves, almonds, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat, then roast, tossing once or twice until the sprouts begin to crisp and brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Place the hot ingredients on top of the salad (do not toss) and serve immediately, with more cracked pepper on top.

After I trimmed a ¼ inch from the stems, it was easy to slip the outer leaves from each sprout and collect two cups of green leaves. I used the food processor to shred the inner sprouts and then tossed them with the lemon juice and salt.

Brussels sprouts leaves and centers

Brussels sprouts shredded

It was one of those cooking leaps of faith to combine the sliced shallot, chopped almonds and sprout leaves and believe that they would all finish cooking at the same time, but they did.  The crispy leaves and nuts and the soft shallots make a wonderful combination and a beautiful topping for the shredded leaves and shaved pecorino.  The dressing is really tasty too.  I used maple syrup.

Brussels sprouts salad set up

To serve this salad, reach deeply with the salad spoons and capture both bottom and top layers.  The salad is beautiful in the bowl and on the plate.

Brussels sprouts salad finished

The roasted Brussels Sprouts leaves reminded me of roasted kale leaves and the shredded Brussels Sprouts centers reminded me of cabbage.  With these similarities in mind, it was a short step to making this salad with cabbage and kale.  I followed all the instructions of the original recipe and would make this version again too.

Cabbage Kale salad set up

Cabbage Kale salad finished

Winter salads are so hearty and satisfying.  I’m grateful that Brussels sprouts and their brassica cousins will keep us in salads through this cold and dark season.

 

Seeding the winter kitchen garden now

It’s been a very busy April and May, but the spring and summer vegetables are finally in the ground and growing. I’m ready to take a break from planting the kitchen garden, but not before I finish one more task. It seems odd to be doing this during these sweet days of late spring and early summer, but it’s time to start seeds of fall and winter vegetables.  With days-to-maturity requirements of 100 to over 200 days, many of my winter favorites, like celery root, leeks, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, overwintering cauliflowers and broccolis, need to be seeded now or in the next week or two so that they’ll be mature by the time days become shorter and temperatures drop.  At that point, they’ll be ready to hold in the garden, heavily mulched against cold and sometimes covered against the wind, for harvest throughout the winter.

I look at my list and translate the days into months and realize that a hundred days from now is mid-September, the autumn equinox. Time to start planting!

Celery root: 100-110 days

Leeks: 90-110 days

Parsnips: 110 days

Brussels sprouts: 99-200 days

Winter cabbage: 160-220 days

Overwintering cauliflower: 200+ days

Purple sprouting broccoli: 220 days

With the exception of parsnips, which I’ll plant outdoors soon, I’ll start all of these seeds indoors.  I’ve already seeded celery root and leeks and their small, green shoots are rising above the potting soil.  I used to start celery root indoors in late March and set out plants in mid-May, but in the past few years, I’ve found that the plants grow better when the weather is warmer, so I start them in early May, May 9th this year, and set them out in late June.  I also used to direct seed leeks in late May, but a few years ago, I experimented with starting seeds indoor in pots, where I got much better germination, and then setting out the contents of the pots in mid-to-late June where the leeks grew well into pencil-sized plants for final transplant into rows.

Celery root starts 5:31

Leek starts 2 5:31

Next week, I’ll start the brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. By mid-July, the brassicas will be sturdy plants in 4-inch pots, ready to harden off and set out in winter beds.

In mid-July, I’ll plant more winter crops, those with shorter days-to-maturity, like carrots, beets, turnips, rutabaga, kale.  But mid-July is six weeks away, and between now and then there will be time to take a break from planting the kitchen garden.

Overwintering Brassicas

My friend Carol has given me lots of great fruit and vegetable ideas over the years: grafting tips and ground cherrybean and tomato varieties.  Her latest suggestion was overwintering brassicas.  I’d always counted on flower buds from kale and other overwintered brassicas to give me a sweet broccoli taste in early spring, but this past summer, Carol encouraged me to grow purple sprouting broccoli as well as overwintering cauliflowers. She even gave me some plants. “You’ll be glad you grew them,” she said.   For the past month, as we’ve enjoyed sweet cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli, we have been glad.  Thanks to Carol, I’ve ordered my own seeds for overwintering brassicas and will plant them this summer for next spring.

Carol gave me starts for “All the Year Round” and Purple Cape cauliflower and for Purple Sprouting Broccoli.   Uprising Organics offers “All the Year Round” cauliflower, shown here in my kitchen garden.

Cauliflower ATYR in garden

Adaptive Seeds offers Purple Cape cauliflower, a bit blown in this photo because I didn’t realize it was cauliflower so picked after it had burst from its head.  It was still delicious. Adaptive also offers Prestige Cauliflower, another white overwintering cauliflower.

Cauliflower purple cape

A variety of Purple Sprouting Broccoli called Red Arrow is usually available from Adaptive Seeds but is sold out this year. Territorial Seeds also offers several different varieties of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, all tempting.  I’m not sure which variety from Carol’s starts is here in these photos.

Broccoli PSB closeup

Broccoli PSB plants in bed

This past winter was a good test for overwintering brassicas.  We had many nights with temperatures in the teens, days with relentless northeast and northwest winds, and snow.  The cauliflower and broccoli plants I’d set out in late July were robust, nearly three-foot tall towers of dark green leaves by late October. From November to February, with each hit of winter weather, the plants looked more and more cold and wind damaged, less and less likely to rebound.  I was about to write them off as a failed experiment when in late February I noticed new growth emerging.  First, small purple buds appeared near the ends of broccoli stems, then leaves on the cauliflowers multiplied, looking like they were starting to enclose growing heads.  Once again, Carol was right.  We were soon harvesting tasty purple broccoli florets and large, sweet heads of cauliflower.

I’ve prepared them as I do summer and fall season broccoli and cauliflower, mainly roasting them and serving them as side dishes or added to pasta, beans or grains for a main dish.

Broccoli PSB roastedPurple sprouting broccoli roasted and topped with some roasted kale leaves and flower buds

Cauliflower ATYR pasta in bowlAll the Year Round Cauliflower roasted with shallots, topped with toasted almonds and parsley

Broccoli PSB roasted with soissons verteRoasted Purple Cape Cauliflower and Soissons Verte beans with sautéed red mustard

I have plants of summer broccoli and cauliflower already growing in this year’s kitchen garden and am looking forward to harvesting them on sunny, warm days of summer, but I’m also anticipating next winter and early spring and the chance to welcome overwintering brassicas again.

 

 

 

An Italian Recipe for Overwintered Greens

Greens winter in basket

Kale, chard and red mustard are three hardy greens that overwinter in my kitchen garden and are now putting out fresh, new leaves.  The plants are on their way to producing flower buds; in fact, some buds are already forming on the kale and mustard, but it’s their leaves that interest me in the kitchen right now.

Any of these leaves singly or in combination is delicious wilted slightly and then sautéed in olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. They are great as a side dish or as part of the main course on pasta or white beans.

Though I could eat greens prepared this way every night this time of year, I recently remembered a recipe I made years ago. It takes little more time and a few more ingredients but is definitely worth the effort.  It’s from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table (1992) and titled Spiced Spinach with Almonds.  In the note introducing the recipe, Kasper writes: “Far more interesting than Italy’s usual sauté of spinach and onion is Emilia-Romagna’s 17thcentury version of the recipe.  In it, spinach cooks with spices, nuts, currants, and cheeses.  Serve the dish just as they did centuries ago as a side dish,or use it as a topping on warm flat bread “and serve it as an antipasto or with drinks.”

Greens winter on island

Greens winter nuts prep

When I first made this recipe years ago, I followed another of Kasper’s suggestions and layered it with slices of polenta, alternating three layers of polenta with two layers of filling, baking at 350 until it was heated through and serving it as a main course.  It’s this combination of sautéed greens and sliced polenta that I repeated a few weeks ago.

The filling was even better than I remembered, perhaps because I used red mustard leaves instead of spinach.  Spinach was good, but spicy red mustard is even better.  I also made two other substitutions to the recipe, using shallots instead of onion and yellow raisins instead of currants, both good.  I’ll make the polenta dish again soon, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy the side dish for dinner with leftovers for lunch.

In a final note at the end of the recipe Kasper adds: “Swiss chard, turnip greens, broccoli rape, beet greens, romaine, escarole, curly endive and young dandelion greens are all excellent prepared this way.” To her list, I’ll add red mustard and kale, both of which blend wonderfully with the spices, almonds, creamy ricotta and the nutty Parmesan, and both of which, along with chard, are in good supply in my kitchen garden.

Greens winter saute in skillet

Spiced Spinach with Almonds

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

 2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup minced onion

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

5 tablespoons blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons currants

½ cup fresh ricotta cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

 Cooking the Spinach: Rinse the spinach in a sink full of cold water. Lift the leaves right from the water into an 8-quartpot, without shaking off any of the water clinging to them. Set the pot over medium heat, cover, and cook 5 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted but still a bright dark green.  Immediately turn the spinach into a colander.  Briefly run cold water over the spinach to cool it down and stop its cooking. Then squeeze out the excess moisture and coarsely chop.

 Finishing and Serving:  Have a serving bowl warming in a low oven.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté 8 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, or until golden brown.  Stir in the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the spinach, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds, and currants. Stir while sautéing over medium heat 2 minutes, or until heated through and aromatic.  Stir in the ricotta and heat a few seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn the spinach mixture into the serving bowl and toss with the Parmesan.  Serve hot.

Winter Shakshuka

I’ve been a fan of shakshuka since discovering it in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks Plenty (2010) and Jerusalem (2012) and in one of Melissa Clark’s New York Times Wednesday columns in 2013.  In Clark’s words, shakshuka is “a one-skillet recipe of eggs baked in a tomato-red pepper sauce spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne.” She continues, “First you make that sauce, which comes together fairly quickly on top of the stove, then you gently crack each of the eggs into the pan, nestling them into the sauce…Shakshuka originated in North Africa, and like many great dishes there are as many versions as there are cooks who have embraced it.”

I make shakshuka in summer from fresh peppers and tomatoes, and it’s delicious, but this winter I started making it with roasted and frozen peppers and tomatoes.  It’s just as good.  In fact, the flavors of the already-roasted peppers and tomatoes are even richer than the flavors of the fresh versions.

The shakshuka recipe I most often follow is from Ottolenghi’s Plenty (2010).

Shakshuka red set up½ tsp cumin seeds
190ml light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 red and 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into 2cm strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme, picked and chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp saffron strands
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Up to 250ml water
8 free-range eggs

 In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and two tablespoons of coriander, and cook on high heat to get a nice color. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. You can prepare this mix in advance.

Place four saucepans on medium heat and divide the mixture between them. Break two eggs into each pan, pouring into gaps in the mixture. Sprinkle with salt, cover and cook very gently for 10-12 minutes, until the egg just sets. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with chunky white bread.

Shakshuka red skillet

I especially like the instruction to toast the cumin seeds briefly before adding the oil because the cumin flavor permeates the dish through the oil. I leave out the sugar because the onions, peppers and tomatoes from my garden are already very sweet.  In the summer, using fresh vegetables, I follow the recipe cooking sequence.  In the winter, using already-roasted peppers and tomatoes, I sauté the onions until they are very soft before adding the peppers, tomatoes and other spices and cooking them until the flavors blend.  Sometimes I’ll also add feta or goat cheese when I add the eggs, as Melissa Clark suggests.  Finally, a half-batch of this recipe is perfect for two, and rather than using individual skillets, I usually use one skillet that will hold four eggs.

Tomato and pepper based shakshuka is the more traditional version, but this winter I’ve also been making what many call green shakshuka. The technique is the same, but instead of onions, peppers and tomatoes, the vegetable base for the eggs is a sauté of leeks or onions and greens like spinach, chard, collards or kale or a combination of these hardy greens.  Green is as delicious as red and, in keeping with the season, it’s another great way to use the leeks and hardy greens in the winter kitchen garden.

In his latest cookbook, SIMPLE (2018), Ottolenghi has a recipe he calls Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar that is essentially green shakshuka. I’ve made it several times and it’s delicious.

Shakshuka green set up

Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large leeks (or 4 smaller), trimmed and cut into ½cm slices (6 cups/530g)

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

2 small preserved lemons, pips discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (2 ½ Tbsp/30g)

1 ¼ cup/300ml vegetable stock

7 oz/200g baby spinach leaves

6 large eggs

3 ¼ oz/90g feta, broken into 2cm pieces

1 tbsp za’atar

salt and black pepper

  1.    Put the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4–5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. Fold in the spinach and cook for a minute, until wilted, then reduce the heat to medium.2.    Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break one egg into each space. Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4–5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.

    3.    Mix the za’atar with the remaining tablespoon of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.

Shakshuka green skillet

I’ve substituted kale and collards for the spinach in this Ottolenghi recipe and also used goat cheese instead of feta, and all are tasty.

Chard is a good another green in shakshuka as Sarah Copeland suggests in this New York Times recipe. The touch of heavy cream in this version also works wonderfully to blend together the vegetable flavors.

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 large bunch/1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped (about 9 cups)

½ teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

8 large eggs

¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed

3 ounces cotija cheese or queso fresco, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1 avocado, sliced, for serving

1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced, for serving

Chopped cilantro, for serving

Smoked hot sauce, for serving

Corn tortillas, toasted, for serving

1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until softening, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 5 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the chard stems, and cook to release some liquid, 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves, in batches, adding more as they wilt, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until completely wilted, 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pour in the half-and-half and stir loosely together.

Make eight small hollows in the cooked chard with the back of a spoon. Gently crack an egg into each hollow. Cover with a lid or foil and cook on medium-low until the eggs are just set, but still soft, about 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle with salt, pepper, cotija, avocado, jalapeño and cilantro. Serve with smoked hot sauce, toasted tortillas and lime wedges.

Shakshuka is a popular breakfast, brunch or lunch dish, but I serve it most often for dinner.  During our recent cold and snowy weather, it’s been a comforting winter supper with the added bonus of flavors that hold promises of summer.

Winter Slaw with Farro

An “I-could-make-this-tonight” recipe appeared on my Food52 daily email this week, Deb Perelman’s Winter Slaw with Farro. I made it for dinner the other night, and its flavors and textures are both delicious.  The crisp, sweet cabbage contrasts perfectly with the soft, vinegar marinated dried fruit, the nuts add crunch and richness, the cheese adds a nice bit of saltiness and the nutty farro adds chewiness.    I served it with Turnips Anna, an elegant but earthy dish that, with the slaw, made a perfect winter meal.

cabbage farro slaw in bowl w:servers

turnips-anna-finished

Part of the appeal of the slaw recipe was that I had the main ingredients at hand: January King cabbage in the winter kitchen garden, Bluebird Grain Farm emmer farro in the pantry and Parmesan in the fridge. I didn’t have dried apricots or roasted almonds, but the author’s notes encourage swapping other dried fruits for apricots and other nuts for almonds.  I used a combination of our home-dried apples and pears and toasted hazelnuts because I had both in the pantry.

Another appeal is that the recipe fell into easy steps.  After setting the farro to boil, I diced the dried apples and pears and put them in a small bowl with the white wine vinegar.  After harvesting, halving and coring the cabbage, I sliced it on a mandolin, though the food processor or a sharp knife would have worked too.  After chopping the hazelnuts, shaving the Parmesan, and draining the farro, all the ingredients were ready to combine, just as the directions suggest.

cabbage farro slaw still life

I made a half-batch for the two of us and had plenty left over for a delicious lunch slaw the next day. A few nights later, I made another half-batch for dinner.  This time, in addition to the generous amounts of salt and pepper Perelman recommends, I made a white wine vinegar and mustard vinaigrette to add more acid flavor to the marinated dried fruit.  That was a tasty addition.  Another time I might add pickled red onions.  While there are still January King Cabbages in the kitchen garden, I’ll keep making this slaw.

Deb Perelman’s Winter Slaw with Farro

 Author Notes: Deb Perelman had yearned for a grain salad with an inverted proportion of grains to vegetables for some time before tasting the inspiration for this one at the West Village restaurant Via Carota. Finally, she felt more confident to make her own. Since then, she’s seen scant proportions of grains peek through in other restaurant salads (often fried freekah for toasty, popcorn-like crunch) and made all sorts of variations herself. She loves switching in walnuts and “diced pillowy bits of Taleggio or Robiola instead of Parmesan cheese.” You can also swap any dried fruit for the apricot.
Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen Every Day (Knopf, 2017).

Ingredients

  • 1/2cup (100g) finely diced dried apricots
  • 1/4cup (60ml) white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 small-medium (2 pounds or a bit less than 1kg) head green cabbage
  • 1 1/3 cups (145g) cooked farro, cooled (from about 3/4 cup uncooked)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) roughly chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 ounces (55g) Parmesan, thinly shaved on a grater with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

 Directions

Place the apricots in a small bowl with the vinegar, and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.

Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core (and eat the core as a crunchy snack); then cut the halves again so you have quarters. With a mandolin or a knife, slice the cabbage into very thin ribbons. You’ll have about 12 cups total, which will seem ridiculous, but it will wilt down with dressing on it. Pile it into your largest bowl.

 Add to the bowl the apricots and their vinegar, the farro, almonds, and most of the Parmesan, plus the olive oil, salt, and a good helping of freshly ground pepper. Toss to combine, and try to give it 15 minutes to let the ingredients settle a little before making seasoning adjustments; then add more vinegar, Parmesan, oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Perelman emphasizes this: “With so few ingredients and most of them fairly mildly flavored, you cannot skimp on seasoning or texture; I hope everyone toasts their almonds well and uses salt and pepper until all the flavors are lifted/present.” 

Heap the slaw on plates in piles, and top with remaining Parmesan. The slaw’s textures are best for serving to company at this point, but this will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge for great take-to-work lunches. 

Winter Kitchen Garden Food and Beauty

Food is the main reason I grow a winter kitchen garden, but the beauty of these hardy vegetables is a close second.

Leeks, Parsnips, B Sprouts 12:18Blue-green leek spears share a bed with yellow-green parsnip leaves, and lighter green Brussels sprouts, their small, hard globes arranged like miniature cabbages along tall stalks, fill the next bed.

Kales 12:18

Collard Flash 12:18White outlines the tips and veins of Winterbor and White Russian Kale and Flash Collards.

Cabbage JK 12:18

Rutabaga 12:18Purple tints the flattened globes of January King cabbage and wraps around the rutabaga.

Other roots, carrots, beets, turnips and celery root are hidden, buried in mulch to keep the soil around them from freezing, but when I dig and wash them, their bright colors shine.

Over the next few months, I’ll harvest these winter vegetables as I need them.  When the forecast is for temperatures in the low 20s, teens or lower, I’ll pile on more mulch onto the layers already there and perhaps add some tarps, but for most of our temperate marine northwest winter, these vegetables will hold well in the natural cooler of winter.  They’ll be there for favorite meals as well as for new discoveries.

One wonderful new discovery, an easy and very delicious cabbage recipe, is in Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook, SIMPLE (2018).  I’ve made it twice already this week and will definitely make it again.

Roast cabbage with tarragon and pecorino

Serve this at room temperature, so the pecorino keeps its texture and flavor. It’s lovely as a side for roast chicken or sausages, or with a selection of cooked veg. Serves four.

 ½ cup olive oil
2 lemons – finely grate the zest, to get 2 tbsp, then juice, to get 2 tbsp
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
2 Napa cabbages (aka pointed cabbage), outer leaves discarded, then cut lengthways into eight wedges each (12 cups/1 kg)
½ cup/10g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
1oz/30g pecorino shaved (use a vegetable peeler)

Heat the oven to 450 F.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon zest, garlic, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then transfer two tablespoons to a second bowl.

Put the cabbage wedges in a large bowl and season with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Pour the larger portion of oil mixture over the cabbage and toss to coat. Arrange the cabbage on two oven trays lined with baking paper.

Cabbage raw sliced 12:18

Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are crisp and golden brown (swap the trays around halfway through, so both get time near the higher heat at the top of the oven).

Cabbage cooked sliced 12:18

Transfer the cabbage to a platter, then leave to rest and cool for five to 10 minutes.

Mix the lemon juice into the remaining oil mixture, then drizzle evenly over the cabbage wedges. Scatter the tarragon and pecorino on top, finish with a good grind of black pepper and serve.

Cabbage brown plate 12:18

I used a savoy cabbage, January King, and its sweetness was a perfect match for the lemon dressing.  The shaved Pecorino gives just the right salty touch and the tarragon provides a slight but tasty hint of licorice.  I used dried tarragon because I didn’t have any fresh and, mixed into the oil mixture with the lemon juice, it worked well.

In his introduction to this new cookbook, Ottolenghi characterizes the approach of the book by assigning a word to each of the letters in simple.

S:   Short on time

I:    Ingredients, ten or fewer

M:  Make ahead

P:   Pantry-led

L:   Lazy-day dishes

E:   Easier than you think.

“Easier than you think,” will speak to cooks who have found his earlier books too complex.  I’m a fan of all of his work, especially Jerusalem and Plenty More, and I’m happy that SIMPLE is as exciting as his others.

There are more recipes from SIMPLE that I want to try with the winter vegetables in the kitchen garden.

Leeks: Braised Eggs with Leek and Za’atar

Brussels Sprouts: Brussels Sprouts with Browned Butter and Black Garlic

Celery Root: Whole-roasted Celery Root with Coriander Seed Oil

Beef Meatballs with Lemon and Celery Root

Parsnips: Smoked Fish and parsnip cakes

Carrots: Roasted Carrots with Yogurt and Cinnamon

Beets: Roasted Beets with Yogurt and Preserved Lemon

And then there are some wonderful-sounding recipes for winter storage vegetables, especially squash.  New cookbooks are so inspiring. If you’re looking for a cookbook for your Christmas list, SIMPLE could be the one.