Winter Root Veggies! Help!
February 12, 2017
As you can tell from the date of my last blog entry, I've taken a vacation. But I'm back today to talk about a solution to a seasonal problem: we live in the North (not the Far North, but still far enough North so that leafy greens don't grow in the wintertime). And to exacerbate the problem, we subscribe to a wonderful winter CSA whereby Farmer Steve delivers a monthly tub of his produce, which he stores in temperature-controlled conditions throughout the cold months.
BUT. The vegetables that will survive for months in storage are the roots: beets, rutabaga, celeriac, daikon radish, watermelon radish, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, and turnips, plus potatoes, onions, and garlic. These are all delicious, but when they become the mainstay of your winter diet, you need help. That is, I need help!
Below is a nifty idea that is getting me through January, February, and March. Read it through to see how you might be able to adapt it to you own winter meals.
While a large pot of water comes to a boil, peel as many of the above-mentioned vegetables as you want. For a good texture, let potatoes account for about one-third of the total. Chop the vegetables roughly and add them to the pot (even before it is fully boiling) in order of cooking time. Carrots, kohlrabi, and rutabaga take a bit more time than the others.
After all the vegetables have been added to the pot, throw in sea salt--a scant tablespoon for a large pot. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook until you can pierce the vegetables with a fork. Be sure to poke several types of vegetables at this stage; just because the potatoes are done doesn't mean the carrots are.
Drain the cooked vegetables.* Mash them. This puree doesn't have to be lump-free. A little texture adds interest. There's no need, then, to use a ricer or a food mill, as you might for perfectly smooth mashed potatoes. I pureed my veggies in two batches with my KitchenAid mixer, loosening the puree with a little of the reserved cooking liquid--but only a little, since at this point you want a fairly stiff puree.
Now comes the fun part. First idea: Eat part of the puree for your next mea, with butter if you feel like it.
Second idea: For breakfast or lunch the next day, remove a cup or two (depending on the size of your family) of the puree to a different bowl. Make "pancakes" by mixing in an egg and enough flour** to make a stiff-ish batter.*** Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put some oil and butter into a skillet and heat over medium-high until the butter bubbles. Add heaping tablespoons of the puree and cook on both sides until golden.
Third idea: To make soup in a jiffy, bring some stock (chicken or vegetable) to a boil and add a couple cups of the puree, stirring until it is evenly distributed. If you want a smooother soup, use a hand-held or regular blender. For a different flavour, add some coconut milk and some Thai green or red curry paste (not too much, and be sure to mash the paste into some liquid to be sure it doesn't stay clumped in the pot).
Fourth idea: Make a souffle. To a couple cups of the puree beat in three or four egg yolks, adding grated cheese (Parmesan, Swiss, or Cheddar) if you want. Beat three or four (room temperature) egg whites until they are stiff, then fold them into the yolked puree. Pour into a buttered straight-sided baking dish or buttered ramekins and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven--15 to 20 minutes for ramekins, 40 minutes for a larger baking dish. Eat immediately.
Fifth idea: Use the puree to top some sort of cottage pie: meat**** with gravy (or a specially made white sauce) and vegetables (peas, green beans, etc., which can come from the freezer, for speed). Spread the puree (beat in an egg first, if you want) over the warmed meat & gravy, then bake the whole thing in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes.
By now you should have used up all your puree. If you still have root vegetables on hand, give yourself a day or two of rest, then start all over again. You'll eventually come to the bottom of that tub of winter root vegetables! And some day spring will arrive.
*To keep this vegan, save out a cup or more of the cooking liquid to use later instead of milk. And of course use coconut oil or olive oil instead of butter.
**Regular white flour or, for gluten-free cakes, buckwheat or sorghum or a GF all-purpose flour blend.
***An extra step that makes even more delicious cakes: put some flour (see **, above) on a plate and season it with salt and a lot of pepper. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into that seasoned flour, then turn it over (sometimes messy) and flour the other side. This step makes an even crispier cake.
****The meat can be leftover roast of any sort, or ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef) that you've cooked especially for this dish.