Friday, May 16, 2008

Tubesday Dinner: Name Root

For Tubesday dinner, Karl and I decided to attempt preparation of one wild card tuber. We found a strange looking one at Giant Eagle for $1.99/lb called the Name root. When we got home, we couldn't find much about it, except for this one website, which said it is also known as a yam.

To prepare it, I followed the directions from one of the recipes on the website. Really, I think you could treat this root like a potato. But do not be surprised when you slice it open. This thing is NOT like a potato when it is raw. The flesh is slimy and fibrous. It was quite a turnoff for me. The skin is also rather tough, but I managed to peel it with a regular vegetable peeler without too much difficulty. The finished product tasted in texture like a potato, but the flavors were only what seasonings I put on it. If it's possible, this is more bland than your average Idaho potato.

I probably wouldn't purchase this again unless someone convinced me rather thoroughly that they had a genius recipe for it that transformed it. It just wasn't worth the trouble, in my opinion.

Baked Name Root Slices

1 Name Root, peeled and sliced very thin (like potato chip wedges)
1 TBSP butter, melted
1 TBSP canola oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Arrange the name root slices on a baking dish in one layer.

Mix the butter, canola oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small container. Brush the mixture over the slices, using all of it.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the slices are browning and crisp. Enjoy hot.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tubesday Dinner: Rutabaga

Mention Norway and Karl is automatically interested. His father is a Norwegian immigrant, after all, and Karl is very proud of his Norwegian heritage. So, when Sara suggested a traditional Norwegian dish called rotmos prepared with rutabaga, potatoes and carrots for our Tubesday Dinner, we decided to take it upon ourselves to prep that dish.

Rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a cross between turnips and cabbage. We bought two hefty ones at $0.99/lb, which is about what you would pay for loose potatoes, so it's a nice, economical change from what we are used to eating. The skin is a ruddy brown and purple, but was coated with what appeared to be wax. I'm not sure if that is applied to preserve the rutabaga and prevent bruising during transport, but the wax didn't seem to be natural. In any case, it came right off during peeling. The skin peeled easily with a regular vegetable peeler, just like a turnip.

The flesh of a raw rutabaga is white, like a turnip or potato, but interestingly, when we had roasted it, the flesh turned a lovely pale-orange color. It certainly made for beautiful presentation.

I highly recommend the rotmos dish. It's quite easy to prepare, and you could boil the veggies if you don't feel like waiting an hour for them to roast.


2 rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
3 or 4 red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1" cubes
2 or 3 large carrots, chopped into 1" cubes
canola oil
salt and pepper
4 TBSP butter, unsalted
1/2 cup milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Toss the cubed rutabaga, potatoes, and carrots in oil to lightly coat. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet or two and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for an hour, or until the veggies are easily pierced with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil halfway through to speed up the process a little.

Place the vegetables in a food processor with the butter and pulse until coarsely mashed. Then, with food processor on, stream in milk slowly until it becomes a thick puree. Do this in batches if necessary.

If you don't have a food processor, just use a potato masher, hand mixer, or a serving fork.

Serve hot.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tubesday Dinner: Yuca (Cassava)

My sister and boyfriend decided Sunday that we'd all collaborate on a tuber-themed dinner Tuesday. My sister affectionately dubbed the evening "Tubesday" dinner, and the goal was to test-drive unfamiliar root-vegetables that we often see in the grocery store. The dinner was a fabulous success, and I intend to post an entry about each tasty dish we created.

This post features yuca, or cassava, a delicious root with a thick, brown skin and white, juicy flesh.

My sister prepared a surprisingly simple and delightful dish of Jamaican origin called "bammy" using a quick blurb on Wikipedia describing it. They turned out really tasty, reminding me of the texture of a fish cake.

I highly recommend this dish for a change of pace. It probably takes about 20 minutes start to finish to complete. Serve with a salad of leafy greens and you have yourself a 30 minute meal to rival any of Rachael Ray's!

Sara's Bammy
Serves 3 or 4

1 large yuca root
canola oil
coconut milk

Using a knife or a heavy-duty vegetable peeler, peel all the brown skin from the yuca root. Grate the entire root (you can use a box grater or the food processor. I don't think it matters how fine the grate is). Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the grated yuca and let sit for a few minutes (this will help leech out some of the moisture),

Take the grated yuca and squeeze out as much moisture as possible using your hands. Spread the squeezed, grated yuca on a baking sheet and allow to dry for about 15 minutes.

Form 3 or 4 flat patties with the grated yuca. They will seem like they will fall apart, but do the best you can. They'll hold together once you get them in the frying pan.

Over medium-high heat, heat enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom (it doesn't have to be deep). Once the oil is hot, fry the yuca patties for about 1 minute per side. Remove them from the pan (keep the heat on), and dip them in coconut milk. Return them to the frying pan and fry for another 1 or 2 minutes per side.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Curried Cauliflower Risotto

I made up another recipe! It seems like most of my creations include curry used in unconventional dishes. This may be a result of looking for excuses to use my awesome Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder. It is the most flavorful curry powder I have come across (although, I haven't tried grinding and mixing my own yet).

Last night, I wanted risotto. I also had a half a head of cauliflower left over in the fridge that needed to be cooked before it started to rot. So I decided to steam that, and make the risotto. Then I had the brilliant idea to put the cauliflower in the risotto, so I commandeered a few half-cooked spears of cauliflower and sauteed them with some vidalia onion before tossing in the Arborio rice. And then, of course, I decided to add the curry powder.

Yum!! Sometimes, spontaneous creations turn out great, and this time, everything worked together really well. I might try a garam masala version next time.

Curried Cauliflower Risotto

1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of cauliflower spears, cut to 1-inch pieces
3 TBSP butter, divided
3 TBSP Vidalia onion, chopped finely
salt and pepper
1 1/2 TBSP sweet curry powder
3 1/2 to 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine, preferably dry
1/4 cup grated parmesan/romano cheese blend

Steam the cauliflower in a small pot for about 3 minutes. Do not cook completely. Meanwhile, in a large skillet (at least 12 inches), heat 2 TBSP of butter over medium high heat. When it starts to froth, add the onion and the half-steamed cauliflower and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir well to coat the onion and cauliflower. Sauté for 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a bare simmer in a small saucepan. Once it reaches the boiling point, reduce the heat to medium-low.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, then add the rice to the cauliflower and onion mixture. Stir around for a minute to toast the rice. Then add the wine. Stir occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Add 3/4 cup of the hot chicken broth to the rice, and, stir occasionally until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding liquid in 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup amounts, waiting each time until the liquid has been completely absorbed before adding more. This should take about 20 minutes. Taste the rice to see if it is tender enough. When the rice is tender, but still retains a slightly chewy texture, stop adding liquid and turn off the heat.

Stir in 1 TBSP of butter and the cheese blend. Serve immediately, with extra grated cheese for garnish.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Baking Frenzy: Lemon Meringue Pie

Thanks for coming back! I know I haven't updated in a few weeks, thanks to law school finals taking over my life, but I never stopped baking! For one thing, I had to finish up the last two installments of the auction's "Month of Pie" lot for the winning bidder. His last two pie choices were cherry and lemon meringue.

I never liked lemon meringue pie growing up. I think the texture of meringue didn't sit well with my untrained palate, and the lemon pudding part was never very lemony. I now know that my mother used a mix for the pudding, and after last week's hugely successful first attempt of my own at making one, I also know that making your own filling from scratch makes an unbeatable lemon meringue pie.

I dug up a recipe from a FoodieView search for lemon meringue pie, and I actually followed it to the letter for once, unless you count doubling it so I could have a "control" pie. I'm not sure what the ginger snaps really added to the final product, so this weekend, when I bake another pie for my mom, I might leave them out.

My favorite part of the process was making the lemon filling. When you're cooking the solution of water, sugar, cornstarch and salt on the stovetop, it's a milky white soupy liquid right up until it starts to boil. Then it magically transforms into a clear, thick gelatin. If you are using a nonstick saucepan, I highly recommend that you have a good silicon or heat-resistant whisk that is not flimsy. It needs to be able to stir a thick solution. I actually had to switch to my steel whisk after the solution thickened, which is definitely a no-no with nonstick cookware!

One final tip: squeeze your own lemon juice! One lemon should do it, and, really, you need the zest from that lemon or your lemon meringue pie will fall flat (and I am not talking about the meringue). My favorite juicer for citrus is one of these gadgets. They're about $12 on, but I have seen them pretty cheap in other kitchen stores. They make juicing lemons MUCH easier than spraining your wrists on the old fashioned kind.

For tips on how to make a meringue successfully, check out this helpful website at Granted, the following recipe creates a much heavier, denser meringue due to the extra sugar and vanilla extract, so don't expect it to be a mile high...but it will taste amazing if you follow the instructions!

Lemon Meringue Pie
Yields 1 9-inch pie

Use your favorite pie crust recipe and pre-bake in a 9-inch pie pan. To blind-bake, line the top of the crust with parchment paper and fill shallowly with dried beans or baking beads. Allow to cool while you make the filling and meringue.

1 1/2 cups sugar
6 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cold water
4 large egg yolks
1 TBSP lemon zest (one lemon)
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 cup lemon juice (one lemon)
3 ginger snaps, finely crushed

1/3 cup sugar
8 tsp confectioner's sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sprinkle the crushed ginger snap cookies evenly across the bottom of the pie crust.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil (increase the heat to medium high if necessary), whisking almost constantly. This should take about 5-8 minutes. Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and allow to cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks well. Add a small amount of the hot sugar solution to the egg yolks while whisking. Repeat several times (this helps to temper the egg yolks so they won't scramble). Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, whisking to combine. It is important not to overmix at this point, so cook about another minute while stirring slowly, then remove from the heat.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the lemon zest and the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the lemon juice until just combined. Pour the mixture into the pie crust shell.

While the mixture is still hot, quickly make the meringue. Mix the sugar and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl. In a large stainless steel bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy. Continue beating and add the cream of tartar, then increase the speed to medium high. Beat until the egg whites form firm peaks but still appear shiny and wet. Then gradually (while continuing to beat), add the sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time over the course of 1 minute. I find it helpful to have someone help me at this point so I don't lose control of the bowl or the mixer. After the sugar is completely incorporated, add the vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute longer, until the whites are thick and glossy and form firm peaks. Do not overbeat!

Use a large spoon to drop the meringue in mounds around the edge of the lemon filling, then fill in the center. Use the back of your spoon to spread the meringue around. Make sure the meringue is spread out completely to the edges of the crust so that it forms a complete seal (this will help prevent weeping). Do not allow any part of the pie to be uncovered.

I also recommend using the back of the spoon to form decorative little peaks (or spikes) with the meringue. This not only creates the classic presentation of lemon meringue pie, but serves the useful purpose of indicating when your meringue is perfectly cooked (the peaks bake faster than the rest, so they turn brown more quickly).

Immediately place the pie into the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until the peaks are turning golden brown.

Cool completely before serving. I also recommend keeping the pie in a draft-free, somewhat warm area (above 65˚F), since cold air can cause your meringue to flatten out.

DO NOT REFRIGERATE! Refrigeration is death to meringue. Instead, eat your pie within two days, and you won't have to worry about spoiling.