an otherworldly parsnips recipe

One of the things I like most about subscription to our CSA box is that occasionally we’ll get veggies that I’ve never tasted or even seen before.  it was through these means that Sunchokes, agretti (a relative of the tumbleweed family!), and nettles were introduced into our lives–despite their wild-west heritage, agretti are delicious and I liked sunchokes so much I actually sought them out at the Farmer’s market once, nettles I can live without, or maybe I prepared them incorrectly. 

Another more common produce item which I’d just not experienced before was parsnip.  Parsnips are not super-prevalent here in the US and indeed, the only place I’ve ever even seen them sold is the farmer’s market.  Apparently this is because of how difficult they are to grow and store.  That said, they are delicious and if you’ve never had them before, imagine something starchy like a potato, but sweet like a carrot.  Parsnips are downright heavenly when roasted in the oven, and drizzled with maple syrup, giving them a brittle, carmel-like glaze:

Roasted parsnips with Maple Syrup (Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine & the Two Small farms recipe page)
2-4 parsnips, peeled and quartered–parsnips should be white, firm and not spongy inside. 
olive oil
maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

pre-heat oven to 400F.  line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spread out the parsnips out.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss briefly and arrange in a single layer (do not allow to overlap or touch, they will not carmelize correctly).  put in oven for 45 minutes, until the parsnips begin to brown at the edges.  Remove from oven and drizzle 1/2-1 teaspoon maple syrup onto each parsnip piece.  put back in oven for about 15 more minutes.  Maple syrup will reduce and turn into a brittle-like candy on the outside and bottom of each parsnip.  peel off the aluminum foil and eat, or serve.

Obama Family to eat home grown Veggies!

Home grown veggies get major press today as it was disclosed that the White House will have its own veggie garden for the first time since WW2!  This shines a strong and positive spotlight on fresh, locally grown veggies as a way to combat obesity and make investments in one’s personal health.  Although I don’t think many people will necessarily grow their own food, they can turn to other forms of Community Supported Agriculture–or consuming food grown by local farmers.  We’ve been subscribing to a CSA box for three years now, and living in California we’re spoiled for choice with the farmers markets in every town, and a multitude of subscription services available.    That said, there needs to be awareness and strong support elsewhere in the country too, and the Obama’s garden will be a big step in that direction!

Here’s a link where you can find out more about the Community Supported Agriculture choices near you.

What to do with Pumpkin

We had a bunch of leftover pumpkin (yes, still) from our Two Small Farms subscription last season, and I’d been brainstorming in my head about what to do with it.  I invented this recipe which uses pumpkin in many forms:  Pumpkin gnocchi.  Reading my copy of Silver Spoon, I was surprised to find that gnocchi are traditionally made from all kinds of things in addition to potato, including crushed bread with herbs and even amaretti cookies. I love gnocchi, and wondered to myself why you couldn’t make gnocchi out of pumpkin, the same way it’s made out of potatoes?  The results were mixed, but if I’m motivated I’ll tweak the recipe a bit more next time.

Beforehand: De-seed pumpkin and cut into quarters or smaller.  drizzle with olive oil and a bit of sugar, roast at 400 degrees for about one hour.

The pumpkin I had was relatively stringy, so I pureed it in a food processor after roasting it, yielding about 2 cups of pumpkin.

1 cup pureed roasted pumpkin
2 cups flour
pinch salt
one egg

Mix flour and pumpkin together until combined.  Add salt, and egg, then continue to mix until dough is soft and somewhat elastic.  I don’t think I got the proportions completely right here as my resulting gnocchi was a bit hard, but I was wary of the dumplings falling apart if not enough flour was added.   Knead a bit, then form into thin rolls and use a knife to cut into three-quarter inch pieces.  Boil in salted water until the gnocchi rise to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

1/5 remaining raw pumpkin, peeled and cut into thin pieces
olive oil
4 garlic cloves
white wine

heat the garlic in olive oil, then add the pumpkin pieces and cook on medium heat, flipping the pieces occasionally until they begin to carmelize.  when a medium-brown fond has formed, deglaze with white wine, add salt and pepper to taste.  cover and allow the remaining wine to be absorbed into the pumpkin.

Pumpkin cream sauce:

1.5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

melt  the butter in the pan, then add the flour, cook over medium high heat whisking with a small wire wisk continuously so that it doesn’t burn.  slowly add the milk as you continue whisking until the sauce reaches the consistency you’re looking for.  Salt and pepper to taste.  mix in pumpkin puree.

Combine sauce, gnocchi and cooked pumpkin pieces then transfer serving dish, finish with parmesean gratings, and serve.

Lovely Salmon w/Fava beans

-1/8 can TJ’s cuban mojito sauce
-1 package TJ’s steamed fava beans
-1 small onion, sliced
-1 piece salmon
-chopped cilantro, fresh or frozen

night before: cover salmon with mojito sauce, wrap and refrigerate. 

using a non-stick pan, pan fry salmon over medium heat, skin side down (if no skin, use a bit of olive oil).  Add Fava beans to leftover salmon marinade sauce while you cook the salmon.  Salmon should take about 5 per side.  be patient,  using medium heat the outsides of the salmon piece will get nicely browned and carmelized, while the inside is cooked sufficiently.  don’t overcook!  remove salmon and allow to rest.  Deglaze the salmon bits with a small amount of white wine (whatever is in the fridge), add sliced onions and sweat briefly.  Dump fava beans into pan, cook until warm, add cilantro at last minute and stir through, transfer to serving dish.  Place salmon on top and you’re done!


One of mike’s favorite things is french macaroons.  Today it was meyer lemon macaroons with lemon white chocolate filling, and chocolate macaroons with coffee ganache filling.  I loosely followed the recipe in Martha Stewart’s magazine, and it was completely simple to do.  That small bag of almond flour has been burning a hole (not literally) on my kitchen counter wanting to be baked into something!  I also made Financiers, and they were too small and dry.  Man, the more I bake the more I realize how much butter and fat make those bakery bought cookies taste so good.  With financiers, you literally have to coat the baking pans with butter or they don’t take on the right spongy, soft consistency and nutty fragrance!  I used silicone pans today so thought I could cut some of the fat out of the recipe by skipping the pan buttering part, but some the financiers ended up like crispy cookies.  Ah well.  they still tasted good. 

 Speaking of silicone, I am floored by silpats as the macaroon halves did not stick to them!  the last time I made raspberry macaroons, I spent a good half hour peeling the halves off the wax paper I’d used.  this way is much better.  🙂

Lemon tart…gotta try that one again

I noticed recently that they started selling meyer lemons at trader joes which historically have been hard to find.  I’ve bought a few batches of them and have been slicing them into my water with cucumber for a refreshing treat at work. 

 Today I tried something a bit more adventurous and attempted the lemon tart recipe from the new york times dessert book I have.  It was my first time making my own pastry crust, and I can’t say it was a success.  I’d read many times not to overwork butter based pastry to prevent it from getting tough, so I just barely mixed the ingredients until they were relatively uniform and held together.  Maybe it was because the crust was overbaked, but the texture was not at all what I was hoping for–really flaky and crisp and it almost came apart all over the place–as opposed to the beautiful crusts at tartine which are almost like shortbread.  the lemon curd was a bit tricky and also came out a very bright yellow.  In fact, the finished result was very similar to a tart I got from trader joe’s a few weeks back. 

 Luckily our guests were very gracious and did not complain about the tart at all.  I was very full from dinner at Las Americas Peruvian restaraunt in San Mateo.  This hole in the wall restaurant had piqued our attention on the many occasions that we walked by it and eventually we made the point to give it a try.  Many of the yelp reviews online herald the authenticity of the food here, but it lacks for ambience.  the place seems a bit dirty, which made me a bit uncomfortable about the fish ceviche (although it was quite good).  Two beef dishes were tasty but very similar to each other as well.   All in all, the food was slightly above average, but pretty overpriced–we ended up paying about $80 for two couples which strikes me as pretty high for Latin food.  At least my curiousity is satisfied.