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. 

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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.

Purple of Sicily Cauliflower

Snow Crown has been my go-to cauliflower for the past several years because it’s been so easy to grow for spring and fall harvests. Next year, though, I’m adding Purple of Sicily to my cauliflower-planting schedule.

P of S headMy friend Carol gave me some starts of this heirloom cauliflower in mid July and now, at the end of October, I’ve just harvested the first few heads.  It’s my new favorite cauliflower.  Not only is Purple of Sicily beautiful, it’s more delicately flavored and tender than Snow Crown.  And, based on this first try, it might even be easier to grow than Snow Crown.

P of S garden

Territorial Seed Company carries seed for Purple of Sicily and provides this description:

90 days. Heirloom quality, exceptional flavor, super nutrition, insect resistance and astounding color all in one cauliflower. It’s no wonder Purple of Sicily has been handed down from generation to generation. Big 2-3 pound heads are brilliant purple in the garden or on the fresh veggie platter, changing to a striking green when cooked. The curds are loaded with minerals and have a sweet, delicious, refined flavor. Its natural insect resistance means healthier plants and better success in the garden.

As predicted, the purple outer layer of the cauliflower head turns rich green when cooked.

P of S raw

P of S roasted

Purple of Sicily also cooked more quickly than Snow Crown. Roasted at 375 in olive oil, salt and pepper, it was softening in twenty minutes rather than the usual forty. I also tasted the raw florets as I was preparing Purple of Sicily for roasting and found them more tender and sweeter than white cauliflower, which can taste chalky when raw.  I may end of serving more raw cauliflower in the future.

Further research into Purple of Sicily suggested that not just the cauliflower head but also the leaves and stems are edible.  It’s true!  The first time I cooked Purple of Sicily, I saved out a pile of leaves as I sliced the head for roasting.

P of S greensAs predicted, the leaves and stems are delicious sautéed. They taste like collards but cook more quickly.

For our first Purple of Sicily cauliflower dinner, I added strips of roasted sweet peppers and sautéed shallots to the sautéed cauliflower leaves and stems and arranged them on a plate with red quinoa and fans of roasted, now green, cauliflower, then garnished all with toasted hazelnuts and yellow raisins.  It was a delicious Purple of Sicily meal with more to come, both this fall and next spring.

P of S meal

Fall Cauliflower

I’m coming to the end of my early fall cauliflower crop, six lovely heads that have matured from seeds I started in early June. I wrapped the leaves around the just-forming heads in mid-August, and, protected this way, beautiful full cauliflowers formed a month later.

Cauliflowers tied

Cauliflower head 9:18

The last time I wrote about cauliflower was early summer, 2012 when I explained how I coddle along this challenging-to-grow vegetable and offered my favorite way to cook cauliflower: simply roast it.  Roasting is still my favorite way to prepare cauliflower because the caramelizing that happens as cauliflower roasts in olive oil brings out its earthy but delicate sweetness.

So of course I had to roast the first few heads I harvested.  For a party, I followed my go-to recipe, slicing large pieces into ¼ inch wide fans, arranging them on a sheet pan, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling on salt and pepper and roasting them at 375 until they were soft and caramelized.

Cauliflower fans roasted

With six heads of cauliflower, though, I decided to branch out a little bit, looking for recipes that still called for roasting but added other flavors.  I should have done this branching out years ago because I found some great recipes.  In Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2014 cookbook Plenty More he offers a roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad that totally suits this fall season.  I was even able to use the Canadice grapes ripening on our arbor.  The raisins marinated in the vinaigrette complement the fresh grapes and the crumbled bits of Cheddar cheese and the chopped hazelnuts add richness. Best of all, though, the flavor of roasted cauliflower comes through.

Cauliflower Ottolenghi salad

Roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad

1 large head cauliflower broken into bite sized florets

6 tablespoons sunflower or other light oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed

2/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved

3 oz aged Cheddar cheese, coarsely crumbled

2/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°

Toss the cauliflower florets with half of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the raisins and let them marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, grapes, Cheddar and parsley. Pour the raisins and dressing over the top, toss together, transfer to a large platter, and serve.

Inspired by the success of this move from plain roasted cauliflower to other flavors, I was ready to take on a Food 52 recipe that appeared in my email last week. Titled Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower, it’s a slightly modified recipe from Melissa Clark, one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Nicholas Day, creator of this version, introduced the recipe as: lightly adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Her version has whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds. It’s a spice mixture that’s very adaptable, obviously; my current version is below. Also, if you don’t have sliced almonds, substitute some chopped almonds or cashews.

Cauliflower spicy almond

large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2teaspoon coriander seed
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground cinammon
tablespoons olive oil
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 425° F. With a mortar and pestle, or the flat side of a chef’s knife, lightly crush the coriander seeds. Add the crushed seeds to a bowl along with the cumin, cinnamon, olive oil, and salt. 

Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss them with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

This combination of cauliflower, spices and nuts makes a great side dish warm or cold.  I also used it hot the other night as part of a pasta sauce, adding grapes and hazelnuts in a nod to Ottolenghi and thinly slicing a bunch of succulent fall arugula leaves and tossing it in to the hot pasta and spicy cauliflower so it wilted slightly.  With grated pecorino cheese, this pasta with cauliflower made a hearty fall dinner.

I have one more cauliflower left in the kitchen garden. I’ll need to decide soon how to prepare it.

Early Spring Salads

The early spring kitchen garden continues to offer salad greens from the sturdy plants that provided greens throughout the winter. Arugula, red mustard and kale all came through the cold snaps of December, January and February and now with the longer light of March and April are sending out new growth.

Arugula is starting to bud and blossom but the new leaves that are growing too are tender and spicy.

Spring arugula 4.18

Red mustard is sending out succulent-stemmed, horseradish-spicy leaves.

Spring mustard 4.18

And kale, the year-round champion, is bursting with sweet, tender leaves.

Spring kale 4.18

We eat kale salads for lunch nearly every day and lately we’ve been adding red mustard leaves to the bowl, their hot crispness a perfect balance to the tender sweet kale. Olive oil, a little salt, fresh lemon juice and grated Pecorino cheese meld the flavors of the two together into a perfect salad.

Spring mustard, kale 4.18

Spring kale mustard salad

Arugula makes a great salad with the same dressing, but for the past few months, I’ve been using Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for arugula with roasted red onions and walnut salsa from his 2014 cookbook Plenty More.

Red onion Walnut salsa recipe

It’s so good! The thick slices of red onions roast, soften and caramelize. Redwing is my favorite storage onion, a variety I’ve grown for years. Served warm over a bed of arugula these roasted onions are delicious and beautiful and would be a fine just with the arugula, but what really makes this salad is the walnut salsa. Modifying Ottolenghi’s recipe slightly, I marinate minced garlic in red wine vinegar with a little salt for an hour or so then add coarsely chopped walnuts and finely diced poblano peppers I’d roasted and frozen last summer. Thawed they are perfect for this salsa.   Flavors of sharp vinegar, pungent garlic, crunchy walnuts and spicy poblanos make a salsa that I’m happy simply to eat with a spoon. Tossed into the salad it’s great too. Another modification I make is to use much more arugula than the recipe suggests, making this a dinner salad rather than an appetizer.

Red onion walnut salsa salad

These early spring salads are exactly what we need as we wait for warmer weather and the first lettuce of early summer.

Parsnip Chips

The days are getting longer and winter roots in the kitchen garden are responding to the increased light by sending out new growth. Though they are covered with hay mulch to simulate darkness, even the remaining parsnips are starting to show a few green leaves. There are lots of ways to cook these sweet winter parsnips before too much new growth reduces their sweetness. One technique I’ve just begun experimenting with is turning parsnips roots into parsnip chips. They are easy to make, full of sweet parsnip flavor and definitely make me happy that there are still a few parsnips left in the kitchen garden.

A Google search for parsnip chip recipes yields some helpful techniques. All suggest using a mandoline or a food processor to create very thin slices. Recipes that recommend baking instead of deep-frying suggest lightly oiling the slices and arranging them in a single layer on a sheet pan. For cooking temperature, there is a lot of variation, from 300 to 425 degrees with cooking times varying by temperature.

In my experiments, I used a mandoline to slice the unpeeled parsnips into 1/8-inch (35mm) thick rounds. Mine is a Swissmar Borner V-1001 V-Slicer Plus Mandoline.

Parsnip chips mandolinThen I brushed a light skim of olive on a sheet pan, arranged the parsnip rounds on this oiled surface and brushed a little more olive oil over the surface of the rounds.

Parsnip chips rawFinally, because 300 degrees seemed too low, I put the pan in a 425-degree oven and set the timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes, many of the rounds were starting to curl and brown at the edges though the centers remained soft.

Parsnip chips curledI removed the pan from the oven, turned the rounds with a thin spatula and returned the pan to the oven for another ten minutes. Keeping an eye on them, I found that before the second ten minutes was up, some of the chips looked brown enough to remove. Leaving them another ten minutes resulted in some chips that had turned black and bitter. Cooking at this high temperature made tasty chips but did require vigilance.

Parship chips plates

The next time, I used a 300-325 degree oven. While the cooking time was much longer, 45 minutes instead of 20, none of the chips burned, I didn’t need to be quite so vigilant, and all chips became just as crisp as those cooked at a higher temperature. For future batches of parsnips chips, I’ll probably use the lower temperature unless I’m really in a hurry.

Parsnip chips have turned out to be a hit as an appetizer. Fresh from the oven, crisp but still a little warm, sprinkled lightly with salt, they are all gone by the time the main course is ready. They may keep well in a tightly closed container, but I haven’t found out yet.

Meals from a Bitter Cold Alert

Vancouver Island garden writer Linda Gilkeson regularly emails “Linda’s List” to her many subscribers in the Maritime Northwest. Her most recent subject line, Bitter Cold Alert, definitely caught my attention and sent me to the kitchen garden to follow her advice: “Given how cold it could be, I suggest you harvest as much of the above ground crops (leeks, cabbage, kale, Br. sprouts, chard, etc.) as you can stuff in your refrigerator and cover everything you can’t harvest.”

Heading out into the cold and blustery but sunny late morning, I started with the leeks and quickly filled a wheelbarrow with the last 12-foot row of these special winter alliums, about six dozen leeks. Next I went to the Brussels sprouts and cut off at the base the fullest remaining stalks, six little trees of sprouts. Leaving these two crops to clean later, I turned to the chard, collards and kale, filling bags with the biggest leaves of each and packing them into the refrigerator. Then it was time to cover what remained. I piled extra mulch on the carrot and parsnip beds. I also piled extra mulch around the tall kale plants before moving hoop houses over them and over the chard, securing a small cloche over the mache and closing the cold frame over the mustard and arugula. Finally, I trimmed the leeks and popped the Brussels sprouts from their stalks, filled gallon bags with both, and found more room in the fridge.

Garden covered 2:18

Happily, I was able to start using this emergency harvest right away. At a dinner party that night, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks and Brussels sprouts and at another dinner a few days later, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts. For the first, I sliced the leeks lengthwise and then crosswise into inch-long pieces, then sautéed them in a little butter. I sliced the Brussels sprouts into eighth-inch rounds and sautéed them quickly in butter as well. Finally, I added a little heavy cream to the final sautéing of both the leeks and the Brussels sprouts, not really necessary but very tasty.   The warm green and yellow tones of both vegetables looked lovely against a dark brown stoneware platter.

For the second dinner’s platter of leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts, I sautéed the leeks and Brussels sprouts in butter as before though I left out the cream. Then I braised the dark green chard in a bit of water until it was tender. On a shallow yellow rectangular platter, I arranged the vegetables in sections, leeks then chard then Brussels sprouts forming a winter vegetable harvest flag. I missed the opportunity to get photos of each of these dishes but they were as beautiful as they were delicious.

Still working my way through bags of leeks and kale, a few nights later I made a large dish of Boerenkool to serve at a birthday party we were hosting. This classic Dutch dish combines mashed potatoes, sautéed leeks and wilted kale into a wonderfully satisfying winter mash. With roasted carrots and a pork leg roast, it made a festive dinner.

Boerenkool parts & carrots

Boerenkool

The cold has abated, but there are still bags of leeks in the fridge along with bags of collards, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radicchio and parsley.  And the roots and greens covered and left in the garden survived the cold.  We’ll use them all for parties ahead, warm times with friends as we move from winter to spring.