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.

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Winter Vegetable Mash or Hash

Winter vegetables 2017

There’s something so appealing about a pile of winter vegetables. Maybe it’s the mix of colors: orange, yellow, white and purple carrots, green striped Delicata squash, rosy rutabaga and green Gilfeather turnip contrasting with brown potatoes, white celery root and parsnips. Maybe it’s their compactness, these solid, densely textured vegetables. Or maybe the appeal is the anticipation of their flavors, richly sweet carrots, parsnips and squash, pungent rutabaga and turnip, earthy potatoes, nutty celery root, delicious individually but even better mixed together.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways of mixing the colors, textures and flavors of these winter vegetables. Mashing is one technique, creating smooth purees or chunky blends from two or more cooked vegetables. Hash is another, dicing vegetables into small, same-sized cubes and roasting or sautéing them together so that the pieces crisp and the flavors blend. Mash and hash both make comfort food for this time of year.

Last weekend, a friend invited us for dinner. She was serving slow-braised beef and we agreed that some sort of mash would be a great accompaniment. Keeping it simple, I settled on potatoes and rutabaga, peeling, quartering and steaming the potatoes, peeling, cutting into chunks and boiling the rutabaga, then mashing the two together with some buttermilk and butter, salt and pepper. The rutabaga gave just the right pungence as well as a pretty yellow tone to the potatoes and the buttermilk added a touch of sharpness.

Another favorite mash combines potatoes, celery root and Delicata squash. With garlic and thyme infused cream and butter, this mash is smooth, richly sweet and beautifully orange.

Celery Root puree

In contrast to this smooth mash, there’s a chunkier one I first made several years ago, sautéing all the vegetables together in a pot then mashing them into a coarse mix for a pretty side with pork chops and leeks.

Roots mash in pot

Roots mash on plate

I often roast chunks of winter vegetables, but when making hash, I dice the vegetables into smaller cubes. Roasted at 400 or 425 until they are soft and beginning to crisp, they result in a hash that’s perfect as a side dish for pork or lamb. Lately, though, I’ve been pairing winter vegetable hash with eggs, once for dinner and once for breakfast.

Hash and eggs

I could eat this tasty combination for lunch too. Potatoes alone make a fine hash but hash with rutabaga, turnip, and Delicata squash is three times better.

A few nights ago I turned some leftover winter vegetable hash into a free-form baked pasta dish. Following a recipe that called for broccoli but substituting hash, I tossed boiled and drained pasta and hash together on a sheet pan, spooned ricotta across the mix, sprinkled on a mix of bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest, drizzled on some olive oil and put the pan under the broiler for four or five minutes to warm the ricotta and crisp the crumbs and parmesan. Piled on plates, this pasta and hash made a great dinner.

Hash and pasta

The variations on mash and hash are endless. Begin with an inspiring pile of winter vegetables and start experimenting.