11 December 2012

Root Veg: Two Favorite Recipes

One new recipe for beets and one tried and true standard for sweet potatoes...

Hope Julia appreciated my plating techniques.
I have never made borscht before, so I don't know how this compares, but I can tell you it was delicious. I served it as the starter for a meal of acorn squash stuffed with rice, mushrooms, and turmeric with a side of sautéed kale and white beans with a side salad featuring turnips, carrots, radishes - such a colorful meal. Talk about eating the rainbow. Oh, and Julia are two servings of soup! And spilled a bunch of it on her chin and shirt. She looked like a vampire with a belly wound. 

Red Soup
from Nigella Lawson's Feast
serves 4-6
(I love Nigella's writing so I'm including her preface to this recipe.) 
     This soup is so damn Christmassy it's ridiculous. Given the holidays, I wanted as much redness under my belt as possible (a rather childish approach, but there it is) and since, customarily, in borscht the sweetness of the beets is countered by some cooking apple, it made perfect, festive sense to use sharp, seasonal cranberries instead. The juice and zest of the orange, along with the cloves, make it even more of an evocatively Christmas feast. You can eat it with a supper of cold turkey and salad, or as an altogether sprightlier alternative on its own. It's the sort of soup you might choose for a solitary dinner in front of the tv to make yourself happy and to feel virtuously rewarded. 
     Normally, beets take hours to cook, which is why I suggest you just bung them in the processor first. Actually, I loved the soup as it was when I tasted it in the pan, unpuréed, but truly this works best as a deep-toned, deep-flavored, velvety emulsion. 

3 raw beets (1 1/4 lbs) 
1 large red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
juice and zest of 1 orange
pinch of ground cloves
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup sour cream, optional, for serving
(Emily's addition: pomegranate for garnish!) 

     Peel the beets and onions (wearing rubber gloves unless you want a touch of the Lady Macbeths) and chop them roughly. Put the chunks in a food processor and blitz till you've got a ruby-glowing pile of shreds; no need to be too fanatical, you just don't want large pieces evident. Spoon the oil into a large wide-based pan and tip in the onion and beets, and cook them over a gentle heat for 10 minutes or so. When they have begun to sweat down and soften, add the cranberries (no need to thaw frozen ones), the orange zest and juice and the ground cloves. Stir everything around for a couple of minutes and then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and simmer the soup for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It should then be cooked enough to purée or liquidize to divine smoothness, though you may want to do this in a few batches to spare your kitchen walls. (or use an immersion blender!) 
     Taste to see if you want salt or pepper, then pour into a warmed soup tureen and serve. If the idea appeals pour over a swirl of sour cream into each person's bowl as you hand it out. 
     option: Cook this in advance and leave it in its unpuréed state, whizz it cold then heat it up in a saucepan when ready to eat.

featuring orange and white flesh sweet potatoes
This is from Smitten Kitchen (whose cookbook is out - I've asked Santa for it for Christmas!). Her post is here. I make this recipe all the time and I have for a couple of years now. It never gets old. And even one devoted sweet-potato-hater can manage to eat a few of these spiced wedges. I've been using a mix of orange and white fleshed (O'Henry variety) sweet potatoes for a nice visual variation. I suppose you could also get away with throwing a regular potato or a turnip in there! (We found potatoes and turnips to be a nice combo in our new "mashed poturnips" recipe at Thanksgiving.) My farmers suggested mixing up the spices a little - sage, cumin, ground pepper, cloves. Although I am hell bent on sticking to this exactly as SK has written it. So much so that when I set out to make these this year for the first time and discovered that I was out of coriander (and didn't have time to run to the store), I sat down and painstakingly picked out every last coriander seed from my pickling spice mix. And I did this while I was nursing Clara. Who wiggles a lot. It was a challenge! But worth it. Just one whiff of these and you'll see.

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (the latter will make them quitespicy, so using according to your preferences)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 425°F. Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper flakes in an electric coffee/spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir together spices and salt.
Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1-inch wedges. Toss wedges with oil and spices in a large roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 20 minutes. Turn wedges over with a spatula and roast until tender and slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

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