In Praise of Winter Vegetables
Winter vegetables often go unappreciated these days, when we can wander into the grocery store any time of the year and find a bounty of vegetables, in or out of season, from all over the world. Tempted by glossy purple eggplants, bright green asparagus spears, and round red tomatoes, it is easy to overlook leafy greens, small white bulbs of fennel and leeks, and dull skinned root vegetables.
We did our first CSA last year. I thought I knew all about vegetables, but it was an eye opener, especially the greens. The first and last few shipments were full of greens, greens, and more greens. We had dabbled in greens, but were completely unprepared for the weekly onslaught our CSA provided. Each delivery brought baskets of greens: thick, curly kale leaves; softer Swiss chard leaves, on vibrant stalks of yellow, pink, and red; the less beautiful, but equally tasty leaves cut from bunches of beets, turnips, and kohlrabi.
We started adding greens to everything. We ate them in soups and in casseroles, we boiled them in vegetable stock, and sauteed them in garlic and balsamic vinegar–but it wasn’t enough to keep up. Then I discovered kale chips. A whole bunch of kale bakes down to a manageable amount in about 15 minutes. They’re prefect as a snack or a side. Light, quick, tasty, and healthy. Just don’t make the mistake of telling your six year old you are having kale chips with dinner, or she may greet your husband at the door by announcing “guess what! We are having chips for dinner! Potato chips, but they are made of kale!” It can only lead to heartbreak and disappointment. Now we call them kale crisps.
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt, to tastePreheat oven to 400.Separate the kale leaves from the stems. This is easily done by grabbing the kale at the base of the leaves and sliding your hand up the stem while holding the bottom of the stem with your other hand. Tear the kale leaves into largish pieces (they cook down a lot), and put them in a bowl.
Add the garlic to the oil, and drizzle over the kale leaves. Then, using your hands, “massage” the oil onto the leaves until they are all coated. This sounds like it will take forever, but it really only takes a few seconds.
Spread the leaves out on a baking pan and sprinkle lightly with salt. One bunch of kale fills about two cookie sheets, but once they’ve cooked you’ll have less than a single pan full. Bake the kale until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Watch them closely toward the end to avoid overcooking.
Another largely unexplored (at least, by us) segment of the vegetable world that we were introduced to through our CSA was root vegetables. Beyond potatoes and onions, we developed a new appreciation for turnips and radishes. Kohlrabi and parsnips were a nice change, but never really caught on in our family. We were also introduced to new varieties of old favorites: golden beets, and carrots in purple, yellow, and white.
And then there was the celeriac. It looks kind of like a cross between a turnip and a potato, with roots growing around one end of it. I had never seen one before, and I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. I sometimes see celeriac at the grocery store, usually called celery root, and often with the greens still attached. When you buy root vegetables, it is important to remove the greens as soon as you get them home, otherwise the greens will continue to pull water from the root, which will make it soft and limp.
Celeriac lasts for a very long time in the refrigerator. I know this, because mine sat in the crisper drawer for months before I worked up the courage to do anything with them. When I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised. It has a pleasant, mild taste, with a hint of celery–perfect in soups like the one below.
2 large celeriacs (or two large potatoes, and a stalk of celery)
3 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
½ cup of onion, finely chopped
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
⅓ cup roasted pine nuts
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 Meyer lemon
Preheat oven to 400. Peel the celeriac and chop into ¾ inch cubes. Slice the white and light green parts of the leeks into 1 inch pieces, and rinse well. Put the celeriac, leeks, and garlic on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes, until celeriac is tender and the leeks are just starting to brown at the edges, stirring every 15 minutes. If your pine nuts are not already roasted, you can put them in the oven now for 15 minutes.
When the vegetables are done roasting, melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the vegetable stock and roasted vegetables, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then puree ½ to ¾ of the vegetables in the blender (depending on how smooth you like your soup). Add the rest of the vegetables to the blender and pulse a few times to chop them into smaller pieces. Return soup to pan. You can add the cream now, or you can add it to each bowl individually, about 1 Tbsp. per bowl.
Spoon the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a thin slice of lemon. Add pine nuts, parsley, and Parmesan to taste.
Natasha spends most of her time bringing up three very lovely girls. When she’s not busy with them, she cooks and sews. She has an Etsy shop but has only sold one thing. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies and updating her blog Twinkles and Twigs. She watched a movie in early January, and last updated her blog in December. She really wishes she had taken the time to take a better photo of herself with her real camera when it was still light out. And that her glasses weren’t crooked.
Now it’s your turn to join in the winter carnival!
How are you nourishing yourself and your family this winter? All week long you’ll be able to share a post of your own (old or new is fine). Simply enter it in the Mister Linky form below and make sure you are linking to the individual post, not your entire blog.
Where it asks you to enter your name, please put your name (or blog name) plus your project name. For example, “sarah – winter thoughts”. Please do also link back to the Homespun Waldorf Winter Carnival in your post.