I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with fall. It’s the end of warm weather for a good six months; the leaves, while briefly beautiful, are a lot of work to clean up; and my garden looks a lot like Medusa on a bad hair day.
But it’s not just the leaves that turn red and orange these days. So many gorgeous foods are at their peaks in these months that I wander the farmers’ markets and the grocery aisles just dreaming of what to cook. Pomegranates, apples, cranberries, oranges, beets, carrots, radishes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and butternut squash. And I’m sure I’ve left some out.
I start most days with pomegranate seeds mixed with creamy Fage yogurt and a spoonful of honey. Seeding a pomegranate is so tedious, there are times when I want to scream at it and throw it in the trash. But those little jewels with their bright, sweet-tart flavor give a lively start to even the dreariest day, so it’s well worth the effort. They also add wonderful sparkle – in look and taste – to a spinach salad. In the store, look for the fruit with the deepest red skin, because underripe pomegranate seeds taste...well, “bleah” is the best I can do to describe the sensation. Then park yourself in front of the television, find something interesting to watch, and seed the whole thing at once. One good pomegranate will do for several breakfasts or enough salad for 8-10. And the calories are practically nothing.
I found acorn squash at the farmers’ market last weekend. Ok, it’s green on the outside – but deep gold on the inside, so I think that counts. Split one in half, remove the seeds, and roast the halves face down on a greased pan at 400º for 45 minutes. Then turn them over, swab each inside with a half tablespoon of butter, and sprinkle on a tablespoon of brown sugar. Then send those babies under the broiler until the sugar bubbles. Whew – it’s like dessert, and it’s a vegetable!
Kitchen Goddess note: In regard to nutmeg, you can use the already grated stuff in the jar, but it’s really nothing to buy the little nuts and grate them yourself on a fine grater or one of those rasps. The aroma of freshly grated nutmeg will tell you the difference in a way that words cannot hope to. I actually bought a small rasp made just for grating small stuff like nutmegs and hard chocolate, but then you knew I would have, didn’t you?
Sweet Potato Ginger Soufflé
from Chuck Williams’ Thanksgiving & Christmas
2 lb sweet potatoes
finely grated zest of one lemon
½ tsp salt
⅓ c crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1½ c heavy cream
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites
Cut the unpeeled sweet potatoes into fourths and place them in a large saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 30-40 mins, or until tender. Drain and cool.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish.
Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and place in a food processor. Process to a smooth purée. (You should have about 2½ cups of purée.) Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the lemon zest, salt, and crystallized ginger. Stir in the cream and add nutmeg to taste.
In a separate bowl, using a mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add about a quarter of the beaten whites to the potato mixture and combine well. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whites. Spoon into the prepared baking dish.
Bake until risen and slightly golden on top, 40-50 minutes. [Kitchen Goddess note #2: I often have to bake it an hour. It’s done when the top is firm but the center is just a bit jiggly.] Serves 8.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Some two or three years ago, I read for the first time about preserved lemons. I thought they sounded way cool as a condiment – they come out of Moroccan cuisine, and while I have no idea what that means, they apparently are best made from Meyer lemons, which I greatly love.
But notice the three-week part. I must tell you that, these days, I have the memory of a gnat and the patience of a two-year-old, so this is not a recipe designed for me. Which didn’t stop me from wanting to try them. I dutifully cut the lemons, filled the jar, and put it in a cupboard to ripen. Two years later, as we were packing the kitchen for the move, I found them again. And threw them out. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t survive the 2,000-mile journey, and even if they did, ...two years????
Then just a couple of weeks ago, Mark Bittman, one of my favorite food columnists from The New York Times, came up with this three-hour version of preserved lemons. As they say here in Austin, yee-ha! Even my brain can manage this one. And, in fact, it’s quite wonderful. The Meyer lemons aren’t nearly as bitter as regular lemons, and the addition of a little sugar to this concoction furthers a nice whisper of sweetness to the tang.
The day I made this recipe, I bought a couple of flounder fillets, which I sprinkled with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and cracker crumbs (having no bread crumbs in the house). Then I simply broiled them for 5 minutes and served them and the lemon relish with mashed potatoes and some steamed broccolini – for a very tasty meal.
Kitchen Goddess Note #1: If you really must have preserved lemons but really don’t want to go through the process, Williams-Sonoma now carries preserved lemons in brine: 7 oz for $10 plus shipping.
Mark Bittman’s Quick “Preserved” Lemons (from The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2010)
4 lemons, unwaxed (or scrubbed of wax)
1 Tbl kosher salt
2 Tbl sugar
Dice the lemons, removing as many seeds as possible. Put lemons and their juice into a bowl and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Toss well and transfer to a jar. Let mixture sit for at least 3 hrs at room temp, shaking the jar periodically. Store in refrigerator.
Kitchen Goddess Note #2: Aesthetically speaking, and to make the relish easier to serve, I think the dice needs to be about 1/4".