Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sweet Potato Coconut Flan

Adapted from a more traditional dairy recipe in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. If you're feeling more ambitious, check out her recipe which is accompanied by sesame tuiles.

Sweet Potato Coconut Flan

Unsalted butter for the ramekins
1 can coconut milk (16 oz)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 pound white-fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes
2 eggs
warm molasses to garnish, optional
toasted coconut flakes to garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly butter 6 ramekins. Bring the coconut milk, honey, and vanilla bean to a boil in a saucepan, then turn off the heat. Stir to make sure the honey is dissolved. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk and return the pod to the pan. Let stand for 15 minutes to let the flavor infuse.

Bake or steam the sweet potatoes. Scoop the flesh from the sweet potatoes and measure 3/4 cup. Puree with the eggs. It will have a somewhat sticky texture. Add the milk and process until well blended. You want a minimal amount of bubbles for a smooth custard.

Pour the liquid into the ramekins and set them in a large pan. Add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until set but just a bit wobbly at the center, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven but leave the custards in the water bath until ready to serve.

Run a knife along the edge of the cups, then turn them out onto serving plates. Drizzle with warm molasses and toasted coconut flakes.

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Celery Root Chowder

Another from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. This has been a winter favorite.

Celery Root Chowder

1-2 celery roots, about 1 pound
2 large leeks, white parts only
2 tablespoons butter
1 celery rib
1 cup thinly sliced russet potato
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups vegetable stock or water
creme fraiche, optional
truffle oil, optional

Thickly cut away the celery root skins, then quarter and chop the root into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 3 cups. Chop and wash the leeks.

Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the vegetables, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and one teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season with pepper, adjust salt. Puree several cups and return to soup or blend lightly with immersion blender.

Divide the soup into bowls. Finish with a dollop of creme fraiche and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I'm sure it's fantastic with a mound of wild rice, as Madison serves it. I sometimes use a wild rice pilaf we have around the house, as pictured above.

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Beets and Their Greens With Marjoram Pesto

Deborah Madison's Local Flavors turns out to be a seasonal market cookbook that's actually functional! I wandered into my kitchen one day in March with the vague idea of cooking that last bunch of beets and ended up whipping up a 3 course meal that perfectly used my farmers market odds and ends. Everything was simple and fantastic. The recipes here are so in tune with my lazy/pared-down/homestyle/clean-out-the-fridge style of cooking, but always with a fresh spin that sets it apart from anything I would cook on my own.

Beets and Their Greens With Marjoram Pesto

1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
white wine vinegar
8 to 12 small beets, golden and/or chiogga, including the greens
olive oil
sea salt

Toss the onions with vinegar nearly to cover and refrigerate until needed. They will turn bright pink.

Wash and trim the beet roots and greens, discard stems. Steam greens until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and then chop coarsely. Toss with a little olive oil and salt.

Steam the beet roots until tender, about 25 minutes. Slip off the skins. Trim the tops and tails, quarter them, sprinkle with a little vinegar.

Marjoram Pesto
1 small slice country bread
2 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
1 garlic glove, coarsely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup marjoram leaves
3 tablespoons drained capers
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons pitted olives
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Remove crust from the bread, soak in vingear.

Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of pepper, marjoram capers, pine nuts, parsley, and olives to a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the bread and olive oil and pulse until the pesto is well mixed - it will be very thick. Adjust salt/pepper/vinegar. Refrigerate until needed.

(For the record, I made this batch with all olives instead of capers, and walnuts instead of pine nuts.)

Toss the beets with the pesto, serve on greens. Remove onions and scatter on top of beets.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bright Green Spinach and Pea Soup

Yikes, it's about time for a spring recipe. Here's a fresh soup adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Bright Green Spinach and Pea Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or a mixture
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram or basil or 1 teaspoon dried
handful parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 large bunch spinach, roughly choped
1 cup shelled peas
lemon juice to taste

Warm the oil in a soup pot and add green onion, onion, carrots, celery, 1/2 of the herbs, 1 teaspoon salt. Keep the heat low, stir and sweat for 5 minutes. Add 6 cups water (or broth and water), bring to boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the spinach and peas and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the herbs and the parsley. Remove from heat and blend in two batches or use immersion blender. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Stir in enough lemon juice, starting with 1/2 teaspoon, to bring up flavors. Serve immediately as the vivid color will fade.

Madison recommends garnishing with a swirl of creme fraiche, croutons, and edible flowers like yellow calendula.

The bowl pictured above is served with a scoop of cheesy polenta (from the same book), an extra squeeze of backyard lemon, and a backyard nasturtium.

I have to say I've made a few pea soups lately and I'm sick of everyone telling me to blend up those beautiful shelling peas! I can see how if your garden were overflowing you might want to hide the peas sometimes, but I'm all for keeping them front and center when I'm lucky enough to get some. Next time I'm leaving most of them whole to get that fresh pop of flavor.

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