In Season: Broccoli Rabe

Posted at 5:00 AM Dec 10, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

When I solemnly march from fridge to counter brandishing a bunch of broccoli rabe, my husband generally behaves as if I've just cracked open a capsule of poison, cackled gleefully and poured it into a simmering pot of newt 'n fish eyeball stew that I will have my minions force-feed him as I ride around our apartment on the Swiffer Duster and watch him writhe in agony.

Not a completely unreasonable response.

If bitter doesn't suit your palate sans a touch of sweet, unadulterated broccoli rabe is about as appealing as a platter of braised rubber tires. Strangely though, I've found that tempering the broccoli rabe with an acidic burst of lemon juice mellows its flavors and makes even my sweets-obsessed sweetie dig in with gusto. Linguine, minced garlic, a splash of vino, fresh herbs and cheese never hurt, either.

Recipe: Broccoli Cast a Spell on Your Palate Rabe
Serves 4

½ pound linguini
1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, roughly chopped with tough sections of stems trimmed and discarded
3 T olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ C white wine
½ cup fresh parsley or 1 T dried
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t dried red hot pepper flakes
½ C grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste



    Read more In Season: Broccoli... >>

    In Season: Roux the Day

    Posted at 5:00 AM Dec 03, 2009

    By Kathleen Willcox

    It's been a week, and they're still here!

    Yes, I've successfully ousted my in-laws, the lingering scent of rendered turkey fat/pancetta/deep-fried sage/poorly caramelized pumpkin seeds (an ill-advised culinary experiment that went severely awry) and the giant splotch of shallot confit goo that resembled a cockroach and sat on my new tablecloth for 5 days and scared me. But I still have a shelf and a half worth of T-Day leftovers in my fridge taking up precious cheese and beer space.

    What's a gal to do? I've made hash, tetrazzini, sandwiches, soups, stocks and strange salads galore. Today, I made a lasagna to scare all other hearty, leftover ingredients into submission (or at least one dish.) The recipe below is not for the wussy or the flavor-moshing afraid (if you still separate your gravy from your mashed potatoes and delicately dip dabs of it into the sauce a la my cousin Anna, you're on your own, sweet tits).

    But trust me, it'll clear out the fridge and make a big platter of deliciousness (warning: there may be a few leftovers of the Leftover Lasagna).

    The key to this dish is the roux - and once you master this simple leek roux you can use it in all manners of dishes, by itself on pasta, as a base for macaroni and cheese, as a quirky sandwich topper, over polenta, over baked fish and poultry, over vegetables. It's that good.  

    Recipe: Leftover Lasagna: Roux the T-Day
    Makes 12 servings

    9 lasagna noodles (I like whole wheat)
    2 T butter
    4 leeks, white part only, carefully cleaned and chopped fine
    ¼ C flour
    1 QT milk (skim actually works fine in this recipe)
    1/3 C pine nuts (toast them for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven for extra flavor)
    1 ½ C grated Parmesan cheese
    Optional add-ons (pick at least two): 1 pound finely chopped butternut squash or some sort of squash puree you're still making your way through, 2 C leftover turkey meat (white, dark, breast, thigh, whatevs), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, stuffing, pretty much anything you're willing to put in your mouth


    Read more In Season: Roux... >>

    In Season: Turkey, and How

    Posted at 5:00 AM Nov 26, 2009

    By Kathleen Willcox

    Thanks. Giving.

    Two simple words. Two glorious, auspicious, life-affirming definitions. But put together? It leads to ...

    The much-feared Thanksgiving: evoking chaos, grubby hands, third-degree burns, curdled gravy, broken crockery, screaming matches, political debates, salmonella, rudeness, dramatic gagging noises, drunkenness, dogs' heads mysteriously finding their ways into various dead animal carcasses, cats who run off with turkey gizzards and then throw up in the middle of a carefully arranged crudite platters, strife, kicking, screaming and, yes - too many marshmallows.

    Or maybe that's just at my house.

    If you experience any of the above joys though, pop an Excedrin, swig it down with a full-bodied Pinot Noir and read on.

    I've gathered a no fail recipe guide for your sanity (no matter what your tastes) and survival on D-Day, er T-Day:

    The Classic:

    If you're a people-pleaser, good luck today! Before throwing in the towel and crying yourself to sleep at 2 p.m. though, consider using some (not all, champ) of Julia Child's master Thanksgiving recipes, courtesy of It's all there, from the turkey to how to whip up the perfect chocolate mousse.

    The Revolutionary:

    Okay, so you eat meat - but you want it come from an organically fed, humanely raised pampered turkey who had plenty of room to roam. Why not follow locavorian leader Alice Waters' guide to a delicious dinner, courtesy of Eating Well.

    The Vegetarian:

    Plenty of mouth-watering options out there for Veggies - ignore the naysayers and cook a 100 percent meat-free dinner. Check out everything from Cranberry Slaw to Walnut-Apple Stuffing to Pueblo Corn Pie over at Huzzah!

    I hope everyone eats way too much and enjoys every bite. No diets allowed!

    In Season: Stewing. In a Good Way!

    Posted at 5:00 AM Nov 19, 2009

    By Kathleen Willcox

    Much like Melrose Place the Sequel, I find stews simultaneously repellent and attractive: the name (of both, really) alone ushers in fond/stifling memories of childhood and adolescence; lovely/unnecessary attention to a few ingredients; cheap cuts; hours of time spent. Gone!

    But stew done right (on the big screen or your biggest burner) can offer more nourishment, bounty and certainly ambrosial scrumptiousness at recession-friendly prices. And once the chopping is done, the meal cooks--and cooks and cooks--itself. The key is buying a cut of really cheap meat and braising the hell out of it.

    Make sure you really crank up the heat on the pot before you introduce the meat. The brown crust will provide oodles of flavor and set the right tone for a 2-3 hour soak in delicious juices, which will not only lock in the flavor, but also tenderize even the cheapest cuts of meat.

    Also: when searing different sides of the meat, grip it carefully with tongs or two heat-proof spatulas. Don't pierce it and let any of the piquant goodness ooze out.

    Recipe: Stewing. In a Good Way!

    Serves 4 with leftovers

    2 T olive oil
    3 pounds beef, boneless chuck roast ideally
    Salt and pepper
    1 T butter
    1 T flour
    2 peeled carrots, finely chopped
    2 peeled parsnips, finely chopped
    2 peeled celery stalks, finely chopped
    1 large leek, cleaned carefully and sliced thin
    5 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
    1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
    ½ C red wine
    Enough chicken stock to cover the meat (about 4 cups - you can substitute water or vegetable stock)
    1 bay leaf
    3 parsley stems (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
    1 sprig rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
    1 sprig thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
    OPTIONAL: 2 more chopped carrots, parsnips and celery stalks, plus 2 of your favorite potatoes cleaned and cut into bite-sized chunks.

    Read more In Season: Stewing.... >>

    In Season: Easy-Peasy Quasi-Quinoa Carbonara

    Posted at 5:00 AM Nov 12, 2009

    By Kathleen Willcox

    bacon fat grease one.jpeg

    There are few dishes that balance comfort, softness, bite, creamy richness, zest and delectable star-bursts of distinct but cohesive flavor profiles as compellingly and simply as spaghetti carbonara.

    Sadly, there are also few dishes that deliver as violent an unadulterated saturated fat wallop--the blooming onion  makes the bacon, butter, cream, egg and cheese-packed starch-fest look like a dainty cholesterol-conscious nibble.

    It's hard to resist spaghetti carb's siren song, though - so I've come up with a semi-healthy response when she calls, and I know I need a bite of down-home, molten, mamma mia goodness - and I've only got 15 minutes to spare.

    Recipe: Easy-Peasy Quasi Quinoa Carbonara
    Serves 4

    2 strips bacon, minced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    ¼ C yellow onion, minced
    1 1/3 C quinoa
    2/3 C milk (whole or 2%)
    ¾ C water
    1 C frozen peas
    Red pepper flakes to taste
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    ½ C Parmesan, grated
    1 T basil, minced (or 1 tsp dried)


      Read more In Season: Easy-Peasy... >>

      In Season: Oh, that old chestnut

      Posted at 5:00 AM Nov 05, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Of all the nuts in the world, chestnuts are the most under-appreciated and woefully neglected. At least in the good ol' U.S. of A. Perhaps it's the dreaded and cornily crooned "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" line in "Christmas Song" that makes post-World War II American citizens pooh-pooh the delicious delectable as stodgy 1940's fare.

      In Europe, Asia and Africa, the lusty, starchy sunburst of flavor, aka, my friend the chestnut, is a pantry staple, and often a stand-in for the snooze-inducing potato in many a recipe.

      So stop abandoning the chestnut--not only is it earthy, woodsy, rich and buttery, like other nuts, unlike most, it's super-low in fat while still maintaining a super-high protein profile. Fall is the time to scoop up the freshly fallen nuts. Go out and plunder the woods, or for the city-bound, the grocery store shelves, -and stock up on these complex, surprisingly tasty nutritional power houses. You'll find yourself using them in all kinds of stir-frys, baked concoctions, roasts, sauces and snack mixes. I love using them for a delectably unctuous rice pilaf.

      Recipe: Oh, That Old Chestnut Pilaf
      Serves four

      1 C wild rice (rinsed and soaked for an hour before use)
      1 C Kasha
      1 T butter
      2 T olive oil
      1 large shallot, minced
      1 clove garlic, minced
      1 medium carrot, peeled, very small dice
      2 C chestnuts, chopped
      1 T fresh tarragon (or 1 tsp dried)
      1 tsp red pepper flakes
      Salt and pepper to taste
      4 C warm broth (chicken or veggie will work)


      Read more In Season: Oh, that... >>

      In Season: Scary Spiced Pumpkin Seed Peanut Brittle

      Posted at 5:00 AM Oct 29, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Peanut brittle is a quintessential semi-healthy fall snack. I make at least a dozen batches of it every year for parties, football games and between-meals munching--along with ginger snap cookies and mugs of hot apple-cinnamon cider. It just doesn't feel like October until I do ... but traditional peanut brittle is so sixth-grade homeroom.

      It's great in its place, but it stopped seducing my palate years ago; I just never stopped making it. After my second blech batch a week ago though, I started doing some experimenting, and I decided the freaky fruits of my tinkering could go hand-in-hand with my new Halloween game plan. Because the notion of stuffing trick or treaters' outstretched Jack O' Lanterns with handfuls of mini Snickers and Milky Ways was really not getting me revved to run out to the $0.99 store and stock up.

      But Halloween is about stuffing your face with too much candy, having a sugar-induced hyperactive meltdown crazy pants hissy fit and being sent to bed with a sick tummy (at least that's how I've been kickin' it for three decades). So I'm not about to start handing out carrots or pennies.

      But there has to be middle ground, right? Delicious, sugary recipes that hark back to the halcyon pre-Nestle days of yore and don't make me want to scream with boredom. My solution: an appropriately unhealthy recipe that is somewhat balanced by um, antioxidants?

      Recipe: Scary Spiced Pumpkin Seed Peanut Brittle
      Serves one small hood of hungry trick-or-treaters

      1 T peanut oil
      3/4 C shelled unsalted peanuts
      3/4 C shelled pumpkin seeds
      1/4 C sesame seeds (optional)
      1 t each: cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon, salt
      1 C sugar
      1/3 C light corn syrup
      2 T butter
      ¼ C water
      ½ t baking soda
      Cooking spray


      Read more In Season: Scary... >>

      In Season: Grape Expectations

      Posted at 5:00 AM Oct 22, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      When grapes start showing up at farmer's markets in the fall, my unfettered excitement and laundry list of plans for the bunches of crimson-purple beauties often prompts me to way over-buy.  Unless purchasing 5 pounds of Muscat grapes for a family of two in a tiny over-packed apartment hosting a wild-eyed German Shepherd mix wasn't a bit ... excessive?

      I decided to stop the madness. Since then, my husband, who's delighted to be able to see the counter again, and I have been adding it to all manner of things, both sweet and savory.

      My favorites: adding a dab to yogurt with a hearty dose of sliced almonds for an easy morning breakfast, drizzling it over various roast meats for fast dinners, tossing it with feta, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and sliced apples and adding the delicious, if slightly gunky mass, to quinoa for a simple side or hearty lunch. My husbands favorites: dabbing the reduction on large hunks of cheese and crackers for a snacks, swapping it for maple syrup on pancakes and using it in lieu of J for his almost daily PB&J on oatmeal toast.

      The recipe couldn't be simpler.

      Reducing Grape Expectations:
      Serves a shitload

      4 pounds of Muscat grapes, cleaned, stemmed, halved (ideally - others will work too)
      ¾ C sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth)
      1/3 C lemon juice
      Zest of 1 lemon
      3 T butter


      Read more In Season: Grape... >>

      In Season: The Magical Fruit

      Posted at 4:14 AM Oct 15, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Beans, beans!

      I adore beans of every shape, hue and texture - not only for their heart-strengthening and feel-good gastric powers, but for their ability to fill up my tank without making a dent in my bank.

      The mighty, protein- and fiber-packed, recession-proof warrior is great in simple soups, salads, dips, tossed with rice and pretty much anything, even in brownies - yes, brownies.

      And they're fab as a base for a clean-out-yer-fridge veggie burger. I always use dried beans because a) they're cheaper, b) they're not sitting in a tin can for god-knows-how-long, c) they're not packed with sodium and d) it requires as much effort to soak them in water overnight and then quickly boil them until tender as it does to hunt down my can opener and crank open a can. That said, this recipe can be made with canned or dried beans.

      Recipe: Clean-Out-Yer-Fridge Magical Fruit Burgers
      Makes 14-18 burgers, depending on how big you like em

      1 16 oz. bag of black beans (soak in cold water following directions on package) or 2 16 oz. cans of black beans (NB: dried beans plump up and double in size after soaking)
      2 C fresh veggies (see recipe notes)
      Salt and pepper to taste
      Roughly 2 TBSP peanut oil
      1 clove garlic (optional)
      1 inch minced ginger (optional)
      1 egg
      ½ C panko or freshly ground bread crumbs (just grind up a slice of bread in a food processor)
      2 TBSP spices (see recipe notes)

      Notes: Use whatever vegetables you have lying around, but make sure at least half an onion gets thrown in the mix. Some of my favorite vegetables for MFB's are finely diced carrots, white cabbage, celery, any variety of pepper and corn kernels. As far as spices go, my favorite mix is roughly ½ TBSP turmeric powder, ½ TBSP cayenne pepper, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp coriander, ½ tsp paprika, with generous dashes of cinnamon, red pepper flakes, Old Bay Seasoning, dried parsley, thyme and pepper. But that's just me.


      Read more In Season: The Magical... >>

      In Season: No More Wallflower Cauliflower

      Posted at 8:30 AM Oct 08, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Cauliflower. It sounds like some sort of dreaded, hysteria-induced, Victorian-era disease involving fainting, hives and shrieks, cured only with a grim regimen of blood-letting.

      Broccoli's ugly little cousin, a pallid and silent wallflower in the noisome cruciferous community, is quite capable of singing a sensuous siren song of her own, given the right stage of textures and spices from which she can issue her aria.

      The beginning of fall is the perfect time to snag a big head of cauliflower at your local market and get to know it a bit better. I love using cauliflower in creamy, spicy soups. I'll often enjoy a piping hot bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner or a simple tossed salad for lunch.  I'm going to make this one tonight and settle into my couch with a big blanket and a stack of unread magazines. Bliss.

      No More Wallflower Cauliflower Recipe
      Serves 4

      4 C vegetable stock
      2 TBSP vegetable oil (I like it better than olive in this recipe because it won't overpower the aromatics and spices)
      ½ a yellow onion, diced
      3 leeks, diced (wash carefully and only use the white parts; I often have to let the leeks sit in water for a few minutes, rinse and repeat before they're completely clean)
      salt and pepper to taste
      1 TBSP curry powder
      ½ t ground coriander
      ¼ t red pepper flakes
      2 large carrots, peeled and diced
      1 medium apple, peeled, cored and diced
      ½ t cinnamon
      ½ t nutmeg
      1 large head cauliflower, tough stems and all leaves removed, tender stems diced, florets broken up into small bite-size pieces (reserve a handful for garnish)
      ½ C whole milk
      ½ C yogurt (if using fat-free, use Greek or Icelandic yogurt)

      For garnish, any of the following: grated carrots, chopped chives, cauliflower florets, crème fraiche.


      Read more In Season: No More... >>

      In Season: Low-Fat Chocolate Brownie Muffin That Doesn't Totally Suck

      Posted at 5:00 AM Oct 01, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox


      Whether it's the fro-yo flavor of the month, the latest 100-calorie snack pack or some quirky little go-to low-fat concoction that you've been eating since middle school that you, and only you (and maybe your BFF), can appreciate, almost everyone, male and female, short and tall, thin and fat, constantly has their beady little eyes peeled for fresh new ideas in the delicious and not devilish snack department.

      In general, when we think we've hit the motherlode with some new miracle product, it leads to chaos, beaucoup trips to the BR and, ultimately, dissatisfaction and disillusionment (think the cha-cha-causing fat replacement Olestra in potato chips, or Tasti D-Lite - which, according to The New York Times, first reported the dire news that its small serving of fro-yo contained, after claiming to contain just 40 calories, more than 200!) Or we decide the $5 low-carb, high-fiber, imitation chocolate, vegan-friendly bonbon we just bought just kinds tastes like wet cardboard. (See also: Weight Watchers desserts, chocolate / caramel / PB rice cakes, diet butter popcorn, etc.)

      So, keep your panties on, because while these low-fat chocolate brownie muffins are pretty fucking good, they will never taste like a rich, decadent, indulgent dive into choco-heaven a la Dulce de Leche Brownies (go here for David Lebovitz's recipe if you're craving the real thing). They're an awesome, low-fat, low-cal, high-fiber, high-protein, chocolatey delight that will slake your inner snack demon lady without completely screwing you in the diet department. The basic version has about 150 calories and 2 grams of fat.

      No Muffin-Top Chocolate Brownie Muffins
      Makes 13 (I use a 12-muffin tin and a ramekin for the spillover)

      1/3 C cocoa powder
      2 ounces dark chocolate, melted in microwave (optional addition)
      1 TBSP superfine sugar
      1/3 C milk (soy, skim and low-fat all work well)
      3 large bananas, mashed
      ¾ C light brown sugar
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      5 egg whites
      ¾ C all-purpose flour
      ½ C rolled oats, lightly toasted in saucepan over a low flame if you like
      ¼ C whole-wheat flour
      1/3 C dulce de leche (optional addition)
      1/3 C low-fat cream cheese (optional addition)
      13 mini peanut butter cups (optional addition)
      Cooking spray

      Read more In Season: Low-Fat... >>

      In Season: Fall Squashes Summer

      Posted at 5:00 AM Sep 24, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox


      As fall creeps up behind me, snaking under my suddenly too-thin tops and past-due flip flops with her icy fingers, I realize I can live in denial no longer: it's time to sock away my sundresses, along with any hope of getting my grubby hands on the vast cornucopia of local Alice Water-friendly produce that sings of pesticide-free fields for a few brief months in the Northeast every year.

      Or is it? I suppose I can layer my sundresses over leggings and boots, and ... there's always squash!

      Come November I'll be sick of local New York apples, but I'll never tire of my pleasantly mushy yet assertively substantial fiber-filled friend, the squash. The acorn is one of my faves because I don't have to launch a WWE-worthy wrastlin' contest with it to get at the good stuff.

      One of my consistent fall go-to's is stuffed squash. There's minimal prep work involved, and the possibilities are endless. This is the current star in my ever-changing galaxy of squash dishes:

      Pigs in a Squash
      Serves 4

      4 medium-sized acorn squash
      1-2 TBSP olive oil
      ¼ pound ground pork
      ½ C chopped yellow onion
      ¼ C golden raisins, soaked for 5 minutes in warm water to plump
      ¼ C toasted slivered almonds
      1 ½ C cooked quinoa, brown rice or wheat berries
      Salt and pepper to taste

      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      • Halve squash and scoop out seeds. Rub oil on inside of squash and their rims. Place face down on baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
      • Meanwhile, brown the ground pork in medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat. Remove and reserve meat. Drain excess fat, add olive oil and sauté the onion until caramelized, adding salt and pepper to taste.
      • Return pork to pan with raisins, almonds and cooked grain, cook until heated through and toasty, about 3 minutes.
      • Stuff the squash with your goodies, pop back in oven (stuffing side up!), re-cover with foil, cook for another 25 to 30 minutes or until eating the squash does not, in fact, require teeth. Ah, comfort food. Happy eating!

      In Season: Practically Perfect Parsnip Gratin

      Posted at 6:55 AM Sep 17, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Parsnips are strange: they're like the standoff-ish punk rockers with a secret sensitive side of the vegetable world.

      The pallid root veg is almost completely unpalatable, stringy and bland when eaten raw (even worse than potatoes), but when pureed, whipped, sautéed or roasted, they can be transformed into an enigmatic, slightly sweet, vaguely licorice-y, supremely starchy comforting dish that can stand on its own for lunch or accompany any protein-heavy fall dinner (waaaaay better than potatoes).

      One of my favorite ways to eat parsnips is in a gratin - and depending on my mood and what I'm pairing it with, I can go super healthy or super indulgent, and either way it's a unique, complex, but strangely homey taste-bud tantalizer.

      Practically Perfect Parsnip Gratin

      Serves 4 as a dinner side or 2 for starchfest lunch

      5 large parsnips, peeled and sliced very thinly
      1 TBSP olive oil (optional)
      1 large leek, carefully washed, sliced into rings, white part only (optional)
      1 C sliced shiitake mushrooms (optional)
      1 bulb garlic, peeled but left whole (optional)
      1 C milk or cream, give or take
      1 C grated Parmesan or Gruyere; crumbled goat or blue or a combo
      1 TBSP minced chives (optional)
      Salt and pepper to taste
      Pam or butter for greasing


      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
      • Spray or grease 9 by 12 gratin dish, pie dish or whatever else you have on hand that's oven-safe and won't spring a leak
      • Wash, peel and slice all vegetables
      • If using leeks and/mushrooms, put medium-sized heavy-duty skillet over medium heat and add oil. Throw in mushrooms first with garlic clove, and sauté until shroom water has evaporated. Throw in some salt. Add leeks, turn flame to low and sauté for another minute or two, until translucent. Remove and discard garlic. Set aside the leeks and/or mushrooms.
      • Arrange parsnip slices on bottom of baking dish, overlapping slightly so entire bottom is covered. Add 1/2 of leek/mushroom mix, if using.
      • Sprinkle with salt, pepper, chives and 1/3 of cheese.
      • Add another layer of parsnips, veggies, salt, pepper, chives and cheese. Add one more layer of parsnips.
      • Carefully pour the milk or cream over the parsnips so that the liquid reaches the top layer of the parsnips, but they're not swimming. Sprinkle salt and pepper; reserve final layer of cheese.
      • Stick in oven and cook for about 30 minutes, or until parsnips are soft when pierced with a paring knife. Add final layer of cheese, crank oven up to 450 and cook until cheese is brown. Serve in squares, pie slices or by divvying the goodness out with cookie cutters. Happy eating!
      (NB: if gratin appears to be dry at any point during the cooking process, add more milk or cream).

      In Season: Beet This Savory Sweet Toss

      Posted at 5:00 AM Sep 10, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox

      Of late, beets have been in the culinary spotlight and on every haute menu in town (generally paired with goat cheese--wake me up when that trend's over), an usual post of honor for a hideous root veggie. And it's no wonder: once you wash the beasts and peel off their protective, dirt-ridden, pock-marked outer coating, you find a sweet, delectable, unusually versatile veg to which you can apply almost any cooking technique, and one that performs equally well in the sweet and the savory arena.

      Beets are teeny little hotbeds of nutrient-rich goodness. Since Roman times, they've been noshed for everything from constipation to protection from birth defects, and recent studies have shown that eating beets helps detoxify the liver (hic!), protect against a variety of cancers and possibly even lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.

      NB: once you pluck a bunch or two up at your local farmer's market, there's no need to immediately discard the hefty set of greens. Even if your recipe doesn't call for them, reserve the purple stems and greens to chop up and add to quick sautés, salads or soups. Failing that, they make a darling hat for your pet when quickly knotted together.  

      Beet This Savory Sweet Toss
      Serves 4 as side dish


      One bunch beets with greens (usually 3 large beets or 5 smaller ones)
      4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
      2 TBSP red wine vinegar
      2 TBSP maple syrup
      2 TBSP olive oil, separated
      1 large clove of garlic, minced
      2 tsp minced fresh thyme (1 tsp if dried)
      Salt and pepper to taste


      • Put large pot of water on stove and crank up the heat to get that puppy boiling.
      • Remove stems from beets and wash both carefully. Reserve beet greens and stems.
      • Dump beet roots (outer layer intact) in boiling water and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.
      • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
      • Chop up stems and leaves and toss with 1 TBSP olive oil, salt and pepper.
      • Roast in oven on baking sheet for 20 minutes, moving the leaves around a few times to make sure everything browns.
      • Remove from oven and reserve.
      • Once beets are tender, drain and let cool and then peel the skin off with your fingers, quarter the beets and then slice them lengthwise until they're all roughly the same size.
      • Heat a large sauté pan on high. and put the vinegars in, reducing them by about half. This will take a few minutes.
      • Add the maple syrup and heat; add the oil, then the beets and salt and pepper.
      • Sauté for five to seven minutes, tossing the beets so that they're completely covered, add minced garlic and toss again.
      • Garnish with roasted stems and leaves, add another crank of pepper and serve. Happy eating!

      In Season: Fig It

      Posted at 5:00 AM Sep 03, 2009

      By Kathleen Willcox


      You either love 'em or you hate 'em--something about the ficus carica inspires an unusual degree of disgust and derision or conversely, delight and devotion.

      The whole Adam and Eve being foisted from the Garden of Eden with nary but a fig leaf to hide their shame caused the fulsome fruit to be associated with the downfall of man, perhaps creating a cloud of suspicion for some over the innocent, soft brown pome. The Prophet Muhammad, on the other hand, lauded the fig as a fruit "descended from paradise" that prevents 'rhoids and is generally a taste sensation.

      Either way, they're here, they're a bit queer, and they're not going anywhere. In fact, the pit-free wonder may be the first known crop man grew, according to the always trustworthy Wikipedia. And whether you like them or not, chances are someone at your next shindig lurves them. Consider adding these simple fig recipes to your roster of hors d'oeuvres go-tos.

      My favorite figs to cook with are fresh or dried Black Mission figs for sweeter concoctions and fresh or dried Brown Turkey figs for more savory delights. Both will work in the recipes below. 

      Sweet Fried Figs
      Serves a crowd

      30 or so figs
      ¼ C butter
      ¼ C honey
      ½ cup red wine
      Dash salt
      Dash cayenne pepper
      8 ounces goat or ricotta cheese
      A few dozen crostini or crackers

      • Stem and halve figs.
      • Heat large nonstick pan over medium-low heat and melt butter.
      • Whisk in honey and wine. Add salt and cayenne to taste.
      • When liquids are warm, but not smoking, add the fresh or dried figs, turn the heat to low, and poach for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer for a more intense flavor).
      • This recipe can be prepared a few days in advance -- it will also keep for weeks if stored in a properly sealed container.
      • Serve the figs with the sauce on goat-or-ricotta-cheese spread crostini or crackers or as part of a crudite platter.
      • Enjoy and happy eating!

      What, you want moar figs!? They're after the jump!

      Read more In Season: Fig It >>

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