Vegetables & Sides
Melissa Clarke’s article, An Accidentally Creamier Fluffier Potato Salad in the NY Times last month, as always, captures Melisa’s delightfully playful ways in the kitchen that can turn what might be considered mistakenly over cooked potatoes for a potato salad into a mistake worth repeating. Her purposely soft cooked starchy potatoes folded together with a mildly rich dressing makes the case for a fluffier potato salad that is truly carving worthy.
Keep in mind the secret to success here is to gently simmer your potatoes until they are as soft as they can possibly be without falling apart.
The recipe that follows differs from Melissa’s but uses the same soft cooked potato method. Once the potatoes are drained and cooled for 10 minutes, they can then be gently folded together with sauteed onions, pancetta, garlic, and celery. The salad is then dressed with a subtly rich mayonnaise and Greek yogurt dressing and served while still warm! This has been a steadfast tried and true method I have followed for years and remains my favorite way to make potato salad not matter what ingredients you are using!
A Craving Worthy Soft & Billowy Potato Salad Serves 6
- 2.2 pounds/ 1 kilo gold potatoes, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 oz /57 grams pancetta, thinly sliced and diced
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and minced
- ½ cup finely diced young celery
- ¾ cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s)
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt + more to taste
- 1/3 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or red chile powder (optional)
- 1/3 cup finely sliced Italian parsley leaves
- assortment of salad leaves and greens
- smoked flaked sea salt (Maldon) for finishing
- fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾ inch cubes. Place in a large sauce pan and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in some salt and simmer the potatoes until they are very soft and tender but still just holding their shape. Test by inserting a knife blade into a potato which should slip easily into the flesh. Once perfectly cooked, drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside to cool briefly. Then transfer potatoes to a large bowl and set aside.
While the potatoes are simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium size saute pan set over medium low heat. When hot add the pancetta and gently cook several minutes without browning. Add the onions, season with some sea salt and pepper , and continue sauteing until the onions are soft without browning. Add the garlic and celery and season with chipotle powder or chile powder if using. Saute 1 minute more and remove the pan from the heat.
Using a silicone spoon, distribute the warm pancetta onion mixture over the potatoes and gently fold the mixture into the potatoes. Then scatter the parsley over the top.
In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard and stir until well combined and smooth. Then spoon the dressing over the potatoes and fold in until evenly distributed. Taste and season with more salt if needed. You will notice the dressing will cling nicely to the soft starchy potatoes which gives this potato salad its soft billowy texture so do not be tempted to over mix.
Arrange a bed of assorted salad leaves and greens on each individual serving plate and place the potato salad centered into the leaves. Garnish with parsley leaves and scatter some smoked flaked sea salt over the potatoes and serve.
Making a case for slow cooking vegetables in the age of the de rigueur blanched and cooled crisp vegetables is not going to be an easy sell. That said, some of you may recall a quick and easy “modern” mid last century canned green bean mushroom casserole that home cooks whipped up in America using canned mushroom soup and topped with fried onion rings. Those beans were cooked to death but everyone, including kids, really loved those green beans.
O course, slow cooking fibrous vegetables in Italy has been practiced for centuries and is my favorite method for turning tough fennel bulbs into tender flavorsome silky morsels of unctuousness.
I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled When to Cook your Vegetables Long Past “Done” by Samin Norsrat (click here) which really peaked my interest. Needless to say, slow cooking a whole Dutch oven full of fibrous vegetables together is a perfect way to transform late summer’s produce into a main attraction for a meal with very little fuss. Doused with some olive oil, flavored with a few garlic cloves, and generously seasoned with sea salt transforms these vegetables as they slowly cook over a very low flame for several hours with little attention required. Contrary to what you may think the deeply flavored results will be a revelation…I promise!
The recipe that follows is meant to be a basic slow cooking guide that will work with almost any fibrous vegetables you choose to use, be it two varieties or a whole selection. When using fennel, which infuses the vegetables with a lovely scent and flavor, no other seasoning is required, but feel free to include herbs to compliment the vegetables you choose to cook with.
Slow Cooked Vegetables (Basics) serves 6
- ½ cup olive oil plus more as needed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 young fennel bulbs
- 5 leeks
- 1 pond green beans
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 head green cabbage
- 2 heads radicchio
- 1 pound collard greens (or kale), leaves only
Equipment: a large Dutch oven or roasting pan with tight fitting lid
Prepare and portion all the vegetables as described.
Trim the fennel leaving several inches of stems in tact. Trim the root and peel away the tough outer layer of the bulb. Quarter each bulb lengthwise.
Remove the tough strings and snap off the stems from the green beans.
Separate the broccoli head into florets. Peel the main stem and slice.
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter the head and cut out the core.
Remove any wilted outer leaves of the radicchio if necessary and quarter the heads lengthwise.
Remove the stems from the collard greens and discard unless the collards are young and tender.
Place the Dutch oven over a very low flame on the stove top. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves and stir until the oil is hot. Add the shallots and stir for several minutes. Then add the fennel, leeks, and green beans. Season generously with salt and toss until the vegetables are well coated with olive oil.
Add the broccoli, cabbage, radicchio, and collard greens, nestling them into the other ingredients. Again season generously with salt and add freshly ground pepper to your liking. Using a large spoon or tongs turn all the ingredients until bathed in olive oil and are snugly fitting into the Dutch oven. Cover with the lid and reduce the flame as low as possible and cook for 1 hour undisturbed. Don’t worry about burning as the vegetables will release liquid as the cook.
After an hour, remove the lid and gently turn the ingredients over and add a little more olive oil to evenly coat the vegetables. Taste and season with salt as needed. Return the lid to the pan and continue to cook for another hour undisturbed over very low flame.
After 2 hours of cooking the vegetables should be transformed. The fennel should be very tender. If not cook another 15 minutes or so.
Serve promptly with pan juices spooned over the vegetables. The only additional seasoning I might suggest would be a splash of best quality balsamic vinegar if served along with red meats.
Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but fall is fast approaching and root vegetables are already playing a major roll in meals that will continue well into the cooler months ahead.
Root vegetables need not follow the tired old bland “they are good for you” cooking methods of the past. This root vegetable gratin changes the rules, playing with a medley of colors, flavors, and aromas that transform the humdrum into an enticing centerpiece for flavorsome cooler weather meals. Use the recipe s a guide and make your own variations choosing other seasonal root vegetable combinations that strike your fancy like parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, yams, and so on.
Seasoning with some restraint is the way to go when cooking with subtly flavored root vegetables. For this recipe I have used fresh green peppercorns and summer savory that compliment the flavor of the vegetables without overpower them. Fresh green peppercorns, native to South Asia, are widely available year around here in Thailand but often found in Asian markets worldwide. They impart a lovely earthy flavor and a fresh moderate heat and well worth seeking out. Summer savory likewise brings a light aromatic peppery tang to the dish.
Root Vegetable Gratin serves 6 to 8
- 1 ¼ pounds turnips
- 1¼ pounds small gold potatoes
- 1 pound beets
- ½ cup minced shallots
- 3 ¼ cups whole milk
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter + more for greasing the baking dish
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh summer savory leaves (or dried)
- ¼ cup fresh green peppercorns (or in brine, well rinsed)
- 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ½ cup heavy cream
For this recipe each vegetable is precooked separately as each has a slightly different cooking time. This insures an even texture for the finished dish. Arranging and layering the vegetables in the baking dish may seem a little tedious but the results are well worth the effort.
Needed: oven proof baking dish
Rub the bottom and sides of the baking dish with the garlic clove. Then lightly butter the baking dish and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375f/ 190c
Peel the turnips and slice into 1/8th inch thin rounds and set aside.
Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.
Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the beets until semi-soft. Set the beets aside to cool and when cool enough to handle slip off the skin and slice the beets into 1/8th inch thin slices and set aside.
Using two large skillets, add half the milk and 1 tablespoon butter to each skillet. Bring both skillets of milk to a simmer. When the butter is melted add ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon summer savory to each skillet and stir to combine. Then add the turnips to one skillet and the potatoes to the other, spreading the contents out evenly. Simmer the turnips for about 10 minutes and the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until the turnips and potatoes are soft but still holding their shape. Then set aside to cool.
When the turnips and potatoes are cool enough to handle begin placing the slices of turnips, potatoes, and beets alternately, one slice overlapping the next, into the baking dish until the dish is covered with a single layer of vegetables. Scatter a quarter of the shallots and a quarter of the green peppercorns over the vegetables and salt lightly. Then drizzle a quarter of the cream over all and scatter a quarter of the Parmigiano over the top.
Repeat this process until there are four layers filling the baking dish.
Combine the milk mixtures into one skillet and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the milk reduces and thickens a bit. Then pour the hot milk over the top and around the sides of the baking dish.
Transfer the baking dish to the preheated oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the gratin is nicely browned and the milk has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to rest for a few minutes before serving.
If you are not serving the gratin cool to room temperature before covering with cling film and refrigerating.
For a classic potato gratin (see recipe here)
Grilling and flame roasting summer vegetables is a gorgeous way to intensify their flavors by caramelizing their natural sugars and adding a smoky accent to the vegetables that transforms them into a center piece for summer suppers. Dress them with an Eastern Mediterranean hummus sauce and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup and you have a dazzling platter of summer’s bounty to bring to the table.
A recipe is hardly called for here other than to highlight the importance of using fresh locally grown vegetables, applying various grilling and flame roasting techniques, and utilizing some bright zesty Eastern Mediterranean saucing suggestions.
It’s really all about the flavors of grilling and roasting so fire up that grill and get smokin!
Eastern Mediterranean Grilled and Roasted Vegetables serves 4 to 6
- 1 small pumpkin or squash
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn
- 4 small eggplants
- 4 medium size green and/ or yellow zucchini
- 2 red bell peppers
- 4 fresh green chilies ( New Mexico or jalapeno)
- 12 garlic cloves, skin on
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon; zest and juice
- flaked sea salt (Maldon Smoked sea salt is ideal if available)
- freshly ground pepper
- fresh thyme leaves
- hummus sauce For hummus recipe (click here)
- Greek yogurt
- pomegranate syrup (available in Eastern Mediterranean shops).
If pomegranate syrup is not available simply reduce pomegranate juice to a syrup consistency.
Pumpkin or Squash: Quarter the pumpkin or squash and remove all the seeds and membrane. There is no need to remove the skin at this point. Brush the pumpkin with olive oil, place on a baking tray skin side down, and put in the oven. Roast until the pumpkin (or squash) is soft but still has a bit of bite, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool cut into bite size pieces. Remove the skin if you have used a thick skinned pumpkin and set the pumpkin aside to use later. For more on roasting pumpkin (click here)
Sweet Corn on the Cob: For the corn, remove the husk and silk and brush the ears with olive oil. Grill the ears over high heat until evenly colored and then set aside to cool. Once cool slice the corn into bite size rounds, divide each round in half. Add the corn half rounds to the tray of roasting pumpkin for at least 20 minutes of roasting time. Then set aside to cool.
Eggplant: The eggplant can be grilled whole or sliced into thick rounds. I prefer grilling the eggplant whole until the skin is completely charred. This method gives the eggplant flesh a beautiful smoked flavor. Simply remove the charred skin once the eggplant is cool and pull the flesh into strips and set aside. The pulled eggplant strips are not particularly attractive but their flavor more than makes up for their haphazard appearance. If you prefer grilling rounds of eggplant, brush with olive oil and grill over high heat until nicely marked, well colored, and soft. For more on roasting eggplant (click here)
Zucchini: For the zucchini, remove the stem and slice into thick strips lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and grill until nicely marked, well colored, and soft but still holding their shape. Slice the strips into bite size pieces and set aside.
Red Bell Peppers and Green Chiles: Roast the red bell peppers and green chiles over high heat or flame until evenly charred. Place in a bowl, seal with cling film, and sweat until cool enough to handle. Then peel off the skin, open lengthwise, remove the seeds and membrane, slice into strips, and divide strips in half and set aside. For more on flame roasting chilies and peppers (click here)
Garlic: Roast the unpeeled garlic in a dry pan until evenly colored. Set aside to cool. Then remove the skin and slice the cloves thinly lengthwise and set aside.
Assembling and Serving the grilled and roasted vegetable platter.
Place all the prepared vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the lemon juice over all and toss with your hands. Then drizzle with the olive oil while continuing to toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the thyme leaves and lemon zest and toss until well combined. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
When ready to serve transfer the tossed vegetables to a serving platter and drizzle them generously with hummus sauce. Lightly drizzle Greek yogurt, and finally sparingly spoon pomegranate syrup over all and serve.
Serve with a small bowl of hummus sauce on the table as well as a bowl of spiced mixed olives.