28 October 2011

Celery Root Remoulade - Céleri Rémoulade


The French classic that makes a silk purse out of a sow's ear

Celery root, also called celeriac, is a very unattractive fall and winter root vegetable that can be prepared many ways. The French bistro classic celery root remoulade, a raw salad, is my favorite. I had seen celery root in the produce markets for years, but never tried it. If you've seen it, you know why! It's probably the ugliest vegetable you'll ever see, sort of like a hairy turnip with tumors. After all the ugliness is trimmed away, you're left with about three-quarters, even two-thirds, the weight you started with.

Celery root remoulade is something I first made years ago after seeing Julia Child* make it on television. Of course, I made up my own recipe to suit myself; and here it is. It can be tricky to follow a recipe when celery roots come in such a wide range of sizes. Just adjust the dressing amounts to the weight of the celery root. The one I bought this week at my local health food store was only 3/4 pound, and there was just the one. After all the strange stuff was trimmed away, it was down to 1/2 pound, just right for two people.

If you've been passing over celery root just because of its appearance, as I did for so long (I feel so shallow!), quickly pop one or two in a bag next shopping trip. You'll be sorry you didn't give the odd little things a chance sooner!

Celery Root Remoulade

(Serves 2)

3/4 pound celery root
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish or finely minced sweet pickle
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Garnish: minced fresh parsley or julienned green apple

1 Cut off the leaves and root end, then scrub. Trim, peel and halve lengthwise the celery root. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 or more pieces, whatever will fit into the feed tube of your food processor. With shredding disk in place, coarsely shred the celery root. In 1-quart bowl, toss the shredded celery root with salt and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Cover and set aside to soften for 30 to 60 minutes.

2 In small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Stir the dressing into the celery root and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

3 Spoon each serving into a small bowl or on a small leaf of butter lettuce on a plate. Garnish.

* See Vegetable Quiche post for one of my Julia Child stories.

21 October 2011

Oatmeal Cookies


Oatmeal cookies were my favorite as a child, and they still are. Maybe because I can feel perfectly fine about eating them for breakfast. After all, the primary ingredient is oats and I use all organic ingredients. My recipe is pretty much the same one my mother used when I was a child. Even though shortening was called for in those days and margarine was considered a healthful alternative to butter, my mother was way ahead of her time and suspected that those man-made ingredients couldn't be good for you.

She and I made these cookies together most times, such as on the day in second grade when I refused to go to school because she had cut my bangs too short. She knew there was no use fighting it when I drew myself up to my full height (how tall could I have been) and informed her that "Tall people don't look good in short bangs." Was I a hoot or what?! It was so typical of me that I wouldn't even remember that incident if she hadn't told me the story several times in my life.

But back to the cookies ... You can bake right away, but I refrigerate the dough for about an hour. This gives the very hearty oats I use (Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick rolled oats) time to absorb a bit of moisture before the cookies are baked. You must try those oats; they give the cookies a certain something! You can refrigerate the dough for a few days or even freeze the unbaked cookies (see instructions below) and enjoy warm cookies another day.

So tell me about your favorite cookie. But don't tell me if you put chocolate chips in your oatmeal cookies. Well, do tell me, but don't expect me to like it!

Oatmeal Cookies

(Makes 3 1/2 dozen)

1 1/2 packed cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick)

1 In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

2 In another small bowl, combine chopped walnuts and raisins with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture, making sure all the raisin pieces are separated.

3 In large bowl of electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, water and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, then oats, raisins and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to a few days. (Very cold dough will need to sit at room temperature for a bit to become more scoopable.)

4 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop #40 scoops* (0.8 ounces or approximately 1.5 tablespoons) of dough 3 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. With a glass (I use a 2 1/4-inch diameter 1/3-cup flat-bottomed metal measuring cup), press each scoop into a 2 1/4-inch round. Bake for about 13 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges but still a little soft in the center.

5 Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

* If you don't have one of these 7/8 Ounce Size 40 Stainless Steel Round Squeeze Disher (13-0638) Category: Dishers, you need to get one now! How do people make cookies without it!

To freeze dough: Drop scoops of dough on foil-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly, as directed above. Freeze, then wrap.

To bake frozen dough: Preheat oven to 350. Place raw cookies 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes.

14 October 2011

Italian Meatball Sandwiches - Comfort Food on a Roll


Italian meatball sandwiches make a great cool-weather meal. Meatballs and sauce freeze well, so make a double batch whenever you have time and freeze half for another cool evening when you want something warm and comforting but don't have the time or energy to cook. If you're like me, you might have the energy to cook but not to clean up (My husband sometimes calls me The Black Tornado - a reference to an old commercial for a cleaning product nicknamed The White Tornado).

BTW - I know, I know ... meatballs two weeks in a row. What can I say, I'm on a meatball kick. But Italian meatballs are entirely different from Mexican meatball soup!

I like to use fresh herbs when I have them, but developed this recipe with dried herbs so that it could be what I call a Pantry Meal - a meal I can make from what's always on hand rather than having to make a grocery run.

How many sandwiches this recipe makes depends on what size rolls you get. Today the bakery had some crusty French rolls that were just under four inches, so I put two meatballs on each one; so I could make eleven sandwiches. If they'd had the rolls that are just under six inches, I would have put three meatballs on each and made seven sandwiches. (Ooh, the math, my brain is smokin'!) Though I usually aim for perfectly round meatballs, when making them for a sandwich I like to flatten them out slightly.

Some people put the meatballs straight into the sauce, but I like to brown them first, get a nice crust on them before simmering them in the sauce. But if you do it the other way, that's okay too.  

Italian Meatball Sandwiches

(Serves 4)

The Meatballs (Makes 22)

2 slices good white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound very lean ground beef
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The Sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup very finely shredded carrot
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen organic fire roasted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon basil
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

The Sandwich

Crusty French rolls or homemade buns
Thinly-sliced Provolone cheese

1 In medium bowl, combine bread and milk and let stand a few minutes before mashing to a paste with a fork. Add remaining meatball ingredients, except ground beef and olive oil, in the order given. Using hands, mix in the ground beef until everything is well combined. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour, or in freezer for 5 minutes or so, to make mixture easier to handle.

2 Roll #40 scoops of meatball mixture with both hands to form meatballs. (First I scoop all of the meatball mixture and then roll all the meatballs.)

3 In 12-inch skillet*, heat olive oil. Brown the meatballs in two batches, rolling them around, browning on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl.

4 In same skillet, cook onion for a few minutes, add in shredded carrot, and then stir in crushed tomatoes, scraping up brown bits in the pan. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat. Add meatballs to sauce. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Sauce should be quite thick; you don't want a soggy sandwich.

5 Split rolls and line each with thin slices of Provolone. That's another thing that will prevent sogginess. Much better than putting the cheese on top. Heat the sandwiches in preheated oven, toaster oven or broiler just enough to melt the cheese.

* I love my All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan!

07 October 2011

Albondigas Soup - Sopa de Albondigas


Albondigas soup has been on my mind for a while and I just had to make some. The albondigas (meatballs) traditionally have rice in them, which reminded me of my funny little self when I was in elementary school. Though I was only seven years old, I very clearly remember my horror the day the school lunch menus for the week were passed out and I saw that the next day's main dish was to be something I couldn't begin to wrap my mind around.

I worried about it for the rest of the day, then went rushing in the door after school, eager to tell my mother the horrifying news. I started out by simply announcing that I had to take my lunch the next day. She tried valiantly to keep a straight face as I stood there wide-eyed and grim-faced and solemnly delivered the reason, "They are ... having ... (dramatic pause, sharp intake of breath) por ... cu ... pine ... meatballs!"

She tried, but there was nothing she could say to convince me that porcupine meatballs were just ground beef with rice and that no quilled rodents would be harmed in the course of lunch preparations. So how is it that porcupine meatballs have always been such a "kid-pleaser" kind of dish? Was I the only child who suspected the worst?

Which reminds me ... If you are dealing with a picky eater, you need to read these 10 Tips for Dining (or Not) With Picky Eaters, something I just happened to come across the other day and thought was the best thing I've ever read on dealing with that problem! I think Melanie Rehak is a genius on the subject!

But back to the soup ... A bowl of this with a side of Mexican rice and a couple of warm tortillas makes a hearty meal. Are you gearing up for Soup Weather? I hope you'll try this one. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

Albondigas Soup - Sopa de Albondigas

(Makes 4 main-dish servings)

The Albondigas (meatballs, makes 20)

1 pound very lean ground beef (Rocky Mountain Organic Meats)
1 large egg
1/3 cup uncooked long grain white rice (Lundberg organic long grain)
1/4 cup very finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 8-ounce can tomato sauce (Muir Glen organic)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The Caldo (broth)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium zucchini, sliced
2 6-ounce Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 In medium bowl, combine all albondigas ingredients except olive oil. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to make mixture easier to handle.

2 In 5-quart pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium heat, cook onion and bell pepper for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes to shape meatballs).

3 Roll #40 scoops of meatball mixture with both hands to form meatballs. (First I scoop all of the meatball mixture and then roll all the meatballs.) 

4 Let broth continue to simmer. In 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown the meatballs in two batches, rolling them around, browning on all sides. Add meatballs to broth. Simmer for 10 minutes (or as long as it takes to slice the carrots and celery).

5 Deglaze the skillet with the 2 cups of water; add to soup. Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper, marjoram and crushed red pepper to soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.

6 Add zucchini, potato and cilantro. Simmer 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish (if you're not in a hurry to eat, as I was!) with avocado, cilantro and/or a wedge of lime. Maybe fry up some crispy little strips of corn tortilla.  
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