Thursday, December 31, 2015

You, You, Uuuu

Ugli (or Uniq) Fruit as seen in your local market.
Uu, Uuu.  Uuuuu.  I can’t write the letter Uu without thinking about that exchange between Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in the movie Analyze This.  So funny.  If any of you were standing in front of me right now, I too would likely be saying “you, you, youuu,” smiling with an expression of knowing, as I simultaneously moved my pointed finger back and forth. 
It is because of you I write this Blog.  I so appreciate all the comments, questions and input I have received from so many of you.  My school chums Andrea and David L. who I can always count on to add a note of interest and enthusiasm to my Blogs.  And David, you, Sandra (of Sandi’s Cobbler Cups) and her husband Vince with your penchants for gardening only serve to further motivate me in seeking out unique and wonderful produce from Catus Leaves to Fiddleheads.  You, Mary M. who expressed gratitude on my timely Rutabaga Blog, as you sought out recipes for a rather special Thanksgiving side dish.  Megan, Cheryl, Lenore and Mr. Williams, you, my DWSS comrades, can’t know how much your chiming in brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.  Love being part of your newsletter Mr. Williams!  My Golden Girls, it is you I can consistently count on to write notes of support and encouragement as you did in response to “Bringing Them Home,” and “Qq Is For Quince.”  Certainly a shout out goes to my family members.  My niece Megan, my sister Janice and my Aunt Rose who acknowledged “A Date With Nana,” and “Another Lap Around The Sun.”  Can’t do this kind of thing without family in my corner.  And of course my Friends Amid Food, remembrances of our supper club gatherings, dishes we prepared and ate together, you all serve as mire poix foundations for me as I write this bi-weekly Blog.  Which I have to be honest, has not always been published on a bi-weekly basis.  And explains why, here it is the last day of 2015 and I am only on letter Uu. 

Now, I’m betting you’re wondering just what seasonal food I would be able to Blog about that is one; currently in season and two; begins with the letter Uu.  Well wonder no more, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while now and lucky for me this is the early part of the season for Ugli Fruit.  Also known as Uniq Fruit
You may have only briefly seen these gnarly looking tropical orbs, which are native to Jamaica, in your local grocery store as they are in season for about five short months, December to April.  Though so unattractive as citrus, you probably kept on walking by without even inquiring about it to your produce guy.  The Ugli Fruit is a naturally hybridized combination of an orange and grapefruit, likely with some input from the pomelo (the original grapefruit).  A thick, pock-marked, greenish-yellowish-orange rind fits loosely, like the wrinkly skin on the knees and ankles of elephants, encasing a pale orange-yellow pulp.  A bit sweeter than grapefruit and dripping with juice Ugli Fruit is consistent with its other citrus relatives in that it is high in vitamin C and has a fair amount of fiber.  Another plus, there are hardly, if any, seeds inside.
When choosing Ugli Fruit look for those that feel heavy for their size and are somewhat soft but not mushy.  The smaller ones are sweetest.  They keep for up to five days in your fruit basket or two weeks in the fridge.  I eat Ugli Fruit  the same way I eat an orange, however I do take the time to supreme the sections.  Not supreme but supreme.  This is the process of removing all the white membrane, which is edible but gives that bitter after-taste to oranges and other citrus.  Use a sharp paring or small slicing knife so you can easily cut between each segment of the fruit. 
I'm using a combination of Ugli Fruit, Grapefruit and Oranges today.

To supreme simply:
1 Trim top and bottom off the fruit and discard. Remove the peel by slicing lengthwise between flesh and peel, following fruit's contour and toss peel into trash.
2 Hold the fruit in the palm of one hand over a bowl to catch juices. Slice lengthwise between 1 segment and the membrane until you reach the center of the fruit.
3 Make a similar slice on the other side of the same segment. Use the knife blade to remove segment. Repeat this process for each segment until you have a nice little arrangement of wedges on your cutting board.
4 Once all segments are removed, squeeze any remaining juices from membrane into the bowl. You will end up with the skeleton of the citrus fruit membrane.  Discard membrane and reserve the juice for another use.
Easy Sneezy 

I squeezed the juice from the Ugli with my hand here.

For the grapefruit and orange I used my old hand juicer.

Once you’ve separated your sections of the Ugli Fruit you can indulge and eat it as it, or add the wedges to your salad in place of mandarin oranges.  Lamb lettuce or grilled endive that has been sliced and mixed with arugula or radicchio a few sliced strawberries or blueberries and slivered almonds all drizzled with a light vinaigrette will make for an enticing and different tasty salad.
 But I’m still too cold to munch on salads these days, instead I’m using my Ugli Fruit to prepare a warmed concoction of dark rum (my homage to Jamaica) simple syrup and freshly squeezed Ugli Fruit juice. 

Warm it up - It is afterall a hot tottie
4 ounces freshly squeezed Ugli Fruit juice,  4 ounces simple syrup, 2 ounces water, 2 ounces dark rum.

Add all ingredients to a saucepot and warm over medium heat to desired temperature.  Pour into two glasses or mugs and garnish with a wedge of Ugli Fruit or Orange and a cinnamon stick.

                                Serves 2

I'd add a cinnamon stick - but ran out over the holidays

For the purest in the group

As we bring 2015 to a close, I just want to thank all of Uu for your comments, suggestions and questions.  Keep them coming.  As for the remains of today I’m going to ring in the New Year with my Ugli-Rum hot tottie while these black-eyed peas finish soaking. 
Gotta start the New Year out right!  
                                        Happy New Year to all my family and friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tt is For Turnips

I don’t want to offend any of our seasonal root vegetables, but it is my feeling Turnips are rather boring.  Unless of course you’re a bunny.  Speaking of which, those little rascally rabbits have really been nibbling away at my herbs!  But unlike Mr. McGregor, I haven’t set any traps to catch them.  Although I have openly threatened to cook them up in a stew if I see one more bunny munching on my herbs.
If I were smart, I’d put out some carrots, cabbage or . . . turnips!  Rabbits love turnips, as do horses, goats and other livestock.  Of course livestock eat the larger versions of this bulbous root.  We humans consume the smaller more tender productions.  And please don’t confuse turnips with rutabagas.  Remember I explained the difference between the two a few weeks back.

Amid their many fairy tales the brothers Grimm wrote a short, strange little story about a turnip, called The Turnip.  It tells the story of two brothers, both soldiers, one was rich the other poor.  The poor brother was forced to become a farmer in order to feed himself and his family.  On his small farm he grew the only crop affordable, turnips.  One season while out in his garden he discovered he had grown one of the biggest turnips ever out among his crop.  He decided to take it to the King as a gift (actually if I’m remembering my history correctly, I’m thinking as a Serf he was required by law to give a portion of his harvest to the King).  The King expressed his gratitude by lavishing gifts upon the poor brother.  When the rich brother heard about this, he then gave multiply gifts to the King.  Alas, he was repaid by the King with that same ginormous turnip harvested by his own brother.  Of course the rich brother felt anger mixed with his jealousy.  In retaliation he hired some men to capture and murder his brother.  Just when the thugs captured the poor brother while he was out innocently riding his horse through the woods, they heard someone singing.  Instead of killing the brother, they hurriedly stuffed him into a large sack and hung the sack from the branch of a tree with the intention of returning to kill him later.  Not long afterward a passer-by happens upon the poor brother just as he emerges from a hole he had cut into the sack.  In order to avoid his own demise the poor brother explains to the passer-by that the sack is magical and when inside one will be bestowed with knowledge and wisdom.  The passer-by willingly climbs into the sack as the poor brother secures it closed, telling the passer-by, “see you are already learning a great lesson.”  All this because of a turnip.  The brothers Grimm often enlightened us with morals in their dark stories.

There is yet another children’s story about a turnip, this one entitled The Enormous Turnip.  In this story we are told about how one of the turnips from a collection of seeds sown in an elderly couple’s garden grows to such huge dimensions they can’t  pull it from the ground.  They call upon their young, strong son to help, but still the turnip can’t be pulled.  Finally, with the assistance of the son and their daughter, the dog, the cat and a neighbor they are able to uproot the stubborn turnip.  Everyone is overjoyed and celebrate by using the super-sized turnip to prepare a wonderful feast.  This story teaches children how when we work together we all succeed and benefit.  A nice and less gruesome story about turnips. 

I have purchased turnips, perhaps only three or four more times than I have rutabagas.  When I do purchase turnips from the market, I make sure I buy those with the leaves still attached.  I use the leaves, only the smaller ones, as the bigger the leaves tend to be bitter, in much the same way I use mustard greens.   They’re great in soups and stocks. 

I suppose I should also mention turnips themselves are high in vitamin C, while the leaves offer generous amounts of vitamin C, A and K, as well as some folate and calcium.  And if I am to be really fair, I should point out, as indicated by the two children’s stories I shared, turnips have a long history as a source of food for humans.  As a matter of fact, in ancient Greek civilization the turnip was consumed regularly by Kings and rural peasants. 

So in keeping with Medieval times I’m thinking a turnip soup recipe is in order.   Perfect for this weather we’re having. 


2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot - minced
3 Tbsp each fresh, chives, chervil leaves and sorrel leaves
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon
NOTE: (if you are unable to locate these herbs as fresh used dried- but use only 1 Tbsp each. If you cannot locate these as fresh or dried then substitute a commercial blend of “fines herbs”)
1-2 cups fresh turnips - diced
1 cup fresh, chopped celery
1 cup fresh chopped leeks
1 quart vegetable stock
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

Begin by melting butter in a large stockpot.  Add minced shallot and saute until fragrant.  Add diced turnips, celery & leeks and cook until softened.  Pour in stock and all remaining seasonings, ingredients and herbs.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Garnish w/large croutons or a warmed, sliced baguette

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Arghhh, Whew, Whirrrrr

Okay, so Sharon thinks it's funny . . . 

Arghhhh - The sound I made when I first woke up this morning and realized I omitted something very important in yesterday's recipe for Salsify Soup.

Whew - The second sound I made when I thought thank goodness, Blogs can be easily amended, edited or corrected.

Whirrrrr - The sound your immersion blender or Vitamix (or whatever you decide to use) will make when you puree your Salsify Soup to make it  creamy.

To remind you, in yesterday's Blog entry I commented that boiling Salsify makes it mushy and I advised you not to overcook your soup in order to avoid this.  However, while we don't want Salsify Mush, we do want to break down the soup somewhat to create that smooth, richness we associate with cream soups.

So, when you have finished cooking your soup and have seasoned it just right, you will need to either; A) use your immersion blender and whip up the soup a little to break down some of the cubes of cooked Salsify.
 You can leave a few pieces whole, which is what I do.  This allows your soup to maintain some chunky integrity.  Or B) spoon a few ladles of the soup mixture into your blender or Vitamix to puree the soup.  Using these devices will completely puree the soup, especially if you ladle the entire contents of your soup pot.  It's your decision on how creamy or chunky you like your Soup.

* Good thing Blogs are open to additional input!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Can You Be Satisfied With Salsify?

Actually it’s pronounced, SAL-sih-fee.  This time of year we all pretty much know Spinach is in season, as are Sweet Potatoes and Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) but those items, though they begin with the letter Ss, are rather commonplace.  So I decided to go with Salsify.  What is it Salsify exactly?  Well you may have walked right past it thinking it was some over-ripe parsnip or a bunch of too old white carrots.  While Salsify is another root vegetable (it is winter after all and root vegetables are all the rage) it’s in a league all its own.  Salsify may be labeled as Oyster Plant or Goatsbeard (though these are two different plants.  I’ll get to that in a minute).  Long used in Europe since the 16th century, this specialty root is becoming more easily found in our U.S. ethnic/multicultural local grocery stores or farmers markets.  Their shape is similar to that of the parsnip but perhaps a bit more gnarly looking.  Salsify can grow up to 12 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  Unlike parsnips, their skin is more grayish in color while the flesh inside is white.  The ones I’ve seen have more of a pale yellowish skin.  Some are black, these look more like branches or sticks you’d find around the trunk of an old tree.  If you happen upon black Salsify they may be labeled as scorzonera

Now some of you may be saying to yourselves, what is she talking about?  It’s called Purple Salsify and it’s an ornamental flower with edible roots.  Yes! ~ that’s what I’m talking about.  Purple Salsify is a biennial plant, meaning it doesn’t produce seed until its second year.   I’m talking about harvesting the root for the purpose of cooking and eating, which can be done within one year.  So in reality it can be considered an annual.  Now, that Goatsbeard I referred to earlier bears yellow flowers instead of purple and the roots are NOT edible.  Our Purple Salsify roots aren’t so great eaten raw, but cooked you can discern a slight oyster flavor, hence the term Oyster Plant. 

You don’t have to eat them right away.  Salsify, with the tops removed, can be stored in your fridge for about 2 weeks.  Make sure you clean them well, remove the roots and peel away the skin.  That 2 weeks gives you plenty of time to find just the right recipe in which to use them.  And armed with the knowledge Salsify is high in carbs and are loaded with fiber helps.  I also want to point out they provide ample amounts of B vitamins and potassium. 

Some suggested methods of culinary use include adding Salsify to your soups or stews, as you would carrots or parsnips.  Lately I’m into roasting my vegetables.  I’d suggest cleaning them up, then cutting them into rounds and spreading them evenly on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet.  A moderate dose of good olive oil and, since Salsify have that slight oyster undertone, I’d add garlic (always good with oysters), with a bit of unsalted butter dotted here and there.  Season with kosher salt and pepper and roast away, until the edges are slightly dark and crispy.  Then garnish with freshly chopped parsley.  Or, rough chop the stalks into bite-sized pieces and steam them.  Then drizzle the now softened morsels with a garlicky vinaigrette.  Yum!  Better yet, stay true to the season and prepare a soup that actually stars Salsify in the leading role.  A warm creamy, yet light soup with a tease of oyster flavor, served with a warm boule (you’ll have to look that one up yourself) is just what one might need during this season of salted caramel, peppermint chocolate bark and turkey, ham, more turkey more ham and all those adult beverages.  Here’s my recipe for Satisfying Salsify Soup:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter                                                 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
I large shallot – minced                                                           2 cloves fresh garlic – minced
2-3 cups medium-diced fresh Salsify, cleaned and peeled       1-2 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)
1 cup whole milk                                                                   1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste                                                         chopped parsley, thyme or chives for garnish
Freshly made croutons, also for garnish (Megan, I taught you how to prepare these)

In a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, combine olive oil and butter until butter is melted.
Whisk in flour (this is your roux) and cook until mixture comes together like a kind of paste.  About 5 minutes. 
Add minced shallot and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Stir in minced garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Add diced Salsify. 
Whisk in milk and cream, lowering heat so you don’t boil the milks.  Continue cooking for about 5-7 minutes.  Add broth and allow mixture to simmer until root vegetable is slightly tender.  Careful not to overcook, Salsify can get mushy when boiled too long.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve in individual bowls each garnished with chopped parsley a few croutons. 

                                                                                       Makes 6-8, 4-ounce servings