Friday, May 21, 2010

Unseasonal Pan-Roasted Veggies, Seasonal Fresh Peas

For various reasons, including a Romesco obsession and a trip to California's Central Coast, we hadn't made a 10X10 meal in a long time.

We had been really really excited about the Daring Cook's May challenge, which was enchiladas with a verde sauce. We had fully intended to turn the pork shoulder that had been languishing in the freezer into some delicious Mexican-y goodness, but, again, for a number of reasons, it just didn't happen. The shoulder was therefore begging to be used, and of course, Susanne Goin had the answer in the form of Spiced Pork Stew with Polenta, Root Vegetables, and Gremolata.

I really do realize that I keep whining about how I'm over the whole braised meat thing for now, but it was an atypically cold day, and a stew really did sound perfect. Plus, I had had polenta on the brain for no good reason, so this sounded perfect. I love you, Susanne.

We didn't love the pork stew, but it was probably my fault, or what we call 'user error.' And, of course, I had another major Polenta Fail. I'll get this stuff right someday, I swear. My family has gotten to the point that they think that even when made properly, it can't be that great. Can it? But a lot of food people say that it can be that great, which is why I'm determined to get it right, much to my family's chagrin.
This time, it was another watery, flavorless gruel.

That's why we gave it googly eyes. Everything is better with googly eyes.
The one thing that I really loved about this meal, though, were the 'roasted' vegetables. Because they were root vegetables, they didn't seem very springy, but they've revolutionized my thinking when it comes to the preparation of hearty veggies.

Here's how I will in the future cook root vegetables (an adaptation of Susanne's recipe):
(It means a bit more active time than coating vegetables in oil and throwing them in the oven, but it's still easy, and it's well worth it.)

Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables with Gremolata
(By Suzanne Goin)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 lb. carrots (preferably organic with the tops attached), peeled
  • 2 medium turnips
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 cup 1/4 inch-thick slices shallot
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bag parsnips (if they're not sold in bags where you live, then about 6 medium ones)
Place the lemon zest on a cutting board and chop it coarsely. Place the garlic and parsley on top and chop the whole mixture together until it is very fine. This is the gremolata. 

Slice the carrots and parsnips into 1/2 inch slices cut on the bias. Clean the turnips, cut off the tails, and trim the stems. Cut small turnips in to halves or quarters, and if they're larger, cut them in half and then into 1/2 inch wedges.

Using 2 saute pans so that the vegetables are not crowded, heat the olive oil over medium-high until shimmering. Divide the carrots, parsnips and turnips between the pans and season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the thyme. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables just start to caramelize.

Add the butter and shallots and saute another 10 minutes, tossing often. If the vegetables are becoming too brown without softening, reduce the heat. The vegetables are finished when they're nicely caramelized and tender.
Toss with the gremolata before serving.

Spring-Time Peas
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • One small onion, diced
  • 1 lb fresh peas, shelled an rinsed
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, and almost caramelized. This will take 15-40 minutes, depending on how well you like the onions cooked. If they start to dry out or burn, add some butter and reduce the heat.

When the onions have reached the desired stage of doneness, add the peas and saute until tender, but still a little pop-in-the-mouth crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Toss with the butter (you can use more if you like, but we were trying to be healthy.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Romesco, I Love You

It doesn't look like much, does it? It is, however, absolutely obsession-worthy.

It's Romesco sauce, and I can't stop eating it; I must have eaten two pounds of it in the last month. That's why I haven't been blogging--I've been eating nothing but Romesco in all its various incarnations. Okay, not really, but almost.

I've mentioned this condiment/sauce in a previous post, but I'm back to say that Romesco is fantastic on crackers, bread, fish, pork, pretty much anything grilled, roasted meats, eggs, zucchini, fennel, tortilla chips, and it pairs well with both soft and hard cheeses. Not to mention beer, champagne, and light white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or the newly trendy Gruner Veltliner.

I'm telling you, I'm obsessed.

You need to make this, and you need to make it now. People on Epicurious will make you think that it's a big deal. It's not. And the best part is that you can divide the batch into little portions, freeze them in little baggies, and defrost them as needed, the way you would with pesto.

Ignore those recipes that call for chicken stock or jarred roasted red peppers--this recipe adapted from Suzanne Goin is the real deal, and your efforts will be well rewarded.


2 tablespoons raw almonds
2 tablespoons hazelnuts
5 Guajillo chiles, or a mix of Guajillo and New Mexico chiles (I think that Ancho are more traditional, but I prefer the less-smoky flavor of the other two chiles)
2 tomatoes, cored
One slice of bread
1 clove of garlic, chopped
About half a cup of good-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
One lemon, for juicing
Sherry vinegar, to taste
Sea or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Spread the nuts on the flat pan of a toaster oven (or on a baking sheet in the oven) and toast at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, stem and seed the chiles, and soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes. Remove from the water and dry with paper towels.

When the nuts are toasted, place the tomatoes on the sheet and turn the heat up to 425. Roast until flesh is tender and the raw edges are caramelized. Timing will vary, but this will likely take about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toast the bread until it is golden on both sides.

Tear up the bread and place it in the food processor. Add the nuts, garlic, tomatoes, chiles, and about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and puree until you have a coarse, semi-homogeneous mixture. With the machine running, add the olive oil until you have a smooth paste.

Season to taste with parsley, lemon juice, vinegar (I like to use about 3-4 tablespoons, but some people might prefer less), salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

This will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks, or can be frozen for a few months. When frozen, it defrosts very quickly and is therefore very convenient.

A side note--this is one of those recipes where more garlic is not better. Don't do what I did and figure that because you love garlic, you should add more. Don't.

(At a recent extended-family party, this cake was dropped on the ground. We ate it anyway.)

(The Lone Cypress, shot on our recent trip to California. More on that later. Maybe.)