Celery root is the fugliest thing that’s been in my kitchen.

When I brought it up to the cashier at Sunflower, she said, “What… is that?”

But it’s tasty. And when caramelizing, it fills the kitchen with the most delicious, anise-like scent.

I find that during the holidays, my food desires alternate between things doused in chocolate and/or caramel and/or peppermint, and things that are healthy and hearty. I’ll show you how I most recently indulged my chocolate craving next post (oh, it’s a good one).

If you’re looking for something healthy and hearty, try this out. It’s even a vegan dish. I only realized it in hindsight. And it’s low calorie and high fiber. In fact, there’s only one problem with this dish. I’ll give you a hint that starts out like this: “Beans, beans are good for your heart…”

For more vegan recipes check out my vegan page

LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT AND PARSLEY (adapted only slightly from Martha Stewart Living, December 2010)

You will ideally find and use French lentils for this (which are a bit thicker and heartier than regular lentils) but regular lentils are what I used and they worked just fine.

Ingredients

2 cups cold water

3/4 cup lentils

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium celery root (about 1 pound) washed well, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 small shallot, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Recipe

1. Bring water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and gently simmer, partially covered, until lentils are just tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain lentils and transfer to a medium bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook celery root, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 18-20 minutes.

3. Add celery root to bowl with lentils. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, shallot, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool. Divide among 4 bowls.

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I am a list-maker. My brain does not function unless I have paper and pen in my hand. It helps me keep track of everything I need to do at work, and before I leave for the day I go over my list, making sure I’ve checked off each task that needs to be completed.

I had a really crazy day this past week and could not wait to sprint out of the hospital and into my car. But as usual, I checked my list right before I left. And found, taped to the front of my work binder, a post it that said… “Be sure to”

That’s it. Post it fail.

On to the chard. My Thanksgiving recovery tends to include a lot of green and leafy vegetables. My favorite of this bunch is swiss chard. It’s very similar to spinach, but it contains a tough center rib. It can also grow to be enormous.

And is full of hipster angst.

This preparation uses garlic, red pepper flakes, and golden raisins. I am thinking of making it as a Christmas side dish, since it comes together quickly and does not take up any valuable oven space.

The second time I made this recipe, I found a golf ball sized lump of pizza dough in my freezer. I rolled the dough out thin as possible, sprinkled on some parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper, and baked it until it was light brown on top. Then I topped it off with the sauteed chard mixture. It was delicious!

SAUTEED SWISS CHARD WITH RAISINS (made up by me, inspired by my turkey hangover)

Ingredients

1/3 cup golden raisins

One bunch swiss chard (I used red chard but rainbow or green would work as well)

Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Black pepper

Recipe

Place raisins in a bowl. Pour about one cup boiling water over raisins. Allow them to soak and plump about 10-15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil.

Wash chard leaves. Separate leaves from center rib. Chop rib into pieces (about one inch long). Blanch rib pieces in boiling water until tender (about 1-2 minutes). Remove and place in cold water, to stop them from cooking any longer. Set aside.

Place a large saucepan on medium heat. Heat olive oil in pan, then add garlic. Saute until garlic is lightly brown. Add red pepper flakes, then chard. Turn the chard in the saucepan a few times with tongs, then cover with a lid and allow to steam until leaves are slightly wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove lid, give the chard a quick stir, and put chard on a place.

Sprinkle chard leaves with chard ribs and golden raisins. Squeeze lemon juice over the mixture and give it a toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

Spinach Almond Pesto

October 11, 2010

I was looking for an efficient way to use up a bunch of spinach and remembered hearing about using spinach in pesto instead of basil. I also remembered reading, not too long ago, that pine nuts go rancid quickly. I can’t remember when I bought my industrial-sized Costco bag of pine nuts. I opened my cabinet and was relieved to see all my little pine nuts, looking good. And then I saw the expiration date. November 10, 2009.

2009? I can promise you I have used these much more recently than November 10, 2009. I had a fleeting moment of, Well they certainly look fine. But Will and I watched the pilot episode of Hoarders not too long ago, where an elderly woman hoards, of all things, food. I won’t elaborate further since you should only be subjected to this story by free will, but I will say that if you ever want to get your butt in gear to do some spring cleaning, watch Hoarders. I can promise you, you will be throwing things out faster than you can say “OCD.” Into the trashcan went the pine nuts.

So I decided to try this pesto with almonds. I thought I’d seen pesto with almonds before, and I had some on hand.  A great way to use some pesto now and save some for later is to freeze part of the pesto in ice cube trays. Pop them into a plastic bag for storage. 1 or 2 of these pesto cubes gives you a single serving of pesto, on the spot. And yes, I do own heart shaped ice cube trays. It was an impulse buy. In hindsight, I should have got the penguins.

This pesto tastes, well, a lot like spinach. And not much else. I wonder if pine nuts would have given it a creamier or more complex taste. It’s definitely not bad, and I will use it as a quick dinner on pasta or over chicken or as a sandwich spread, but it’s just not very exciting. But the giant bag of bright green hearts in my freezer is a good conversation starter, at the very least.

More on spinach: Spinach, Strawberry, and Goat Cheese Salad, Spinach Pie, Spinach Quiche.

More on pesto: Unconstructed Garlic Scape Pesto

What I’m Reading:

SPINACH ALMOND PESTO (adapted liberally from Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto by Giada de Laurentis)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Recipe

Combine the spinach, almonds, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Put half of the pesto into ice cube trays and store in the freezer for future use.

Transfer the rest of the spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, to taste.

I finally have a food processor. It is so awesome, I can hardly handle it. Actually, I really mean that I could hardly handle it. Because I was pureeing soup in it, and it wasn’t fastened tight enough together, and I spilled hot zucchini puree all over my countertop and my self. But now I CAN handle it and it has changed my life for the better.

I have little else to say except that this tapenade is amazing and I can’t wait to make it again. Though it technically lasts for a week in the fridge, we demolished it in less than 48 hours. Yes, it’s that good.

Also, I made those crackers you see using leftover Olive Oil Dough. Just roll out the leftovers thin as possible, and bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. They are deeeelicious. Too hard to eat just one. (Sorry, I promise I’ll stop talking about that darn dough someday).

ARTICHOKE AND GREEN OLIVE TAPENADE (from David Lebovitz, who adapted this from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and Mario Batali )

A note: I didn’t find this needed any salt, even though I am a salt freak.

Another note: I pit my olives (and cherries, for that matter) using a paperclip

Serves 8-10 as an appetizer

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup pitted and rinsed green olives
1 tablespoon capers
8-10 (14 ounces) canned artichokes, drained well and quartered
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon chile powder
salt, to taste

1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and olive oil, and until almost smooth, but still chunky.

2. Taste, and add salt, chile powder, and additional lemon juice, if desired.

Serve with toasted slices of baguette or crackers.

Storage: Lasts for one week in the fridge

I almost let out a shriek of delight in the produce aisle today. I was scanning the vegetables when, there, nested between the parsley and the carrots was… RHUBARB! I haven’t seen it since last summer, though I have fantasized about it’s return. I know it’s a bit early for rhubarb, but I am impatient by nature and bought a bunch of it. I had no idea what I’d make with it, but I figured 6 stalks should have me covered. (Yes, I do have a tendency to get carried away, in case you haven’t noticed).

Then, as if fate was intervening in my dessert menu for tonite, strawberries were $2.99 per pint! So I bought 4 pints. Thankfully, I know how to can, which is what I did tonite. Can lots of Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote and  spoon a bunch of it over vanilla ice cream.

If you would like to read more about buying and preparing rhubarb, click here for a nice rhubarb rundown. Here is the gist of it: chop the ends off your rhubarb, remove any dark spots with a vegetable peeler, and, most importantly, DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES. They are poisonous. This is why rhubarb is the badass of the vegetable world. And yes, it is a vegetable!


If you like rhubarb you’ll love this. I’m already making plans for my canned compote. These plans include a slump and a topping for waffles. I could also probably eat it straight up. When I was eating this dessert, I kind of went into a rhubarb trance and when I finally came to, I was licking the bowl and Will was laughing.  Now that is what I call a success!

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COMPOTE (from Martha Stewart Weddings)

I wound up doubling this recipe so I could can it. And because I impulse purchased 6 stalks of rhubarb at the store.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh strawberries (rinsed, hulled, chopped)

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 3/4 cups trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1/4 in pieces (about 2 large stalks)

2 tablespoons water

Recipe

  1. Stir strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a small nonreactive pan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove strawberries; place in a bowl and let cool. Set aside pan with strawberry liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, in another small pan over medium-low heat, combine rhubarb, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and the water. Simmer gently, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is almost tender, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to bowl with strawberries. Add strawberry liquid to pan.
  3. Raise heat to medium and simmer until thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Stir into strawberry-rhubarb mixture.

Back when I was in nursing school and didn’t have a whole lot of free time, I had two default dinners: Grits & Cheese or Pasta & Sauce (glamourous, I know). The latter, being just a bit more ritzy, was also what I’d serve when my friends would come over. I would tell them it was my Grandma Rose’s sauce, and then I’d follow that up with a story about her. I’d tell them how, in Newark, in the 30s, the marriage between my Italian grandmother and my Neapolitan grandfather was considered an interracial marriage. Or how she used to be model for Sears, and the store would pay her to walk around the aisles in the latest fashions. Or how we used to sit and eat buttered alphabet pastina while I’d practice my ABCs.

All of this is true except for one thing: my Grandma Rose never made me pasta sauce. But it, like her, is Italian(ish), and for some reason this recipe that is a compilation of things I watched my parents do in the kitchen and my own trial and error while living in my first apartment always reminds me of my Grandma Rose.

This sauce is very forgiving. It is basically done when you’re ready to eat and can take a spectacular amount of abuse before it’s truly messed up. You can add whatever herbs you have around the house. As long as you don’t burn the garlic in the first step, you’re home free. And one more thing. My friend, Katherine, taught me how to can my own tomatoes back in the Fall. I use my own canned tomatoes but, by all means, the store bought variety is a fine alternative. But if you’d like to can your own tomatoes (which is a time-consuming pain-in-the ass but so-worth-it once you taste how much better they are than the store-bought kind), use her excellent tutorial here.

Sidenote: You’ll have to bear with the photo quality here for a bit. I’ve lost my camera cord and so I have to take pictures with my MacBook for now.

Want to make your own canned, crushed tomatoes to use in this sauce? Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Did this recipe make you hungry for pizza? Basic Pizza Dough

An easy, hearty dinner using this sauce Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

MY GRANDMA ROSE’S PASTA SAUCE

Ingredients

5 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

16 oz crushed tomatoes

16 oz tomato sauce

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (to make it a little spicy. Use 1 teaspoon if you don’t want it as spicy)

1 teaspoon salt

1.5 teaspoons ground pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (if you have it. If not use dried oregano or dried basil)

Recipe

Take skin off garlic. Chop garlic into pieces (the size of the chopped pieces is up to you, I tend to get about 6 pieces per clove). Heat a metal pot on medium heat. When it’s hot, add the olive oil, then the garlic. Brown the garlic. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, the red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and (if you are using them) dried herbs. Now, let it simmer with the lid off as long as you need to. 10 minutes or 2 hours. The longer it simmers, the thicker the sauce will be. If the sauce is getting too thick, just put the lid back on. Once you spoon the sauce over the pasta, sprinkle the basil on top. Serves 4.