Roasted Beet and Ricotta Salad

Transforming ricotta: Just whip it.

Roasted Beet and Whipped Ricotta Salad

I am little late to the ricotta party. For a long while, this Italian whey cheese was relegated solely to lasagnas and other filled pasta dishes. Aside from that, ricotta did not play a role in much of my cooking. This is likely due to unfortunate first impressions, the ho-hum results of part-skim varieties, that tend to be watery, grainy, and lacking in character. More recently, however, I began to dabble with using fresh ricotta, and it was revelatory. The difference between a skimmed and watered down version versus a high quality whole-milk ricotta or a hand-dipped artisan ricotta (besides a few extra dollars) is a worlds-apart creamy, sweet and milky cheese, urging consumption. To which I obliged, and started experimenting with different recipes.

And then I whipped it.

Apparently, whipped ricotta has been a thing, but, as mentioned, I am late to the party. Thank goodness I arrived. Whipping ricotta transforms this creamy, slightly grainy, cheese into an ethereal spreadable wonder, which is sweet and mild and very receptive to additional ingredients, such as olive oil, honey, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. It’s a protein-rich alternative to whipped cream, crème fraiche, yogurt, sour cream, and even a dollop of ice cream on top of dessert.

To whip ricotta, use a dense, creamy whole-milk ricotta that smells dairy fresh and tastes milky and mildly sweet. Avoid watery, grainy, part-skim ricotta and any ricotta that has a funky aroma.

Sweet Whipped Ricotta
Makes 1 cup

Combine 1 cup whole-milk ricotta, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and an optional pinch of lemon zest in a food processor and process until light and smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more honey if desired. Serve as a substitute for whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream with fresh fruit and baked desserts. 

Savory Whipped Ricotta
Makes 1 cup

Combine 1 cup whole-milk ricotta, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a grind or two of black pepper in a food processor. Process until light and smooth and taste for seasoning. If you like, add a generous pinch of finely grated fresh lemon zest. Spread the ricotta in a bowl and use as a dip for crudités and bread. Stir it into cooked pasta dishes as a creamy sauce. Smear it on bruschetta or garlic toasts and top with sliced figs or stone fruit, a drizzle of honey and lemon zest, or your other favorite toppings. Spoon a dollop on cooked pizzas, roasted vegetables, and salads, such as the following beet salad.

Roasted Beet and Spring Green Salad with Whipped Ricotta

The beets will release their juices while roasting, which will mix with the olive oil to create the base for the vinaigrette.

Serves 4
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus cooling time

3 bunches small or baby beets, 10 to 12, ends and stems trimmed, scrubbed clean
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces mixed spring greens, such as arugula, mache, baby spinach, miners lettuce, frisée
1 cup Savory Whipped Ricotta
Lemon zest, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the beets in a large Dutch oven. Pour in the oil, stir to coat, and lightly season with salt. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and roast the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove and cool, uncovered, in the pot.
3. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into large bite-size chunks. Do not discard the oil from the pot. Place the beets in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until chilled (the beets may be prepared up to one day in advance).
4. Pour the remaining cooking oil into a bowl (through a strainer if desired). Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt to taste.
5. To assemble the salad, arrange a layer of mixed spring greens on serving plates. Lightly drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Mound the beets on the greens and top with a dollop of the whipped ricotta. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette for drizzling.

Balsamic Braised Radicchio

Taming the Chicory

Winter is chicory season. Chicories are the often-labeled family of bitter greens, which include radicchio, endive, puntarelle, and escarole. Bunches and heads of chicory are prolific throughout the cold season, difficult to miss with their dramatic frilly, spiky, and cone-headed leaves. And while their bitterness can be off-putting to some, at winter’s peak, chicories are crisp, juicy, nutty and mildly sweet – all qualities that pleasantly balance their natural bitterness. Plus, they are healthy to boot. Fiber-rich and loaded with vitamins C, B, and K and nutrients, such as iron, zinc, copper, and potassium, chicories are the cold season’s warriors that will fight to keep you healthy throughout winter.

The best way to approach these robust greens is to pair them with equally assertive yet balancing ingredients, striking a balance between bitter, sweet, sour, and heat. This is one of my favorite methods to cook radicchio. The sturdy purple heads hold up well to braising, and balsamic vinegar is a great foil with its rich, fruity, and sharp notes. When cooked, balsamic vinegar reduces to a sweet and sour syrup that shellacs the wilted radicchio wedges. Choose deeply colored, firm heads that have a little weight to them, and try to purchase similarly sized heads for this recipe to ensure even cooking.

Balsamic Braised Radicchio

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

4 medium-large heads radicchio
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock, mushroom stock, or water
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3 to 4 thyme sprigs

1. Halve the radicchios top to stem. Using a paring knife, cut out the white stem at the bottom of each half, then halve each half lengthwise so that you have 4 wedges.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Arrange the wedges snugly in the skillet, cut-sides down. Cook until slightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the wedges so that the other cut side is down in the skillet. Season with the salt and black pepper and cook until slightly colored, about 2 minutes more.
3. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the radicchio and then pour the chicken stock over. The pan should be about 1/2-inch full of liquid. Top off with additional balsamic or stock if needed. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the radicchio and then scatter the thyme sprigs in the skillet.
4. Partially cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the radicchio are crisp-tender when pierced with a knife through the base, 12 to 15 minutes, carefully turning the wedges once or twice. Remove the cover and continue to simmer until the radicchio is soft, 5 to 7 minutes more, turning once or twice to evenly coat and cook.
5. Using tongs, transfer the radicchio to a serving dish, gently squeezing any excess liquid back into the skillet. Continue to simmer the braising liquid until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and taste for seasoning. You may need to add a little more salt and black pepper. There should be a balance of sweet, salt, bitter, and the kick of black pepper in the flavor.
6. Drizzle the syrup over the radicchio and serve warm.

Delicata and Radicchio Salad

Bring on the layers when it’s cold outside. And before you reach for your fleece or parka, let’s be perfectly clear: we’re talking about salads. That’s right, salads have a place in the fall and winter, and when the brisk seasons invite layering hefty, nourishing ingredients into our meals, this principle also applies to salads. They can handle it.

This vibrant salad is a perfect example. It’s layered with nutty black rice, crisp radicchio leaves, and spice-roasted delicata squash rings. Each ingredient brings flavor, texture, and nutrients to the salad party, and when composed together in a serving bowl and drizzled with a thick balsamic vinaigrette, they produce a unified and highly decorative salad, that will please and wow everyone at the dinner and holiday table.

Delicata squash is a winter squash that is often by-passed for the ubiquitous butternut squash. Delicata is a small oblong squash with green and yellow striated skin that is edible, so there is no need to peel it. It cooks quickly, and roasting is an easy method which amplifies its mildly sweet and creamy flavor. The squash can be halved lengthwise and roasted, or, better yet, sliced into thin rings, which resemble decorative flower shapes.

If you need any further encouragement to make this salad, note that it can be easily prepped ahead of serving, since the rice and squash rings should be cooked and cooled to room temperature. The final assembly takes minutes, which is a cook’s gift during the busy holiday season.

Delicata, Radicchio, and Black Rice Salad

Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus rice cooking and cooling time

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
1 cup black rice, rinsed
Salt
1 large delicate squash, scrubbed clean
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head radicchio, cored, leaves torn into shards
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons pumpkins seeds (or pomegranate arils)

1. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Cook the rice until tender, according to package instructions. Season to taste with salt and set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
3. Heat the oven to 400°F.
4. Cut the squash crosswise in 1/3-inch thick slices, and scoop out the seeds. Place the rings in a large bowl. Add the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, the cumin, paprika, and black pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the squash rings on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Transfer to the oven and roast until golden brown in spots and tender, about 25 minutes, flipping once. Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the dressing. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
5. Spread the radicchio in a wide shallow serving bowl. Stir the scallions into the rice and then spoon the rice over and around the radicchio. Arrange the delicata rings around the salad, tucking some of the rings under the radicchio leaves. Sprinkle the parsley and pumpkins seeds (or pomegranate arils) over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.

A Very Green Frittata

Put your carrot tops and beet greens to use in this healthy frittata recipe:

Greens Frittata TasteFood

When I buy beets, carrots, and turnips at the market, they are often presented as bright bunches, crowned with exuberant stalks sprouting a cascade of green leaves. While it may be tempting to chop off the stems and discard the mountain of greens left behind with the trimmings … don’t do that. These greens are delicious on their own, sautéed in olive oil, blitzed into pestos, folded into omelets, and baked in frittatas. Rich in nutrients and ranging from sweet to peppery to earthy in flavor, they are an under-appreciated bonus attached to your roots and crucifers.

Lately, I’ve been on a beet green kick. Yellow or golden beets are sweet, nutty, and less earthy than their red brethren, and their mildness is reflected in the flavor of their leaves. I remove and store the leaves in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they can last for up to one week, ready for use in a simple side dish or, in this recipe, a frittata.

Beets Bunch TasteFood

It’s safe to say that this frittata is a very green frittata, with just enough egg to bind the leaves but not dominate. If you prefer a more eggy dish, feel free to add 2 more eggs and 1 additional tablespoon of half and half. You can use just one or any combination of greens, including the tops of beets, carrots, and turnips, as well as chopped kale and chard leaves. (If using kale or chard leaves, remove the stems and ribs before adding them to the mix.) I blanch sturdy greens, such as kale, chard, and beet greens, to wilt them just enough for a quick sauté in olive oil and garlic before adding the eggs. When using more fragile greens such as wispy carrot tops, you can omit the blanching step.

Green Frittata

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound greens
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon half and half or whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1. Wash the greens and tear into large pieces. If using kale or chard, remove the ribs.
2. Heat the oven to 350°F.
3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the greens and blanch until bright in color, about 1 minute. Drain the greens and press to remove any excess liquid.
4. Whisk the eggs and cream in a bowl and stir in half of the cheese. Mix the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs together in a separate small bowl.
5. Heat the oil in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the greens, season with the salt and black pepper, and sauté until the greens wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Pour the eggs over the greens, gently nudging the greens around to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the frittata.
7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set and the top of the frittata is golden brown in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Quinoa and Kale Tabbouleh Salad

Invite this salad to your next BBQ:
Kale Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

I call this salad tabbouleh, although many of the ingredients are not what you will typically find in a traditional Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Middle Eastern tabbouleh is a puckery bulgur salad, tumbled with fresh herbs, chopped vegetables, lemon, and olive oil. This version takes inspiration from the tabbouleh method but detours south of the U.S. border with ingredients and spices of the Americas. Quinoa replaces the bulgur, while sweet corn, chiles, cilantro, and cumin ripple throughout the salad. Shredded kale partakes in the shower of fresh greens, providing earthy flavor and healthy heft, while lime steps in for the citrus.

This is a perfect summer salad to include in your barbecue spread as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish, or as a vegetarian dish for non-meat eaters. Protein-rich quinoa is a South American plant, which produces small seeds that are rich in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. The seeds may be prepared like rice, and their nutty flavor adds heartiness to salads, pilafs, and stews. Quinoa is also gluten-free, providing a nutritious substitute for bulgur, couscous, and farro.

The key to making this salad is to taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, spice, and heat and a generous amount of greens for flavor and freshness. Quinoa requires a good deal of seasoning, so season the quinoa before adding the remaining salad ingredients. I prefer to use red quinoa for color and flavor, but white quinoa can also be used. This recipe can be prepared in advance of serving and refrigerated for up to 6 hours. Its flavors will meld the longer it sits, so taste again before serving.

Quinoa and Kale Tabbouleh

Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes, plus cooling and refrigerating time
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 corn cob, husked, silk removed
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 medium poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 Tuscan kale leaves, tough ribs removed, leaves shredded
1/2 chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

  1. Put the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain and place in a medium saucepan. Add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat until the quinoa releases its tail (germ). Drain again.
  2. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Stir in the garlic, cumin, salt, coriander, black pepper, and cayenne and cool to room temperature.
  3. Cut the corn kernels off of the cob. Add the corn, scallions, peppers, lime juice, and olive oil and stir to combine. Add the kale, parsley, and cilantro and stir well to thoroughly coat the greens and slightly wilt the kale. Taste for seasoning. If too dry, add additional olive oil to moisten.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus with Dukkah

Pantry Cooking: Fire up your hummus with smoke and heat.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus Dip

Hummus is my go-to appetizer. And while traditional chickpea hummus is always a favorite, it’s fun to riff on this popular Middle Eastern dip with additional ingredients.

This red pepper hummus is my latest favorite, which is smoky, sweet, and fragrant with spice. Using the faithful chickpea as a base, roasted red peppers and fiery harissa paste are added to the mix. It’s garnished with sprinkle of dukkah, which is an essential Middle Eastern condiment made from groundnuts, sesame seeds, and whole spices. It may sound underwhelming, but I assure you it’s not. Dukkah is crunchy and aromatic, and adds extra texture and flavor to an assortment of dishes. It can simply be sprinkled over bread dipped in olive oil, swirled into dips and spreads, scattered over salads, or used as a coating for meat and fish. And the good news is that it stores exceptionally well. You can make a batch of this versatile mix and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 6 months for handy flavoring.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus with Dukkah

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes about 1 1/2 cups hummus and 3/4 cup dukkah (both recipes may easily be doubled)

Dukkah:
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 large roasted red bell pepper, drained well if using a jarred pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste (or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the dukkah:
1. Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and colored. Remove and pour onto a kitchen towel. Cover with the towel and rub to remove the skins. Cool the hazelnuts.
2. Separately, toast the almonds until golden brown, and toast the sesame seeds until light golden.
3. Add the cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and fennel seeds to a clean skillet and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Combine the nuts and seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Make the hummus:
Combine all of the hummus ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Serve the hummus garnished with dukkah and chopped fresh mint and/or cilantro.

Mortar and Pestle Guacamole

 Tap into your inner caveman with this guacamole recipe:

Homemade Guacamole Recipe

My favorite kitchen tool is my stone mortar and pestle. It sits proudly on my kitchen counter, holding its own in a caveman-esque sort of way, flaunting its primal elegance in between the stove and the espresso machine. It’s smugly confident in its weight and kitchen hierarchy (deemed decorative) while my food processor and standing mixer are banished behind cabinet doors (deemed clutter). New kitchen techniques are awe-inspiring and futuristic, yet my mortar is old and wise with a lineage extending as far back as the Old Testament. Sous-vides, anti-griddles, and smart ovens may be cutting edge, favored by professional chefs and culinary buffs, but my mortar has a stellar history as an essential tool to Native Americans, ancient Romans and Greeks, medieval pharmacists, and home cooks spanning the ages. It is the embodiment of simplicity and timelessness, pleasingly tactile and massively elemental. And it’s affordable.

What can you do with a mortar and pestle? You can grind, pound, and smash to your heart’s content (a useful method of expression these days), making pestos, pastes, sauces, dips, dressings, and marinades. You can grind seeds into powder. (I assure you that the results of lightly toasting cardamom, cumin, or coriander seeds, and then grinding them to a fine powder in a mortar will yield results unparalleled by the pre-ground versions.) The mortar is also the perfect place to smash garlic with sea salt, adding fresh-cut herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, and mint. Crush the garlic first with the salt, then add the herbs and bruise them by giving them a few turns with the pestle to release their juices and flavor. You will be left with a powerful, aromatic paste you can smear on meats and poultry before roasting.

You can make guacamole, a perfect crowd pleaser, just in time to make for your Super Bowl party. Serve with chips, and you have one-stop-shopping in a primitive vessel. If you don’t have a mortar, then simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork to achieve a chunky consistency.

Guacamole

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes about 2 cups

1 small red or green jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 garlic clove,  chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus extra chopped leaves for garnish
3 to 4 large ripe Hass avocados
2 tablespoons coarsely grated yellow onion with juice
Juice of one lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)

1. Combine the jalapeño, garlic, and red onion in a mortar. Press on the ingredients with your pestle, and grind them around the mortar in a circular movement, 3 to 4 times. Add the cilantro and gently bruise the leaves with the pestle.
2. Add the avocados, yellow onion, and lime juice and mash to form a blended but chunky consistency. Mix in the cumin, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce, if using, and taste for seasoning. Serve garnished with additional chopped cilantro.

Balsamic Braised Chicories

The Cold Season’s Answer to Vegetables:

Balsamic Braised Chicories

A spoonful of sugar helps the bitterness go away.

When the weather is frigid, and the garden has hunkered down for the winter, it’s time to turn to chicories. These leafy vegetables are our cold-season friends, packed with vitamins and nutrients, and winter’s replacement for sweet summer greens. While chicories are also referred to as “greens,” whites, reds, and purples may be more accurate descriptions. This broad group of leafy “greens” includes endive, escarole, frisée, Treviso, and radicchio.

Chicory leaves are hardy and often bitter, so it’s best to lean into their robust qualities, rather than pretend they are a substitute for mild-mannered lettuce. Team them up with equally strong flavors: sweet and sharp dressings, astringent citrus, smoky bacon, fruit, and nuts. And don’t be shy about using a little sugar, which will nicely offset their bracing bitterness.

Thanks to chicories’ sturdiness, they are great for braising, which is an appealing (and warm) way to get your veggies in the dead of winter. Braising will tame their strong flavor, and with a little extra sugar, amplify their natural sweetness.

Balsamic Braised Chicories

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds chicories, such as endive, radicchio, escarole

1/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish

1. Trim the bases of the chicories. Halve the endives lengthwise and cut the radicchio and escarole into wedges.
2. Whisk the chicken stock, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the chicories, cut-side down in the skillet and cook until they begin to soften and brown, about 5 minutes, turning once.
4. Pour the balsamic mixture over and around the chicories, and scatter the sprigs over. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and simmer until the chicories are tender, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once or twice.
5. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is reduced and the chicories are slightly caramelized.
6. Discard the thyme sprigs. Season the chicories with additional salt to taste and serve warm, garnished with fresh thyme.

Mashed Root Vegetables – A Colorful and Healthy Alternative to Mashed Potatoes

These Roots are Smashing

Mashed Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are fall and winter’s best-kept secret. Packed with nutrients, natural sugars and starch, the humble root is a healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous russet potato, and a superb way to get your vitamins and nutrients in the cold weather season. A good peel of skin reveals a rainbow of antioxidant-rich colors ranging from magenta to ochre to buttery yellow, sure to brighten any gray day – and your holiday table.

Feel free to mix and match roots, such as sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, celery root, and of course the dependable russet, to your taste and preference. Try to choose a balance of sweet and savory roots for even flavor and mash them to your desired consistency. It’s ok if the mash is a little chunky – it provides a pleasant texture. This recipe calls for a combination of sour cream and Greek yogurt in the mash, which creates a balance of smooth richness and tangy lightness. So long as you use a combined amount of one cup, you can opt for all of one or the other.

Mashed Root Vegetables

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

3 pounds mixed roots (such as 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga)
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the vegetables in a large pot with 2 teaspoons salt and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Drain the vegetables and return them to the pot; cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic and butter and mash with a potato masher until the butter is melted. Add the sour cream and yogurt and continue to mash until the ingredients are blended and the mash is to your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky). Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, taste for seasoning, and add more if desired.
3. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead:
The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
To reheat, heat the oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with about 1 tablespoon of finely diced butter and cover with foil. Bake in the oven until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Herb and Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes

These baked potatoes are not a hassle:

Cheesy Hasselback Baked Potatoes with Parsley and Garlic

I can’t think of a better way to prepare a potato than hasselback-style. You may have seen these baked potatoes, with their distinctive accordion pattern. Thinly sliced, but still intact, the flesh is exposed while creating a cascade of ridges and edges ready to crisp. As the potato bakes, a flavorful basting sauce dribbles into the potato, flavoring the interior while hastening the browning of the skin. Apparently, you can have your baked potato and your crisps and eat them as one.

Russet potatoes, large Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes are all fair game for hasselback-style. The key to the prep is to first thinly slice a piece of each potato base lengthwise to stabilize them, so they won’t wobble or tilt while baking. Then cut thin slices crosswise, 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, nearly to the bottom without cutting through the base. A trick to doing this is to lay 2 chopsticks, or 2 thin cutting boards lengthwise on either side of the potato, to act as a buffer for the knife as it cuts through the potato, and prevent it from reaching the work surface.

Then, brush the potato all over and in the crevices with a melted butter basting sauce, and continue to baste the potato once or twice while it bakes. About halfway through the baking process you can gently fan the slices to spread the potato further open to expose to the interior. If some of the slices break off, no worries! They will be delicious chips on the side.

Herb and Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Serves: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for finishing
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for finishing
1/4 cup finely grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, and/or chives

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Cut a very thin slice lengthwise from the bottom of each potato to stabilize the bottom. Cut each potato, crosswise, as thinly as possible, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, to about 1/4 inch from the bottom, without piercing the base. Place in a baking pan or cast iron pan.
3. Melt the butter with the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the garlic, salt, and pepper and remove from the heat. Brush the potatoes all over and in the crevices with some of the butter mixture.
4. Transfer to the oven and bake until the potatoes are tender and beginning to crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the potatoes, basting once or twice with the butter. In the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, sprinkle with the cheese and continue to bake until the cheese is melted.
5. Remove from the oven and immediately brush all over with the remaining butter. Season with additional salt and black pepper and sprinkle with the herbs.