Sunday, January 25, 2009

A turnip, a yam and an eggplant walk into a bar...

Well, not exactly. Last week, my produce box included those vegetables however. In my new goal to waste less food, that meant I'd have to eat them all. Since I never, ever buy any of those items I needed to know HOW to cook them first.

First, the yams:

I knew I'd probably roast them, but didn't have a plan as far as roasting them whole, peeling and chopping them first or what. I did some searching and found a recipe for Roasted Yam Purée with Brown Butter. If anything could make yams taste butter, it's got to be a stick of butter. Too bad it doesn't photograph better. Looks like baby food, tastes like nutty, buttery goodness.

Roasted Yam Purée with Brown Butter
4 pounds yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast yams until tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter turns light brown, about 5 minutes.

Scoop flesh from yams into a bowl and purée with a stick blender until smooth. Blend in brown butter. Season to taste with salt.

On to the eggplant:

The eggplant solution was even less photogenic, but turned out darn tasty. It is more about the chicken stock and caramelized onions, but at least I saved the eggplant from the compost bin. Plus, I have lunch for a few days.

Puréed Eggplant Soup
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound eggplant (sliced in half lengthwise)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5 cups low-salt canned chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp celery salt
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried chile flakes
1 large onion, sliced
1 1/2 Tsp minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread 2 Tbsp of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season the cut side of the eggplant with salt and pepper and put the halves face down on the pan. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes (a knife will enter the flesh easily). When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh with a spoon and set aside in a bowl. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, put the chicken broth, herbs and the skin of the onion into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Strain the broth.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and and cook, stirring frequently, until golden. About 20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and about 1/2 tsp salt. Saute another 3-4 four minute until the garlic starts to brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook another minute or two. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the eggplant flesh, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.

Pureed to within an inch of its life with a stick blender. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Season to taste.

And finally, the turnips:

The turnips ended up cooked with cream, topped with cheese and baked to make a nice little gratin. I only had about a pound of turnips so I halved the recipe below and cut the cooking time by half as well. I also didn't have enough Parmigiano, so I substituted gruyere and added a some panko bread crumbs just for kicks.

Turnip Gratin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds medium turnips, trimmed and left unpeeled
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use a Microplane)

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Melt butter in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet, then cool.

Slice turnips paper-thin with slicer, then arrange one third of slices, overlapping tightly, in skillet, keeping remaining slices covered with dampened paper towels. Sprinkle with about a third of thyme, kosher salt, and cayenne. Make 2 more layers.

Cook, covered, over medium heat until underside is browned, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, covered, until center is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese, then bake, uncovered, until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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