Cooking with Salsify

Chef Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef breaks down the mystery behind salsify, a root vegetable featured in Just Add Cooking’s Drumsticks with Salsify Fritters Recipe.

You may be unpacking your delivery box or your farmers market share one week and find a long, skinny, light or dark brown tube-like vegetable which is not winning any awards on the ‘best looking’ scale and wonder what the heck it is. Moreover, how does one cook it and can this possibly taste good? Well, the answers in short order are: the root vegetable is called salsify, there are myriad ways to prepare it and yes, it is very tasty. In fact, in this week’s box salsify features prominently in our Drumsticks and Salsify Fritters recipe!

Salsa-what? Indeed. Salsify (pronounced ‘SAL-seh-fee’) a delicious root vegetable once widely used in Europe and the United States before fading into relative obscurity, is gaining notoriety again. The plant, also called Purple Goat’s Beard and the ‘oyster plant’ (presumably because its taste is reminiscent of an oyster, although this is debatable) has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes throughout the ages.

Photo Credit: BBC

Photo Credit: BBC

There are two different varieties, white and black salsify. The white is more of a light brown and has a taste some people liken to asparagus or artichoke hearts while the black is said to have a mild oyster flavor. The flesh in both white and black salsify is creamy white, similar to a parsnip or turnip and both varieties require a good scrub before being used. There are a few schools of thought on the peeling before or after they are cooked. As the saying goes, it is six of one, half a dozen of the other. If you go the peeled before route, a standard vegetable peeler will do the trick. You can then slice or chop the peeled roots as you like. If you intend to cook them whole, you can leave them unpeeled and then rub the peels off when they are cooked. This works well if you plan to mash them.

Some ideas for using salsify: peel and slice it into rounds, steam it until just tender then saute in a bit of butter (or if you’re feeling really bold, some bacon fat) for a simple side dish. It is wonderful mashed as a stand-in for potatoes, grated into fritters or latkes and is a terrific addition to soups and stews (peel and slice the same way you would a carrot or parsnip). It pairs well with all kinds of meats and is a satisfying addition to vegetarian dishes.

You’ll find salsify at your local farmers market and in some grocery stores in the spring and fall. Look for firm roots and store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.

I encourage you to be adventurous and give it a try! It is delectable and a wonderful new flavor profile to introduce to your repertoire.

Tips for Cooking with Pumpkin

pumpkin recipesPumpkin: it’s the ubiquitous seasonal ingredient popping up everywhere from lattes to ravioli. You’ve probably tried a pumpkin-infused concoction at your local Starbucks or perhaps out at dinner, but what about incorporating pumpkin into your own cooking this fall? Don’t be intimidated by this big orange fruit (which is part of the squash family, as you might imagine). We’ve got a few tips for using it in your own cooking as well as some pumpkin facts to make cooking with it a bit more fun!

  • Choose the right type of pumpkin. Those cuties that you put on your front steps aren’t actually made for eating (though they are edible, they won’t taste particularly delicious). If you want to start from scratch, look for thinner-skinned varieties like Small Sugar, New England Pie and Long Island Cheese pumpkins. Pure, canned pumpkin is also a great way to incorporate it without all the work (but be careful not to mix that up with pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and lots of spices added!).
  • Using a whole pumpkin? Treat it like a squash. Cut into it, scoop out the gooey insides and seeds (which, when washed, can be toasted with spices for a delicious treat!), slice it up and roast, boil, or even microwave. Once the flesh is cooked and tender, separate it with a spoon.
  • Store your pumpkin in the fridge or freezer to use in multiple recipes. If you’re prepping a big batch of purees or prepared pumpkin, you can refrigerate it up to three days before using it. Freeze it and you’ve got six months to enjoy pumpkin!
  • Not sure how to use your pumpkin? It can really be added anywhere you’d like a rich flavor. Popular and fun uses include stirring puree into chili, creating a savory sauce for pasta, to flavor a bread or even using the puree as baby food! Of course, pumpkin pie is always a popular option.

Why cook with pumpkin? Consider these fun facts:

  • Pumpkin gives you a huge dose of Vitamin A. The vibrant color is a tip-off that pumpkin is rich in nutrients. Just a half cup serving (pureed, roasted or any way you like) gives you half your daily needs of Vitamin A, which is helpful for healthy vision.
  • Each pumpkin has around 500 seeds. Clean and roast them with spices (they’re delicious) to get a great dose of iron!
  • Pumpkins are 90% water, which means they are low in calories. They have a third the calories of sweet potatoes but boast more fiber than kale and more potassium than bananas. A veritable fall superfood!
  • This one is for the kids–we suggest you enlist them to scoop out the goop! Pumpkins are super-versatile. They can grow on six out of the seven continents, with the exception of Antarctica! (Yes, they even grow them in Alaska.) They originated in Central America.

Are you cooking with pumpkin this fall? Leave us your favorite recipes in the comments!

Cooking Tips with Chef Holly – How to Saute

We’re welcoming back Chef Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef for a new series of cooking tips on the recipes that you’re finding in each week’s Just Add Cooking box. Enjoy!

Several of this week’s recipes call for sauteeing meats and vegetables then adding liquid to finish the cooking process. Here are some tips to ensure your saute success.

chana saag saute recipe

Saute is a French term, meaning (literally) ‘to jump’ in the pan. It means to cook items in a hot pan with a small amount of fat (butter, oil, lard, etc) so that they sear on the outside and cook quickly. Sauteeing entails moving the food around in the pan so that the heat remains consistent and the food browns on all sides.

A few things to remember when sauteeing:

  • Heat your pan first, over medium-high heat then add the fat. Use fats that are made for high-heat cooking (have a high-smoke point) and will not burn or turn bitter. Butter will typically burn over high heat, however, if mixed with lard or oil, can be used. Some examples are coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or lard. Heating your pan and fat ensures that once the cold food items enter the hot pan they will begin to cook immediately, searing the outside and sealing in juiciness and flavor.
  • Refrain from overcrowding the pan; use a pan that is big enough to accommodate all the ingredients with room to spare or cook in two or three batches if needed. Overcrowding the pan defeats the purpose of sauteeing, which is to keep the pan hot during the cooking process. Too many items in the pain will cause the food to steam and release liquid, becoming limp rather than seared and brown.
  • Once the pieces of meat hit the pan, allow them to sear for a minute or two and then move them around so that all sides touch the hot pan, browning the meat.
  • If the recipe calls for cooking onions, garlic, bacon, etc, do this first (usually over medium heat – garlic and onions burn quickly) and then remove the items from the pan before turning up the heat to saute the meat and/or vegetables.

Once the meat is cooked, it is time to deglaze the pan. Deglazing refers to the process of adding liquid to a pan to ‘dilute the meat sediments’ or fond. Fond is another French word that typically refers to the browned bits and drippings from meat and vegetables at the bottom of a pan. These are the flavor bits. After the meat has been browned, add the liquid to the pan (still over medium-high heat), stirring constantly as the liquid comes to a boil, scraping up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in any remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to finish the dish.

You’ll be amazed at how a few, simple steps can elevate the texture and flavor of a dish.

Enjoy!

Q&A with Chef Jason Bond of Bondir

Right now, Just Add Cooking customers are getting a special treat in their boxes: recipe options from Chef Jason Bond of Bondir Cambridge & Bondir Concord. Chef Jason has created three delicious recipes that take advantage of seasonal, farm-fresh New England ingredients and allow you to cook high-end, restaurant-quality meals at home. Chef Jason’s Bondir-inspired recipes include Pappardelle with Cucumbers and Zucchini, Sweet Potato Tart and Pork Sausage with Beans and Cabbage – all made with locally-sourced ingredients.

Chef Bond Collage
He’s stopping by the blog today to give a little more background on his cooking style and philosophy! Order by THIS WEDNESDAY, October 7 at noon to select Chef Jason’s Pork Sausage with Beans and Cabbage in next week’s delivery!

Just Add Cooking: What was your motivation for opening Bondir and what is the general philosophy you carry forward in the restaurant?

Chef Jason Bond: I wanted to open Bondir to be able to explore ideas and celebrate pristine and amazing ingredients.  The menu has always been about the ingredients and flavors, and the service has always focused on taking excellent care of the guests who come into our dining room.

JAC: Why did you choose to work together with JAC? 

Chef: Just Add Cooking is working really hard to source local ingredients and to buy from many of the same purveyors that I do.  It can be difficult for a home cook to find really good ingredients and also to know what to do with all the different vegetables they see at the market.   JAC guides home cooks and is a resource in finding and preparing great ingredients.

JAC: What was your inspiration for developing the dishes that you created for Just Add Cooking?

Chef: I wanted to show how you can make a great tasting dish that is healthful, beautiful, and easily put together with the right organization.

JAC: How did you adapt your restaurant-style dishes for the home cooks of JAC?

Chef: I work hard in the restaurant to cook fresh and as close to “home-style” as possible, meaning no production shortcuts or huge batches.  My cooking style is focused on freshness and pure flavors and is easily adapted to actually cooking at home.

JAC: As a chef working many nights in a restaurant kitchen, what are some of your favorite dishes to cook on an evening at home?  

Chef: I like a satisfying dish that is also easily put together.  I don’t want to have to wash six different pots after I’ve made dinner.

JAC: What’s your favorite tip or secret you can share with the home cook to make their life easier or their food even better?

Chef: Don’t be afraid.  Use salt, let your roasts caramelize, push a few boundaries.  You’ll be a better cook for it.