29 Oct

“Are those people eating butter?”

City Hall Fountain

It was a forthright question, spoken in a unmistakable voice, with a tinge of theatrical horror and a dash of impish glee. I turned to look at the people, and yes, it did appear that they were eating butter, with gusto and glee, in many different flavors and varieties.

I turned to the man who had asked the question and was a little shocked to see a certain gentleman known for his way with lardo, pancetta and other fats, wearing his signature clogs, laughing and looking a bit scandalized. Then the proprietor of the stand put us all at ease. He said that no, in fact, they were not eating butter, rather that it was finally cold enough for him to put out samples of his farm’s ice cream for the masses.

Battery Park Irises

The Boy and I (still giggling) payed for our dairy products and began scouring the market for something to star in the evening’s risotto. We had initially planned on a roasted mushroom and blue cheese risotto, but, alas, the mushroom guy wasn’t there. So we made a few passes through the stalls, me searching for something a little different, the Boy, bravely restraining his annoyance with the crowds and the rain. Finally, I settled on some ugly, grungy roots. Salsify.

Salsify looks like a cross between a dirty parsnip and a gnarly mandrake. It’s long and thin, can have legs and noses and other anatomical protruberances and is a bitch to clean. The cleaning is worth it however, as once it is cooked, it has the most delicate, etheral aroma and a silky smooth texture.

Salsify is otherwise known as Oyster Plant and was very popular in early American cookery (the Shakers were especially fond of it). But why Oyster Plant? Because some people think it tastes like the briny bivalves. Me? I think it’s got more of a jerusalem artichokes meet hearts of palm thing going.

Bay Ridge Waterlillies

To accompany the risotto I had settled on Melissa Clark’s Tuscan kale salad from last week’s NY Times dining section. In fact, I had settled on making this salad on Wednesday morning, but apparently so had many other commuters, because by the time I arrived at the greenmarket every single stand had sold out of lacinato kale. I was not to be thwarted on Saturday though, and so I hedged and went to the super-bodega aka Gracefully on Avenue A where I knew I could find lacinato kale.

Raw Lacinato Kale Salad

Sadly, I hedged wrong. I paid nearly $7 for two bunches in the East Village when I could have gotten those same two bunches at the greenmarket for $3. Sometimes it pays to hedge, sometimes it doesn’t. But you know what? I don’t care. Because I’ve still got another bunch in the fridge waiting to be made into this salad again tonight, because you know what else? It’s that good. She’s right, ugly is beautiful.

Raw Lacinato Kale Salad, Salsify Risotto

Oddly enough, upon finishing the risotto and testing it for seasoning, I swear I tasted the faintest whiff, just a hint of blue cheese, without my having added a single crumble. I was worried that the cheese, a real stinker from Cato Corner, might be too much for the delicate salsify, but no, not at all. It turned out to be exactly what the dish needed to elevate it from comforting, yet bland, into the lofty echelons of what could become a classic dish… On any other evening.

Salsify Risotto

Saturday night, the salad was truly the evening’s star. Raw kale? Who woulda ever thunk it!

Head below the jump for No-Oyster Risotto and Raw Kale Salad.

Salsify Risotto

prep time: 45 minutes ~ cooking time: 45 minutes

  • just over 1 lb of Salsify
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Purple Onions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Risotto Rice
  • 1 cup Vermouth
  • 2 cans of low-fat, low-salt organic Chicken Stock + 2 cans worth of water
  • Lemon Juice
  • Butter
  • really, really good Blue Cheese, not too stinky, and just ever so sweet, crumbled

Wash the salsify, lop off the top and a bit of the bottom and then peel the dark skin off with a vegetable peeler. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Once all the salsify are peeled carefully wash each one to make sure they’re clean and then cut into medallions and place in a bath of water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation.

Bring the stock and water to a low boil, clap the lid on and turn the heat all the way down.

Add a glug of oil to a wide, low pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until nice and tender and just becoming golden. Drain the salsify and add directly to the pot. Cook a few minutes. The salsify should just becoming a little less sharp around the edges.

Add the garlic and the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook a few minutes until the rice begins giving off a little bit of starch and then add the vermouth. When the vermouth has been mostly absorbed, add a ladle or two of the stock and stir a few times. When it has been absorbed add more stock then stir a few times. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked, it should be cooked to al dente and ooze across the plate.

To finish, add about 1/2 lemon’s worth of juice, a nice knob of butter and a healthy pinch of salt and stir, stir, stir, whipping the rice around until it is gorgeous and creamy. Serve topped with a few crumbles of blue cheese. Enjoy!

Kale Salad

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: none!

  • 1 head Lacinato Kale, washed
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced as finely as you can manage or passed through a garlic press or mashed in a mortar & pestle
  • 2 hot, dried Peppers, cut into flakes
  • juice of 1 Lemon
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated fresh Smoked Pecorino + more for garnish
  • Salt
  • Bread Crumbs*

Combine the garlic, pepper flakes, lemon juice, a really healthy glug of olive oil and the smoked pecorino in the bottom of a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste the dressing and adjust the flavor. Does it need more oil? Cheese? Chile? Salt?

Chop off the bottom inch or so of the kale and then slice into thin ribbons. Place the kale in the bowl on top of the dressing and then toss to coat. Serve with more grated cheese and bread crumbs. Enjoy!

Bread Crumbs

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 10 minutes

  • a few slices of stale-ish Whole Wheat Peasant-style Bread, cut into chunks, about 4 cups total
  • a few cloves of Garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Whizz the bread in a food processor until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Add the olive oil and garlic to a small skillet over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, add the bread crumbs and stir. Cook and stir until the crumbs are golden brown, fragrant and crispy. Season liberally with salt. Try not to eat them all before dinnertime.


14 Responses to “Raw/Cooked”

  1. Lydia October 29, 2007 at 10:18 am #

    Ann, you remind me that I don’t use either kale or salsify often enough. Oh, how I wish I lived within hailing distance of the Greenmarket….

  2. Julie October 29, 2007 at 1:01 pm #

    I’ve never had salsify, never see it for sale (I know of its existence only through references in gardening books and cookbooks), and it’s never something I’ve been that interested in. But when you describe its taste as Jerusalem artichokes meet hearts of palm I’m suddenly real interested.

  3. radish October 29, 2007 at 4:27 pm #

    Oh yum – I love kale!! And salsify! It’s been ages since I’ve cooked with it though – this is the season for risottos!

  4. Christina October 29, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    I had read the kale recipe, and now you’ve given me further incentive to try it out. The more I think about it, the more I think I’ll love it.

    As for salsify, I’ve never tried it, nor have I found it in markets. Does it scream when pulled from the soil?

  5. Christina October 29, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    That wasn’t a serious question, btw.

  6. ann October 30, 2007 at 7:35 am #

    Lydia — If I started a greenmarket exporting business to you and Julie, would that make me complicit in global warming? ;-)

    Julie — It’s a strange root. A good root, but a strange root. We had some of the leftovers last night and it was almost even better.

    radish — It is the season for risottos! They’re so warm and comfy, like a good cashmere sweater.

    Christina — WHAT? You mean you don’t believe that mandrakes scream when they’re pulled from the earth? You mean there’s things in Harry Potter that weren’t true? You’ve shattered my world (just kidding).
    You’ll love the kale recipe. It’s so assertive and delicious.

  7. izzy's mama October 30, 2007 at 9:39 am #

    You have added a new vegetable to my radar..salsify. I wonder if my farmer grows it..How is it pronounced? I have seen the word many times but I am not sure.

  8. mary October 30, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    I’ve been meaning to try salsify in some way other than as a purée, putting it in risotto sounds great. I’ve been wanting to make that kale salad, too, but haven’t been able to find the kale yet, though market day is tomorrow, so I’ll see what I can do about that. I’m glad you endorsed it, I won’t feel so worried about trying it out.

  9. Susan in Italy October 30, 2007 at 4:54 pm #

    Wow, I would have never thought it possible to enjoy raw cavolo lacinato. Around these parts it’s mostly added to minestrone.

  10. Toni October 30, 2007 at 11:43 pm #

    I’ve never eaten raw kale, and haven’t heard of cavolo lacinato. A particular variety?

    Salsify, on the other hand, is something that grew wild in New Mexico. I’ve never seen it in a market, but used to pick it. I must check the markets here to see if I can get some. Your risotto sounds fantastic, and that kale salad makes my mouth water!

  11. ann October 31, 2007 at 6:47 am #

    Izzy’s Mama — I hope you love it if you try it. It’s pronounced like sissy with an “L” and an “F” in it, if that makes sense… so sahl-suh-fee. :-)

    Mary — oooh, salsify puree! That sounds awesome. The salad’s awesome, seriously awesome. I hope you find the kale!

    Susan — You’re so lucky to live in the world of cavolo lacinato! It’s such a pain in the patookis to find around here sometimes and I just adore it! Give it a go, maybe you’ll try start some crazy trend in Italy.

    Toni — Heya! Yeah, it’s a very particular variety, kind of finer, less muddy than other kinds of kale. It goes by many names: Cavolo lacinato, cavolo nero (I think), Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, black kale and dinosaur kale. Crazy, right?
    It’s a gorgeous flower on salsify, I can see why people would grow it.

  12. Terry B October 31, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    Ann—I have to admit, salsify had never appeared on my radar before. How strange that something that looks so much like carrots or parsnips tastes nothing like either of them. Food is endlessly interesting.

  13. sher November 2, 2007 at 2:41 am #

    Lovely pictures (as always)!!!! :):)

  14. ann November 2, 2007 at 8:06 am #

    TerryB — Funny right? I had the same thought, but I guess they’re not related. Their flowers are really different looking too. The salsify’s bloom is much, much prettier.

    Hi Sher! Thanks as always :-)

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