Category Archives: Vegetable Dishes

spring lasagna

a few weeks ago i got a request for the lasagna i made over the winter, and i’m always happy to oblige. but since it’s no longer winter and spring vegetables are in abundance, i decided to offer a variation on the original. lasagna is one of those wonderful dishes that will happily accomodate whatever sauce and vegetables you decide to throw in it. some people love meat lasagnas with a cheesier and less tomato-y sauce. personally, i love my lasagna dripping with rich tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, and lots of vegetables so that i can pretend it’s a healthy meal.

no matter what you decide to put into your lasagna, the method of preparation and assembly remains largely the same. and when you are done, it can be eaten immediately, the next day (the flavors really start to come together on the second day), or over a week later if stored in the freezer (be sure to cool the lasagna to room temperature before freezing). this lasagna features some of my favorite spring vegetables – asparagus*, peas, and baby spinach – but i also encourage you to try your own combinations of vegetables.

spring lasagna

serves 8

1 bunch asparagus

2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)

1/2 pound spinach, roughly chopped

2 pounds fresh mozzarella (i like to use 1 pound each salted and unsalted mozzarella), thinly sliced

2 pounds fresh ricotta

4 cups tomato sauce (i like mario batali’s basic tomato sauce with a little red wine thrown in)

2 lb fresh lasagna sheets


1. make your tomato sauce (or use your favorite jar of sauce), and allow to cool to room temperature. be sure to season your sauce appropriately (salt, pepper, herbs, etc.) as this will be the main source of seasoning (besides any salted mozzarella you use).

2. blanch the asparagus and fresh peas, if using, in boiling water for 1 minute. remove and plunge immediately into an ice bath, then remove and dry. cut the asparagus into 2″ pieces and set aside. (frozen peas can be added directly to the lasagna below.)

3. preheat the oven to 425.


1. spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a large lasagna pan.

2. cover the bottom of the pan with pasta sheets (feel free to cut the sheets into strips to accomodate the sizes needed, but be sure to use clean scissors).

3. spread about 1/3 of your vegetables over the pasta sheets, then add about 1/4 of your mozzarella and ricotta. cover with more pasta sheets.

4. spread about 1/3 of your remaining sauce over the pasta sheets and add another 1/4 of your mozzarella and ricotta, then cover with pasta sheets.

5. repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have used all your ingredients, ending with a layer of pasta, sauce, then cheese.

6. bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the cheese on top is golden brown and the pasta sheets are cooked through. after removing from the oven, allow the lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving (this will help the cheese set and make serving a lot easier).

*asparagus: a few days after getting some fresh asparagus in my vegetable delivery, i read an article on about how to store fruits and vegetables. when i got home i immediately applied their advice to my (begining to wilt) asparagus. by the next morning they had perked up, and they remained crisp and vibrant until i cooked them 5 days later!

savory spring muffins

a burst of green freshness seemed just the thing to welcome the warming weather this weekend. as i considered what might do the trick, i remembered a stash of fragrant herbs i had in my fridge. herbs are easy to find, versatile, and so effective in delivering flavor. i find that a generous sprinkling makes a nice addition to almost any dish.

but so often herbs play a supporting role. why not embrace their springy goodness and make them the star? i decided to do just that with some savory muffins. i didn’t, however, have any eggs. thankfully, my tassajara bread book saved the day with its recipes for muffins with ingredients missing. i modified this technique with some herbaceous additions. the result was a fairly dense but still moist muffin that i’ve been eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

savory spring muffins

makes 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 cup finely chopped thyme, rosemary, and sage, or a combination of your favorite herbs

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dark honey

1 cup milk

1. preheat the oven to 400° f.

2. in a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and herbs until well mixed. in another bowl, combine the oil, honey, milk, and 1 cup water. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold until just combined. the mixture will still be slightly lumpy.

3. pour the batter evenly into greased muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

grown-up spaghetti-o soup

in spite of the relatively warm winter we’ve had in new york city, i can’t stop craving soup whenever i’m faced with crisp weather and a fridge full of spectacular vegetables. and my fridge is stocked thanks to mike’s organic delivery. it’s a connecticut-based company run by a friend who works with several regional farms. after knowing about it for a year or so, it occured to me that since i work in connecticut, i could take advantage of his delivery. now, i bring home a regular crate of flavorful and colorful fruits and vegetables. even the apples (kept in cold storage at the farms) stay fresh and delicious for weeks. apparently the secret is that by the time you eat an apple from the supermarket, it’s been chilled and warmed several times, which destroys its cellular structure. when you eat one of mike’s apples, it’s been kept at just the right temperature until you bite in. these apples are crispy, juicy, and so sweet.

however, this week’s recipe has nothing to do with apples, and everything to do with the amazing winter greens that we have been receiving as well. salad mixes, soup mixes, braising greens… my mouth waters as soon as i see them. this past week included winter russian kale, lacinato kale, collards, and sorrel, which made for an excellent soup mix. cooked together with some tomato puree, chickpeas, carrots, and anelletti (small ring-shaped pasta), they resulted in a satisfying, healthy, and easy dinner. and the anelletti, in their tomato-colored broth, gave the soup a name straight from childhood!

grown-up spaghetti-o soup

serves 4-6

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 springs each fresh thyme and rosemary

6 medium carrots, chopped into medium rings or half-moons

3 cups tomato puree

8 cups vegetable stock

2 cups anelletti pasta

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 large bunches cooking greens, stemmed and roughly chopped

1. heat a large soup pot over medium-low heat. add olive oil and heat until shimmering. add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until both are soft and translucent, another 6-8 minutes.
2. add the thyme, rosemary, and carrots. cook until the carrot begins to soften, about 8 minutes.
3. add the tomato puree and the stock and bring to a boil. reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are fairly soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
4. while the soup is cooking, bring water to a boil in a medium pot and add the anelletti. cook according to the package directions, about 13-15 minutes, until al dente. drain and reserve.
5. add the chickpeas and the greens to the soup and simmer for another 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
6. divide the soup into bowls, add a portion of anelletti, and salt and pepper to taste.

purist’s guacamole

i had to leave for a business trip yesterday, so i didn’t get to attend my own super bowl party! but my husband still had some of our friends over, and he made his amazing guacamole for the occasion. guacamole is one of those foods i can never get enough of: creamy, delicious, fresh, and healthy. it’s a perfect super bowl dish of course, but it’s also great on tacos, sandwiches, chicken, fish, and tons of other things. there’s never a bad time for a big batch.

my husband’s recipe is nothing fancy, which is really the point. with guacamole, minimalism is the way to go. that doesn’t mean that fusion variations, say with mango or smoky seasoning, aren’t worth trying. but if you want the pure flavor and luscious texture of avocados at their best, keep it simple and read below!

a note on avocados: avocados can be tricky to buy. they never seem to ripen when you need them, and they often have tons of brown spots when cut open. i find it best to buy avocados several days before i need them. when ripe, they give slightly to gentle pressure. they should not be totally soft. if your avocados seem on track to ripen before you can use them, put them in the fridge. if they’re still rock-hard and you’re making guacamole soon, put them in a closed paper bag for a couple days.

purist’s guacamole

serves 4-6 as a snack or side

1/2 large bunch of cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped, plus a few sprigs for garnish

1 large jalapeño, seeded if you wish (more seeds=spicier guacamole) and very finely minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 avocados, prepared per instructions below

juice of 1 large lime

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into medium dice

1/4 small onion (or more if you wish), minced

1. in a molcajete or mortar and pestle, or with the side of a large knife, mash together the cilantro, jalapeño, and salt until they liquify. work in batches if necessary. place the mixture in a large bowl.

2. prepare each avocado one by one. open by sliding a knife around the long way, then twisting apart the two halves. drive the blade of the knife into the pit and twist it out of the avocado. toss one or two of the pits into the guacamole bowl as you work; it helps prevent the guacamole from browning. discard the other pits. remove each avocado half with a large spoon, then place the halves flat-side down and chop into small squares. place each chopped avocado in the bowl and sprinkle immediately with some of the lime juice, again to prevent browning.

3. once all the avocados are in, add the tomato and onion and stir gently to combine the entire mixture. do not overmix! the flavors will mingle and improve if you have a few hours, or even a day, before you eat. just keep the guacamole in an airtight container, and in the fridge if it’s sitting for more than a little while. taste for seasoning just before serving and add more lime juice or salt if needed. transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with cilantro sprigs, and dive in!

winter white bean soup

what is healthy, delicious, and a great way to clean out your pantry and fridge? soup! with my inability to leave whole foods for under $100, and my husband’s and my penchant for exploring different grains and legumes, we often end up with an assortment of these unused in our apartment. and with limited space it’s important to use up what you have before going out for more! so on a cold and snowy weekend, nothing beats the chill and uses ingredients at hand like soup. i will admit we had to pick up some diced tomatoes and kale, but you have to get out for some fresh air anyway, so it was a good excuse for a walk.

this soup was inspired by some of our favorite italian soups, with a base of mirepoix, white beans, and tomatoes. the spirit of this soup is that after that you can add any vegetables you have or love. we added lacinato kale, my favorite vegetable at the moment, but any greens such as broccoli, cabbage, or string beans would be delicious. we also substituted shallots for some of the onion because we had some languishing from an october farmer’s market outing. and definitely don’t skimp on the carrots, because the sweetness they provide ties together the flavor beautifully.

and because this soup is so versatile, the adaptations and garnishes don’t stop with the ingredients. in its natural state it will be a delicious broth-based dish, but if you use an immersion blender or a food processor to puree a portion of the cooked ingredients, you will create a hearty and richly textured mixture full of vegetarian goodness. you can also top off your soup with a spoonful of pesto. here’s a recipe for the basil pesto i eat all summer long, but in winter you can forgo the expensive basil in grocery stores and use arugula, or your other favorite spicy green. and last but not least, a slice of crusty bread toasted with olive oil, garlic, herbes de provence, and salt goes perfectly alongside — or right in — your bowl.

winter white bean soup

serves 6-8

1 1/3 cups dried beans, such as cannellini

3 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

5 medium carrots, cut into 1/8″ rounds

5 stalks celery, cut into 1/8″ pieces

8-10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

3 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, and 2 sprigs oregano, all tied together with twine

2 tsp or 2 cubes vegetable bouillon (or chicken if you prefer)

1/2 cup white wine

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch lacinato kale or other cooking green, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ ribbons

1. at least 8 hours before cooking, place the beans in a bowl with water to cover by 1″. cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature.

2. drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. place the beans in a medium pot along with fresh water to cover by at least 1″.  add 1 of the bay leaves and the three sprigs of thyme. bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the beans are fairly tender but still al dente, about 30-45 minutes depending on the type of bean.

3. meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. add the onions and cook, stirring infrequently, until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes. add the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes more.

4. when the beans are ready, drain through a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. set the beans aside.

5. once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the bouillon and stir to dissolve. add the remaining bay leaf and the bundle of herbs. then add the white wine, tomatoes with their juices, beans, 1 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid, and 5 cups of water. salt and pepper generously and stir to combine all ingredients.

6. bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 12-15 minutes, until the beans and carrots are soft but not mushy. add the kale and simmer another 5 minutes to combine the flavors.

7. serve garnished with pesto, parmesan cheese, and extra-garlicky toast.

mirepoix: a french term for a combination of diced onions, carrots, and celery used as a flavor base for many soups, stews, stocks, and sauces.

cauliflower-squash soup with crème fraîche

the cold weather that blew in over the weekend had me looking for every possible way to keep warm. and what better way than soup? with a hearty soup you can get all your vegetables in one bowl and keep yourself warm and satisfied. plus, soups are excellent for experimenting. once you have the general technique down for various styles of soup, you can mix and match ingredients to your taste buds’ content.

take cauliflower, for example, which is the fn dish ingredient of the week. disguised in its seemingly bland appearance is a deep flavor and some wonderful health benefits. in fact, 1 cup of cauliflower contains about 90% of your recommended daily value of vitamin c. think about all that cold-fighting power!

but flavor is the thing that really gets me excited when i sit down to a steaming bowl of soup. the delicious taste of cauliflower mixes well with many other ingredients, from aged cheddar to currants and capers. this time i picked a partner that would complement the caulfilower’s smooth flavor and spice up the color palette – orange hokkaido squash. this gourd has a rich, bold flavor and it’s not very stringy, which makes it great for pureeing. the structure of the soup, with sauteed aromatics, vegetables, and broth, makes it easy to substitute your favorite winter vegetables. but i highly recommend giving this version a try. with the accompanying garnishes – bacon, crème fraîche, and parsley – this cauliflower concoction is not to be missed!

cauliflower-squash soup

3 lb cauliflower, stemmed and cut into large sections

3 lb winter squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes

1 large onion, cut into medium dice

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 slices turkey or pork bacon, cooked until crisp and diced (optional)

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

8 tbsp. crème fraîche

1 cup minced parsley

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. in a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.

2. add the squash and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

3. add the cauliflower and return to a boil. then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the squash and cauliflower are cooked through.

4. remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

5. in a food processor or blender, purée all the solids in batches until very smooth, using just as much of the liquid as needed. then strain the remaining liquid to remove any sediment and add the puréed soup.

6. to serve, return the soup to medium heat until warmed through and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. garnish bowls with 1 tablespoon each of crème fraîche, bacon, and parsley.

take a look at the following blogs for more delicious cauliflower recipes:

The Sensitive Epicure: Cauliflower Souffle

Haute Apple Pie: Cauliflower and Chicken Gratin

CIA Dropout: Cauliflower Squash Soup With Creme Fraiche

Daily*Dishin: Tender Roasted Cauliflower

Virtually Homemade: Cumin Crusted Beef Tenderloin With Cauliflower Puree

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cumin Roasted Cauliflower

Thursday Night Dinner: Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

Cooking Channel: 4 Ways to Cook Cauliflower

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Painted Cauliflower

FN Dish: Roasted Cauliflower 5 Ways

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cauliflower Soup With Sharp Cheddar and Thyme

Dishin & Dishes: Cauliflower Gratin

potato and leek soup

despite some clear, sunny days this past week, i have noticed the chill that sneaks into the air in the mornings. and i definitely couldn’t ignore the wind that has once again started blowing off the hudson river and right up our street. for the moment i find these crisp breezes invigorating. after all, they bring fresh air with notes of wet leaves, rather than the hot breezes of summer that smell of subways and trash. but i know that soon i will be cursing the cold and running for the door to our building every time i get to our block. so i’ve been brushing up on my soup recipes in an attempt to keep myself warm this fall and winter.

of course, the soup you crave in the fall is going to be different than what you crave come the depths of winter. fall soups are about light flavors and broths, as opposed to the hearty stew-like soups of winter. and what better ingredients for a fall soup than the beautiful potatoes and the flavorful leeks that are being harvested and sold in abundance? my favorite potato and leek soup recipe is so easy to make, it’s ready in less than an hour, and the combination of simple but rich flavors stays delicious for a few days, if you happen to have any left over.

potato and leek soup

serves 4

4-5 lbs leeks, cut in half vertically, then cut into 1″ pieces (use all the white part and about 3″ of the light green, and be sure to wash leeks thoroughly; the dirt likes to hide between the layers)

6 tbsp butter

1.5 lbs waxy potatoes (red or yellow), cut into 1/2″ dice (i like to leave the skins on for the extra nutrients)

5 1/2 cups broth (i like better than bouillon’s organic vegetable base, but your favorite chicken or vegetable broth will work just fine)

1 tbsp flour

1 bay leaf

salt and fresh ground white pepper

1. heat the butter in a large soup pot, over medium heat, until foaming. add the leeks, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

2. sprinkle the flour over the leeks to form a roux, and stir to distribute evenly for about 2 minutes.

3. slowly pour in the broth while stirring to keep the roux from creating lumps.

4. add the potatoes and the bay leaf. turn heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5-7 minutes, or until potatoes are just barely tender all the way through. turn off the heat and leave covered for another 15 minutes. add salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste, then serve!

roux: a thickening agent created by cooking flour with a fat, such as butter or oil.

bought an extra sack of potatoes at the market?                                                              use them in these delicious recipes:

Taste With The Eyes: Poached Salmon, Lobster Mash, Lentil Gumbo “Gravy”

And Love It Too: Twice Baked Potato – Paleo Style

What’s Gaby Cooking: Smashed Potatoes

From My Corner of Saratoga: Potato Canapes

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chorizo and Potato Tacos

Cooking Channel: Cozy Up With In Season Potatoes

FN Dish: Best Potato Casserole Recipes

Cooking With Elise: The Irish Boxty

CIA Dropout: Potato and Leek Soup

The Sensitive Epicure: Potatoes Anna With Fresh Thyme and Truffle Salt

Glory Foods: Chicken Smashed Potatoes

Daily*Dishin: Creamy Loaded Potato Casserole

Virtually Vegan Mama: Baked Cinnamon Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

rustic kale salad

everyone knows that dark leafy greens–kale, spinach, chard, and the like–pack a potent nutritional punch. but for many people, these valuable veggies conjure up images of boring salads or dreary piles of watery steamed leaves. there are, however, endless ways to prepare tasty dishes that deliver all the nutrition of leafy greens with great texture and flavor, too.

following my spinach and cheddar frittata recipe for last week’s fn dish, i decided to focus on another leaf this weekend: kale. i’ve always enjoyed kale sautéed with garlic or other aromatics, but a visit to mario batali’s esca a few years ago taught me that it’s also delicious raw. with this as inspiration, i’ve developed a kale salad that has become a staple of my repertoire. it’s delicious as a side dish for everything from roast chicken to pasta, and it’s also a healthy and filling snack or light meal on its own. a poached or fried egg on top turns leftover salad into a delicious dinner. the only tricks are to be patient with the onions so they get nice and soft, and to clean the kale thoroughly and remove the central stem, which is unappealingly fibrous.

rustic kale salad

serves 6 as a side dish

1 large bunch kale, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons

3 medium red onions, sliced into thin half-moons (yellow onions are also fine)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup thickly grated parmesan cheese

1/8 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1. heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. once glistening, add the sliced onions and cook, stirring very infrequently, until soft and thoroughly caramelized, approximately 30-40 minutes.

2. meanwhile, place the sliced kale, pine nuts, and grated cheese in a large bowl.

3. when the onions are ready, allow them to cool for a few minutes in the pan. then pour them, along with any pan juices, over the salad. add the 1/8 cup olive oil and lemon juice, toss thoroughly, and serve. the salad keeps well in the fridge for a few days and can be eaten room temperature or chilled.

spinach and cheddar frittata

as the green summer leaves fall from the trees, greens such as kale, chard, and spinach begin to catch my attention. a trip to the farmer’s market this weekend uncovered vibrant greens tantalizing enough to make anyone eat their vegetables. my mother introduced my sisters and me to greens early, so growing up i was always a fan of any leafy green sautéed with a little olive oil, some garlic, and a good dose of salt and pepper. however, in my dining adventures i have also come across many other ways to serve these healthy and flavorful vegetables. i’ll start with spinach this week, but check back this weekend for a delicious and easy recipe with kale.

so, spinach: FN Dish’s ingredient of the week and the ultimate green that is so nutritionally rich but so widely disliked. and it’s not always easy to prepare. i had a run-in with poorly washed spinach in a lasagna made by a friend several years ago. it left my mouth feeling gritty for a year! however, spinach is a vegetable that is worth making and eating — not only for its healthy properties but also for its earthy, refreshing taste.

in my opinion there is no better way to enjoy lots of healthy vegetables than to bake them up with some eggs and cheese for a satisfying, warm, and nutritious meal. which brings us to the world of frittatas. there are many techniques for cooking frittatas, and twice as many variations on the ingredients. they are fairly easy to cook (after a little practice), filling enough for a dinner or an excellent brunch, and a great way to use any number of vegetables, cheeses, and aromatics that you may have in your fridge. the only real trick to the technique is to make sure none of the vegetables are sticking to the pan before you pour in the eggs. this will ensure easy removal of the frittata after it’s cooked.

once you get hooked on frittatas there is no end to the combinations of ingredients you can create! to accompany the spinach this time i chose the last cherry tomatoes clinging to the vines in our garden, shallots, garlic, and a nice sharp cheddar cheese. with dishes like this, “eat your spinach” should become a tempting invitation.

spinach and cheddar frittata

(serves 4)

8 eggs

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 cup cherry tomatoes,  halved

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 shallots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and white pepper to taste

1. preheat the oven to 400°f.

2. in a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly with a pinch of salt and white pepper to taste, add the grated cheddar cheese, and set aside.

3. heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch oven-proof saute pan over medium heat. once the oil is glistening, add the shallots and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. add the garlic and cook until soft, about another 2 minutes.

4. add the spinach and allow to wilt, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir to distribute. sprinkle the cherry tomatoes into the pan, make sure nothing is sticking, and then pour in the egg and cheese mixture.

5. cook for about 3 minutes, or until the sides of the frittata begin to set. move the pan to the oven and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the center is just set and doesn’t jiggle.

6. to serve, loosen the sides and bottom of the frittata carefully with a flexible spatula. the frittata can then either be sliced and served directly from the pan, or inverted onto a plate, then inverted again onto a serving platter.

still craving more greens? check out these blogs:

What’s Gaby Cooking: Spinach-Artichoke Cups

From My Corner of Saratoga: Cannelloni Stuffed With Ricotta Spinach

And Love It Too: Bacon Infused Wilted Spinach

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Spinach-Pesto Tacos With Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Virtually Homemade: Spinach Pepita (Pumpkin Seed) Pesto

Cooking With Elise: Spinach and Artichoke Fondue

Glory Foods: Creamed Spinach

The Sensitive Epicure: Catalan Spinach With Raisins, Pine Nuts and Bacon

FN Dish: Stuffed Spinach Recipes

young ginger sauté

last week i managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the brattleboro farmers’ market in vermont on the morning of my sister’s wedding. i couldn’t resist the chance to take advantage of the new fall produce. i was sad to learn that a surprise frost in the area meant that the crisp heads of lettuce and juicy tomatoes were likely to be the last i would get for the winter. the plump blueberries were also gone. but there was a fine fall selection of potatoes, onions, vibrant green and orange winter squashes, and young ginger to cheer me up.

ginger is delicious in everything from asian stir fries and dumplings to soothing after-dinner tea, and it’s a great aromatic that’s available in the grocery store year round. what isn’t always available is young ginger, which is tenderer, sweeter, and milder. it’s often sold with the stalks attached, and you can use the whole plant. the leaves and stalks can be used to flavor broths, tea, and steamed fish or meats, but the root is the real prize. since i was lucky enough to find young ginger, i decided immediately to make it the base of a tasty dish.

now, asian food happens to be one of the cuisines i find most challenging to cook. we’ve never had the cabinet space for a wok, so making stir fries is hard, and it’s not always easy to find the right balance of flavors with all the delicious sauces, oils, and vinegars available. but this time, i kept the flavors simple and did what i could to let the ginger shine through. the result was a delicious and healthy meal. you can of course make this dish with mature ginger. but if you can get your hands on some young ginger i highly suggest using it. you will get to experience a whole other side of this zingy root.

young ginger sauté with braised tofu and bok choy

serves 4

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/8 cup rice vinegar

5 tsp mirin

1/4 cup + 5 tsp sesame oil (i prefer toasted sesame oil, but regular sesame oil is great too)

2 tsp hot sesame oil, or to taste

1 14-oz package of firm tofu, cut into 8 slices

4 large heads of bok choy, leaves separated

1 4-inch piece young ginger, peeled and julienned

1 1-inch piece young ginger, peeled and cut into medium dice

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, julienned

1 unripe mango, peeled and julienned

1/2 head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced

12 oz vietnamese rice noodles

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, lightly crushed

1. preheat the oven to 350°f. then combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, 5 tsp sesame oil, and hot sesame oil in a bowl to prepare the sauce.

3. pour half the sauce and the diced ginger into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. add the tofu slices in a single layer and arrange the bok choy leaves evenly on top of the tofu. roast in the oven for 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes. after 30 minutes, remove and set aside.

4. while the tofu and bok choy are cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat until warm.

5. add 1/4 cup sesame oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. add the scallions and ginger and sauté, stirring to prevent browning, for 2 minutes. then add the carrots and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. add the cabbage and mango and cook for 5 minutes. add half the remaining sauce to the pan, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes. set aside.

6. while the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions, usually around 1-3 minutes. strain noodles when cooked, and toss with the remaining sauce.

7. serve the sauteed vegetables over the noodles, with the tofu and bok choy on the side. garnish with the diced ginger and crushed peanuts. and don’t forget to pour yourself a cold glass of sake!