116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If you’re like me, you’ve cooked an abundance of comfort food lately — your typical cold weather fare of pasta, stews and variations of winter squash. I’m ready for vegetables, something green, but crunchy salads do not relieve winter’s chill.
A busy workday schedule means the vegetables I do prepare often end up rather uninspired: steamed broccoli, green beans. Not particularly exciting unless you’re doing a Whole30.
To shake things up a bit, I looked for inspiration in my cookbook collection. There I found recipes old and new that I wanted to try.
One of the most surprising old recipes came from “Cane River Cuisine,” a beloved cookbook from north Louisiana. Southerners love vegetables in their simplest forms but they also love to gussy-up something to make it extra special. For example, I found three recipes in which the trio of baby lima beans, slivered green beans and English peas were made extra fancy with a warm mayonnaise dressing. In one of those variations, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese are folded into freshly whipped cream, then spread atop the vegetables and baked until the topping is warm and bubbling.
All three of the recipes called for canned green beans and peas. To update, I used frozen vegetables, which gave a brighter and beautiful result, and instead of Parmesan cheese in the green can, I used freshly grated. The result was quite tasty.
Next, I looked for something involving carrots, an economical and nutritious vegetable that is all but ignored unless someone is making a veggie tray. I consulted “America Cooks,” which, as its name suggests, is a collection of recipes from across the United States. There I landed on creamed carrots, something I’ve never before seen. Lightly cooked carrots are stirred into a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream before going into the oven. The cream cheese mixture is seasoned with scallions, bell pepper and lots of lemon zest.
Rich, yes, but if your snowblower dies and you have to shovel by hand, you can afford the calories.
Finally, for something new, I went to “Milk Street Vegetables” by Christopher Kimball of the PBS program. I chose slow-roasted fennel and red onions with tahini and spices. I’ve never loved fennel because of its faintly licorice notes, however, this recipe changed my mind. The tahini and warm spices caramelize and the fennel and onion become meltingly tender. A final shower of lemon zest and freshly chopped mint create an enticing aroma. The tahini-spice mixture and baking technique could be used on other vegetables.
As winter wears on, I’ll continue looking for cozy new ways to enliven the vegetable course. I hope you give these a try.
6 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon finely chopped bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1-quart casserole. Cook carrots, covered, in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. In mixing bowl, blend remaining ingredients. Add carrots; mix lightly. Turn into casserole. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Source: “America Cooks,” Junior Women’s Club, Porterville, Calif.
1 medium bell pepper
1 package frozen baby lima beans
1 package frozen French-style green beans
1 package frozen English peas
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 shallot, grated
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
Slice bell pepper into thin strips and cook with lima beans. Prepare green beans and English peas, taking care not to overcook. Drain. Toss with salt and pepper and place in a buttered 7- by 10-inch casserole dish. Whip cream and fold in mayonnaise, cheese and grated shallot. Spread over top of vegetables and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Adapted from “Cane River Cuisine,” Mrs. Harold Bres
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot paprika or 1 3/4 teaspoons sweet paprika plus 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, sliced into ½ inch rounds
1 cup lightly packed mint, chopped
Heat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle position. In a 9- by 13-inch baking pan, stir together the oil, tahini, cumin, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 1/2 cup water. Add the fennel and onions; toss until well coated, then distribute in an even layer, making sure the onions are evenly dispersed among the fennel wedges. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
Uncover and bake until the liquid has cooked off and the vegetables are browned and very tender, about another 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the lemon zest and mint over the top and serve.
Source: “Milk Street Vegetables” by Christopher Kimball