The Real Food Journal
Autumn Vegetable Gratin, with Roots
It’s Autumn. The leaves are afire with brilliant colors, the mornings are briskly frosty, and the harvest has been brought in from the fields. Now is a perfect time to crank the oven and make an Autumn Vegetable Gratin.
Root vegetables are a seasonal pick, with their grounding, earth centered energy. According to Macrobiotic theory, roots are more yang, while leafy vegetables are more yin. Most of the things Americans love to eat are at the far ends of the yin-yang continuum, and the sugary, refined stuff we love is very yin. Unbalanced yin energy makes you more scattered, and is considered cooling. That makes the warming, more contracted energy of roots a perfect foil for the dropping temperatures.
And even if you don’t care about yin and yang, you have to love roots in the wintertime!
Balance and Warm Yourself
This one is made up of what we might describe as “honking-huge” rutabaga and turnip, alternating with the thick trunk of a butternut squash. I picked out these sizes and shapes so that they would make relatively even scallops in a baking dish.
The Scallop Shape is the Thing
Once I peeled the veggies with a peeler, it was easy to make thin slices to stack in the pan, alternating with slivers of garlic, red onion, and scattering fresh thyme from the garden over it all with abandon. It all roasts and becomes meltingly tender.
Now, I know that some of you might not be fans of the stronger flavors in rutabagas and turnips. To help balance that, I added olive oil and apple juice. The rich, fruity flavor of the oil and the sweet-tart apple juice take the edge off the big honking roots, and the squash helps balance the earthiness. If you are a dairy eater, subbing butter for olive oil might rock your boat, too.
Once it’s all assembled, I covered the pan and baked it until all the veggies are butter-soft. Then, I uncovered it all with a mix of minced walnuts and panko, moistened with more olive oil. Don’t be afraid of the salt, it needs a bit of salt, too. It’s really a very simple combination of flavors, and every one is important.
Once the topping is crisped, you are ready to go. I loved this the first night, and ate it for lunch for a couple of days afterward, enjoying it immensely.
Of course, you can use other roots, and make skinnier rows of sliced parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, beets, even radishes. If you carave a creamier version, use a cup of coconut milk along with the apple juice, and let it bubble down to a silky sauce.
Because you need to warm yourself, from the inside out!
Autumn Vegetable Gratin
Ditch the scalloped potatoes and try this lighter, plant-based Autumn Veggie Gratin.
- 1/2 2 lb rutabaga peeled
- 1/2 2.5 lb butternut squash peeled, solid trunk cut away from the cavity section
- 1/2 1.5 lb turnip peeled
- 1/2 medium red onion sliced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and slivered
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Slice the rutabaga, butternut squash, and turnip in half, vertically. Slice in 1/3 inch thick half moons, keeping the pieces in piles.
Start at one end of a 2 quart baking dish and build the gratin, alternating vegetable slices, and sprinkling with thyme in between layers. Tuck garlic and onions in between veggies, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with half of the salt.
Pour the apple juice into the baking dish, and cover the dish tightly. Bake for 40 minutes.
In a bowl, mix the walnuts, panko, remaining tablespoon olive oil, remaining salt, and paprika. Sprinkle over the vegetables and return the pan to the oven for 20 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
At the farmer’s market last weekend, as I shivered in the 40 degree air, I marveled at the bounty of vegetables that the end of September brings. Summery sweet corn and tomatoes were there, alongside Fall-ish squash and apples. Strikingly, there was an abundant harvest of raspberries, as well. I knew right away that I would have to make an Apple Raspberry Galette.
I used to grow raspberries in my yard, but their aggressive ways were just too much. The spiny canes spread by sending runner roots out just under the surface of the lawn, and removing them requires heavy gloves and a shovel. I wanted to go back to loving raspberries, not resenting them, so we dug them up and gave the plants to a friend. And now I buy beautiful raspberries from my local farmer!
The apple raspberry galette is so much easier and quicker to make than a pie, I hope you’ll try making it. The balance of crust to filling is about 50/50, so the pastry must be flaky and delicious. The fanned sliced apples give it real curb appeal, and they bake so much more quickly than a deep dish- 40 minutes of oven time, I promise.
Or try one of these apple recipes:
If you get some practice in peeling and slicing apples, you can get fast at it. I just slice them and put them right on there, none of the bowl of lemony water some recipes advise.
For my crust, I went with a locally produced, freshly ground flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread. I love their products and can buy it at my Coop. If you don’t have a source for a fresh, soft wheat flour, you can use whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat. I’ve been playing around with some Melt brand buttery sticks, they seem to work well in pastry. I would have done my usual coconut oil if not. If you are into butter, use organic, grass fed butter for this.
If you didn’t see my apple segment on Twin Cites Live Last week, scroll down the page to click on the link. I was on just before an apple breeder from the University of Minnesota, James Luby, who concurred with me in my choice of Zestar for my crisp. It’s taken me a while to stop automatically reaching for Granny Smiths, but the Zestar is pretty wonderful in pies, and this galette.
The only thickener in the galette is a sprinkle of flour under the apples, and the chunky sugar. The sugar melts and becomes a thick syrup, so it is not a pie that you can keep for more than day without the crust becoming soggy.
So seize the season and make an Apple Raspberry Galette for tonight’s dessert, and go ahead and finish it off for breakfast the next day!
Vegan Apple Raspberry Galette
Save time and celebrate the harvest with an easy galette. It's really not as hard as it looks!
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or other soft whole wheat
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Melt buttery sticks or coconut oil
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 4 large Zestar or other firm baking apple
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup Turbinado sugar divided
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt, and whisk to combine. Use a grater to shred the fat into the flour. (if using coconut oil, melt it, pour it into a cup to measure, then chill. When solid, run water over the cup to remove the oil, and shred the solid oil into the flour mixture)
- Drizzle in the ice water while tossing the flour mixture with a fork. When it is all incorporated, press the dough together until you can form a ball. Press to make a disk and place on a floured counter.
Line a large rimless baking sheet with parchment (I use air-bake type pans.)
Roll out the pastry to the width of the pan, about 14 inches. Carefully fold the dough in half, then use a metal spatula to transfer to the prepared pan. Repair and tears by patting with your fingers. Cover the whole pan with plastic and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 425. Mix 1/2 cup of the sugar with the cinnamon in a cup, reserve. Peel, quarter, cores and slice the apples, keeping each quarter intact on your cutting board. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the dough, then sprinkle about half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over that.
- Arrange the apples on the dough, starting by forming a circle about an inch from the edge of the dough round. Form another circle of overlapping slices inside that one, tucking and arranging apples as needed to make a nice, filled in galette. Fill the center with one apple quarter, and fill in around it with extra slices. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.
Bake the galette for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven and sprinkle with the raspberries and the remaining sugar. Bake for 20 minutes longer. The crust should be golden and the fruit lightly browned. Transfer pan to a rack to cool.
I’ve spent many hours of my life contemplating the phenomenal success of certain foods, and the seeming failure of others to break through. You might think, ” well, oh, of course the winner is the most delicious, right?”It may in fact be a delicious food. But I fear that success is all in the branding. Image is everything. So for Whole Grains Month, let’s consider brown rice versus wild rice.
What Makes a Food a Hit?
Wherever you live, brown rice is considered health food. If a character in a movie orders brown rice, you immediately assume things about her character, don’t you? We all jump to the conclusion that the character is health obsessed, perhaps hippie-ish or hipster-ish, maybe even a tree-hugging vegetarian.
But what about other grains? Here in Minnesota, we have a precious, mythic, beloved whole grain in wild rice. It’s part of the indigenous people’s original diet, and the good stuff is still hand-harvested today. It’s truly delicious. It’s probably a little bit nutritionally superior to brown rice, and has the same protein content as the rock star grain, quinoa. It’s “healthy.”
But in Minnesota, wild rice is considered “gourmet.” It’s served in creamy soups, in steak houses, in high end restaurants, all places that wouldn’t put brown rice on the menu for love or money.
It’s all in the image we have of wild rice. Yes, it’s delicious and deserves the love, it’s not that I’m knocking it. It has the best backstory, as one of only two indigenous grains in North America, and is still harvested in the ancient way today. But because it has a different, more upscale image in the popular consciousness of Minnesotans (and many people outside the state, if they have had it at all) it isn’t thought of as the dreaded “healthy food.”
I suppose it’s because I’m a grain nerd that I ponder this. But we would all be better off if we started elevating whole grains to gourmet, sexy status and stopped thinking of them as hippie food that might not taste so good.
Taste Wild Rice and See Why We Love It
Because Wild rice is the original “healthy” grain that made the leap to gourmet, I’m showing it off here with a lush puree of rainbow carrots, topped with a beautiful roasted purple carrot and a tangle of frizzled fried sage. Of course I used locally grown, hand harvested, hand parched wild rice, because it’s the best.
If you live outside of the region, try ordering it direct from one of the Native reservations who ship. I’m fond of White Earth wild rice, when I order it for friends, because I admire environmentalist Winona La Duke. You might find out what all the fuss is about.
And just how much a classy image adds to the enjoyment of a whole grain. Maybe it will get you to stop stereotyping the brown rices of the world, and appreciate them for their inner beauty.
Happy Whole Grains Month!
Roasted Rainbow Carrot Sauce over Wild Rice with Frizzled Sage
Sweet, Earthy roasted carrots meet creamy cashews in a sauce that will make the meal. Once you've tried it, you may want to use it over all sorts of foods, like veggies, pasta, you name it.
- 1 1/4 pound rainbow carrots
- 1/2 medium white sweet potato
- 1/2 large onion
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked and rinsed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1/2 cup wild rice
- 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- coarse salt
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel the carrots, leaving them whole, and place on a sheet pan. Cut the sweet potato and onion in 1 inch thick chunks and place on the pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30 minutes. When the vegetables are tender, cool on a rack.
Cook the wild rice and drain.
- In a small saute pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sage and cook, stirring, until the sage is crisped. Take off the heat and sprinkle with salt.
Serve wild rice, topped with about half a cup of carrot puree, with a carrot on top and a sprinkling of sage, drizzling the flavorful oil over the top.
Happy Whole Grains Month! How are you doing so far? Are you eating at least three servings a day of whole grains? I hope it’s as easy and delectable for you as it is at my house. Take these Honeycrisp and Walnut Muffins. Muffins are so easy to eat, for breakfast with a smear of almond butter, or for lunch, alongside a yogurt or bowl of soup.
Whole grains are truly the way to go, for flavor and optimum health. Just three servings a day reduces your risks of heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. We all know they are good for us, but still, people are hooked on white flour foods. I hope muffins like these will help convince the skeptics.
Whole grains are nutty, sweet, spicy, and truly satisfying. You will not miss a thing when you go whole grain, except that sinking feeling you get an hour after you eat a white flour muffin for breakfast.
For a great balance of flavors, I blended white whole wheat and sprouted whole wheat flour. The white whole wheat is milder and sweeter, while the sprouted flour is more assertive. I then used one of my favorite strategies, adding cinnamon to balance the branny flavor of the flours. Chunks of apple and walnut work alongside the cinnamon to balance the whole wheat.
You know whole grains are good for you, and now you have a recipe to make them taste amazing. Bake up a batch to eat this week, and you’ll be right in step with the harvest season.
For more recipes, check out the Whole Grains Council website.
Every month is whole grains month, at my house, and I hope it is at yours, too.
Honeycrisp Walnut Muffins
Make whole grains part of your life, with tasty muffins like these.
- 1 1/2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups chopped Honeycrisp apple
- 1 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon ground golden flax
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
- 3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with papers. Grease the top of the pan.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a cup, mix the almond milk and flax seeds and let stand until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut oil.
Stir the almond milk mixture into the flour mixture, then add the apple pieces and walnuts and stir. Don't over mix.
Scoop half cup portions into the muffin cups, filling to the top of the cup. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with only a few damp crumbs attached.
Cool on racks.
Plums and Pluots and Peaches and Nectarines are absurdly, life-changingly good right now, and it’s time to seize the day and enjoy the heck out of them. Little Fresh Fruit Tarts are the perfect way to show off your juicy, plummy harvest.
It’s also Whole Grains Month, a good time to take stock of the whole grains in your life. Are you eating at least three servings a day? Three is easy to do, with a half cup of cooked grain or a slice of whole wheat bread counting as a serving. That’s a sandwich and some cereal, really. 16 grams of whole grain counts as a serving, and that’s a little more than 2 tablespoons of whole grain flour.
One of these delectable tarts has 25 grams of whole grain, but don’t tell anyone. They might think it’s not going to be a flaky, rich pastry that melts in your mouth.
These Fresh Fruit Tarts are also showcasing the appeal of cashew cream. Raw cashews, soaked and pureed, have a creamy, lush texture that’s crave-worthy. Even dairy lovers fall hard for cashew creams like this one, sweetened with powdered sugar and spiked with lemon zest.
To make these lovely little fresh fruit tarts completely plant-based, I used cold coconut oil for the shortening. It’s an easy trick, and makes a flaky pastry that will wow even the most dedicated butter lover. Just opt for the refined coconut oil, which has a more neutral flavor.
I always made variations of these types of tarts when I catered, so that I could make the crusts ahead of time, prep the filling, and assemble them at the last minute, for a showy finish. If you want to glaze them with jam, just stir a little water into apricot jam and use a pastry brush to dab it on the top of the assembled tarts. I didn’t bother in these photos, because the fruit is just so fine.
Because summer, and these perfect plums, won’t last forever.
Fresh Fruit Tarts with Lemony Cashew Cream
Make the tart shells and cashew cream the day before, and you can have fun with arranging fresh fruit on top of these mouth-watering little tarts.
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 probiotic capsule
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup coconut oil optional
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1/2 taspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest plus strips for garnish
- 6 plums and nectarines
- fresh mint, chopped pistachios
- apricot jam, if desired
Soak the cashews overnight. When soft, drain and rinse, then place in a strong blender with the water. Blend and scrape down, using the tamper, until very smooth. Blend in the contents of the probiotic capsule and discard the capsule. Transfer to a jar or storage tub and cover with a clean kitchen towel, held in place with a rubber band. Let stand at room temperature until the mixture has a few bubbles in it, about 24 hours. If using coconut oil, put the cashew cream and oilo in the blender and blend to mix really thoroughly. Refrigerate until time to use.
- Crusts: Melt the coconut oil, if it is solid, and measure 1/2 cup, then chill until solid. In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Grate in the coconut oil and toss the shreds in the flour as you go. Using a fork to toss the mixture, drizzle the ice water in, and stir gently until a dough forms. Use your hands to gather the dough, squeezing to mix and hold it together. If you need a tablespoon or so of ice water to incorporate all the flour, sprinkle it in and form a log.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and form into balls. Flatten into disks and put back in the bowl, cover with plastic, and chill for about 30 minutes. Get two baking sheets ready, preferably rimless cookie sheets, but any will work.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out each ball on a floured counter to make a 5-inch round, then dampen the edge of the round and roll the dges, pinching to make a half-inch high rim. Transfer to the baking sheet. When all are formed, prick the bottoms several times and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and dry. Transfer to a rack to cool. If making ahead, store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.
Mix the powdered sugar and lemon zest into the cashew cream. Slice the fruit. Spread about 1/4 cup of cashew cream in each tart shell, then arrange fruit (glaze with apricot jam now, if you want to) and sprinkle mint on top of it. Garnish with lemon zest and pistachios. Refrigerate, covered, and serve within 24 hours.
After a summer of watchful waiting, watering, and wondering, the tomato harvest is finally here. The cherry tomatoes came first, giving us the taste we craved, as we hovered over the green tomatoes hanging heavily on the vine. Now I can stroll out to my tomato garden and come back with a colander overflowing with a rainbow of gorgeous fruits. At long last, it’s time to roast tomatoes for the freezer, for pastas and sauces all Winter long.
It’s my go-to way to handle this precious cargo. Before it gets hot out, crank the oven, trim and halve or quarter the various tomatoes, and douse them with olive oil. Halve a few garlic cloves and toss them in, and let it all roast on high. It’s simple and easy.
Once my tomatoes are shriveled, lightly browned, and concentrated, they are ready to freeze, or process further. Don’t discard the olive oil, it’s an important component of the sauce, and infused with tomato and garlic flavor. If you want, you can puree the roast, for a smooth sauce. In my Vitamix, I can puree them, skins and all, and make a perfectly smooth sauce. If you want to slip off a few of the skins, that will take away that slightly bitter, tomato skin taste.
Because I didn’t use any herbs, this sauce can go in all sorts of directions. Add chopped chiles and cilantro, and you have salsa. Add basil and you have an Italian sauce. Puree it with creamy almond or coconut milk, and you have a soup.
The main game, though, is easy pasta. This recipe calls for 2 cups of the roasted tomatoes, and half a pound of penne pasta. It’s easy to freeze the tomatoes in 2 cup portions. Bookmark this recipe, so you can make this in the wintertime, with your frozen tomatoes.
You’ll be so glad that you saved a taste of summer.
Roasted Tomatoes and Easy Roasted Tomato Penne
Preserve the summer bounty by roasting your tomatoes, and freezing them. Then you can make this simple but flavorful pasta any time of year.
- 8 cups assorted tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic halved
- coarse salt
- 8 ounces penne pasta
- 2 cups roasted tomatoes, from above
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, packed chopped
- freshly cracked black peppercorns
- your fave parm
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the tomatoes in a deep roasting pan, add garlic, olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat
Roast for about an hour. Take out to cool, then scrape into containers to refrigerate or freeze. This makes about 3 cups.
For pasta, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, then put the pot back on the stove and add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, add the pasta, parsley and basil, and season again, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Serve with your favorite parm on the side.
Lately, it’s hot and sticky, and the last thing I want to do is crank the oven. As much as I’d love to make muffins or a big batch of granola, the thought of all that heat is just too much. So as I was washing up the slow-cooker from cooking for a client, I remembered how brilliant the cooker can be for replacing the oven. Sometimes we cooks get set in our ways. So I made Maple Almond Granola in the Slow Cooker.
It sounds funny at first, using the slow cooker to bake. We think of it as a way to gently simmer things like stews or big batches of beans. But if you have one of the large, oval slow cookers with a clamp on lid, you have a kind of free-standing oven, that is remarkably self contained, energy-efficient, and easy to use.
I’ve used mine to bake a cake, make free-form loaves of bread, even make pizza, so I’m no stranger to the versatility of the cooker. But I forget. You can make granola in the slow cooker.
So when it’s hot out, as counter-intuitive as it seems, it’s time to get out the slow-cooker. Don’t stash it on a back shelf, waiting for stew season. For this granola, I just translated an old favorite into a crock ready format, and gave it an hour and a half of hands-off time. You can try this technique with other granola recipes as well. Because you want it to crisp, you just need to keep the lid ajar, but propping it open with a wooden spoon handle or chopstick.
And now, I’ve got organic, homemade granola to adorn my smoothie bowls (follow me on instagram for pics) and snack on in between meals.
Homemade is always better, and keeping the kitchen cool is the best!
Maple Almond Granola in the Slow Cooker
Leave the oven off, keep your kitchen cool, and make granola.
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup crisped brown rice
- 1 cup whole almonds coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup Grade B
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
Lightly oil the slow cooker insert.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, rice, almonds and salt.
In a medium bowl, combine the maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, almond and vanilla extracts. Whisk to blend, then pour over the oat mixture. Stir to mix well.
Scrape into a large slow cooker and turn it on high. Place a wooden spoon or chopstick under one side of the lid, to hold the lid ajar.
Cook for 30 minutes, stir, cook for 30 minutes, stir, and cook for 30 minutes more. Spread on a sheet pan to cool, then gently mix in the raisins.
Cool on a rack. When completely cool, break into large chunks and store in jars or tubs. Keep tightly covered at room temperature for up to a month, or freeze for 4 months.