Archives for posts with tag: cumin seeds
painting depicts ingredients for Romanesco with Gorgonzola Over Pasta recipe

Romanesco. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

This week’s farm box included romanesco. Romanesco looks like cauliflower invented by Martians: it has points, spirals, triangular formations and it is often a stunning shade of neon green. You may not have eaten it: I would not have eaten it if I had not subscribed to Riverdog Farm in 2007.

Now, I’ll just tell you that I grew up eating cauliflower smothered with cheese sauce. I would have grown up not eating cauliflower smothered with cheese sauce if I could have managed it, but our family had rules, one of which is that you ate everything you were served. I did not make up this rule, but I had to live with it.

Part of my journey as a cook and as an adult has been to revisit foods I did not care for in my childhood. Some of them stay on the “Do not eat” list: avocado and asparagus have not made it to edible, much less pleasurable, and English peas require careful and judicious camouflage. I still will not eat cauliflower in pale orange cheese sauce, but I will eat it with a sauce featuring two of my favorite things: gorgonzola and cumin seeds.

The same farm that brought romanesco into my life brought me the recipe with which to cook it from the RiverNene CSA in England. I modified their ingredients list and then I modified their cooking method: what I have kept are a little butter, the cumin seeds, some milk and some gorgonzola, although not the quantities of each that I first saw. To get the most out of the creamy, cheesy sauce I like to serve it with pasta. I like whole wheat penne because the darker-colored pasta looks nice with the pale vegetable and sauce and has a nice chewy texture. That said, you could serve it on spinach pasta or tomato pasta for some color and you can eat it without pasta if you are counting carbs.

Romanesco with Gorgonzola over Pasta

Put your pasta water on to boil.

Cut or break your romanesco into florets.

Melt a little butter in a saucepan, perhaps 1 or 2 tablespoons

Fry 1 Tbsp cumin seeds in the butter until aromatic.

Stop the cooking by whisking in 2 Tbsp of flour

Then add some milk — start with 1/2 cup and have more at the ready.

Alternate stirring the sauce and breaking up some Gorgonzola to melt into the sauce. The cheese will help thicken the sauce. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk. If it is too thin, cook it down for awhile or add more cheese.

When your pasta water boils, throw in 1/2 pound of whole wheat penne.

After the pasta has cooked for ten minutes, add your broken or chopped romanesco to the pasta water. Cook for one minute and drain, letting the pasta water fall into a serving bowl to preheat it.

Transfer the sauce, pasta and romanesco to your (drained) serving bowl and stir so that everything gets coated with sauce. Eat while it is warm.

Food Notes: If you don’t have romanesco, you can make this with cauliflower, or even broccoli — it just won’t have the Martian atmosphere. Sometimes I add a few snipped sundried tomatoes into the sauce for the bright taste and the flecks of color: it is winter, after all. Regular pasta works, too. Sigh. The original recipe called for 2 Tbsp of brandy — if you are a brandy-swiller, go ahead and add it to the sauce: I’m sure it tastes delightful.

I like to serve this with a winter salad of raw spinach and sliced oranges. Sometimes I dress it with Orange-Sesame Vinaigrette. However, I had recently read about an orange-tahini dressing and wanted to see if I could put one together (I love tahini and January is a big citrus month). I started by juicing one orange, one Eureka lemon and two Meyer lemons. That yielded one half cup of juice, which I poured into my old Good Seasons cruet (Remember those? They are handy for salad dressings that don’t come in packets!) I added 3 Tbsp Tahini. I tasted it. Now what? I had on the counter some olive oil that I had used to cover roasted red bell peppers. The peppers went onto last night’s pizza, but the oil. I measured 2 Tbsp of the roasted red bell pepper oil. Mmm. That gave a nice roasty flavor. Gotta have salt: I put in 1/2 tsp Kosher salt. And garlic: I pressed 1 small clove of garlic. A little sweetness: in went 1 tsp honey. I thought about putting some cumin in it, but I kept it simple this time — there’s cumin in the romanesco sauce after all.

For a little more heft, I kneaded up a batch of black rye bread, basing it on a recipe by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. But I left out the carrots and the caraway and threw in a little orange juice and zest. It’s rising now: I’ll report on it on Wednesday (or not, if it is not worth writing about).

It’s still January, so they are still doing citrus recipes over at #citruslove. They are worth checking out if you like citrus or have a seasonal glut of it like we do.

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Painting of beet greens, cumin seeds, peanut oil.

Beet Greens with Cumin 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

Wednesday I was reminded of why I like to eat fresh and seasonal food. Wednesday is vegetable box day for me and I went down to Berkeley in the rain to pick up my vegetables. Among the other things I got were bunches of turnips and beets with their greens attached. I twisted the greens free and bagged them separately since I have been told that otherwise the greens draw nutrition from the roots. I knew I was going to cook some kind of oven dinner — I had leftover delicata squash to eat, for one thing. On the way home I decided we would eat mixed turnip and beet greens tonight to get them at their freshest and most nutritious. I also decided to cook the beets, remembering a wonderful sauce in my Joyce Goldstein Kitchen Conversations cookbook made from butter, honey, dry mustard, cinnamon and black pepper.

I consulted Mom about what else we could have. She suggested baking two large red potatoes and serving them with sour cream. Fine. We would have squash with brown sugar and butter, the potatoes, beets in a hot and sweet sauce. I would put in a rice pudding for a high protein dessert so that we did not get hungry after all those vegetables for dinner, utilizing some cooked brown rice we already had.

That left the greens. Because two of the vegetables had a sweet profile I knew the greens needed to be savory, so I discarded the idea of making them with raisins and walnuts  or with peanut sauce: these would have to be greens as greens. As I chopped the beet and turnip stems I suddenly thought, “What if I cook them with roasted cumin seeds?” Maybe that would tame the bitterness.

I pricked the potatoes and put them in a 350 oven with the whole kabocha squash (the farm newsletter recommended roasting it whole before splitting it open to remove the seeds and strings) and a Pyrex bowl of brown rice pudding, made with raisins, milk, sugar, a couple of eggs and enough butter to keep it from sticking. Then I peeled beets and put them in a saucepan on the stove (the oven was crowded, due to the giant squash, or I could have roasted them). While they cooked I made Goldstein’s marvelous sauce.

Then I got out the peanut oil and filmed a hot skillet with just a touch (under a tablespoon). After a minute, I added a couple teaspoonfuls of cumin seeds and let them pop before bringing the skillet to my cutting board for the beet and turnip stems. While they began to cook over medium heat I chopped the greens and put them into the skillet with all of the water that clung to them and popped a lid on. When they were done, I assembled a plate of one potato, half a delicata squash, one beet and a large serving of greens, to which I added a small squeeze of Meyer lemon.

I am happy to report that these were the best greens I ever tasted. The cumin worked its magic, giving off its fragrance and mellowing the greens’ strong flavors. If you are not a greens lover but are fond of cumin, I urge you to try it. It is beyond simple and yet the results are sublime. Yes, I did say sublime — the acid test will be tomorrow when I see how they are reheated.* There’s got to be something to eating your greens the day they are picked — but the cumin didn’t hurt either.

Non-Recipe Greens Recipe: Greens with Cumin Seeds

Wash whatever greens you’ve got — I used turnip and beet greens.

Separate stems from leaves.

Chop stems into small pieces. Chop greens separately.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.

Add 2 tsp to 1 Tablespoon of peanut oil, depending on your oil tolerance.

When oil shimmers, add 2 tsp cumin seeds and let them pop.

Remove skillet from heat long enough to add chopped stems.

Return skillet to heat. Add chopped greens.

Cover and cook over medium heat to desired done-ness — I cook them until the liquid has evaporated — about five minutes.

Add a squeeze of lemon and eat while hot.

* I ate the leftover greens for dinner Thursday night. They were still wonderful, tasting of cumin.

P.S Forgot to say: I’m heading up to Portland for a long weekend and I, unlike most modern people, have no mobile devices. This may cause a delay in my approving comments, but I want to hear from you and I’ll approve them all when I get back. — Sharyn

Painting Note: For information about Beet Greens with Cumin or any other painting, please contact me here.