Thursday, December 11, 2008

Portland Press Herald talks to Matt in "Fresh Chef"

Good stuff still to be had post-frost

Bar Lola, Portland

Editor's note: With the season for farmers' markets drawing to a close, this will be our final Fresh Chef column.

A few weeks ago, as the summer vegetables were starting to wane, I asked Chris from Fishbowl Farms what he was excited about next. Without hesitation, and with the sincerity usually reserved for heirloom tomatoes and the like, he told me, "Parsnips."

He had some that day, but what he was waiting for was a real frost. After that, he told me, the ones he harvested would be like "candy from the ground."

Matt from Sparrow Arc Farm stopped by the restaurant the other day to show me what he was carting to and from market and, after the usual vegetable tour, he reached into a box and pulled out, with some pride, a rutabaga. Not just any rutabaga, although these were gorgeous as well, but an heirloom rutabaga.

Not too long ago at Bar Lola we served a braised-rabbit dish with Chantenay carrots from Laughing Stock Farm. Someone asked me to describe a Chantenay carrot, and I told them to think of the kind of carrot Bugs Bunny would like; the kind of carrot a 5-year-old would conjure up; a carroty carrot with the greens still attached and perfect, orange crunch.

We may be getting to the end of the farmers' market, but the carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabagas and other late-season vegetables are still worth the trip. They are great raw, pickled, braised or roasted or pured. They can be sweet, sour, salty, spicy. They can whet your appetite at the start of a meal. They can be a meal themselves. And they can be the perfect sweet spoonful to finish an evening.

While root vegetables may not often be considered sexy, they are to the folks who pull them from the ground to bring them market, and I appreciate that.


21/2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
8 ounces butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 cup cold water
Sift the flour and salt together in medium-size bowl.
With your fingertips or pastry cutter, work in the butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Slowly add cold water, a little at a time, gently working together until dough just comes together. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic film, and chill for 30 minutes.

1 large (2-21/2 pound) rutabaga peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400.
In ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add rutabaga and saut on stove top for two to three minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and roast in oven until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

1 pound parsnips, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
Add parsnips (work in batches if they don't all fit comfortably) and cook until they begin to color, about five minutes.
Add butter and thyme and continue cooking until tender.
Drain on paper towels and reserve.

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
In large pan stir oil and sliced onions together over moderately low heat.
Cover and cook slowly until very soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to brown onions.
Uncover, add butter and continue to cook until golden brown.
Remove from heat and reserve.

1 pound swiss chard, stems removed and saved for another day
Bring large pot of salted water to rolling boil.
Blanch swiss chard leaves for two minutes or until soft.
Shock in ice water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.

8 ounces goat cheeese
8 ounces crme frache
Preheat oven to 400.
With wooden spoon, beat goat cheese and crme frache together until smooth. Roll pat brise out into 12x15 rectangle.
Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
Spread goat cheese/crme frache mixture out into 9-by-12 rectangle in middle of crust.
Evenly distribute chard, onions, parsnips and rutabaga over cheese mixture.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Fold free edges of pastry over mixture.
Brush crust with olive oil and bake until golden, about 40 minutes.
Remove to wire rack.
May be served warm or room temperature.

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