I think I enjoy obscure vegetables almost as much as I like obscure wine grapes. They are uncommon, intriguing, underutilized, and surprisingly good. Today’s lunch is a testament to these gems.
As usual, the motivation was provided by ingredients. In this case it was mostly through Farmers to You, a Vermont-based online supplier my brother turned me onto. Each week I buy 3 or 4 items, at least $20 worth, and I pick up the products from the back of their truck, just 10 minutes away from my home. This week’s selection included Celeriac, a Braising Mix of Mustard Greens, and Chestnut Mushrooms. Raise your hand if you have cooked any of these items yet this year. Yeah, I thought so. Obscure.
My strategy with these ingredients is to take each one and cook it in the most appropriate and appealing way. Then I put the dishes together into some kind of a meal. Often I refer to my cookbooks and the internet for inspiration and guidance.
Today I started with the celeriac. An old cookbook by a French couple whose bistro cooking always appealed to me was the basis for the celeriac dish. It was a simple sauté of cubed celeriac and carrots with a little lemon juice and parsley, fitting beautifully in a porcelain serving dish we bought 30 years ago in Saint-Paul de Vence, Provence, France.
We were cleaning out the refrigerator this morning, so I grabbed a small leftover of raw Savoy Cabbage. I sliced it thinly and sautéed it, with olive oil and garlic. It was added to the plate, along with the celeriac and carrots, accompanied with a glass of Birichino’s Vin Gris, as the first course of my lunch.
Next on the agenda was the braising mix of mustard greens, which I decided to pair with chestnut mushrooms. I took half the bag of greens, chopped them coarsely, sautéed them for a few minutes in olive oil, salt and pepper, then added 1/2 cup of water and put a cover on the pot, braising the greens — along with some sprouts — until they were tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, I sautéed about 1/2 cup of thinly-sliced sweet red pepper from the refrigerator. I trimmed the mushrooms and added them to the peppers and olive oil in the pan, and I cooked this on medium heat until the mushrooms were beginning to get tender. After adding two handfuls of homemade bread crumbs, I continued cooking until they browned a bit. Next, I added 1 Tbs. of sweet butter (highly recommended with chestnut mushrooms) and about 1/2 cup of red wine — a Cesanese from Lazio — and cooked it all on medium heat until the wine was evaporated. I poured a glass of the Cesanese, plated the braising greens topped with the mushrooms, and thoroughly enjoyed course #2 for the lunch.