"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Carrot Puree, Savory Pureed Lima Beans, Parsnip and Apple Puree, Mashed Potatoes with Six Variations

What is going on, you may be asking? Did somebody lose their dentures?

No, somebody got a cross-palate bar put in at the orthodontists. This barbaric-looking piece of wiring can be compared, O'Malley says, to a bit for a horse. Would that it were so.

And actually my reasons were two-fold, since I could have just mixed the boy up a protein shake. I have been logging my diet and exercise as suggested by Dr. Pamela Peake in her program Body for Life for Women (see sidebar link), and I realized that I don't really eat a lot of vegetables. Some days, I don't eat any. I eat plenty of protein, fruit, dairy, I drink lots of water, and god knows I eat enough cookies.

So I've been on a private little campaign recently to embrace vegetables. Salads seem like an obvious answer, except that I ate salads for lunch for about a year and a half and just can't get excited about "lawn trimmings" (as a friend recently put it) at the moment.

Cooked vegetables are the answer, because I certainly do like them. One day for lunch I took a raw sweet potato and baked it, the next day I brought in half a butternut squash. And this Braces Event seemed like the perfect time to make a pureed vegetable extravaganza, even though I knew that O'Malley would probably balk at the "sweet" vegetables, like carrots and the apple/parsnip combo.

Here they are in order of easiest to most irritating: Mashed Potatoes; Carrot Puree; Savory Pureed Limas; Parsnip and Apple Puree. Mashed Potatoes win because they don't involve a food processor.

Here they are in order in the order that I liked them: Parsnip and Apple Puree; Carrot Puree, Savory Pureed Limas, and Mashed Potatoes. O'Malley would disagree with me.

(a technical note: Epicurious doesn't have these recipes, so no links: sorry.)

The Parsnip and Apple Puree has an even texture and wonderful flavor--you sautee the apples with onions and add sour cream and allspice in the food processor. It would be a winner with any meat but especially pork.

The Carrot Puree also has great flavor thanks to the heavy cream and freshly grated nutmeg, which lifts it up out of the banal (a realm cooked carrots are mostly in, in my opinion). This is the second time I've cooked this recipe though, and it should be noted that I needed more than the 5 tablespoons of cream it calls for to get a nice texture. I suppose one could put in some of the carrot cooking water instead (these low-fat variations never occur to me at the moment.)

The Savory Pureed Limas were very good but I was distracted by the lima bean skins, which didn't really get ground up in the food processor. If I were more fastidious I would have put them through a ricer or food mill or something (neither of which I have actually). The color is GORGEOUS and it would complement any fish beautifully.

I have a gripe with the Mashed Potatoes. This recipe calls for peeling the potatoes, cutting them into two-inch hunks, and cooking them til done. The problem with cooking potatoes this way (and I speak from years and hundreds of pounds of potatoes worth of experience)is that it dries the potatoes out--the water leaches the moisture out of the potato flesh.

Here's how I make mashed potatoes: I cook unpeeled potatoes until they're fork-tender, and let them drain briefly (not forever, you don't want them to dry out). Next add the butter and mash--you want to coat the potato as much as possible, and THEN add your heated milk or buttermilk or sour cream or whatever, until you get the desired texture, keeping in mind that mashed potatoes "set up" so if you are holding them for a while you want them to be on the loose side. Also don't forget the salt and pepper, and taste to make sure you're seasoning correctly. I read somewhere that it's almost impossible to over-salt potatoes, and there's some merit to that statement. Salting the cooking water helps a lot in that department.

I would like to thank our house guest, Elizabeth, for sitting down to the above meal and proclaiming it delicious. She's a good friend, and a diplomatic one too.

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