There is a pile of wild spinach sitting on my counter, nestled against a pile of red onions and thick carrots. In the corner are three pears and a package of bean sprouts. Just looking at the abundance makes me feel fit- maybe its vegetable healthiness is transferable through sight?
The produce came to me through a scheme students at my university run. You order one week, pay them a small sum and the next week you get a bag’o’vegetables, full of organically grown vitamins and fibre. And flavor, lovely flavor. I dig the scheme, and not just because I get a surprise selection every week. Or because they give me a recipe for each kind of plant I get- although that is much appreciated. No, it is because I find out about vegetables I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Have you seen scorzonera, for instance? Not a pretty-looking root even on a good day. I had never yet been able to work up the courage to buy a bag of the gnarly, dark brown sticks. And there it was in my bag’o’vegetables last week and I had to do something with it. (Other than tossing it, which would have been wrong-wrong-wrong.)
Out came Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (which, by the way, is one of the loveliest books about food I have met to date) and a recipe for scorzonera in garlic butter. Raven has you simmer the peeled scorzonera until they are soft, bathe them in a butter with gently fried garlic and finish with a big handful of chopped parsley. What you end up with is a subtle sunchoke flavor, enlivened by garlic and enriched with butter. (I substituted a few chili flakes for the parsley, mainly because I didn’t have any parsley. The replacement added a warmth I would have been sad to miss.) A simple, wintry dish for a simple, stormy Monday- what more could you ask for from a bag?
The planning for this week’s discoveries has begun. I am thinking:
Soba noodles with bean sprouts and peanut dressing
Garlicky spinach with quinoa and a fried egg
Onion tart with goat’s cheese
But that’s just the start…
Scorzonera in garlic butter
adapted from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook
Six scorzonera sticks
Splash of red wine vinegar
Knob of butter
A pinch of ground chili flakes
Sea salt to taste
Peel the scorzonera and place them in a bowl of water with red wine vinegar. Bring water to a gentle boil and simmer scorzonera until tender. Drain.
Melt a knob of butter. Crush a clove of garlic and fry gently in the melted butter. Mix in ground chili flakes. Add scorzonera to butter mixture and mix. Sprinkle with sea salt.