Week 3: The vegetables are winning.
At the start of the CSA season, my fridge’s crisper drawers were almost bare. Less than a month in, they’re already overflowing. So my plan for this week was to cut a swathe through the stockpile. A recipe uses just one or two veggies? Not good enough! I demand dinners that consume at least five! six! DOZENS!
I decided Step One was to take down the beets — along with a pair of turnips that had been hanging out in my fridge since March. Turnips are apparently indestructible; I can see why people would toss these things in root cellars and live off them for years.
To use up my root veggies, I broke out a recipe I typically think of as a winter dish: Root vegetable gratin. I love this dish because it’s infinitely adaptable. Since carrots, beets and turnips were what I had on hand, that’s what I went with.
But I also had lettuce. Lots and lots of lettuce.
Confession time: I don’t much like salad. I like it perfectly fine in theory, and I like the virtuous “see how healthy I’m being!” buzz that accompanies eating a salad-focused meal, but I find actual lettuce pretty blah. I’m pretty sure this is a failure of imagination on my part — every once in a while I find a salad with a flavor combination that completely knocks me out, like this blood orange and dates salad I make obsessively every winter — but in general, I’ll go to great lengths to consume veggies in every incarnation other than an actual salad.
Happily, my food-writer friend Matthew shares this aversion — and has a cure for it. Like most of Matthew’s solutions, this one involves bacon.
The salad that converted Matthew involved pancetta, gorgonzola and hazelnuts. What I had on hand was bacon and Oregon blue cheese (languishing in my fridge for three weeks and in desperate need of consuming), so I swapped and use those instead. I also had a pile of CSA radishes and decided those needed to get added to the salad mix. Plus I threw in a bit of garlic scapes, because everything is better with garlic scapes.
The first step in my “empty the crisper” crusade was to peel and chop the root veggies.
After that, I layered them in the baking pan. Added visual bonus: The mix of striped and golden beets looks wicked cool.
Next I melted the cheese mix on the stove — deftly but barely managing to avoid setting the camera strap on fire while snapping this picture — and threw some bread slices in the blender to make bread crumbs.
When all that was ready, the assembled gratin went into the stove.
With all the peeling and chopping, this isn’t an especially quick dinner, but it has the advantage of giving you a 30-minute window while the gratin cooks to clean up and prep the rest. I used the baking window to assemble the salad. For the household vegetarian, I left off the bacon and toasted the hazelnuts in butter instead of bacon grease. However, the household vegetarian also doesn’t like blue cheese — or basically any cheese that’s not cheddar, swiss or mozzarella — so his salad came out looking scanter and way less tasty than mine.
Half an hour later, the gratin and salad was ready. And voila: In one stroke I managed to use my beets, carrots, lettuce, thyme, radishes, and an onion (substituted for the shallots in the gratin recipe).
My veggie drawer is almost back under control! Except for the chard. I can sense it biding its time, converting the escarole to its cause, and planning a household takeover … -Stacy Cowley