It’s that time of year again. Maslenitsa began the 11th and goes until the 18th, which means you have FOUR WHOLE DAYS left to make more blini than is possible to eat in one sitting. This year, I am attempting to up the ante and make these:
Have you heard of Anya von Bremzen? Have you heard of a little (500+ page book) called Please to the Table by one Anya von Bremzen? If you haven’t, consider yourself informed. I dare you to try any recipe from the book and not fall immediately and completely in love. I have five recipes from this book that I still need to share with you, and here I am giving you a picture (taken from my phone, no less!) of a recipe that I haven’t even made yet. Anyways, this book. Is amazing. It’s so amazing (and possibly out of print…) that it usually runs at least $100. Completely worth it, yes, but I just couldn’t get myself to pay that much for a book that didn’t involve the word “text” in front. Instead, I checked it out from the library for months on end (although I’m pretty sure other DC Library users didn’t care or notice). Until. One day. I found. The book. Used. For much less than $100. Much, much less. It’s out there, people. It’s waiting for you to find it. YOU HAVE TO GO FIND IT. IT’S AMAZING. I’m almost 1000% positive that even if you don’t really like Russian food, you’ll really like this cookbook, because it’s not a 500+ page cookbook about how to make cabbage, it’s a 500+ page cookbook about food from Armenia! and Azerbaijan! and Lithuania! and Georgia! and Uzbekistan! And everywhere else in the former Soviet republics. Dear Tom, thank you for giving away your cookbook. I am forever grateful.
Aaaand that was a huge digression. I didn’t even plan to tell you about my love affair with this cookbook in this blog post. That was supposed to be saved for the post I still need to write about Old Russian New Year’s 2.0. So, back to our originally scheduled blog post:
It’s that time of year again! I do hope you will make blini, but I also realize that it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, which is apparently a really big deal. So tonight I’m here with a recipe that came about from needing to use all the produce before it spoiled – and if you really want it to, it could also be served at a St. Patrick’s Day gathering of some sort. The recipe uses lots of root veggies and sturdy greens – perfect for this time of year when it’s fiiiiiinallllyyyyy getting warmer out but the superfreshlocal produce isn’t yet available.
Roasted Veggies on Taytos with Pesto
Notes: Do you guys mind that I don’t give specific measurements for recipes? I’m being serious here: I’d love your input. I know I write things like “add as much salt as you want!” or “just add enough until you think it’s good!” and I really do realize that could be frustrating if you’re a person who needs specifics. So please, please, will you comment and let me know if I’m being too vague? That being said, this recipe literally came about by pulling everything that was about to go bad out of the fridge and then cooking it and putting it together. So, well, I don’t have very specific measurements. But here we go. ALSO: if you want this to be vegan, make the Taytos using just olive oil and cooking water from the potatoes (or veggie broth), and omit the cheese from the pesto. One more thing: this is a long recipe which might make it seem complicated, but it isn’t. I would suggest reading it all the way through before you start, though, as it requires a little multi-tasking.
For the Taytos:
- 4 medium-sized Russet potatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the Pesto:
- 1 cup of packed herbs/sturdy leafy greens (I combined parsley and kale, you could use basil, cilantro, why not dill? and kale, chard, maybe collard greens?)
- 2/3 cup toasted walnuts
- up to 1/2 cup olive oil
- a good-sized knub of hard cheese, such as Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, etc., shredded. I won’t give you specifics here because I only added cheese because it was about to spoil – you can use as much or as little as you like.
For the Veggies:
Note: feel free to omit, add to, or otherwise edit the veggies you use.
- 1/2 a head of cauliflower, separated into bite-size florets
- 10 or so radishes, cut in half
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 small eggplant, chopped in 1/2-inch cubes (no need to peel if it’s a small eggplant, as the skin will not be so thick)
- salt, pepper, red pepper, to taste
- olive oil
- vegetable oil (or any other oil with a high smoke point)
Make the pesto. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Or, chop everything really finely by hand and stir together in a bowl. Set aside. Note – you can make the pesto up to a week in advance, just store it in the fridge until ready to use.
Start the Taytos: Bring a large pot of water (large enough to fully immerse the potatoes in) to a boil, add the potatoes, and cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 20-30 minutes. I’m not actually sure if proper potato-boiling protocol would allow you to cover the pot while the potatoes cooked, but I did and found that they cooked more quickly, with no noticeable compromise to flavor.
Meanwhile, make the veggies:
- Preheat your oven to 380 Fahrenheit.
- Spread the chopped eggplant onto a paper towel-lined plate and lightly salt. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. (This apparently makes the eggplant less bitter, but I’m skeptical if you need to do this with small eggplant since small eggplant usually = young eggplant = not as bitter. But, I did it, and it was delicious, so I’m recommending you do as well.)
- Arrange the cauliflower and radishes on an oiled, foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the veggies. Lightly salt, pepper, and add other spices as desired. I added Aleppo pepper, since I’m obsessed with it.
- Once oven is preheated, put the cauliflower and radishes in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, oil a large saute pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Saute the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Dab the eggplant with a paper towel to absorb the liquid expelled from the salt.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the eggplant, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Cook eggplant, turning occasionally, for 10 – 15 minutes. Taste the eggplant as it cooks – if it feels rubbery or doesn’t have an appealing texture, cook it a little longer. Eggplant can be tricky, but if you cook it over high heat it can also be delicious.
- Don’t forget about those veggies in the oven! After 15 minutes, stir everything around and put back in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes. I like my veggies to be a little crispy on the edges, with dark, brown bits starting to show. If you like them less done, by all means take them out earlier.
- Once the eggplant is finished, remove from pan and place on another paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
Back to the Taytos!
- Once the potatoes are done cooking (i.e. easily pierced with a knife), remove from water and place in a bowl or a stand mixer. Be sure to save some of the cooking water.
- Make the Taytos (Which at this point I’ll tell you are actually just mashed potatoes. But calling them Taytos makes them more Irish. See?) I recently learned from Braeden’s cousin and her husband that a stand mixer, i.e. KitchenAid, does wonderful work of making mashed potatoes. But, use whatever method you like best. Comine the potatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, salt to taste, and mash until you get the consistency you’d like. Add some of the potato cooking water if you need to thin it out, or drizzle some olive oil in for a little more flavor.
- Spoon some Taytos into a bowl.
- Drizzle some pesto on top of the Taytos.
- Top the pile with a combination of the roasted veggies and eggplant/onion mixture.
- Dollop a bit more pesto on top of all o’ that.
Pour yourself more wine, make a toast to spring’s arrival, and enjoy.