Easter Veggie Ribbons with Ginger and Rosemary

April 22, 2014

On Easter, I headed out to my aunt and uncle’s place for lunch with them and my cousins. My aunt Annie had already said that she was making a ham and some sort of potato dish, so I offered to bring a veggie-based side dish, and she took me up on my offer. Here’s what I came up with: Easter Veggie Ribbons with Ginger and Rosemary!

What’s a veggie ribbon? It’s a vegetable sliced into ribbons by your vegetable peeler.

zucchini-sliced-into-ribbons

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GOBO!

February 9, 2012

Last week, I brought home a completely new-to-me food item after giving my motivational speech at Whole Foods Pasadena (I actually used this item during the speech as an example of how I love trying new produce items). I present to you… gobo root!

They’re ugly little fellas, and exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to pull out a mound of dirt. Last night, I decided it was time to eat them. Because I had no idea what they were, this involved a little research. There was learning to be done! While gobo from the produce section is new to me, I do know the word ‘gobo’ from another application: in the theatrical lighting world, a gobo is a stencil-like thing that you slide in front of a lamp to change the shape of the light that’s emitted. And, I can’t look at the word ‘gobo’ without thinking of downtown Detroit, which is home to Cobo, a big convention center. Yeah, yeah, they’re completely different words, but I look at gobo and think of Cobo. Probably because they both end in ‘obo.’

Gobo the produce item is known by another name, burdock – although this is no help to me; I’ve never heard of burdock, either. It’s a root, and the burdock plant is a type of thistle that grows burrs that get stuck in your clothing. I remember picking burrs out of my hair and clothes after playing out back when I was a kid – I wonder if there’s wild burdock behind my childhood home?

Gobo is starchy and dense, like a potato or a turnip, although more woody than either of those. It’s high in iron, potassium, and fiber, and low in calories. It’s been used for centuries in folk and traditional medicine all around the world: in Europe, burdock oil is used as a scalp treatment (burdock and dandelion are a traditional soft drink blend in England, too!) , and in Asian cultures, it’s used as a diuretic and a blood-purifying agent. But that’s not all, folks! The more I looked into gobo, the more benefits I uncovered:

  • It’s a good source of anti-oxidants, which can help prevent and fight off a myriad of diseases.
  • It’s a good source of inulin, which helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and is a natural laxative (yippee!).
  • Burdock seeds can be used for throat and chest ailments.
  • Burdock leaves can be used for pain management and to speed healing of burns.
  • Burdock helps with skin problems like eczema and psoriasis (which may explain why burdock oil is rubbed onto European scalps?).

It’s a wonder food/herb/plant! What I get from all this info is that I should be eating more gobo. We all should be eating more gobo. But how?

I didn’t research tons of gobo recipes, because my friend Debbie (an expert on all things Japanese) left me a link to a recipe for kinpira gobo, a popular Japanese gobo dish. It seemed like an easy-enough dish to pull off – it’s basically braised gobo and carrots – but I did look up a few other kinpira gobo recipes just to see how they differ. They’re all basically the same, and involve a sauce containing, among other things, mirin (a Japanese cooking wine), sake (a rice wine), and sesame seeds – all of which I don’t have, and didn’t intend to buy.

So, naturally, I altered the recipe, as I’m known to do.

First things first: prepping the gobo. I peeled it, and even though I have an awesome vegetable peeler, it was still a pain in the ass. Very fibrous. But I did it:

Turns out these buggers oxidize quickly (which I learned the hard way), so I should’ve kept them in water instead of leaving them lying around while I putzed with my camera. Oh well, next time.

The recipes I based this dish on all suggest using shredded gobo, but the gobo was too tough for my box grater, and I wasn’t in the mood to slice it into planks, and cut the planks into matchsticks, or do any of that nonsense… so I sliced the gobo into thin rounds. It’s easy to hack away a lot of the gobo with the peeler, like I did, so I only ended up with a yield of a few handfuls:

Makes me glad I was cooking this only for myself, instead of for a dinner party!

Next ingredient: carrots. Carrots can easily get worked through a box grater, so I shredded two of them:

Even though none of the recipes called for it, I also shredded a zucchini. Why? Because I had a zucchini, and I like zucchini, and they shred easily, and I was having fun shredding.

I got out my skillet, slicked it down with some non-stick spray, and threw in the gobo first. I thought since it was so tough and starchy, it may need a little more time to cook. After a few minutes (on medium-high heat), I added the carrots and zucchini.

Instead of making a sauce with ingredients I don’t have, I instead opted to use a bottled sauce. Lazy, I know, but you’ve done it, too. I found this bottle of Chef Myron’s Ponzu at Whole Foods:

I’ve had Ponzu tons of times in restaurants, as a dipping sauce for dumplings and sashimi, but I’ve never had it in my house before. This bottle is pretty good, health-wise: a tablespoon has 30 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 220mg of sodium. That’s a great number for sodium – many Asian sauces have loaded with salt and have 2 or 3 times that, or more. I didn’t measure it, but I added probably around 2 to 3 tablespoons to the skillet.

Here’s everything cooking away – I removed the skillet from the burner for this picture, because my stove is hard to photograph:

I let it go for 6 or 7 minutes, then tried the gobo, and it definitely wasn’t done yet, so I added a lid to speed up the cooking, and let it go for another 6 or 7 minutes. I probably should’ve let the gobo cook on it’s own for a few more minutes before adding the carrots and zucchini… oh well, I’ll remember that (maybe) for next time.

The finished result:

The gobo was good! It’s kinda crisp like a water chestnut, and bland like a water chestnut, too, and that went well with the carrots and zucchini. The bottled Ponzu was delicious – citrusy and tart and flavorful, especially since I let it cook down a little bit.

Ultimately, I’m torn about gobo. I’d totally eat it again, for both health and taste reasons, but the peeling process was annoying enough to be a deterrent. I’ve heard you can find canned or jarred gobo, so maybe I’ll keep an eye out for that. If I do buy fresh gobo again, I’d do a couple other things differently, thanks to additional research not found until after this gobo was comsumed: I’d let it soak for 10 minutes in water, which leeches out some of the starch; and I’d peel and prep the gobo underwater, which stops the oxidation process.

Eating well and trying new foods is always going to be a learning process! In the meantime, I’m quite happy with my first attempt at gobo.

Are you a gobo fan? Have any gobo-related tips or tricks? Share them below!

Keep it up, David!


What’s In The Crockpot? Part Four

October 31, 2011

We haven’t played “What’s In The Crockpot?” since February – where has the time gone?  That doesn’t mean my crockpot has gone unused – I’ve used it a few times, for dishes that turned out wonderfully (like this one) and for dishes that could… um… use a little work (like this one).

I pulled out the crockpot again over the weekend, to make something for the Halloween potluck party I was invited to, and the results were devilishly delicious. Monstrously magnificent. Bloodcurdlingly beyond compare.

OK, enough with the Halloween talk.

Never played “What’s In The Crockpot?” before? Don’t fret. You’ll pick it up as we go along – although, if you’d like some practice, check out these three posts first.

All set? Wonderful. Put on your reflective clothing and wear a jacket if it’s chilly, because it’s time to play!

WHAT’S IN THE CROCKPOT?

GHOULISHLY GLAZED CARROT, PARSNIPS & EYEBALLS* are in the Crockpot!

*not really

It couldn’t have been easier to make, either.  First ingredient? Carrots:

You need 5 cups worth. I used regular carrots, which I peeled and cut on the bias, which is a fancy way of saying that I cut diagonally, for pretty presentation reasons. You could save yourself some trouble and use baby carrots, which are already peeled and washed and ready to go, but I don’t like cooking with baby carrots. I think it looks lazy. And if you happen to think that that rationale is snobby, consider this: regular carrots are way cheaper than baby carrots. I can find regular carrots for 50 cents a pound, whereas baby carrots are $1.50 a pound.

Ingredient #2: Parsnips!

Parsnips are relatively new to me – I don’t think I’d ever had one until a few years ago. They’re kinda like a cross between a carrot and a potato: similar in shape and texture to a carrot, but similar in taste to a potato. Meaning, of course, that they taste like nothing and are disgusting raw. But, like potatoes, they take on flavors well, and so I added some to this recipe (3 cups worth) just to mix it up.

So, to recap, that’s 5 cups of carrots and 3 cups of parsnips in the crockpot:

If you don’t like parsnips, leave ‘em out. If you love parsnips, add more! Aim for around 8 cups of veggies, and you’ll be fine.

Now for the glaze. I started with 1 cup of orange juice, and to that I added 3 tablespoons of honey:

Here’s a tip: if you spritz your tablespoon with Pam before measuring out the honey, the honey won’t stick to the spoon, and all of it will end up in your recipe.

Next, I grated some fresh ginger – about a teaspoon’s worth (although I didn’t measure it, so I can’t be absolutely sure):

I also added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper:

I gave it a stir and poured it over the veggies in the crockpot:

I set the crockpot for 4 hours on High, and that’s it! They’re done! Because crockpots leech the liquid out of everything, the glaze was a little thinner than it would have been had you made this same recipe in your oven, but give the dish a good stir before serving and it’s fine.

I made a display card for the potluck:

A day later my cousin had the wonderful idea that I could have actually included eyeballs in the recipe had I thrown in some pearl onions. Dammit – why didn’t I think of that? I was able to put the calories and fat on the card because I had figured it out using an online recipe calculator. The full details:

Tomorrow, I’m sharing picture of my Halloween costume (it’s a good one!). And now, I’m off to the gym!

Keep it up, David!


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