Today’s headline does not intimate that you should cream the family — just the veggies — and today’s column will provide a handful of suggestions that should whet anyone’s appetite.
It’s true that plain vegetables can be boring, especially if dumped from a can on a busy weeknight with no time to innovate. Creaming makes possible a plethora of possibilities that involves only the sprinkle of an appropriate herb or spice to the creamed offering to give it a brand new personality. Take a look at the following tips for some new takes on old favorites. Enjoy!
Creamed onions are probably the most common of old-time dishes served mostly over the winter holidays and then forgotten until next season. It’s a shame, since cooking takes the bite out of onions of any ilk and makes them sweeter. Creaming — and just the right topping — from traditional paprika to chopped fennel fronds or dill weed — often makes them an immediate favorite. Our first recipe calls for pearl onions, but you may use any small onion, cut-up larger ones, shallots or even leeks, it’s your choice!
24 small white onions, peeled (about 1 1/4 lbs.)
4 Tb. salted butter
3 Tb. flour
2 cups milk*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Garnish: Dash of
* You may use low-fat, half-and-half or cream — depending on your diet and taste.
Boil the onions in 2 cups of water, uncovered 20 minutes or until tender and you can insert a fork easily. Drain cooking water into a bowl and reserve. Set onions aside and keep warm.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour with a wire whisk. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes, then add reserved cooking water (about 1/3 cup) and continue stirring to blend well. Add milk, and bring sauce to a boil while whisking. Lower heat to simmer, stirring and cooking until sauce is smooth about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg; pour sauce over onions, sprinkle with paprika and serve immediately.
For creamed potatoes (especially new), carrots, green beans, peas and other veggies, follow the instructions in our first recipe, with the exception of using the cooking water in the cream sauce. Simply use enough more milk or cream for proper consistency, and use your own taste and discretion as to seasoning the sauce: potatoes pretty much take to any herb or spice depending on your entrée; green beans love a fillip of dried, crumbled tarragon; carrots and peas take to dill and/or fennel, and most everything accepts chives, parsley and coriander.
For added taste/richness, some veggies take well to a cheese sauce. Nothing’s simpler than to stir a half-cup (or whatever’s appropriate) of grated cheddar, parmesan, or jack (jalapeno?) into your completed sauce. With that in mind, here’s a sauce that features cheese in an outtake on an old turkey Tetrazzini recipe (pictured). You can use whatever “meat” you wish — but the mushrooms and peas are not to be omitted!
34 cup egg noodles, uncooked
1 Tb. butter
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup cream cheese spread
1 cup water, veggie broth or milk
3 cups cooked turkey, ham, shrimp, chunk tuna (drained well) or other choice
1 cup peas, cooked or frozen, thawed
Grated cheese of choice for topping
Cook noodles as directed on package; drain, set aside, covered
Melt butter in large skillet. Add mushrooms, cook until tender, stirring. Stir in cream cheese spread and liquid of choice.
Bring to boil while whisking, then reduce heat to low and simmer 7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add chosen ingredient along with peas, cook gently until heated through. Pour over noodles. Sprinkle with grated cheese or paprika or parsley if desired, serve.
There is always the option of bypassing sauce altogether and simply using heavy cream — as in this next — totally sensational — recipe.
W/Cream And Nuts
1/2 to 1 cup walnuts*
1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
2 Tb. salted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Fresh ground nutmeg to taste
Rinse sprouts thoroughly and cut a small X in the bottom of each one to ensure even cooking. Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil, add sprouts, and cook 5-10 minutes, until barely tender. (I find that placing them on a metal steamer and steaming them for an equal amount of time negates any possibility of sogginess.) Drain into a colander.
In a heavy skillet, melt the butter, add the sprouts and sauté over low heat, gently pushing and turning for about 3 minutes. Add the cream and nuts, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer about three minutes. Pour into a heated bowl and serve.
* You may use roasted, peeled chestnuts, or walnuts or hazelnuts: If one of the latter two, roast them in a 300F oven until fragrant but not brown, about 10 minutes. Rub husk off hazelnuts if necessary. Chop nuts coarsely and set aside.
As a final thought, a simple dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche, or heavy whipping cream can be added to myriad dishes — from veggies to soup for a final stir-in that can make all the difference. Believe it or not, a recipe I didn’t use today is Swiss Chard with Crème Fraiche! Maybe another time. Cheers!
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-265-4688.