Barbara Kafka, Lending Veggies a Little 'Love'

Barbara Kafka, from a publicity photo.

When Barbara Kafka hears that someone's children won't eat vegetables, she thinks to herself: 'My dear, if you would only learn how to cook...' hide caption

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In Vegetable Love, Barbara Kafka offers a primer on buying, storing and cooking all kinds of veggies, and a cornucopia of recipes for making them magical... recipes as colorful as beet pie for dessert.

"I like pretty," Kafka says. "I like to have fun with my food."

These are not vegan recipes. Chicken broth finds its way into the risotto. But they make use of all the life a garden can offer.

From her New York City home kitchen, Kafka takes on a dual challenge: she makes a dish "fit for spring," and transforms a "boring" vegetable. Her choice? The carrot.

Fiddlehead and Chanterelle Risotto

Cover of Vegetable Love

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely minced shallots (about 3 ounces)

5 cups chanterelles (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound (2 cups) arborio or Ambra rice

1 cup leftover dry Champagne or other medium-acid white wine

6 cups Enriched Chicken Stock, heated

1 1/2 cups peas (from about 1 1/4 pounds peas in the pod)

2 cups (about 5 ounces) trimmed fiddlehead ferns

1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Flowers from about 12 chives

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until translucent, for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir until well coated with butter. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the tarragon and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. The mushrooms should be reduced to about 2 cups. Set aside.

In a heavy 12-inch casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring fairly constantly, until all the grains have become opaque — white if using arborio. Pour in the Champagne or wine. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed. Continue to add the stock in 1-cup amounts, stirring and letting the rice absorb the liquid each time. After 4 cups have been added, stir in the peas, then add another cup of stock and the chanterelle mixture. When the liquid is almost absorbed, add the Parmesan, salt and pepper. Serve from the pan or transfer to serving dishes. Sprinkle with the chive flowers.

Makes about 12 cups; serves 8 as a main course.

Lemon-Light Carrots

The lemons, whose zests are removed to use in the recipe, can be squeezed for plenty of juice for this dish.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

10 medium carrots (3 pounds), peeled, trimmed and cut into 3 x 1/4 x 1/4-inch matchsticks

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

Zest of 2 lemons—removed with a vegetable peeler and thinly sliced into long strips

(about 3 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the butter in a nonreactive 4-quart pot over low heat. Stir in the cayenne pepper. Add the carrots, onion and lemon zest and mix well.

Cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender but not mushy and the onions have softened and turned light yellow, about 45 minutes.

Stir in the five-spice powder, lemon juice

and salt and cook for 30 seconds more.

Makes 5 cups; serves 8 as a side dish

Carrot Sorbet

1 cup sugar

3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (about 14 thin slices)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cups carrot juice

Combine the sugar, 1/2 cup water and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 20 minutes. Strain and refrigerate. There will be about 1 cup syrup.

Stir the lemon juice into the syrup to liquefy it. Combine with the carrot juice. Churn the carrot mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions until it has the texture of soft ice cream. Transfer to a container and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Or, if no machine is available, put the mixture in ice cube trays and freeze until almost hard throughout. Put in a food processor and process until just smooth. Store in a container in the freezer.

Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Carrot-Honey Ice Cream

2 pounds slender young carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 6 cups)

1 cup milk

2/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine the carrots, milk, honey and five-spice powder in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender.

Put the carrots, cooking liquid and heavy cream in a blender. Puree until very smooth. Transfer the mixture to a metal bowl. Stir in the lemon juice. Chill, covered, for 2 hours, or until cold.

Churn the carrot mixture in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions for about 25 minutes. Transfer to a container and store in the freezer.

Makes about 2 1/2 pints.

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Vegetable Love

by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler and Christina Cornish

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