Roundabouts & Roots

September 29, 2011

…You got me goin’ in circles
Oh, ’round and ’round I go
Goin’ in circles
Oh, ’round and ’round I go
I’m strung out over you…

~Luther Vandross

It makes me sad to utter this. But, something has run amiss, almost amok here.

In an ever dumbed down America, now even the most simple ideas are often illogically, even rabidly, rejected and then find trouble gaining traction. Our populace has strayed from critical analysis, from free thought, from historical cognizance, from educational enlightenment…rejecting sound reason in favor of wicked demogoguery. Faith, and not knowledge, reigns. Most good ideas “foreign” are blindly rejected without humility as if this land remains some divinely touched insular utopia. You often hear the herd-like anger: while this may work there, it will never work here. Words voiced by a few perturbed by fear and suspicious of change, evoking little but gossip, gripes and poor judgment.

Take roundabouts—those ring intersections through which traffic flows in a counterclockwise circuit, simply yielding to those already inside. First appearing in Great Britain in the early 60’s, there are over 30,000 in France alone (an area slightly smaller than Texas) and only some 2,000 in this entire country. In study after engineering study, roundabouts have been proven to reduce harmful emissions, allow smoother traffic flow, reduce lights and signs, and decrease severe collisions. Yet in the states, whenever some communities are faced with the specter of a roundabout, irrational wrath soon becomes seething apathy, sometimes even squelching the proposal. Then, despite all engineering logic, the collective psyche insists upon the status quo of traffic signals and signs, halted traffic, enhanced CO2 emissions, and grisly wrecks. Allo?

Thankfully, roundabouts are experiencing a slight upsurge here…and where fear ebbs and they are finally constructed, public opinion invariably soars in favor of these sometimes unwelcome circles.

Knobby and gnarly, celeriac is not smoothly round, orb-like in a natural state. But, like root cousins turnips, parsnips, beets, carrots and potatoes, it makes one simple yet exquisite soup.

CELERIAC SOUP

3 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 medium leeks, cleaned, peeled and chopped
2 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t dried cumin, roasted and ground
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lbs celery root, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
6 C chicken stock

1 C heavy whipping cream

Fresh tarragon leaves, for garnish

Place the butter and oil in a heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until melted. Add the leeks and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-6 minutes. Add the cumin, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. If the pot begins to brown too much on the bottom as they cook, add another pat of butter or pour of olive oil.

Add the celery root and stir to coat, then add the stock and briefly bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat so that the stock simmers gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root until soft and easily pierced with a paring knife, about 20 minutes more.

Allow to cool slightly off the heat, then purée in batches in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pan, whisk in the cream and reheat over medium low. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with tarragon.

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To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
~Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

EGG NOODLES WITH SWISS CHARD, MUSTARD & COLLARD GREENS

So often, things you learn to cherish have been so long overlooked—yet they often hovered right under your nose. For me, Amish country noodles are one of the new found delicacies that fall squarely into that category. Where had you been all these years? My passion for these hearty durum wheat and egg noodles almost went unrequited, but finally has been stirred. Now, I feel an obligation to share the love for this side thang.

To make this beloved tryst complete, sautéed chard, mustard and collard greens are commingled, mated with the noodles. Introduce succulent braised lamb shanks or fleshy coq au vin for nestling, candlelit chiaroscuro, some sonorous Luther V. serenades and voila!…you have a perfectly seductive “cooking Amish au naturel” meal. Unless, of course, you are one of those lingerie fanatics in which case a seductive silk chemise may be your apron du jour. Some food for the mood.

1 lb thick Amish country egg noodles
3 C water
4 C chicken broth
2 T sea salt

1 small bunch collard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch mustard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch swiss chard (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 t hot red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano-reggiano, fresh grated

In a large, heavy pot over high heat, bring water and broth to a boil. Add sea salt, noodles and return to boil. Cook until just al dente, about 10-15 minutes, depending on noodle size.

Bring large stockpot of water to a boil; add greens. Cook for 15 minutes and drain well. Then in a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the greens and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and become wilted and tender, about 10-15 minutes. During the cooking process, season with the salt and pepper to taste. They should be peppery.

Drain the noodles well and add to the greens, tossing until they are married. Serve, lightly topped with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.