It’s been ridiculously, unseasonably warm in Minneapolis this month. Like, tulip bulbs sprouting because they think it’s Spring kind of warm. So it’s fitting that this week I drew a nice hydroponic English cucumber from the Heartland Market produce bin this morning. The cucumber just doesn’t seem like a wintertime vegetable: the green, the crispness, the juiciness. It’s a little taste of a warmer time, now to be enjoyed year-round.
I go through long stretches when I forget how good cabbage is. Probably because when it’s warm outside I generally eat it is as slaw, and that gets boring. Then the snow falls, and the CSA dumps five cabbages on us, and I rediscover the sweet joy of braised cabbage. This year’s discovery has been this easy one-dish meal:
Large dice any combination of sweet potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, onions, and fennel so that you’ve got a nice layer on the bottom of a dutch oven. Toss with olive oil and salt & pepper, and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, take a few of your favorite sausages, slice, and brown.
After 30 minutes of roasting the veggies, add the sausage and 2 cups of chicken broth, and roast for another 15 minutes. Bam!
As with so many vegetables, cabbage is so beautiful because of the textural contrasts – the smooth, almost waxy outer leaves, and the amazing layers that emerge when you cut in to it. Good stuff.
I feel the need at this point to admit that I don’t love kale. I mean, it’s no chard.
But this stuff beckoned to me, with its color palette and texture. And while it’s not my favorite, make no mistake: I will eat it. Soon. Probably stewed, with sweet potatoes.
Once you start looking at vegetables, it’s easy to get mesmerized: the colors, the textures, the variety between individual pieces.
I returned to the studio from Heartland Market with a bulb of fennel, which is fun for its contrasts. The very sturdy and layered bulb gives way to amazingly delicate fronds. I tried to do justice to both identities here.
Many thanks to my friend and photo colleague Mette Nielsen for the prop loaners. So nice to have friends with good taste.
I love beets. In fact, I love pretty much all fall harvest vegetables: squash, brussels sprouts, parsnips. . . all good. So it’s time to make some look good.
As of this month I’ve taken up part time occupancy of Rat Race Studios in Lowertown St. Paul, a very exciting development for all the possibilities it opens up for new directions and capabilities in my work. And to inaugurate my stay here I’ll be working on a personal project throughout the winter on produce. Because one block from the studio is the heavenly Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market.
Last year I photographed Chef Russo for the Culinary Mistress, and lamented that I didn’t find myself in Lowertown more often to take advantage of the market and deli’s offerings. Now, here I am, practically in their dining room. The Farm Direct Market has beautiful produce, like this red beet.
Stay tuned for my weekly series, and if you follow me on Twitter I’m sure you’ll hear and see a sampling of the Heartland Deli’s sandwiches too.