Why I love it: This meal is easy, cheap, delicious and a great way to use up all the turnips that might be piling up in your vegetable garden.
Turnip and potato are a wonderful combination. Usually I roast the two together and eat them with a goat cheese salad but I had already done that a bunch this turnip season and was looking for something new. And this dish is it. It’s a straight-forward potato gnocchi recipe but with pureed turnip mixed in. The strong flavor elevates the gnocchi from slightly bland to really delicious and with a bit of browned butter and some chopped sage you have yourself an easy, cheap and yummy meal.
One thing you have to watch out for here is the moisture in the turnips, you don’t want that to clump up your dough so here’s what you can do: put the turnips into your potato ricer one by one after they’re cooked and peeled and just squeeze them enough to get rid of the water, it works surprisingly well. After that you can blend them up in your food processor and mix them into your dough.
Food Photography and Styling: Isn’t that spoon great? I got it a while ago from an antique store, it apparently used to be a mining spoon but I think it looks great as a sauce spoon in a food photo. It’s got a super-long handle (like 8 inches), which means that I can grab it easily and firmly without any worry that my finger tips will be in the frame…wonderful! The surface in this photo is a vintage metal trunk and I think it almost looks like fabric here. I used my usual bright food, dark shadows lighting setup for a dark and dramatic look.
As for the food styling, I intentionally didn’t skim the foam off the butter to keep the liquid in the bowl of the spoon from looking just uniformly dark. Other than that I made sure to distribute the sage bits more or less evenly over all the gnocchi and arranged them in a nice, circular pattern to keep the viewer’s eye circulating around in the frame.
Camera Settings: Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.
Turnip Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage Recipe
- 2 pounds Russet potatoes
- 1 pound turnips
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch of fresh black pepper
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 sage leaves, chopped
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Poke a few holes into the potatoes with a fork, then place potatoes and turnips on a baking sheet and roast until a knife goes through easily, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Peel the potatoes and put them through a ricer into a bowl.
- Peel the turnips and put them in the ricer but don’t try to push them through, just squeeze them enough to get the water out of them.
- Puree the turnips in a food processor, then mix in with the riced potatoes.
- Add egg, flour, salt and pepper to the bowl and distribute the ingredients evenly by stirring them around with a fork.
- Carefully knead the ingredients just enough to let them come together into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
- Roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-thick rope.
- Cut the rope into 1-inch-long gnocchi. (If you like, lightly press and roll each gnocchi down the backside of a fork to create ridges).
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Add half of the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface (1 – 2 minutes).
- Spoon the gnocchi out and cook the remaining half in the same fashion.
- Melt the butter in a skillet and cook until it starts to brown.
- Add the sage and cook for a minute.
- Drizzle the butter over the gnocchi and serve.
A few weeks ago we watched the series Cooked, a documentary about the history of cooking that is based on Michael Pollan’s book by the same name. It’s a very interesting show that is also absolutely beautifully shot, if you haven’t seen it I definitely recommend it. One of the things I was at first surprised to learn from Cooked was that people in the U.S. cook less today than they have in at least 30 years.
I didn’t realize that this was the case, what with all the cooking shows and, yes, food blogs out there. But after thinking about it a bit I could actually understand it. Cooking is a job. It takes time, planning, thinking and energy. And with all the responsibilities each of us have in our daily life, time and energy to cook a homemade meal every evening are a luxury for many of us. And I have to admit that even though I love to cook and have time for it, I too usually prefer a quick and easy recipe.
That’s where this simple noodle dish comes in. It’s delicious, cheap, super easy and takes five minutes from start to finish. You simply whisk together sesame oil, natural peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal and coconut milk, and then toss freshly cooked soba noodles in. Mix in a few fresh vegetables like carrots or cabbage for some crunch and you have a perfectly satisfying meal.
Food Photography and Styling: A most difficult subject. Gray, thin strands covered in gooey brown sauce and nothing else. Definitely not an easy task. I made sure to lay the noodles in the bowl in an orderly and wavy pattern and positioned my strobe at about the 11 o’clock position for a dramatic look. There are chili peppers in the sambal so I put a dried chili in the composition to add a splash of color and to mirror the waviness of the noodles.
Cold Sesame Noodles Recipe
- 4 ounces soba noodles, uncooked
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (with peanuts as the only ingredient)
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sambal (more if you like it spicier)
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- mint leaves and sesame seeds (optional)
- shredded cabbage and/or carrot
- Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions, then thoroughly rinse them with cold water.
- Whisk oil, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal and coconut milk together until smooth.
- Toss the cold noodles with the sauce, sprinkle with mint leaves and sesame seeds (if using), add shredded vegetables and serve immediately.
- Whatever you don’t eat you need to throw away, you cannot store this noodle dish.
Why I love it: This recipe is delicious and perfect for busy weeknights because the chicken can sit in the marinade throughout the day and will be flavorful, very tender and ready for the grill pan or skillet by dinnertime.
I suppose you could call this recipe a Mexican-Moroccan fusion dish. It has all the elements of a traditional fajita, like bell pepper and spicy, fresh pico de gallo (and pineapple for extra juici- and sweetness) but the ras el hanout-spiced chicken adds a north African flavor bent as well. I used my homemade ras el hanout spice mix made with cinnamon, cumin, clove, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek and fennel seeds and it goes really well with the rest of the flavors.
I mixed the spices into a yogurt marinade not only to flavor but also to tenderize the meat (that’s really important because I find chicken breast meat can be really tough). The chicken should marinate for eight to ten hours so it’s perfect to throw it in in the morning and cook it at dinnertime. The preparation is very straightforward, you just sear the meat, the vegetables and the fruit on a grill pan or a cast iron skillet and 30 minutes later dinner is served!
Food Photography and Styling: I’ve had this skillet for a long time and had only used it once in a photo years and years ago and then never again because I really didn’t like the look of the long, oval shape. And the truth is I’m actually still not quite comfortable with that, I wish the skillet were rounder and more plump so to speak but it’s the only fajita skillet I have so I used it here.
Since I always find it awkward to try to fit tortillas into a composition I grilled and then folded them up here so that I could stick them in between the skillet and the salsa rather than having them sitting around open somewhere in the composition as large, round yellow/white shapes. To make the photo look fresh and summery I used my through-the-doorframe lighting technique with only a very thin white curtain to create fairly hard shadows that looked like late afternoon outdoor light to me.
Camera Settings: Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.
Ras el Hanout-Spiced Chicken and Pineapple Fajitas with Pico de Gallo Recipe
For the chicken:
- 1 large or two small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout (here is a ras el hanout recipe if you want to make your own)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the pico de gallo:
- half a small red onion
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed (if you want it spicier, leave some of the ribs and seeds in)
- lime juice to taste
- salt to taste
For the fajitas:
- half a red bell pepper
- half a green bell pepper
- 4 slices pineapple (fresh or out of a can)
- flour or corn tortillas
For the chicken:
- Cut the chicken breast(s) into bite-sized pieces.
- Whisk yogurt, ras el hanout, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl.
- Mix in the chicken cubes and marinate in the fridge for 8–10 hours.
For the pico de gallo:
- Peel and dice the red onion.
- Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then dice them.
- Dice the serrano pepper.
- Mix all ingredients together and season with lime juice and salt.
For the fajitas:
- Slice the peppers, set aside.
- Drain the pineapple if using canned pineapple. Set aside.
- Shake the marinade off the chicken, then grill on a grill pan or a skillet.
- Grill the peppers and the pineapple.
- Warm the tortillas and fill with the chicken, pepper and pineapple.
- Serve with pico de gallo.