HOLIDAY BITS + BITES

recipes + photography SANDY GARSON

Potato Carrot Cake

This trio of the most popular roots—onions, carrots and potatoes—is surprisingly simple to assemble yet a conversation piece when served. It should be a crowd pleaser for kids, vegetarians and those who avoid gluten. It goes with just about anything you want to serve, is appropriate any time of day and appears glamorous although it costs mere pennies. What more could you want? Orange carrots showcase the popular hue of autumn.

Serves 6

1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 large or 7 medium carrots, peeled and grated
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
3 medium boiling potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and very thinly sliced
1 pinch saffron
⅛ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste

Use 2 tablespoons butter to grease a 7-inch springform pan. If yours is 8 inches, use an extra carrot and a large onion instead of a medium one, so no worries.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cut a piece of parchment or other grease-proof paper into a circle the size of the prepared pan.

Combine 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet or fry pan, using an extra tablespoon of oil if your pan is very large. Over medium heat, melt the butter into the oil; when it starts to foam, add the onion with a pinch of saffron. Sauté 3–5 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the carrots and dill. Sauté 1 minute and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Put half the carrot/onion mix in the bottom of the buttered pan, leveling the top. Line the top with potato slices, covering everything. You can overlap the potatoes. Put a good pinch of dried rosemary over the potatoes. Press down lightly. Put the remaining carrot/onion mix on top and level the layer. Top this with another layer of thinly sliced potatoes. Again press down lightly. Season the potatoes with a pinch of rosemary, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Break 1 tablespoon of butter into tiny pieces and spread these over the potatoes. Put the cut piece of parchment over the top of the potatoes and press down lightly once again.

Put “the cake” in the oven and bake at 350º for 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Lightly press down—use a glass jar or other aid instead of your hand because it’s hot—one last time, then remove the paper top. Run a small spatula around the rim to loosen anything that sticks to the pan. Release the springform and serve.

For a more spectacular presentation, serve atop a plate of steamed spinach or chard.

. . .

Mashed Potato Green Bean Cake  

This could be a child’s delight (and a parent’s delight, for the nutrition it provides). It could easily grace a table whose centerpiece is a roasted chicken or turkey, even roast beef. Vegetarians can enjoy it with a side of baked beans.

Serves 4–6

1+ pounds non-baking potatoes
1 pound green beans
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
½ cup parmesan or asiago cheese, grated
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoon good-quality olive oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika (if you like a touch of heat, add ½ teaspoon ground Aleppo or chipotle pepper)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Fine breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350º.

Scrub the potatoes and peel them, if that is your preference. Chop into large chunks, put them in a medium saucepan, cover them with cold water, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook just until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, bring salted water to a rolling boil, add green beans and cook just until they start to soften but haven’t lost color. Drain the beans well, then chop into ½-inch pieces.

Once the potatoes are cool, mash them in a medium bowl or pass them through a ricer. Add milk, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt to your taste and blend. Add oregano, rosemary, paprika and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the cheese and eggs. Stir in the cut green beans. Taste for salt and adjust.

Use 1 tablespoon to oil a 7- or 8-inch cake tin, preferably with a removable bottom to make this easy. Dust the bottom with fine breadcrumbs. Fill it with the potato green bean mixture and level the top. Hopefully it is even with the top of the pan. Sprinkle the nutmeg evenly across the top, then sprinkle 1–2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and zigzag 1 tablespoon olive oil over the whole thing.

Bake 50 minutes at 350º. The cake should be slightly puffed up and golden on top. Let it cool 20 minutes before running a spatula or knife around the edge and setting it on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into cake-like wedges.

. . .

Tershi, Libyan Roasted Pumpkin Dip

This is an esoteric dish supposedly from the now-extinct Jewish community in Tripoli, Libya. It sometimes shows up in Italy because that’s where many émigrés from that community went. This dish is essentially a pumpkin or winter squash “hummus” flavored with caraway. It’s colorful and tasty, and very nutritious. Serve it as an appetizer, a cocktail snack spread on crusty bread or a side dish, even with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Serves 6–8

A 2 pound red kuri or other deep-orange-colored winter squash (butternut doesn’t work well here so don’t use it)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon chili powder (arbol works well; if you use Aleppo pepper use ¾ teaspoon)
2 tablespoons vinegar (sherry, white wine, apple cider)
Salt to your taste
½ teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed or ground
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450º.

Slice the top off the squash and clean out the cavity. (You can clean and toast the seeds with spices for a fabulous snack or salad ingredient.) Peel the squash and chop it into 1-inch cubes. Spread on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the cubes. Roast at 450º for 25 minutes, or until squash is soft.

Purée or mash the squash.

In a medium skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil. Over medium-low heat add garlic and sauté just until it’s fragrant. Add chili powder and blend. Add the mashed pumpkin and blend everything. Continue to simmer over low heat 3–4 minutes. Add vinegar and salt, blending everything. Continue cooking until mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the caraway and turn off the heat.

Arrange it in a serving bowl, leveling the top, and garnish with freshly minced flat-leaf parsley. Optionally, you can drizzle very fruity olive oil on top before garnishing with the parsley.

Previous StoryNext Story