A couple of months ago we had a nice splurge at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. One of our more exciting acquisitions was a copy of Greg Malouf’s Turquoise, a gorgeous production that immediately made me want to go to Turkey (not something that had ever happened to me before). Despite its beauty, I had completely failed to make anything out of it until this week, when I was suddenly feeling adventurous.
We decided to try two new side dishes during the week: a salad of grated celery root, peppers and mint, and a dish of baked mushrooms and chiles in a paprika sauce. I thought they both sounded interesting, and used vegetables that are at least somewhat in season.
The salad came first, alongside a straightforward roast chicken. It was easy to pull together, especially using a food processor to grate the celery root. It also had red onion, red hot pepper, yellow bell pepper, fresh mint, and fresh parsley, all of which I sliced by hand. It was dressed with olive oil, garlic and white wine vinegar, then tossed with a bit of crumbled feta cheese. The end result? Not bad, like a refined coleslaw with a hint of spiciness.
It held up pretty well. Two days later I improvised a lunch by combining some of the salad with some of the shredded chicken and a spoonful of mayonnaise, piling it on a whole wheat English muffin. Not bad at all.
The mushroom thing was a bit more of a production, but still not difficult. I cooked some chopped red onion in olive oil, stirred in cumin, sweet paprika and hot paprika, then arranged whole button mushrooms, halved and seeded red and green chile peppers, and tomato wedges on top. This was all sprinkled with thyme and salt, then I added a bit of water to the pan and baked it for about half an hour. Once the mushrooms finally began to soften (I spooned some of the pan liquid over them to speed it up) I took the pan out and put it over high heat to boil down the sauce.
The finished dish was interesting. The mushrooms were firm and meaty, but the tomatoes and peppers had gotten very soft, and the sauce was extremely perky (the chiles were perfectly edible, having leached their heat into everything else). We served it as suggested, with some rare steak laid in slices over the top of the vegetables, and I found that I was desperately craving mashed potatoes to soak up the sauce. I liked it better several days later, when I took some to work for lunch along with a small container of crumbled feta. The flavors had mellowed, and the feta provided a much-needed counterpoint to the sauce.
My current feeling is that this cookbook might be more for eye candy than for recipes, but both of these dishes were simple to make and nice enough to eat. I’ll definitely try some others. Does anyone else have a copy of Turquoise? Have you tried any recipes that turned out really great?