This week Marian Morash has been working on the broccoli chapter of her cookbook at her home in Lexington, Mass., using the vegetable in every way possible, some traditional, others more imaginative -- in soups, appetizers, main dishes, vegetable dishes, and salads.
Her family has been enthusiastic and supportive, generous with their approval as well as their criticism. The week that Marian was testing recipes using sweet potatoes, other commitments intervened and the week stretched into two. Her husband, Russell, began thinking that there must be more to life than sweet potatoes, especially when he was presented with sweet potato ice cream one evening for desert.
But it was Russell who grew the sweet potatoes and the other vegetables that Marian is using in her recipes. And it was Russell, who is producer of Julia Child's television shows, who prompted Marian's interest in cooking. When he was shooting segments for "The French Chef" he would bring home partially prepared dishes with Julia's explicit directions for completing them. Now many of Julia's recipes are favorites of the Morashes. Russ is also producer of "Crocket's Victory Garden" and "This Old House" for PBS.
The Morashes live in a lovely old New England house with a spacious kitchen and a sun-filled greenhouse. As we looked out onto the snow-covered grounds behind the house, Marian pointed out the arrangement of the gardens -- the vegetable garden over to one side near the garage, the beds of asparagus and rhubarb in the middle of the yard, and behind them, raspberry bushes and apple and pear trees. At the back door is an herb patch with sorrel, mint, tarragon, chives, and other herbs.
Marian spends the summer on Nantucket, where she heads the kitchen staff of the Straight Wharf restaurant. The menu includes entrees of the freshest seafood seasoned with herbs and simply cooked, accompanied by fresh island- grown vegetables, crusty French bread, and light desserts.This summer will be the restaurant's sixth year and the Morashes' first summer in a newly purchased house.
Some of the recipes in Marian's cookbook are frequently requested favorites at the restaurant while others may have been inspired in a roundabout way by Julia. They range from traditional New England dishes to peasant dishes from foreign countries, such as the following recipe for Colcannon, "just a combination of kale and potatoes." Color photographs taken in the gardens and kitchen of the Morash home in Lexington and in the restaurant on Nantucket will accompany the recipes.
Each chapter of the book will be devoted to a single vegetable or a family of vegetables such as beans. She will explain how to harvest the vegetables, followed by the steps involved in preparing and cooking them. Her list includes 34 vegetables, including fennel, one of Marian's favorites, "a delicious taste with fish."
Until the publication of the cookbook by Knopf next year, here is a selection of Marian's recipes, with her introductory comments and variations.
In this recipe, the Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, onion, and garlic meld with the sweet nuttiness of parsnip to produce a delicately flavored soup. Parsnip-Sofrito Soup 1 large onion 1 garlic clove, optional 1 1/2 to 2 cups peeled and seeded tomatoes 4 tablespoons olive oil Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 pound parsnips 2 carrots 6 cups chicken broth Chopped chervil or parsley, optional
Finely chop onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Use canned peeled Italian tomatoes if ripe, fresh tomatoes are out of season. Heat oil and gently cook onions and garlic until wilted but not browned, approximately 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. This is the sofrito.
Peel and cut parsnips and carrots into 1/4-inch slices. Heat chicken broth in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Add sofrito, parsnips, and carrots to broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve garnished with chopped chervil and parsley. Variations
Simmer a fowl; use both the broth and the flesh in the soup.
Drop cooked meatballs into the soup; heat through before serving.
Since kale grows so well in cold areas, it's no wonder that it has a long culinary history in Scotland and Ireland. Colcannon is traditionaly eaten at Halloween, and symbols of fortune are placed within its whipped mound. Traditional treasures are a golden ring (you will marry within the year), a sixpence (you will become wealthy), a thimble (you will be a spinster), or a button (you will remain a bachelor). Colcannon 1 pound kale 1 1/2 pounds potatoes 8 tablespoons butter 1 cup finely chopped leeks Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 cup finely chopped onions 1/2 to 3/4 cup light cream, milk, or combination of both
Wash, trim, and blanch kale (you should end up with 2 1/2 cups). Drain, gently squeeze out water and chop finely. Set aside. Peel potatoes; boil in salted water. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan and gently stew the leeks until they're soft and tender, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped kale and saute over high heat, stirring to remove excess moisture. Turn the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons of the butter, and slowly cook the leeks and kale for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small frying pan, brown the onions in the remaining butter. When the potatoes are tender, drain, and mash them. Whip in the kale and leek mixture and 1 teaspoon salt. Heat milk or cream and gradually beat in until mixture is smooth, creamy, yet firm. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary, and mound in a hot dish. Make a depression in the center and pour the browned onions and butter in the well until they spill over the side. Serve. Variations
If you wish to cut down on the butter, simmer the leeks in the milk until they are soft, and cook the onions in less butter.
Omit the browned onions.