Root Veggies on Parade

Beet varieties at the Park Slope Food Coop

Everyone direct your attention to the nearest produce section, brimming with veggies in every odd shape and color of the rainbow. It’s time to familiarize yourself with the scraggily, weird looking veggies, pulled straight from the ground that have settled on produce shelves for the winter. They include such favorites as carrots, celery, parsnips, radish, turnips, beets, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and rutabaga… well maybe not that last one but it’s just so fun to say! Besides rutabaga these are some of the most common things we find in the crisper drawer, probably because they last much longer than your fruits or your greens. They’re something we’re confident using two weeks in a row, which makes our job all the more experimental and exciting.

There’s almost nothing I find more comforting than biting into a warm roasted carrot, which is why, when I surveyed my supermarket this weekend, just as the temperature finally dropped below 60, I ended up with mostly carrots in my handcart. I love the way they’re equally delicious raw as they are cooked and how they add just the right amount of sweetness to a dish.

A few more things you should know about carrots:

  • You don’t need to peel them unless you’re eating them raw.
  • While carrots are very nutritious (vitamin A, C, potassium, etc.) most of the nutrients in carrots actually reside in or just bellow the skin so it’s best not to peel away too much.
  • For candy-like caramelized carrots drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on them before roasting.
  • As we know carrots come in many colors. But when carrots were first cultivated (some ten thousand years ago) they were actually purple, not the orange color we associate them with most today (
  • You really will turn orange if you eat too many of the orange ones!

The second root-veggie I find it hard to resist is beets. When I see them on a menu I must have them, especially when they’re paired with goat cheese… mmmm. I love the sweet smell of the steam when you unwrap their foil. I don’t even mind that my hands will look like an art project for the rest of the day (pro tip: feta juice takes it right off).

A few more things you should know about beets:

  • To steam beets, rinse well, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and wrap in foil. The foil-wrapped bulbs can be placed directly on the oven rack. Just be sure they’re wrap doesn’t have any tears of holes.
  • They take a long time (sometimes over an hour) – so plan ahead! For steaming it’s important to try to pick beets that are relatively the same size so they’re tender at the same time. If you’re crunched for time, use smaller beets or cut larger ones into wedges with their skin on and roast them just like you would any other veggie with salt, pepper and olive oil on a sheet tray at 425 degrees. The skins get nice and caramelized that way!
  • You can eat them raw: shredded like you would carrots or shaved like you would radish.
  • Keep a loose piece of foil or sheet tray on the rack below the beets to collect any spills, saving yourself from that horrible bubbly, smoky mess on the bottom of your oven.

I could go on and on about my favorite root-vegetables because, truth is, I love them all, these are just the ones I’m craving this week:

I saw this carrot recipe in the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (just hit shelves last weekend and totally worth a peruse) that immediately caught my eye. Because carrots, tahini, crispy chickpeas. But I wanted it to be substantial enough for my whole meal so I decided raw carrots we’re enough and I roasted big chunks instead.

I also added smoked paprika to the chickpeas because it’s delicious.


4-5 carrots quartered lengthwise or cut in coins

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste


1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry on paper towels

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cumin

¼ tsp. paprika


1 medium garlic clove

Juice of one lemon

3 Tbs. tahini

2 Tbs. water, or more as needed

A pinch of salt


1/4 cup chopped pistachios, roasted

2 sprigs parsley leaves

Roast carrots: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange carrots in a single layer on a large, parchment lined sheet tray. Season with salt, pepper and oil, toss and roast for about 25 minutes, until the carrots are deeply roasted and caramelized.

Chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with oil and seasonings. Spread them on a sheet tray and roast alongside the carrots until crisp and crunchy, about 15-20 minutes.

Vinaigrette: Whisk ingredients in a large bowl until smooth, but not too loose. You may need to add more water to achieve this consistency. Don’t worry this is normal!

Assemble salad: tumble carrots, chickpeas, pistachios and parsley into a large bowl and drizzle with tahini vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Other favorite carrot recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh’s beautiful book, Sweet, highlights a couple unlikely root vegetable baked goods. Of course the one that seduced me wasn’t the carrot cake, which is a personal weakness, but the beet cake! With spicy candied ginger and tangy cream cheese frosting it’s certainly a contender!

The picture in the cookbook made the frosting look light and fluffy. My results were a little on the runnier side, but still tasted delicious 🙂


2/3 cup walnut halves

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 red beets, peeled and coarsely grated

Finely grated zest of one orange (1 tbs.)

1/2 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger (they instruct you to steep these in boiling water for 15 minutes, however, I skipped this step to create a little more intense flavor)

2 large eggs

¼ cup soup cream

½ cup sunflower oil


5 ½ cream cheese at room temperature

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more if necessary)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 1/3 inch piece of ginger grated into a fine sieve placed over a bowl and the flesh squeezed to extract all the juices; reserve the juice.

To make cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.

Toast the walnuts in a skillet in the oven for 15 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine and aerate. Add the beets, orange zest, walnut and ginger, but do not stir.

Place wet ingredients: eggs, sour cream and oil in another small bowl and whisk to combine.

Pour mixture into the cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

To make frosting: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and beat for about 10 seconds until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the cream and beat for about 1 minute, until the frosting is thick and smooth. Add the ginger juice, beat for a few more seconds. If the frosting seems a little loose just add a little more confectioner’s sugar. Once the cake is cooled, frost with an offset spatula and slice to serve!

Ottolenghi stirs in a crushed 1500mg vitamin C tablet to help preserve some of the vibrant pink hue

Other favorite beet recipes:


Happy cooking,


Pumpkin Pie Spice and Everything Nice!

There are a lot of things I love about the fall. Football, colorful crunchy leaves, thick socks and most of all – the abundance of pumpkin EVERYTHING. As I was going through Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cook book, “Sweet”, I stumbled upon a delish spice cake recipe that uses pumpkin pie spice! So in the spirit of Halloween, I had to test it.

Growing up, my mom would make the most delicious spice cakes every year (she’s an amazing baker and constantly gets asked to make her famous rum cakes, spice cakes and chocolate rolls). So, as I try to channel my mom and Ottolenghi, here is what I came up with! Of course I had to give it a flare, so I added toasted hazelnuts, fresh sage and dates to the batter. And let me tell you, the kitchen smelled AMAZING.


¾ cup butter, at room temperature

¾ packed cup dark brown sugar

¾ packed cup light brown sugar

finely grated zest of 1 large orange

3 large eggs

½ cup sour cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice (YUM)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp apple cider vin


Rian’s Mix In’s (add anything you like! )

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

½ cup sliced dates

1 tsp flour



  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Grease a standard 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
  2. Place the butter, sugars and orange zest in a bowl and beat until lightened and smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract until smooth

4. In another separate bowl (lots of bowls!), sift the flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt together.

5. In alternate batches, slowly mix the egg mixture and flour mixture in with the butter and sugars. When almost combined, stir the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl until it fizzes and add to the mixture.

6. In my version of the recipe, I added in toasted hazelnuts, dates and chopped sage to the batter! Stir the additional ingredients with a pinch of flour. This will ensure that they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake. Mix to combine.

7. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

8. Allow the cake to cool and serve with a glass of wine or a hot coffee (I prefer the wine). I smothered mine with homemade butternut squash and cream cheese icing, but the cake itself can stand alone. Enjoy! And have the happiest Halloween!!





Orange Zest Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake with pistachio, orange zest and ricotta

It was a typical Friday morning. I arrived in Red Hook at around 10am, marketed for my clients** and headed to their studio with plenty of time to casually prepare lunch and clean up for the weekend. As I took my time in the kitchen, chatting with the crew who were stopping in to say hello and pour themselves some much needed coffee, one of them brought up a special request. It happened to be a team member’s birthday and the studio had a tradition of celebrating with cake. Could I throw something together? Sure! No problem.

In fact, there was a problem. After taking a brief inventory, I learned that we were out of milk and butter. Posit you this: How do you make lunch and a cake in two hours for ten+ people with no milk, or butter? Challenge accepted.

One of the most important skills of a private chef is the ability to pivot. There is no saying what obstacles could get in the way. Sometimes a recipe does not go as planned, other instances the grocery store runs out of stock of certain crucial ingredients. (I am on a first name basis with most buyers at the grocery stores I frequent) Finally, there are even times when I arrive at a clients home, only to discover that some of the ingredients I had stocked in prior weeks are now gone.

After a short panic, I enlisted the help of Laura, Rian and Charlotte via group text and true to form they didn’t let me down! Within minutes I got the enthusiastic resolution to my puzzle, make an olive oil cake! They immediately sent me a number of recipes of which I could combine and alter to my needs. Due to my aforementioned pantry issues, I ended up throwing together my own take on olive oil cake, adding in some scraped vanilla bean and orange extract that was on hand.

Mind you, I tend to hate baking. This is a skill completely different from cooking, an enjoyable task in which you can taste and alter your creation at will until you reach the desired result. Baking is a terrible game of precision in which you must measure to a T (literally) without tasting (but really who doesn’t love raw batter?) and then tuck it away in an oven for an hour to do its thing. Little wiggle room for mistake there my friends.

I threw the cake in the oven and went about my lunch duties. I pulled the cake out when the crust was browned and fretted over the cooling process, making a glaze for the first time since culinary school and praying that it would hold shape on top of the barely room temperature cake when I poured it on top. I left for the day feeling victorious that I had prevailed over all the odds stacked against me.

Imagine my shock to come back the following week to rave reviews! Apparently the olive oil cake had been a hit. I was proud but let it roll off my shoulder. Fast forward months later to the new year when it turns out that the memory of the cake had not quite faded in the minds of all others. Within days I was approached by three separate people, all lamenting that they could not find another dessert to stand up to my famous olive oil cake and could they please have the recipe? Once again, panic ensued. I had no idea what I threw together to make the dessert!

Mise en place for olive oil cake

In a pragmatic effort to solve this new mystery, we decided to make a day of recipe testing olive oil cakes to definitively document our own What We Eat signature recipe! We each got a say in different variations and set to work on baking one classic orange zest olive oil cake, one pistachio cake, and one ricotta lavender cake. Once finished, we wrapped and transported the cakes to the office for final scrutiny. (though not before we got a taste ourselves!)

When the time finally came to serve for tasting in the studio, results came back almost entirely in favor of the original version. Though all were tasty and some preferred the nuttiness and delicate profile of the pistachio cake, it seems as though it is best to stick with the original. Why mess with a good thing?

**Note from Laura: You will never miss Kristina in the supermarket. She’s the weirdo with gargantuan headphones that literally dances her way through every aisle. Not a hint of embarrassment. One of the reasons I love her.


Orange olive oil cake

Serves 8

1¾ cups All Purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

½ cup marmalade

Grated zest of 2 oranges

1 ¼ cups olive oil

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 vanilla bean, scraped


1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus more if needed



Preheat the oven to 325°F, with a rack in the middle position. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the paper.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest and mix well with your fingertips, rubbing the mixture together until well blended. Add the oil to the sugar mixture, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and marmalade until combined. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, beating on low speed and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each batch, until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to cool completely on the rack.

To make the glaze:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice to make a thick but pourable glaze; add more orange juice if needed.  Set the cake, on the rack, over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the glaze on top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze set for at least 30 minutes before slicing the cake.