UNDRESSING VEGETABLES : an unfolding book of recipes—kitchen CREDOS 'n MANNERS


There are a few things I’d like to share with you about my way of cooking that I hope will help you use this unfolding book efficiently and enjoyably.

— The recipes herein are meant as guides and not as absolute authority. The sense I mean to convey with these words is that of garnering a sensual knowledge, intuition and personal touch in the kitchen, nourishing curiosity so as to careen a bit off the path [and celebrating what might seem like a failure for the enriching experience it is]. I would also encourage you, when deciding to make any of the recipes in this book, to prepare it once to “get a feel for it,” tweak it to your tastes and expectations a second time, then invite your friends over for an evening around the table.

— Weighing dried goods with your hands or measuring oil in seconds of drizzle is a lovely way to commune with ingredients. I have a friend who lives in Italy’s Piedmont region—famous for its Carnaroli superfino rice, the number one ingredient in the risotto of the region—who showed me how the Torinaise weigh rice for risotto: 2 generous handfuls per person—give or take a little. Taking mental notes of how many grams a handful of walnuts or pumpkin seeds weigh and measuring oil in length of drizzle—give or take a little—is, well, thrilling. Because “give or take a little” really is for me where the love affair with cooking begins! You'll see a lot of pinches and handfuls with adjectives like good, generous, tiny alongside. For you to determine—by sticking your finger in and tasting—the “exact” amount. Yes! Fingers are allowed in my kitchen.

— Obviously where such phenomenon as gelling, thickening, and rising are concerned, more exact measurements are certainly called for.  Yet so many factors can impact on the outcome of even a pie dough: what type of flour, how fresh the flour is and thus the amount of moisture in it, whether the day is humid or dry. In which event you’ll need more or less water to bind it. And what about citrus fruits… depending on the time of year, they will be more or less acidic. The flowers the bees feasted on will define the sweetness and taste of your honey. And ovens… they definitely each have their own “hot” personality!

— All specific measurements in this book are in milliliters and grams. The reason being simply that most measuring cups now show multiple measuring units for liquids, and measuring dry ingredients in grams, with a scale [and being able to zero out in order to weigh a new ingredient in the same bowl] is just so much more accurate, intuitive, easy… enjoyable. [A quite interesting article on why America is one of only three countries, along with Burma and Liberia, still to have not switched to the metric system.] I’m all for everyone having a kitchen scale! Bet you’ll never go back to using cups again.
Here are three scale brands I recommend: Tefal, Salter, Oxo. Make sure the scale takes rechargeable batteries and measures in grams—most will also measure in ounces. They can easily be ordered from your favorite online kitchen store.

— May I ask that you please use only seasonal produce as local, organic and polyculture as possible. Flours as freshly milled as can be found and minus as many "agents" as possible. Dried beans no older than last year’s harvest—check the packaging date, if there is one. Eggs from truly clucking, pecking, scratching hens. Honey from bees that aren’t so tampered with, so sequestered, so robbed of their winter supply. Milk and cream from cows that are at least pastured at length. Try using blond cane sugar, if available. I know it's not as white in color or flavor, but that subtleness of "cane" I find quite pleasant. If it must be refined look for beet sugar or a refined cane sugar that doesn't use bone char as a whitening agent—go figure! In other words, take the time, the energy, and spend the money to place within your body foods that honor the Earth, the creatures with whom we cohabit on it, and thus ourselves.

— You’ll see these abbreviations in my recipes : kg for kilogram [approx 2 lbs] | gr : for grams | ml : for milliliters | tBsp : for tablespoon | tsp : for teaspoon. As well as a lot of pinches and handfuls and drizzles and sprinkles and...


One of the joys of cooking is the challenge I give myself of finding ways to creatively use every—or almost every—part of a vegetable or fruit—citrus—in my cuisine. It’s wonderful to see this same awareness cropping up in more and more kitchens, be they home or professional!

I have to wonder where and when the habit of tossing out so much of a plant’s offerings began then became a habit that for so long was unquestioned… at least in much Western “urban” cuisine. I remember the time a French friend stood aghast as I threw out my cooked broth vegetables [that was some years ago and the beginning of my awakening] and taught me how to turn them into a soup.

Citrus peels—organic ones—rarely find their way into my trash. They’re precious to me: they add brightness, bits of zingy texture, cherished layering and depth, generous color to any vegetable dish, any dessert—enhancing the story our taste buds are given to read. They also make sweet chunks of candied essence for all those delectable Italian sweets. Whether lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, clementine, mandarin, grapefruit… I always reserve the peel before eating or juicing the fruit. Below are the various ways I save and put to use those precious citrus peels and put them to good culinary use.

And greens: beet and turnip greens; cauliflower, broccoli and leaves, carrot, fennel, radish, celery tops, and just about every other supple, leafy, curly, flat, toothed, feathery green top—so often discarded—offer such flavorful, nourishing goodness that can be creatively used to succulent, nutritional ends! The greens I’ve mentioned above are by no means a complete inventory; the list goes on, all the more so if you have a patch of earth to grow some of your own vegetables and fruits in, or a planter box or three or four at your window for all your favorite fresh herbs.

Below is a list of ways I get the most out of the citrus and vegetables I bring home. Obviously, organic is of the essence here.



Wash and dry the citrus fruit! Snuggle it in the cup of your hand, facing you, as though you were inspecting it—if you turn it “upside down” you won’t be able to see where you’ve already zested and will end up with lots of bitter pith. Place the zester on top of the fruit and begin zesting, drawing the zester toward you (or away from you depending on the direction of the teeth) in long sweeps, once—never twice—over each portion of peel, leaving the pith behind. And you should avoid zesting any blemishes there may be. Run your finger down the gathered zest over a bowl or plate. Feel free to intermittently stop and scrape off the zest, if you’re more comfortable with that.

If you're not planning on directly adding the zest to a batter, filling, dough or other, spread it out on a plate and set it aside to dry; within a couple of hours you’ll have a lovely fluffy powder I like to call citrus salt. Sprinkled as garnish on top of any dish, sweet or savory, is simply a pleasure. If you want it dry right away, place the plate in a spent oven, the door ajar, for a few minutes or in the hot sun. You can keep the dried zest in a glass jar in the fridge for a couple three days.

note : As for my zester of predilection, it would be the 40001 Microplane classic zester—the barebones option with no handle. It almost floats across the citrus peel, gathering up but the essence of the zest, which is precisely what I want. The edges of the zester also conveniently act as a container, keeping the pith from falling off. Now I imagine you might already have your own favorite citrus zester, all the better… and do forgive me my “preaching.”  Regardless of which zester you use, what’s most important is to remove only the very essence of the peel and leave behind all that bitter white pith. Of course, when using citrus peels, the fruit should always be organic!


Wash and dry the citrus fruit. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest lengthwise, from top to bottom, in long strips. With a sharp paring knife, cut off any pith from the underbelly of the zest: starting in the center of each strip, place your knife at a slight angle and “catch” the pith then flatten the blade, pressing firmly on it, and zigzag back and forth toward the end of the strip. Turn and repeat in the other direction. If any pith remains, go over the strip again. Now cut your “pithless” peels lengthwise into extremely thin strips. [You can also simply use a citrus peeler, which will give you a thinner, finer curlicue—but with a bit less crunch.] You can take a look at my video on lemon zest.

It’s best to prepare your curlicues the night before, or the morning of. In which event simply spread them out on a plate and set them aside to curl up; 8 hours should be sufficient. Store in a glass jar until ready to use later in the day. Can be kept in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 days, but best used the day of.

If you need them in a hurry, spread the thin strips out on a plate and dry them in an oven preheated to 100 ˚C | 200 ˚F, the door slightly ajar, until the strips begin to curl, approx. 10 minutes. Shake them from time to time and keep a close eye: they should just begin to curl while remaining supple and not taking on any color. Cascade them over salads, gnocchi, pasta… and desserts.


If you have no particular need of citrus zest at the time, but are about to squeeze that lemon or peel that orange to eat, don’t throw the peel away! Take a minute to score the fruit from top to bottom with the tip of a sharp paring knife, cutting just through the peel, 4 to 8 cuts around depending on the fruit. Try to avoid cutting into the flesh. Peel each section downward, carefully, to make sure the strip comes off whole. A spoon can help achieve this: just carefully press it downward between the peel and the fruit, following the curve of the fruit from top to bottom. Rolling the fruit a bit beforehand will loosen the peel from the fruit. Place in a glass jar in the refrigerator. They will keep for 3 to 4 days. Then when you need some zest, take a strip or two out of the refrigerator and zest away. Or gather up the peels from 3 or 4 days and give them the candied treatment [instructions down below].

Alternatively you can cut the peel off à vif: cut off the top and bottom of the fruit then with a sharp paring knife trim off the peel and pith, cutting down slightly into the actual fruit from top to bottom [this is the same method used to segment your fruit—particularly grapefruit]. Rather than throwing away the peel, set it aside to dry spread out on a plate, pith side up, in a warm place, best where the sun can stretch its rays across. This will take a few days in the open air—you want to make sure the bit of fruit on the pith side is completely dry. You can also dry them in the oven preheated to 100 ˚C | 200 ˚F, the door slightly ajar, for a few hours. Or try a dehydrator if you have one. Can be kept in an airtight glass container, away from the sun, for up to 3 months.

Added to boiling water for a couple of minutes then strained these dried peels make for a wonderfully refreshing tea. Try adding a few cardamom seeds, fresh rosemary, mint, thyme, a cinnamon stick…


Now there are surely as many recipes and hints, shoulds and shouldn’ts to candying citrus peel as there are grandmothers and home cooks. Well, you can now add my version to your list.

— Unblemished organic orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine scrubbed and patted dry
— Sugar for simple syrup [I use blond cane sugar, a bit less refined than white sugar]
— Sugar for coating : granulated [sometimes powdered, which I grind myself]

1.   Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit. Score the rinds, by gently cutting from top to bottom through the peel with the tip of a sharp paring knife, 4 to 8 cuts around depending on the fruit. Try to avoid cutting into the flesh. Peel each section downward, carefully, to make sure the strip comes off whole. A spoon works wonderfully for this. Just carefully press it downward between the peel and the fruit, following the curve of the fruit from top to bottom. Rolling the fruit a bit beforehand will loosen the peel from the fruit.

2.   Put the peels into a large stainless steel pan. Add cold water to generously cover. Put the lid, ring to a boil then drain. Repeat this twice more. Transfer to a large bowl and rinse the peels with cold water to bring them back to room temperature. Cover again with an ample amount of cold water then cover the bowl with a plate and set aside in a cool place or put in the refrigerator if you prefer. Change the water twice a day for 5 days. On the 5th day, give the peels a final rinse then transfer them to a stainless steel pan. Cover with a generous amount of water, place the lid, bring to a bowl then drain and rinse with cold water.

3.  Spread out on a kitchen towel and gently pat dry. When cool enough scrape or cut off any excess pith—it isn’t necessary to remove all the pith, just that which has become soft and spongy. Cut into ¼- to ½-inch lengthwise strips or bite-sized lozenge-shaped pieces.

4.  Weigh the fruit—in grams—then set aside. Weigh out the same amount in grams of sugar and 1 1/2 times the amount in cold water (water measures the same in grams and milliliters (15 gr = 15 ml of water). Combine the sugar and water in a heavy stainless steel saucepan, ample enough to hold the peels and simple sugar, but not too large. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Add the zests, lower the heat a bit and cook at a generous gentle simmer until they are tender and turning translucent, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes... give or take. Stirring is to be avoided, as it can cause the sugar to crystallize.

5.  Place a sheet or two of parchment paper somewhere out of the way. Remove the zests with a slotted spoon, letting the spoon drain before spreading them out on the parchment paper. Separate the peels to give them breathing room, none should be overlapping as they'll stick amorously together. Let them dry for 1 day. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Turn the peels over and sprinkle again with granulated sugar. Let dry for another day then transfer to a glass jar. Sprinkle in a bit more sugar and give the jar a shake to make sure all the peels are well coated. The peels can be stored in an airtight jar, out of the sunlight, for up to 6 months.

notes : If you don’t have the time or patience, once you’ve initially boiled the peels 3 times you can proceed with step 3 of the recipe. It is true that the result will be zests that are both less chewy and slightly more bitter. |||  I do use powdered sugar to coat when making very thin candied lemon rinds, in which event I've cut off all the pith after blanching and soaking, leaving nothing really but the zest of the peel. ||| If you’re making candied tangerine, clementine, mandarin peels, proceed directly to step 3. Being a thinner peel, they cook up better without the 5 days of soaking. ||| I collect my peels as I go, over a period of a few days. When I’m going to eat an orange I score and peel it then put it in a glass jar in the refrigerator until I’ve collected enough [4, 5 or 6 oranges] to make the task worth while. I’ve even collected different peels from citrus I’ve used during that time and candied them together. Giving you a jar of candied peels that offer a bit of a “surprise.”


— Beet, turnip, kohlrabi, radish greens among others can all be wilted, sautéed, roasted in and of themselves, added to other leafy greens in any number of recipes: frittata, erbazonne, fogliata, any number of pasta and risotto dishes. The very tender inner “baby” beet and turnip leaves, very fresh and tender radish leaves, carrot tops, inner celery greens, fennel fronds can all be ground into a very fine paste with a mortar and pestle, pressed through a small tight sieve or strainer and mixed with some good extra virgin olive oil for a colorful “sauce” or garnish, or less finely ground up and turned into a pesto generously spread on bruschetta. Recipes to follow over the months.

Come mid-spring, when baby turnips start showing up at my favorite producer stands at the marketplace, I begin my gleaning. Actually the vendors see me coming and dig into their boxes of discarded goods. I greedily hand them my empty bag and they stuff it full. Then come beet greens—oh!!! my favorite—and then and then and then...


The variety of Swiss chard, or simply chard, commonly found in Western Europe [in France called blette, bette, côtes de bette or blette depending on the vendor) is always of green leaf with a much more generous rib that is quite prized, and a slightly less “steely” flavor. Very large leafed blette has ribs that can be a good 3-inches wide! Thinly sliced or chopped then sautéed before the leaves are added. The tarte aux blettes is a French favorite, but the recipe that really jazzes me is Venetian and nothing but the ribs—as a way of not wasting those left over from a recipe calling only for the greens. A couple photos and the recipe.

Chard Ribs alla Veneziana

— a good pile of Swiss chard ribs
— 1 garlic clove, cut in half, sprout removed, coarsely chopped or finely sliced
— 1 – 2 sprigs flat parsley, coarsely chopped
— 1 peperoncino [dried hot red pepper]—optional
— handful of walnuts, freshly cracked—not pre-shelled—lightly roasted, very coarsely chopped
— pinch dried lemon zest
— good white wine vinegar
— extra virgin olive oil
— unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper

||| Toast the walnuts in an oven preheated to 160 ˚C | 325 ˚F for 10 or so minutes, until they start releasing that beautiful scent. They do burn easily, so keep an eye.

||| Thoroughly wash and dry the Swiss chard ribs. Cut into large bite-sized pieces of any form you wish. Place in a large skillet with just a bit of water, enough to slightly cover the bottom. Place the lid and cook for 5 – 7 minutes—they should remain slightly al dente. Drain off some of the cooking water—no need to discard that tablespoon or two of jus, pour into a glass and sip away. Lovely!

||| Add a couple drizzles of olive oil, the garlic, peperoncino if using, and cook for another minute or two, until all the water is evaporated. Remove the peperoncino. Add enough vinegar to “wet” the ribs then let evaporate over medium-high heat. Add a handful or two of chopped parsley and give a good stir.

||| Transfer to a plate. Season with sea salt to taste and garnish with a a sprinkling of walnuts, a pinch of dried lemon zest and freshly ground lack pepper.

note : If you wish to make a lunch out of your vinegar-sautéed ribs, cook up an egg sunny side over and dry out some black olives in the oven : cut the pitted olives into pieces and set them in an oven preheated to 160 ˚C | 325 ˚F for up to 30 minutes or more, stirring from time to time. When they nicely crisped up, they're done. Sprinkle them over the egg and ribs.

As for beet green stems or ribs, cut quite small and sautéed a bit with some thinly sliced garlic—sprout removed—and a teeny pinch of peperoncino [red pepper flakes] before adding the greens, brings texture to your dish. Once out of the skillet, a drop or two of lemon juice, a sprinkling of dried lemon zest and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and, well, life is beautiful.

See you next week with more on “waste not want not.”

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