Plant it Black
This Halloween week, I visit with Paul Bonine, author of Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden (xeraplants.com). We chat about some of our favorite plants with strange, sinister, mysterious and beautiful black foliage or flowers (above, center, brass buttons, Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’, photo Glenn Kopp, MoBot; right, giant bird of paradise, Streliztia nicholai, photo Lynne Harrison).
For hellebore photos, northwestgardennursery.com.
The Root of it All
By popular demand, the recipe for Root Stew -- an autumn favorite that only takes about an hour to make, and serves 12 or more for a Halloween buffet.
1 cup yellow onions cut into half-inch pieces.
2 cups each of five or more assorted roots peeled and cut into one-inch chunks. (Plunge chunks into cold water to keep them from turning brown.) Roots: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rutabaga, and a tropical root that is new to you (such as boniato, cassava, taro, yucca). Butternut squash, although a fruit not a root (optional additions, see below *).
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (one 32-ounce box if you use that)
2 cans coconut milk
Thai five spice powder, or curry powder (optional)
1 package raw cranberries.
3-5 gingersnap cookies.
Accompaniment: Basmati or jasmine rice; assorted garnishes, for example salted peanuts, golden raisins, shredded sweetened coconut, chopped cilantro, mango chutney and the like.
In a non-stick sauté pan, cook onion in olive oil until translucent and dump into a large stew pot. Lightly sauté the roots in batches and add them to the stew pot. Add oil when necessary.
Add the liquids, which should cover the root chunks, turn on low fire and bring to a gentle boil (uncovered). Add seasoning if used. Salt, or one chicken bullion cube.
When the roots are just about tender (around 30 minutes), crush four or five ginger snap cookies into the liquid to flavor and thicken it. Stir gently and continue to cook.
Just before serving, pour in the contents of one entire package of raw cranberries. Gently fold so as not to break root chunks. (The cranberries will explode in your mouth.) Turn off the burner. Cover the pot and let the stew rest until ready to serve.
Serve over rice. Provide garnishes in small bowls with little spoons for serving.
* There are so many things that can go into this stew. Perhaps I should call it Kitchen Sink Soup.
Optional additions to try: 1 cup of one or two of the following: partially cooked cut carrots, cut parsnips, cubed beets, cooked chickpeas, cauliflower florets added towards the end.
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