Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Gastronomy – Cream, Caramel, & Fries

Posted on: May 4, 2011

Baked French Fries

If I don’t see another squash for a while, I’ll be a pretty happy girl.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but in the spirit of spring, it’s time to embrace the fresh produce that has finally come to surface.  Warmer weather brings back crisp and colorful vegetables, most of which are outrageously delicious, even with very little tending to—and really, when they’re super fresh, the less attention the better.  The following recipes (if you can even call them that) are super simple.  They let the produce speak for itself, proving that all you really need for a great veggie side dish are fresh produce, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  If these ingredients aren’t in season near you yet, keep these ideas in your arsenal.

Creamy Bok Choy

Creamy Bok Choy

This method works with pretty much any thick stemmed green (kale, chard, etc.), but bok choy is extra special because of how creamy the stems become.  You can use baby bok choy too; the stem to leaf ratio is a little lower.  Keep in mind that the leaves shrink down tremendously, so buy more than you think you need.

To prepare, cut the end off the bok choy stem, and then rinse (it will be easier to clean out dirt when each stem/leaf is separated).  Chop the stems into 1 inch thick pieces and separate from the leaves, which you can tear into smaller pieces or leave whole.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil (per pound of bok choy) in a large skillet over medium heat.  I like garlic, but it is optional to throw in some minced garlic cloves at this point.  Once the garlic is fragrant and yellow, toss in the stems.  Add about ¼ cup of water or stock and let the stems simmer until tender.  This will go faster if you cover the pan, but make sure to remove the lid and cook off the liquid before you add the leaves.  Once the stems are tender, add the leaves and cook until wilted and stems are soft, about 10 to 15 more minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

You can also use this method to cook leafy greens, like mustard greens, which are just about in season.  They’ll be sharp and peppery, unlike the sweet bok choy, and they taste great over polenta and a little melted cheddar or parmesan.

Carmelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

Most of my favorite recipes are of the instant-gratification variety, but some things are worth waiting for.  If you allow onions to cook down long enough, they release their natural sugar and become amber-brown, soft, and super-sweet.  In order to caramelize onions, you need to cook them low and slow: low heat, for as long as it takes.  There’s no hard and fast rule about just how long it will be, but 30 minutes is a good estimate.  I find that the pan you use makes a big difference.  I’ve had the most success (and shortest cook times) with stainless steel pans, rather than Teflon.  All you do is slice a yellow onion into thin slivers, heat about a tablespoon of oil per medium onion, and drop ‘em in.  Move the onions around often, making sure not to let them brown or burn (browning is different than becoming caramel-brown).

Baked French Fries

The only substitute for French fries?  Baked fries.  Ok, fine, “fries”.  But really, they’re just as good, if not better, than the real thing.  I especially like sweet potato fries, but any kind of potato will work.  For this healthier version of the original, preheat the oven to 425º.  Slice potatoes into sticks (or rounds) no thicker than ½ inch.  Toss with olive oil (enough to coat generously), and salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping once about halfway through, and then in 5 minute intervals until browned evenly and crispy.  Play around with flavors by sprinkling paprika, pimentón, garlic powder, and/or chili powder when you add the salt and pepper.

Freya Bellin writes weekly for Mark Bittman and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Crostini, Risotto, and Tapas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Us:

Send Us Your Music:


L.V. Lopez, Publisher
Keith Meatto, Editor-In-Chief
Peter Lillis, Managing Editor
Freya Bellin
Andrew Hertzberg
Franklin Laviola
Gina Myers
Jared Thomas
Jordan Mainzer


James Tadd Adcox
Michael Bakkensen
Sophie Barbasch
John Raymond Barker
Jeffery Berg
P.J. Bezanson
Lee Bob Black
Jessica Blank
Mark Blankenship
Micaela Blei
Amy Braunschweiger
Jeb Brown
Jamie Carr
Laura Carter
Damien Casten
Krissa Corbett Kavouras
Jillian Coneys
Jen Davis
Chris Dippel
Claire Dippel
Amy Elkins
Mike Errico
Alaina Ferris
Lucas Foglia
Fryd Frydendahl
Tyler Gilmore
Tiffany Hairston
Django Haskins
Todd Hido
Paul Houseman
Susan Hyon
Michael Itkoff
Eric Jensen
David S. Jung
Eric Katz
Will Kenton
Michael Kingsbaker
Steven Klein
Katie Kline
Anna Kushner
Jim Knable
Jess Lacher
Chris Landriau
Caitlin Leffel
David Levi
Daniel F. Levin
Carrie Levy
Jim Lillis
Sophie Lyvoff
Max Maddock
Bob McGrory
Chris Lillis Meatto
Mark Meatto
Kevin Mueller
Chris Q. Murphy
Gina Myers
Tim Myers
Alex Nackman
Michael Nicholoff
Elisabeth Nicholson
Nicole Pettigrew
Allyson Paty
Dana Perry
Jared R. Pike
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Marisa Ptak
Sarah Robbins
Anjoli Roy
Beeb Salzer
Terry Selucky
Serious Juice
David Skeist
Suzanne Farrell Smith
Amy Stein
Jay Tarbath
Christianne Tisdale
Phillip Toledano
Joe Trapasso
Sofie van Dam
Jeff Wilser
Susan Worsham
Khaliah Williams
David Wilson
James Yeh
Bernard Yenelouis
Wayan Zoey

Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.