Cooking with Lady Smokey: Staying Grounded


Well, hello 2012! I don’t know about y’all but as the new year starts, I just feel an overwhelming desire to get healthy. I always try desperately to shed the stress of the holiday, start eating healthier, try to exercise more, get organized and well grounded. No better way to start the new year than with lots of veggies. You should feel firmly grounded with these tasty root vegetable recipes.

root vegetables

Many of the root vegetables have their prime growing season throughout the winter and into the spring down here in the South. Growing beneath the earth, these vegetables usually have a high vitamin and mineral content. Some of the healthiest of the root vegetables that we eat all the time but may easily forget about their rooted upbringings are onions, shallots, ginger, and garlic. We eat these so much, they are an everyday staple in our kitchen. But what about all those other root vegetables? I tried to come up with some different recipes for the common ones and seek out new recipes for those root vegetables I am less familiar with. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

Roasted root vegetables

I served these roasted root vegetables with a simple piece of salmon that had been broiled with a slather of homemade pesto I pulled out of the freezer which I had put away this summer. I placed the salmon on a bed of mixed romaine and spinach with the veggies beside. We ended up sort of eating it all together and then had the leftover veggies with the vinaigrette over greens. So, I think these roasted veggies would be great atop a bed of greens to make a Roasted Root Veggies with Cumin Vinaigrette Salad! You could even crumble some chevre over the top! Or, to keep it vegan, some roasted pepitas would be great, as well!

Roasted Root Veggies with Cumin Vinaigrette

  • 3 Carrots, cut into ½” rounds
  • 3 Parsnips, cut into ½” rounds
  • 1 Sweet Potato, cut into ½” rounds (I used one long & skinny purple sweet potato.)
  • 2 Tbsp + ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar & pestle
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin Seed
  • 1 Tangerine, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1 Shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
  • Small Bunch Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
  • Bunch of Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

roasted root vegetable prep

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cover the bottom of a glass, oven-proof dish with a Tbsp olive oil. Cut root vegetable and arrange in dish. Sprinkle top with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until they seem tender when poked with a fork. Meanwhile, mix next ingredients in a sauce pan on the stove and heat to blend them together. Remove from heat. Pour vinaigrette over the veggies. Mix well. Top with fresh herbs.


I’ve been trying to find some delicious ways to eat turnips. Growing up, I don’t really have any memories of ever eating these strange root vegetables. As an adult, I often saute the greens which top the turnip. I thought it high time to figure out what the turnip root is all about. They are very similar to potatoes I have found and can easily be cooked with potatoes and mashed together for a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes. (Incidentally, turnips have fewer calories and carbohydrates than potatoes and are a good source of anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.) I found this Italian-style recipe from Mario Batali to be quite yummy, as well.

roasted turnips

Pan Roasted Turnips

  • 2 pounds Turnips, cleaned and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 4 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

Season turnips with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof saute pan, heat butter until starting to brown. Add turnips and toss to coat well. Add poppy seeds and saute until light golden brown, about 8 to 9 minutes. Add paprika and toss to coat. Add vinegar and cook until evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes, remove from heat and serve.

I am not a huge fan of that summer potato salad with lots of mayonnaise but I have always loved the French version with olive oil. This salad was inspired by that and a desire for a more hearty warm salad in these colder months.

potato salad
  • Winter Potato Salad
  • 3 Red Potatoes
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • Juice of ½ Lemon
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp French mustard
  • 1 tsp Cane Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Romaine Leaves
  • Kale Leaves
  • Green Olives (I used anchovy stuffed.)

Wash and cut red potatoes into 1” chunks. Boil the potatoes until they fork done. Drain. To make the dressing, mix the next nine ingredients together in a small food processor (or if you do not have one, you can chop everything up finely and whisk together). Heat the dressing in a small sauce pan on the stove. Wash romaine and kale leaves. Remove stems from kale. Chop both into fine strips. Mix together in a bowl. Chop olives and mix with greens. Add the potatoes. Pour warm dressing over and mix.

winter potato salad

Many times in these cooler months, I find myself craving more comfort food and some familiar tunes. One of my favorite album releases from last year which I’ve recently discovered makes a great cooking companion is from Nashville duo, Kort - the musical collaboration of Cortney Tidwell and Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner.

Kort at Grimey’s, Nashville, June 18, 2011
Kort at Grimey’s, Nashville, June 18, 2011

Their album called, “Invariable Heartache” is a collection of cover songs from the now-defunct country label, Chart records, which was run by Tidwell’s grandfather.

Nashville duo Kort

And speaking of comfort food… Every Fall, my Mom sends us a few bags of South Carolina pecans. I keep them in the freezer and pull them out whenever we need them. I was craving a nutty baked chicken dish last week and came up with this meal, below.

Herby Pecan Baked Chicken

  • 1 ½ cups Roasted Pecans
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley leaves
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, pounded flat and cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375. Roast pecans in a skillet until fragrant and lightly toasted. In a little food processor, grind the pecans with the spices and herbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can just chop everything extra-fine and mix together well. Place the buttermilk in a bowl and then soak chicken in buttermilk. Place the ground pecan mixture in a separate bowl. Place olive oil in the bottom of an iron skillet (or oven proof dish). One by one, remove chicken from buttermilk and roll into pecan mixture to coat. Place chicken in skillet or dish. Bake for about 30 minutes, until done.

Pecan Chicken Prep

I served this chicken with cheese grits and this simple recipe for Maple Sauteed Kale. The saltiness of the pecans and herbs on the chicken, the creaminess of the cheese grits and the slightly rich, sweet flavor of the kale all went very nicely together to form a classic Southern taste explosion!

Maple Sauteed Kale

  • 1 Bunch Kale
  • ⅓ cup Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • ¼ tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Wash and dry kale. Remove stems and tear into pieces. Heat saute pan and add oil. Add red onion and stir. Cook until onion softens. Add kale and cook until it wilts. Stir occasionally. Add maple syrup and chili flakes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Herby Pecan Chicken

Also featuring pecans and a great little dessert treat are these Pecan Shortbread Cookies.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

  • ½ cup Pecans, toasted and then ground finely
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½  cup Unbleached All purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/8 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Chilled Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Buttermilk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add butter. Use your finger to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, slowly and gently like you would pie crust. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Once the butter is mixed in, add buttermilk and vanilla. Gather dough into ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can roll dough out and cut cookies with a cookie cutter or roll into a log and slice. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

I’ll close with this video Kort made for “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries” which, I believe, is a good song to have stuck in your head…

Stay warm & healthy y’all!

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