Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Veggies I Have Loved

I have a terrible habit of getting into ruts.  For instance, recently, I was in a  Cold Play rut: I played Viva La Vida * constantly.  No one in my family likes this song as much as I do, yet my husband and children know all the words -- in fact, I play it so often, my dogs know all the words.  (I'm pretty sure one of the dogs rolled his eyes when I cued it up on my ipod yesterday).

I do the same thing with vegetables.  For the longest time I was addicted to broccolini -- which sounds Italian but is actually about as Italian as a vente latte.  According to Wikipedia, broccolini is a Japanese invention:

Broccolini is a green vegetable not unlike broccoli with small florets and long, thin stalks. Although often misidentified as young broccoli, it is a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, Chinese broccoli. A natural hybrid of the cabbage family Brassica oleracea, it was developed by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan. Broccolini's flavor is sweet, with notes of both broccoli and asparagus.”   (Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source: see 30 Rock episode where Jenna researches Janis Joplin.)


I don’t taste the “asparagus notes” myself, I just know it’s yummy -- especially sauteed up in olive oil and garlic with a dash or soy sauce or lemon juice just before serving.  It’s so tender, you don’t even need to par-boil it, although if you don’t like it too crunchy, you can always toss a 1/2 cup  chicken or vegetable stock in the pan which will steam the broccolini some as you saute (* *see recipe below). My family ate this several times a week for months, until they begged for something different.

  So I moved on to Brussels sprouts.  I began eating Brussels sprouts as a kid, mainly because they grossed out my sisters.  Plus, they were, and are, my Dad’s favorite vegetable, and even as a kid, I thought my dad was totally cool.  As an adult, I started liking Brussels sprouts for real and the only reason we don’t have them more often (as in: several times a week for months) is that you have to cut the ends off and trim the sprouts of any brownish leaves, which I often feel too lazy to do unless I can conscript one of my kids to do it.  I also always cut them in half,(the sprouts, not the kids, the kids I leave whole)  so one side can get brown and crispy.  Do as I do and toss them with about a tablespoon of olive or grape seed oil, two pinches of sea salt, one pinch of brown sugar and a scraping of nutmeg.  (If you don’t have whole nutmeg, go with about 1/8th of a teaspoon because you don’t want to overwhelm the sprout flavor).  My dear friend, Jill, tells me she makes a great Brussels sprouts dish with bacon, apples and thyme.  I’ll get the exact recipe for you, because she’s an incredible cook and you will want to have it.  

My new obsession is parsnips.  Sweeter than carrots, they last as long in the crisper, so I always seem to have some on hand.  You can slice them up, along with some carrots and steam/saute (**, again) them with olive oil,  plunking in a a last minute teaspoon of butter and a sprinkling of dill.  You can roast them in a 450 oven for 15 minutes after tossing with olive oil and salt.  You can cut  several up and put them in a big pot with potatoes them mash them all together with hot milk and butter.  Every one will wonder what that secret sweetness is in your mashed "potatoes".  And, I always add parsnips to vegetable stock.  Last night, while still suffering under the weight of a dreadful 48 hour cold, I bought an already roasted chicken, shredded it, steamed up some parsnips, potatoes, carrots and, yes, broccolini (I had a writing teacher who once said stories should always come full circle, and look!  I've done it!) in about a cup of my vegetable stock.  When the vegetables were almost cooked, I grated some ginger into it and added some salt, pepper and a few dashes of soy sauce.  Very yummy.  We all ate it up. Then I played Viva La Vida, and danced around the kitchen until my sinuses pounded. Daughters and dogs ran from embarrassment, while my husband just laughed and ate the leftovers.

**To Steam/Saute (I learned this technique from How To Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson)

Put about 1/3 cup of water or stock in a pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil (olive, grapeseed, or even butter or bacon fat) along with about 1lb of vegetables.  Cover and steam until veggies are almost tender.  Add a pinch or two of sea or kosher salt and some pepper.  Saute until all the water is evaporated, then 1 to 2 minutes longer.  Adjust seasoning if need be.

Vegetable Stock

2 Tblsp olive oil, canola oil or grapeseed oil

1 large oinion quartered

1 large tomato quartered, or whatever left over almost shriveled cherry tomatoes you have (I usually have lots of these)

2 large carrots cut into chunks (or more, if you have them)

2 stalks of celery cut into chunks (again, more if you have them) 

2 parsnips cut into chunks

2 to 4 garlic cloves peeled


2 sprigs of thyme (if you have it)

2 bay leaves

4 to 6 whole peppercorns

3 whole cloves

8 cups of water -- or enough water to cover the vegetables by at least 2 inches

Also good, if you have it: leeks, broccoli stems, mushrooms whole or the stems

  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot.  
  2. Throw the vegetables and garlic in and saute stirring until they're tender -- about 10 minutes. 
  3. Add the parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns cloves and water.
  4. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down, cover pot and simmer it all for about an hour
  5. When your stock is all carmel colored and smells great, take it off the heat and let it cool down.  (You can leave it uncovered for about an hour)
  6. Scoop out all the solids using a small strainer or a large skimmer (see chicken stock recipe and burned feet reference), making sure you press on the solids to get all liquid out of them.  If you are feeling like Martha Stewart, you can also pour your stock through a cheese cloth lined strainer to make sure it is as clear as possible.  I personally don't care to do this.
  7. This stock will be good for 3 days in the fridge and can be frozen for 3 months or until so burned with frost it is unrecognizable

  *If you get tired of Chris Martin, you can always check out this version of Viva La Vida by Lady GaGa

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