February 28, 2017 Roasted Broccoli Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

 

Broccoli is an all season favorite that usually has a place of prominence at the front of the produce aisle. I love to roast broccoli toss it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It’s so good we’re lucky it makes it to the dinner table. This time I used a little restraint and combined it with some roasted chickpeas, cilantro leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. A tahini dressing brings it all together and makes a wonderful winter side dish. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute flat leafed parsley.

Roasted Broccoli Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1¼ to 1½ lbs broccoli crowns
  • 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 T tahini
  • 1 ½ T lemon juice
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar (white preferably)
  • 1 t tamari
  • 1 t honey
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 c chickpeas
  • 1 c cilantro leaves
  • 2 T finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the broccoli into florets, including some of the stem. Place broccoli in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Move the broccoli to a baking sheet and place in an even layer.
  2. Roast until the broccoli is nicely browned, stirring and flipping the pieces occasionally, check after 5 minutes. Roasting will take about 15 minutes total. Leave oven on.
  3. While the broccoli is roasting, combine the dressing ingredients, tahini, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, tamari, honey, chopped garlic in a small bowl. Stir to combine and add a little water if needed to thin the dressing.
  4. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Place them on clean cloth kitchen towel or paper towels to dry and roll gently to remove skin. Place chickpeas on the same baking sheet that the broccoli was on and roast until they turn golden brown in spots. Roll the chickpeas around on the sheet during the baking time to ensure even browning.
  5. In a large bowl place the roasted broccoli, chickpeas, cilantro leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss gently. Drizzle dressing on individual portions and serve immediately.

June 29, 2016 Asian Broccoli with Coconut

DSC_7150aBroccoli and sweetened coconut shreds? Let’s just say I was as much curious as I was dubious about this recipe. My curiosity won out in the end and discovered I liked this easy and flavorful side dish.

Broccoli florets are blanched in boiling salted water for a few minutes until crisp-tender. The florets are removed from the pot and shocked in a ice water bath. This stops the cooking process and preserves the bright green color. Drain the broccoli and dry well with paper towels. If the broccoli is too wet it will water down the dressing.

Aromatics, garlic, ginger and a pinch of spicy red pepper flakes are sautéed in a neutral oil until fragrant. Toss in the broccoli to coat and season with salt and pepper. Tamari and mirin are added to the pan and reduced to make a easy sauce. Tamari is a soy sauce that is made without wheat and has a milder and richer taste compared to regular soy sauce. Low sodium soy sauce could also be used in this recipe. Mirin, like sake, is a rice wine but with a higher sugar and lower alcohol content. The sweet flavor of mirin is a nice contrast to a saltier sauce like soy or tamari.

Reduce the liquid by half, then remove the broccoli to a serving platter. The sauce left behind in the pan is poured over the broccoli and the coconut shreds are sprinkled on top. I found the coconut added another dimension of flavor and was balanced out nicely by the sweet and salty sauce.

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Shock the blanched broccoli to preserve the bright green color.

Asian Broccoli with Coconut

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bite sized broccoli florets
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T tamari soy sauce
  • 1 T mirin
  • 1 T sweetened coconut flakes

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a 6-quart pot over high heat. Add florets and bring back to a boil. Cook until just tender 2-3 minutes
  2. Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon to an ice water bath and let sit until cool, 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli and dry well on  paper towels.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant, 1 minute. Gently toss in the broccoli to coat in the oil. Season with ¾ teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the soy and mirin. Gently toss broccoli until liquid is reduced by half and broccoli is warmed through, 2-3 minutes. Remove broccoli to a medium serving platter. Pour soy over broccoli. Sprinkle shredded coconut over top.

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June 1, 2016 Broccoli and Butternut Squash Salad

DSC_7045aWe always leave room for a large row of broccoli plants in the garden. But somehow this year, Joe forgot to buy broccoli seeds. We remedied that by purchasing “starts”, small broccoli plants from the garden center at the Home Depot. They are very healthy plants. They took well to transplanting and we’ve encountered no cabbage worm problem this year. But something wasn’t right. Normally, broccoli plants have form one large head in the center. After the center head is harvested, it produces additional side growth for a few more weeks. This year the plants produced no center head but a reasonable amount of side growth.

I did a little research and there is a good possibility that the plants were subject to “buttoning” before we bought them. They could have been exposed to cold temperatures (35-50°F) for several days. Other possible stressors include insufficient water, a lack of nitrogen, excessive salt in the soil, pests or disease. I guess the moral of the story is to plant as much as you can from seed, that way you can be certain your plants have been nurtured properly. That said, we still have some broccoli and I created this healthy salad from some of those side shoots plus other ingredients in my kitchen, butternut squash, red pepper, dried cherries and slivered almonds.

Toss butternut squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake in a 375°F oven. Toss them occasionally on the baking sheet to ensure even browning on all sides. Squash cubes shrink, the four cups you start with will yield about 2 1/2 cups of finished product. Even though the broccoli I used was picked that day, I prefer to blanch it for thirty seconds to brighten the color and bring out it’s flavor.  After you drain it in a colander,  plunge the broccoli into an ice bath. This will stop the hot broccoli cooking and prevent it from turning limp and watery.  After it has cooled down, place the florets on a clean kitchen towel to dry.

You could just add plain nuts to the recipe, but toasting them really brings out the flavor. Add the nuts to a skillet large enough to stir or toss them in, depending how brave you are. Cooking over medium high heat, keep the nuts moving at all times to ensure even toasting and no burnt spots. Toasting brings out some of their oil and makes the kitchen smell great! Any nut will work, walnuts, pecans even sunflower seeds.

I had several types of dried fruit in the kitchen and decided that dried cherries would add a tangy sweet element to the dish. I made a vinaigrette with Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic from The Tubby Olive. It has a pleasant acidity with a bright crisp lemon flavor. I combined it with a few tablespoons of their Roasted Almond Oil and finished it with some extra virgin olive oil. Toss the broccoli florets, squash cubes and pepper strips with some of the dressing. Add the cherries and almonds and toss again, adding dressing if necessary. Veggies exude their own liquid, so be judicious in adding the vinaigrette. Refrigerate the salad for several hours to bring out the flavors. Taste before serving, adding any additional dressing, salt and pepper. It’s a colorful, healthy and very flavorful salad.

Little broccoli shoot hiding between the leaves.
Little broccoli shoot hiding between the leaves.
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Broccoli side growth, just as good for this salad.
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Very colorful ingredients.

Broccoli and Butternut Squash Salad

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 c broccoli florets
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes, about 4 cups
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 c red pepper strips, 2″ x ½” from one small pepper
  • ½c slivered almonds
  • ½c dried cherries
  • ¼c Sicilian Lemon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 2 T Roasted almond oil
  • ¼c extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss butternut squash cubes with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet.
  3. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, tossing occasionally to be certain squash gets browned on all sides. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Fill a large pot with water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Put a colander large enough to accommodate the broccoli in the sink.
  5. Have an ice bath (bowl with water and ice at the ready. Plunge the broccoli in the boiling water and count to 30. Immediately drain the broccoli in the colander then transfer it to the ice bath to stop the cooking.
  6. Drain the broccoli when it has cooled a bit and place broccoli florets on a clean dishcloth to dry them off a bit.
  7. Toast almonds in a medium dry skillet over medium high heat. Keep them constantly moving to ensure even coloring. They will exude some of their oil  and they smell great. Remove from the pan and cool.
  8. In a small bowl, combine the lemon balsamic, garlic, thyme and oils.  Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Place the butternut squash, broccoli and pepper strips in a large bowl and toss with some of the dressing. Add the dried cherries and almonds and toss again, add a little more dressing if needed. Chill before serving.

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October 25, 2015 Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

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The fall crop of broccoli is making it’s appearance in our farmers market and I love making broccoli soup now that the cooler weather is upon us. This time I combined it with leeks and shallots from our own harvest and one of the more unique offerings at our local farmers market, freshly harvested ginger.

This ginger is younger than the ginger you buy at the grocery store. The skin is  a yellowish beige with pink and purple markings. The flavor is milder and the flesh is delicate and  juicy, not fibrous. This is the ginger commonly used in pickled ginger. You can substitute fresh ginger in any recipe, but because of it’s milder flavor, you will need to use more.

Ginger from the grocery store that has sprouted can be planted but there is no guarantee if it will be disease and pest free. Our local farm, Blooming Glen Farm buys rhizomes from certified organic farms in Hawaii. They start their plants in the spring and grow them in conditions that are similar to the warm temperatures the plants are accustomed to in Hawaii. The rhizomes are ready for harvest by mid October. A bit pricey, 18.99 a pound, but a nice splurge this time of year.  I’m going to hold a few aside for Joe to plant so we can have our own ginger next fall. This soup comes together very quickly and the frizzled leeks that top it are very easy to do and add a nice textural contrast.

Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • ¼c chopped shallots
  • 1T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 large leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only
  • 1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4-5c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Frizzled leeks as garnish-see recipe following

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Fresh ginger from the farmers market.
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Part of the fall leek harvest.

Directions

  1. Add olive oil  to a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Stir in the chopped shallots and ginger and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli florets and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Add additional stock if the soup is too thick.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  6. Garnish soup with frizzled leeks.

Frizzled Leeks

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse away any grit. Slice thinly and pat dry to insure the oil will not splatter.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, warm ¼ inch olive oil. Add a handful of leeks and fry until golden brown, about a minute or so.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining leeks.

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July 7, 2015 Buttermilk Broccoli Basil Soup

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When I first started cooking in the eighties, supermarkets sold broccoli with both the crown and stem, usually two pieces joined together with a thick rubber band. Back then I would whack off the stems and use the florets for stir fries and rich broccoli cheddar soup. The stems were sentenced to the compost heap or the garbage pail. Like most home cooks, I didn’t realize the stems were edible and had no idea how to cook them.

Because of my interest in Chinese cooking I discovered a recipe that changed the way I looked at using broccoli.  It was a recipe for jasmine fried rice that called for peeled and diced broccoli stems.  I admit I was dubious at first, but the delicate texture and sweet flavor the stems brought to the dish won me over. Now the problem became finding broccoli with the stem. Over the course of time the crown and stem combination was replaced with just broccoli crowns, sold at a higher price.  Like me, consumers wanted just the crowns, so the supermarkets responded in kind.  Broccoli crowns became the norm, coming at a premium price per pound.

Fast forward to the last several years, with the advent of farmers markets, food co-ops and the rising popularity of home gardens, the broccoli stem has reappeared. In the spirit of nose to tail cooking, using virtually the entirety of an animal,  chefs are now embracing root to stem cooking, using as much of the vegetable as possible. Why not use broccoli stems? The main stem is entirely edible.  They have the same nutritional value as the crowns or florets with even more fiber.  I have found recipes using the stem for everything from salads to stir fries to roasted chips.

The original recipe for this soup called for broccoli florets only.  I used the florets in another dish and in the spirit of root to stem cooking, thought the stems would work well in a soup. I sliced the stem into bite sized pieces to yield 5 cups. The sliced broccoli stems and shallots are sauteed in butter or oil. A little sherry boosts the flavors and the vegetables are simmered in either chicken or vegetable broth. Since they are more fibrous, broccoli stems should be cooked a little longer than the florets.  You can either peel the stems first or put the mixture through a food mill after pureeing to obtain the smoothest texture.  Thin the soup with buttermilk and garnish with mini basil leaves. Our warm temperatures called for a cold soup but this would be good warm as well.

I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.
I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.

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Broccoli Basil Soup

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 2T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or 3 medium shallots
  • 2T dry sherry
  • 5c broccoli stems or flowerets or a combination of both, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2½c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1c low fat buttermilk
  • 2T fresh finely minced basil leaves

Directions

  1. Heat butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion or shallot and sauté until golden, about five minutes.
  2. Add sherry and broccoli, stir cook until sherry evaporates, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste to saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until broccoli is tender, flowerets will take about 10 minutes, stems only, 20 minutes.
  4. Ladle broccoli mixture into blender. Blend until very smooth, using a little of the buttermilk if needed. If using stems, place mixture through a food mill for the finest texture. Stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
  5. If serving hot, return soup to saucepan; cook over low heat until warmed through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional buttermilk to thin consistency. Adjust seasonings. If serving cold, refrigerate soup for several hours, taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Soup can be refrigerated for three days and either served cold or reheated just before serving. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with minced basil or whole mini basil leaves and serve immediately.

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July 3, 2015 Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

DSC_3357aMy original idea for this post was to make a salad, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. Freshly harvested broccoli and carrots are tossed with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and my favorite ingredient to add to the roasting mix, aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper, as I have mentioned before in a previous post is one of my favorite new ingredients of the past several years. It is dark red in color, flaky and somewhat oily in texture. It’s flavor profile is rich, sweet and fruity with hints of cumin.  Aleppo’s heat profile is moderate, only just a little hotter than paprika.

Begin by cutting your vegetables in relatively uniform pieces; in this case; the broccoli in individual florets and carrots in one inch lengths so they will roast in the same time as the broccoli.  Remember that vegetables shrink when roasting so always cook more than what you might if you were steaming or sautéing.

Although some recipes have you do it right in the pan, vegetables are more evenly oiled and seasoned in a bowl . Use just enough oil to give an even coating, about two tablespoons for this quantity should be enough. Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and whatever herb you might choose. In addition to Aleppo pepper, I have used paprika, chipotle pepper, cumin, thyme, it all depends on what compliments your vegetables best.

Roasting should always be done on a large shallow sided sheet pan. The ones I use are called “half size” and have a 18″x13″ dimension. They are relatively inexpensive and available in most big box stores. I consider them indispensible and have about a dozen from my catering days. Using a pan or baking dish with high sides will cause them to steam rather that roast because of the high water content of vegetables.

Give the vegetables room for roasting, everything should be in a single layer on the pan with a little room between each piece. I like to roast on a relatively high heat, 425°F to 450°F to insure they will caramelize on the outside and be nice and tender on the inside.  I like to stir or shake the pan every five minutes or so to roast every surface.  Time may vary for desired doneness, that’s why I check them frequently. The larger your pieces are, the longer it will take them to cook.

For a finishing touch to my roasted vegetables I added some cashews and a little fresh cilantro. In this case, simple was the best.

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Cut vegetables into uniform pieces and spread out evenly on a sheet pan.

Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets chopped off the stalk, about 6-7 cups
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in half and into 1″ lengths
  • 2-3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3t kosher salt
  • 2t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1t Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4c unsalted cashews
  • 1/4c cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.In a large bowl, toss the vegetables together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Transfer vegetables to a large sheet pan, spreading them out evenly.
  3. Roast vegetables, shaking the pan every five minutes or so to be certain all surfaces are roasted. My vegetables were very fresh and took about 15 minutes total to cook. Your time may vary.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl. Garnish with cashews and cilantro.

October 9, 2014 Broccoli Soup

DSC_9270aOne day last week I received several phone calls and a text message from my husband at his office in a very short period of time. I wasn’t sure what was up since I had just been there, so I had to find out what was so urgent. “Are you near by? he asked, “A patient came in and brought me some of the biggest broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage I’ve ever seen.”  I wasn’t, nearby that is, so he planned to bring them home that evening.

When he came in that evening, something was missing, the vegetables. Joe left them in the computer room on his way out and since computer rooms can get a little warm, we promptly hopped back into the car and back to the office to rescue the Brassicas and the computer room from smelling like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage!

With the advent of autumn and cooler temperatures  a new harvest of Brassicas are arriving at local farmers markets.Brassicas are a genus of plant in the mustard family. They are less frequently referred to these days, as cruciferous vegetables, giving note to the crosslike shape of plant’s flowers. The usual suspects we think of most are broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts but they also include all types of radishes, turnips and even watercress. Brassicas are counted as some of the healthiest vegetables around containing high amounts of vitamin A caretonoids, vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.

With these huge veggies staring me down every time I opened the refrigerator door, the obvious question came, how was I going to use them? Cauliflower was an easy start, I like to toss the florets with olive oil, kosher salt and Aleppo and chipotle pepper. Roasted until it was a warm golden brown, we devoured the whole tray, before we even sat down to dinner one night.

Broccoli soup has always been a cooler weather favorite of ours. Previous recipes I have made were heavy in the cream, butter and cheese department. My rich broccoli cheddar soup was a yearly birthday request from one of my co workers many years ago. This time I wanted to try something a little lighter. The recipe I chose this time showcases the sweet and flavorful broccoli, accented by just a little bit of fresh herbs. Don’t forget to use the broccoli stalks as well, especially when you have very fresh broccoli, they have as much flavor as the florets. Half and half is optional, I thought the soup had a creamy texture without it.
This is a healthy soothing soup that would pair well with a salad for lunch but is elegant enough to serve as a first course when you are entertaining. Now it’s back to the kitchen for me to find creative ways to use cabbage!

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A very healthy head of broccoli.
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Ingredients, ready to go.

 

Broccoli Soup

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 1T butter
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1t each of fresh parsley and thyme
  • 8c chopped broccoli (use both the stems and florets)
  • 6c reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2c half and half (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste

Directions

  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until the butter melts. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, thyme and parsley; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in broccoli. Add broth; bring to simmer over high heat and reduce heat to maintain the simmer. Cook until the broccoli is very tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in half and half if desired.

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