Produce Superstars: Brussels Sprouts, The Veggie We’ve Learned to Love

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At this time of year, you may be able to buy brussels sprouts on the stalk, insuring greater freshness.

Some people say you’re not fully adult until you have children, but I wonder if it isn’t a little more simple than that. I think you’re fully an adult once you’ve learned to love brussels sprouts.  Notice I said “love,” merely tolerating them doesn’t cut it. O.K., I’m kidding, but you must admit there’s some truth to it. Not so long ago, I thought I didn’t like the little buggers. Much of what people don’t like about them, I’ve learned, is due to overcooking, when they can smell (and taste) downright unpleasant. So, let’s agree to go light on the cooking, which also improves their nutritional profile.  Members of the same family as broccoli, kale and cabbage, they are high in vitamins A and C, folic acid and antioxidants, including sulforaphane, a chemical thought to have potent anti-cancer properties.  Eat them in good health, and love them for their taste. Roasting, steaming and sautéing are all good cooking methods for brussels sprouts.  Ina Garten’s recipe for roasting them is here, and my recipe for sautéed brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and lemon zest is after the jump.

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Brussels sprouts sauté with olive oil, toasted hazelnuts and lemon zest (recipe after the jump).

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Produce Superstars: A Simple Way to Maximize the Flavor of Winter Squash

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Try my simple method for steam-baking/roasting winter squash to maximize flavor.

When daylight savings time ended on Sunday, suddenly the days seemed shorter, a reminder that even here in sunny California, winter is at hand. And as the days become cooler and wetter, cooking in the oven is more and more what I want to do. I find that cooking winter squash in an oven’s slow, steady heat not only reveals inherent sweetness and flavor, but warms the house with sweet aromas as well.  My method is simple, and avoids tedious peeling and chopping.  First you steam/ bake the squash, thus ensuring it is tender and moist, then you lightly glaze and roast it to deepen flavors and caramelize the natural sugars. Here’s how it works: (easy step-by-step process is after the jump)…

Prepping the squash takes just a couple of minutes.

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Celebrate Corn with This Rich and Savory Pudding

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I’ve heard that you like corn.  Good, here’s corn times two: fresh sweet corn combined with cornmeal. Serve this as a main dish for a vegan or vegetarian holiday dinner or as a side dish for any meal.  If possible, make it soon while late season corn is still around. If you’re feeling it, you could enrich this dish by adding a couple of whisked eggs, and substituting dairy cheese for the vegan cheese. It would still be low in fat compared to conventional recipes. (By way of contrast, Food Network presenter Ina Garten’s recipe rich with eggs, milk, half and half, butter and two kinds of cheese is here.) This is really nice served with a simple fresh tomato salsa. ( Recipe after the jump) Continue reading

Spring and Summer Veggies: Try This Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

Tagine of Saffron Potatoes, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Sugar Snap Peas

While this dish is a little more complicated than most that I post on this blog, I think you’ll agree that this vegetable tagine is delicious enough to be worth the extra few minutes it takes. In Morocco a tagine is both a well-seasoned stew and the name of the earthenware dish with a conical lid in which it’s made. This tagine is part of a wedding menu I’ll be doing in June, and yesterday I made it for the wedding couple who came by for a tasting.  While this version is a side dish, you could make it the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal by adding a cup or two of cooked chick peas. Serve with couscous. Complete recipe, after the jump… Continue reading

Winter Veggies: Dino Kale w/ Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic

Until I grew it myself and picked it young, I didn’t much like kale. My complaint was that by the time you’d cooked it until tender,  much of the color and flavor had disappeared. The answer, I discovered, is to grow your own or be very choosy about what you buy at the farmer’s market or store.

More recently, I’ve come to like this ancient and widely-eaten member of the cabbage family quite a lot. Dino kale, aka lacinto kale or, in Italian, cavalo nero, has the advantage of being cold hardy and  standing up well to shipping and storage.  If you trim out the firm stems and cut the leaves finely, you can cook it until tender while preserving most of the great color and flavor.  Here’s a quick and tasty way to cook dino, or any other kale for that matter: Continue reading

Winter Veggies: You’re Going to Love Broccolini

Broccolini, quickly stir fried with garlic and ginger

What’s not to like about broccolini? In the milder parts of California, it grows  year round, it’s quick and easy to cook, great nutritionally, and it tastes so good. I bought a bunch of organic broccolini at the Vallejo farmer’s market this morning, and literally within minutes after arriving at home was eating  the dish you see above. And although it was meant to be two servings, I confess that I quickly polished off the whole lot. Here’s how I did it: Continue reading