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Showing posts with label broccoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label broccoli. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2017

When You Don't Have Time to Cook But You Still Want a Home-Cooked Meal, Do This!

Home cooked meals are definitely better for you and less expensive, but sometimes cooking seems too difficult and time-consuming.

When you're tired and hungry, it seems easier to stop for take-out on the drive home, order in or nuke those Trader Joe's frozen Shrimp Soft Tacos you bought last week.

But with a little effort (not much) and even less time (minutes), you can prepare two easy-to-make vegetable dishes that combine well with a charred steak, sautéed tofu or roasted chicken breasts which cook in no time at all.

Salt-boiled vegetables

Salt boiling cooks vegetables quickly. Cook them as little as possible so they have a crisp, fresh taste. Like pasta, vegetables should be eaten al dente, with a little firmness.

How long a vegetable should be cooked depends on its density and the size of the pieces being boiled. A 1" zucchini round will cook faster than a 1" carrot round. A 2" carrot round takes longer to cook than does a 1" carrot round.

Adding kosher salt to the water gives the vegetables a sweet-salty flavor.
Broccoli florets prepared this way cook in 2 minutes. The bright green flavor bites are so delicious, we eat them hot or cold, as a snack, side dish or, cooled, added to a salad.

Oven-roasted vegetables

Another easy-to-master technique is oven roasting vegetables. As with salt-boiled vegetables, they should be cooked al dente. How long the vegetables take to cook depends on the density of the vegetable and the size of the pieces.
Fingerling potatoes are an especially good side dish to serve with a grilled or baked protein. They are delicious with a steak grilled on an outdoor grill or charred on a carbon steel pan. Before baking, toss the cut fingerlings with Italian parsley, olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

If you enjoy onions, sprinkling a handful of finely sliced onions or shallots over the vegetables before baking adds a delicious sweetness.

Salt-Boiled Broccoli

Buy broccoli that is deep green in appearance. Do not use broccoli with yellow florets or ones that feel limp because that means they are old and will not taste good.
Besides broccoli, the technique works great for spinach, carrots, English peas and green beans. Each requires a different length of cooking time. Spinach (30 seconds), peeled carrot rounds cut 1/2" thick (3-5 minutes), shelled English peas (30 seconds) and green beans cut into 1" lengths (3 minutes).

Use only kosher salt or sea salt. Do not use iodized salt because of the metallic after-taste.

Serves 4

Time to prep: 5 minutes

Time to cook: 3 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons kosher salt

4 large broccoli crowns, enough to make 10 cups, washed, stem ends trimmed

Directions

Using a pairing knife, cut the florets (the bud or flower of the broccoli) off the stem. Cut each floret in half and set aside. Using a chefs knife, cut the stem into slabs, 1/2" thick, 1" long. Set aside.

Add kosher salt to 4 quarts water and bring to a boil.

Place stems in boiling water first. Cover. Cook 1 minute.

Add floret halves to water. Cover. Cook exactly 2 minutes.

Strain broccoli in the sink. Place cooked broccoli into bowl and serve.

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

If fingerling potatoes are not available, baby Yukon or Sierra Gold potatoes are also good.
Use a Silpat sheet so the potatoes do not stick to the baking sheet. If not available, use parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Serves 4

Time to prep: 5 minutes

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds fingerling potatoes, washed

1 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped

1 medium yellow onion or 4 large shallots, skins, stems and root ends removed, washed, cut into thin slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat sheet.

Cut each potato in half, the long way, then into 2" pieces. Place them in a mixing bowl with the olive oil. As the cut potatoes are added to the bowl, toss to coat with olive oil to prevent discoloration.

When all the potatoes are in the bowl, add parley and onions. Toss well. Season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spread on the Silpat sheet lined baking sheet so the pieces have some room. They will acquire more browning if they are not piled on top of one another.

Place in oven.

After 15 minutes, toss for even cooking. Check after another 15 minutes. Toss. Taste. Adjust seasoning and cook longer if needed. When the potatoes are cooked through but not too soft, serve hot with a protein. The potatoes are delicious with a grilled steak, sautéed fish filet or charred chicken breast.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blasting Heat Sears in Flavor

A few years ago I convinced a chef to teach me how he made crispy skin on a filet of fish. Chef Taylor Boudreaux said it was easy. I couldn't believe that. For years I had tried to cook a filet of fish with the skin on and the result wasn't good. Either the skin was chewy or burnt to a crisp.
When I ate Boudreaux's salmon filet with mushrooms, the charred skin was crisp as a slice of perfectly cooked bacon. A perfect contrast to the moist, sweet flesh.

He reveals the secret in the video. A carbon steel pan. That's it. The pan takes an incredible amount of heat. Up to 700F. The skin sizzles and in seconds is perfectly seared. A quick flip to char the flesh and then into a 350F oven to cook the filet on the inside.
After I bought a pan and seasoned it and used it successfully on a fish filet, I discovered the pan's other advantage. Easy clean up. Very much like a cut-down wok, the pan needs only a quick cleaning with a soapy sponge to remove the left-over oil, heated again on the stove top to burn off the water and that's it. No strenuously scrubbing to clean the pan the way I had done for years with the stainless steel pans I relied upon. Just a quick clean up and I was done.

A cast iron pan also works well at high heat, but from my experience the carbon steel pan does a better job. Both pans are relatively inexpensive. A carbon steel pan will cost half the price of a comparably sized, quality stainless steel pan. When you shop for a carbon steel pan, buy one that is made with a thicker gauge steel. I have been using de Buyer pans. Chef Boudreaux recommends Matfer Bourgeat. The advantage of the thicker gauge pans is they retain heat longer than the pans made with a thinner steel.

Cast iron pans are easy to find. Carbon steel pans, not so much. In the Los Angeles area, the only source for the pans is Surfas Culinary District. In New York, I have seen them upstairs at Zabar's.
Using the pan exclusively, I discovered the beautiful work it does on steaks. Treated very much in the same way as the fish filets, each side of the dry seasoned steak is charred and then placed into a 350F oven to cook the interior of the steak. While the steak is resting for five minutes under aluminum foil, quickly sear your favorite vegetables in the pan to pick up the pan dripping flavor and serve as a side dish.
After that, I moved on to tofu, shrimp, octopus and chicken breasts. And then onto vegetables. Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, carrots, asparagus, green beans, English peas and corn kernels. Every firm fleshed vegetable I tried worked perfectly when I applied high heat using the carbon steel pan.

For Zester Daily I wrote about creating a charred garbanzo bean salad using charred vegetables and freshly chopped Italian parsley.
The mix of seared vegetables, lightly caramelized by the high heat, and the freshness of the parsley is really delicious. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Blast the Heat for For A Charred Vegan Salad

Chef Tips For Crispy Skin Pan Seared Salmon Filets

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegetable Soup Beats Back the Cold

Fall's brilliantly colored leaves are nature's consolation prize. Summer's warmth becomes a fond memory as the air cools and days grow shorter. Then when we "fall back," gaining an hour--another consolation prize--we're faced with ever encroaching darkness.
Fall is accompanied by a sense of loss and regret as we move inexorably towards winter. For cooks, however, this moment of sad transition is a happy time because we open our cookbooks and pull out recipes for roasts, braised meats, baked squash, and, of course, soups.

For Zesterdaily I posted a vegetarian soup to warm you when the sun disappears at 4:30PM and you feel that chill in the air.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sprouted Broccoli from Green Spring Farm in Petaluma, California

Recently we spent a weekend in Sonoma. Since I like to shop at farmers' markets, I was happy to learn that the valley is home to more than a 100 organic farms.

We would have liked to stop at a dozen or more but this was a short trip, so we zeroed in on Green String Farm. Although the farm is small, its produce is well-known, supplying many Bay Area restaurants, including Alice Waters' Chez Panise, Terzo, Camino, and Hog Island Oyster Company.

Ross Cannard gave us a walking tour of the farm his father, Bob, started years ago with wine maker, Fred Cline. He took us through ankle high grasses to check out the fields under cultivation, the pasture enclosures with goats and sheep, and the chicken trailer.

At times it was difficult to see exactly what was under cultivation and what wasn't. The philosophy of the farm is summed up in a simple description:
...by maintaining an important balance between crops grown for human consumption and crops grown to improve the soil, Green String farmers always give back to the earth the same amount the earth gives to us. Unlike conventional produce which is grown in conditions specifically designed to put out the highest and fastest possible yields (and without room for anything but the food crop), Green String produce grows under more natural conditions, with the help of farmers who are listening to what their land tells them throughout the year.
"Listening to what their land tells them" means, no chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Beneficial plants (we'd call them "weeds") grow side by side with celery, broccoli, kale, onions, artichokes, and lettuces. Before planting, the chickens and livestock add to the mix, literally. By creating portable enclosures the animals are moved from one field to another. Their hooves aerate the soil, as their waste provides fertilizer.

The proof of any system is the quality of the product. All the produce looked so delicious, we had to hold back from buying too much.

With produce this fresh, it makes sense to use simple preparations, the better to savor the quality of the vegetables.

Braised Sprouted Broccoli

In an email Ross explained how Green Spring Farm perennializes its broccoli:
It's Italian green sprouting broccoli, which is a standard variety. What's different is in our method of picking it. We let it head up, then pick it, like everyone else does, but then, if you keep it in the ground, it keeps growing these nice little heads, which you have to keep picking to prevent the plant from flowering. This way, though, you don't have to replant your broccoli all the time, you just keep on picking the ones you have, and we prefer these little heads to the giant supermarket-style heads anyway.Sprouted broccoli is really worth finding. The taste is sweeter, the flavor more, well, "broccoli"-ish. It can be found in farmers' markets and some specialty supermarkets like Whole Foods and Gelson's.
Yield: serves 4
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound sprouted broccoli, washed, ends of stems trimmed, keep leaves on
4 garlic cloves, peeled, mashed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying or chef's pan over a medium-high flame. Season the oil with sea salt and pepper, add the broccoli and toss with tongs until the leaves wilt. Add the chopped garlic and continue tossing until the garlic and broccoli are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add water to deglaze the pan, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top and let simmer. Turn the broccoli after 2 minutes. After a total of 5 minutes the broccoli should be tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a pat of sweet butter (optional) and toss.

Serve hot as a side dish with meat, poultry, tofu, or fish.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad

For a confirmed meat-eater like myself, everything tastes better with crisp bacon, grilled sausage, or a roasted meat. Michelle's new diet has challenged me to come up with dishes that are as flavorful as she's used to but focus on vegetables.

Experimenting with recipes has sent me searching for ingredients I often over-looked. In our pantry I discovered packages of couscous, dried beans, and polenta, all gifts from the Il Fornaio Passport program.

If you haven't eaten at Il Fornaio, I'd like to recommend the restaurant. We have been regular customers of the Santa Monica Il Fornaio ever since it opened. We appreciate the friendly service, fresh ingredients, well-prepared dishes, and affordable prices. And we enjoy the Passport program and its monthly gifts. When the gifts are ingredients to make at home, Chef Maurizio Mazzon provides easy-to-follow recipes for each.

As an end of summer dish, couscous with grilled vegetables seemed like a perfect dish to make for Michelle. Traditional couscous requires a lengthy cooking process. Il Fornaio provided a quick-cooking couscous, which I recommend. This recipe is indebted to Chef Mazzon.

Grilled Vegetables Couscous

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups couscous (quick-cook style)
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olives, cracked green or kalamata (pitted, finely chopped)
1 basket cherry tomatoes (washed, quartered)
1/4 cup capers (chopped)
1 cup Italian parsley (leaves only, washed, finely chopped)
1 ear of corn (husks and silks removed, washed)
1 carrot (washed, peeled, trimmed, cut into slabs 4"x1/4")
2 garlic cloves (washed, trimmed)
1 ripe avocado (optional)
1 bunch arugula (optional)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Drizzle olive oil onto a flat plate, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, roll the corn on the plate to coat with the seasoned oil. Do the same with the carrot slabs and garlic cloves. Lightly brown on a hot grill or roast in a 350 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, turning to avoid burning. Let cool , finely chop the carrots and garlic. Cut the kernels off the cob.

As Chef Mazzon instructs, boil the water with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. In a non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass) mix together the couscous with the salted hot water and 2 tablespoons olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

To the couscous, add the carrots, corn, garlic, parsley, capers, olives, and cherry tomatoes. Add another 7 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt or black pepper. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Variations

Add grilled broccoli (treated in the same way as the carrots).

Serve with arugula.

Serve with a sliced avocado.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Father to Son: A Dinner Menu

I enjoy cooking so much, I was happy when my older son Frank asked if I could help him plan a dinner he was going to cook for a friend.

The best meal is one that starts with great ingredients, which means shopping at farmers' markets and specialty shops. Supermarkets are fine for household supplies but only a few--like Gelson's, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fairway Market, Canyon Market--carry quality produce and meat.

Since Frank will be in San Francisco for the weekend, I suggest he and his friend go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Saturday morning. Located on the Embarcadero at Market, he'll find premium vegetables, fruits, cheeses, olives, freshly baked breads, desserts, and flowers. The market is open from 8:00am until 2:00pm. If they go early they'll avoid the lunch-time crowds.

While they walk around the market enjoying the cool breezes off the Bay, they can pick up snacks from Hog Island Oyster Company, a muffin from the Downtown Bakery, or sample cheeses from Andante Dairy. The market is definitely an eat-as-you-shop kind of place.

Because I know Frank won't want to spend more time in the kitchen than necessary, the menu I'm suggesting relies on quick-and-easy techniques. And since I know he understands the importance of cleaning as he cooks--a meal is so much more pleasurable if the kitchen is clean when the cooking is finished--I've tried to minimize the number of pots and pans required.

Appetizers

Serve a plate of 2-3 cheeses, ones that contrast with each other. A Triple Cream (soft) for example and a Comte (firm). Tasting cheeses at the market is a good way to find the ones you like. Olives, fresh fruit, a baguette, and wine all go well with a cheese.

Putting together the appetizer plate will take only a few minutes. Frank and his friend can snack on the appetizers while he prepares dinner.

Salad

For a salad something simple: fresh arugula tossed with crushed roasted hazelnuts and dressed with olive oil and reduced balsamic dressing, seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper.

Or a tomato and avocado salad with a touch of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

Yield 2 servings
Time 15 minutes

Ziti or penne takes about 10 minutes to cook in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. A cup of the pasta water is a key ingredient. When the pasta is strained, put a heat-proof container under the strainer and capture a cup of pasta water.

Ingredients

1/2 box of De Cecco pasta (ziti or penne)
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, thinly sliced longitudinally)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon sweet butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt for the pasta water
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil 4 quarts of water with the Kosher salt, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, return the pasta to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, stir well, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a frying pan, sauté the garlic, mushrooms, and parsley until lightly browned, add the butter and pasta water and simmer, reducing the liquid by half, then add the pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Add to the sauté, quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped up spinach leaves.

Sauté fresh corn kernels ( 1/4 cup) and shallots (1 tablespoon) with the mushrooms and parsley.

Chicken Fillets with Parsley-Bacon Topping

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes

Buy either chicken tenders--which are pricey--or skinless, boneless breasts and cut them the long way so each breast makes two 1/2" thick fillets.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts (washed, cut into 1/2" thick fillets) or 4 chicken tenders (washed)
2 slices of bacon (finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 avocado (peeled, roughly chopped)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Season the breasts with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the bacon and parsley on a low flame. Use a fork to break up the pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle olive oil into the frying pan and season with sea salt and pepper. Get the pan hot on a medium flame. Add the chicken. The fillets cook quickly because they are thin. Lightly brown on each side.

Top with the sautéd bacon-parsley bits and garnish with chopped avocado on the side.

Salt Steamed Broccoli or Spinach

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes (broccoli) or 5 minutes (spinach)

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli or spinach
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

Method

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. If you're using spinach, wash well to get rid of the grit, remove the stems and discard. Put a steamer in a pot, add the water and salt, bring to a boil, add the broccoli florets or spinach, and cover. Steam the broccoli for 10 minutes or the spinach for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the chicken.

Dessert

Good fruit is available now at the farmers' market: cherries, apricots, early grapes, pluots, cantaloupe, and lots of berries. A plate of fresh fruit and a small cake from the farmers' market would make a delicious dessert. Or, with very little effort, baked pluots and apricots, coupled with ice cream or yogurt, make a beautiful finish to a meal.

Baked Pluots and Apricots

Yield 2 servings
Time
30 minutes

Ingredients

2 apricots
2 pluots or plums (washed, cut in half, pits removed)
Raw sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the halved apricots and pluots on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, dust with raw sugar, and bake for 30 minutes until softened.

Serve with ice cream or yogurt.