I've long known the health benefits of brassicas (which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and collards), and in fact plant them each spring for our chickens and ducks because they are so nutritious for people and animals alike. But it wasn't until recently that I decided to add more of them to our family's diet for the same health reasons. Unfortunately, food has to taste good for me to eat it and a big steamed plate of broccoli just wasn't appealing.
So imagine my excitement when I was contacted by Ten Speed Press and asked if I would like to review Laura B. Russell's new book Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables. I eagerly agreed and then watched my mailbox for my copy to arrive.
Upon flipping the cookbook open, I immediately knew that we would be eating healthier! I was not disappointed, nor will you be if you pick up a copy of this cookbook. In addition to Ms. Russell's immense cooking talent, she also had a wonderful photographer Sang An who actually makes all these veggies look utterly beautiful! I couldn't wait to go buy some vegetables and start cooking!
This cookbook has singlehandedly successfully expanded our family's dining horizons to include Bok Choy, Water Cress, Kohlrabi, Brussels Sprouts and Napa Cabbage. Vegetables that I have long seen in the grocery store, but never knew how to prepare - much less prepare so they are delicious!
I would like to share two of my favorite recipes from the cookbook with you, so your family can enjoy them also. The first recipe is....
Grilled Baby Bok Choy with Miso Butter
SERVES 4Boiling or steaming bok choy often results in a watery, stringy vegetable. But grilling halved heads of bok choy slathered with miso butter leads to pure flavor. Be sure to keep the heat at medium so the paste can caramelize without burning. My first few attempts at grilling bok choy (I used Shanghai bok choy) resulted in charred leaves that were too crisp to enjoy. Now I separate the leaves from the stalks and use them raw in a salad that wilts under the heat of the grilled vegetable. Use white or yellow miso paste in this recipe. If you use a darker miso, know that it will be saltier. Make this side dish when you are already firing up the grill for the main course.
1-1⁄2 pounds baby bok choy (about 6 heads) or Shanghai bok choy
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the leaves away from the bok choy stalks. Halve the stalks lengthwise. Rinse the leaves and stalks well, then pat dry to remove any excess water. In a small bowl, mix together the butter and miso with a fork until well combined. Set aside.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill. Put the bok choy stalks in a large bowl. Using your hands (or a fork), coat the bok choy with the miso butter. Arrange the bok choy, cut side down, on the grill grate. (If you have a grill screen, set it on top of the grate before adding the bok choy, to keep the stalks from falling through the gaps.) Close the lid and grill for about 5 minutes, until golden brown on the underside. Turn the bok choy with tongs, re-cover, and grill for 5 to 6 minutes more, until golden and crisp-tender.
While the stalks are cooking, stack the bok choy leaves and roll them up lengthwise into a cigar shape. Slice the leaves crosswise into thin shreds. Make a bed of the shredded leaves on a serving platter. Drizzle the leaves with the oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and toss to combine.
Put the grilled bok choy on the dressed salad to wilt the leaves; sprinkle additional pepper over the bok choy. Serve immediately.
Miso Paste: A fermented paste that can range from sweet and mild to salty and pungent, miso is most commonly made from soybeans and rice, though some types include barley or other grains. There are three basic types of miso: white miso is the mildest and sweetest, yellow miso is earthier and lightly salty, and red miso is typically quite salty and strong flavored. Look for miso packaged in small plastic tubs or sturdy bags in the refrigerated section of grocery stores and Asian markets, often near the tofu. It will keep refrigerated for up to 6 months.
And the second recipe features my new favorite brassica, Brussels sprouts...
Charred Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Fig Glaze
Nothing tastes better with Brussels sprouts than cured pork, which is why I unapologetically offer you recipes that flavor sprouts with both pancetta and bacon (page 61). Here, the salty pancetta plays well with the sweetness from the fig jam, and you can finish the dish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to add a tangy note (see variations). I found fig jam near the grocery store’s cheese counter (not in the jams and jellies aisle), but you could also try apricot or peach jam instead. You may want to add a touch more jam than I suggest, but strive for a subtle sweetness rather than a cloying, sticky mess.
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced
11⁄2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large) through the stem end (about 6 cups)
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fig jam
1 tablespoon water
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large (12 inches or wider) frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small bowl. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the Brussels sprouts, keeping them in a single layer as much as possible. Having a few extra sprouts is fine, but if they are mounded in a pile, they will not brown or cook evenly. If necessary, use a larger pan, cook them in two batches, or pull out the extra for another use. Stir in the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and well browned—even charred in spots. If the sprouts are browning too quickly, lower the heat to medium.
Add the fig jam and the water and stir until the jam melts and coats the Brussels sprouts. Add the reserved pancetta and the pepper and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if needed. Serve warm.
Variations For a sweet, salty, tangy version, add a drizzle (a teaspoon or less) of balsamic vinegar at the end. Aged balsamic is an especially good choice. Although I prefer pancetta here (I like its unsmoked rich pork
flavor), you can use bacon in its place.
flavor), you can use bacon in its place.
Recipes reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo credit: Sang An.” Ten Speed Press retains all copyrights and the right to require immediate removal of this excerpt for copyright or other business reasons.
I am so excited to have this cookbook as a reference to start cooking all sorts of healthy meals using brassicas. I guess I'll be planting extras this year - some for us and some for our chickens and ducks! Why don't you consider doing the same!
To purchase a copy of the cookbook click HERE.