Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cruciferous Veg and More!

Don't you just love how that word...CRUCIFEROUS!...gently rolls right off your tongue. What's interesting are the variety of vegetables that fall into the cruciferous family--many colors, shapes, and sizes. For example: Cauliflower, Brocolli, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts are cruciferous vegetables, but how can Spinach, Radish, Parsnip, and even Bok Choy be in that category as well? All of these vegetables are in the cabbage family and they get their name from their four-petaled flowers which resemble a crucifer or cross.

What is even more interesting are these vegetables all do different things in terms of good health so my general rule: eat lots of them and in great variety. These veg are sometimes known as Super Vegetables as they have so many goodies in them:  fiber, vitamins, minerals, and disease fighting phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants. They are not only good for you, but they are delicious, low in calorie and good either cooked or raw.

Here is a very simple recipe for Roasted Sicilian Cauliflower...
This is the cauliflower before it is roasted. Once cooked the cauliflower gets golden brown.
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
24 Black or Green olives, sliced in half if they are very large
12 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped coarsely
8 anchovy filets, minced (I was out of anchovies so skipped them and it was still delicious!)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
Salt/Pepper (Be cautious with the salt if you are using the anchovies.)

Preheat oven to 375.
Place cut cauliflower and all other ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the cauliflower is evenly coated. Place in a casserole and bake covered for about 30 minutes stirring every 15 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20-30 minutes until cauli is tender and golden brown.

The roasting gives the cauliflower a nutty flavor and because it is a fairly strong flavored vegetable it stands up well to strong flavors.

I would not think leafy veg like kale and spinach are cruciferous, but they are. Here is a simple, but delicious way to prepare kale--one of my favorite leafy vegetables.

I used 2 different types of wild mushrooms, Bunapi and Maitake, but use whatever mushroom you like or have on hand. Mushrooms are another vegetable filled with healthy nutrients; potassium for one. Mushrooms contain more potassium than do bananas so if you're having those leg cramps at night, reach for some mushrooms! I like leftover wilted vegetables so I used a whole bunch of kale and each bunch of mushroom. Wash the kale and chop. Shake, but don't worry if the kale stays wet. Rinse the mushrooms; stem and cut apart if they come in a bunch. If you are using buttons, slice. Heat about 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil in a large frying pan. Add 4 cloves minced garlic and stir for a couple minutes until soft. Do not let the garlic brown or it will get bitter. Add the mushrooms and saute gently for about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and add the kale. Season with salt/pepper. Salt helps retain the bright green color of the kale. The water you have rinsed the kale in helps to steam the kale. Stir every few minutes until kale is wilted--about 10 minutes and serve.

To learn more about mushrooms nutritional value go to: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/calories/the-nutritional-value-of-mushrooms.html

Some root vegetables, like radishes, turnip and parsnip are also in the cruciferous family. I love turnip and just used on Sunday (St. Patrick's Day!) in a corned beef and boiled dinner I made for the occasion. My husband is not a big fan of turnip so I don't cook them often, but I love their strong and distinctive flavor. I generally just steam them in salted water, give them a quick mash, add a little butter, season with salt/pepper and serve. Turnip is also a wonderful addition to vegetable soup.

Arugala is also a leafy cruciferous vegetable. Here's a recipe for a fabulous salad. I love the spicy, peppery flavor of arugala and this salad has the perfect balance of textures.

1/3 cup walnuts
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. non-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. walnut oil (Use extra virgin Olive Oil if you don't have walnut oil in your pantry.)
1 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch rounds
6 oz. haricots verts or green beans, trimmed
3 oz. baby arugala

Preheat oven to 375. Place waluts on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly. Finely chop and set aside.
Whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the toasted nuts in a small bowl, season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Set dressing aside.
Bring medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain. Set aside.
Prepare an ice water-bath by filling a bowl with water and adding about a dozen ice cubes. Set aside. Return the saucepan of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook unter tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the ice-bath to stop the cooking. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 2 inch pieces.
Arrange arugala, potatoes, and green beans on a platter. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat.

Well, that's all for today. Hope you enjoyed an all-veggie blog this time. I eat tons of vegetables not necessarily because they are good for you, but mainly because I love them. I hope you learned a bit about cruciferous vegetables and some different ways to enjoy them. 

Please remember to relax and have fun in the kitchen. Get silly, mix it up, play with your food and for goodness sake...

Tune in again soon for another episode with:
Here I am in Ireland outside the chow hall at a circa 1200's castle called Aughnanure.
I think the sign is a bit more recent!

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