Brassicas: Cooking the world’s healthiest vegetables by Laura B. Russell

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Romanesco Summer Salad

 

Laura B. Russell has done it again!  Yup, that’s right, she’s made me drool. Her new book Brassicas is stunning, sumpteous, and best of all, user-friendly.  I will, without a doubt, be cooking my way from cover to cover.

It’s been quite awhile since a cookbook’s jacket copy has inspired my heart to skip a beat. And so it did, when I flipped to read about what awaited me in the pages of Brassicas. I had known that Laura was working on an all-vegetable cookbook, and had filed that somewhere in the back of my mind as interesting (and something to look forward to).  After all, I was a fan of her first cookbook The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen.  But I had no idea how excited I would be when this cookbook finally graced my table.  If you are a fan of cruciferous and other brassicas veggies, you too will feel like this book was written especially for you.  It’s a veritable candy shop for those who like their greens. It’s a celebration of the world’s healthiest vegetables, of their boundless potential and rich natural flavors.  From the inherent sweetness coaxed out of brussels sprouts (see recipe for Charred Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Fig Glaze below) to the peppery zip of arugula and watercress salads, to the creaminess of Cauliflower Hummus, this book will take you on a journey through the wonders of brassicas, superfoods of the vegetable kingdom.

Featuring 80 recipes, Brassicas is chock-full of simple sides, salads, breakfast dishes, soups, snacks and even smoothies.  Veggies aren’t just for balancing out your plate at supper, they are to be featured, as highlights, all day long.   In addition to one knock-out recipe after another, Brassicas is also structured in my favorite format for cookbooks: chapters are devoted to a single vegetable or class of brassicas.

The majority of the recipes are made with recognizable and easy-to-find brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts, which is a plus for shoppers. But for those wanting a little exotic variety, there are gorgeous recipes for broccoli rabe, kohlrabi, mizuna, and collards, just to name a few.  I, for one, am always looking for ways to introduce new foods to my family.  And, I’ll venture to say, this is a book full of superfoods that will inspire even professed veggie-haters to gobble up what’s on their plates. Look at the glorious Romanesco Summer Salad picture, featured above. I’m sure I can convince my two boys to eat this simply based upon its other worldly resemblance to dinosaur tails. Fun food! And my husband? With its nod to Italian al fresco dining, that’s one romantic looking plate!

For those with dietary restrictions, please note that all of the recipes are gluten-free. Laura has also included a “Special Diets Table”, for identifying major food allergens. Many recipes are naturally allergy-friendly, and for those containing a major allergen, many can be made allergen-free with a substitution, as identified on this table. The two recipes I feature below are gluten-free and free of all Top 8 Allergens.

Brassicas is available for pre-order now and wherever books are sold on April 8, 2014.

 

Romanesco Summer Salad

Serves 4

 

Although vibrant lime green Romanesco (sometimes called broccoli Romanesco or Romanesco cauliflower) looks like the love child of cauliflower and broccoli, it is actually closer to cauliflower in terms of taste and how it is used. Its color is fantastic in this lively salad, though you can definitely use white cauliflower if that’s all you can find. Cook the Romanesco just long enough to take away the raw bite, 2 to 3 minutes tops. Normally I would suggest plunging the florets into ice water to halt the cooking immediately, but introducing extra water here will mute the flavor and dilute the dressing. Instead, cook them fast and then spread them on a baking sheet so they cool quickly.

 

1 cup water

1 medium Romanesco or regular cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-size florets (about 5 cups)

2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1⁄2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1⁄3 cup chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons drained capers, coarsely chopped

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. (If you have a steamer insert, put it in the pot to hold the Romanesco. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it.) Add the Romanesco, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Romanesco to a rimmed baking sheet or clean kitchen towel, spreading it in a single layer, to cool.

In a small bowl, to make the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly with a fork to form an emulsified vinaigrette.

Put the Romanesco in a serving bowl. Add the bell pepper, onion, dill, capers, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep well for several hours. Just before serving, taste and add more salt if needed.

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Charred Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Fig Glaze

Serves 4

 

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.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo credit: Sang An.

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Allergy Free Cornbread

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As promised, here is my new and improved Allergy-Free Cornbread recipe. Serve on its own, or use it for my Allergy-Free Cornbread and Wild Mushroom Stuffing recipe.  This Gluten-Free, Top 8 Allergen-Free, and Vegan recipe is a revision of my Cornbread Sticks recipe from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. I’ve altered it to be made with more readily available ingredients: Canola Oil in place of Spectrum Organic Palm Shortening, and King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour can be used instead of my Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix or Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend.  For this recipe, you can use either an 8-inch cast iron skillet (see below), or 2 cornstick pans, or an 8 x 8-inch square pan.

 

Allergy-Free Cornbread

 

1 cup rice milk

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup King Arthur GF Multi-Purpose Flour, or my Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix or Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend (this will make for BEST texture but any are fine!)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons rice milk

1/3 cup canola oil

 

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Preheat pan.

2. Combine rice milk with lemon juice. Set aside.

3. Whisk together cornmeal, flour mix, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

4. Add the rice milk to the mixture and stir to combine.  Add the egg replacer and the canola oil, and stir a few times until smooth. Remove the heated pan(s) from the oven, and grease liberally with baking spray or oil.  Fill pan with batter, smooth surface, and bake about 25 minutes, until golden.

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Allergy-Free Cornbread Copyright © 2013 by Cybele Pascal. Cornsticks photo credit: Chugrad McAndrews.

Allergy Friendly Thanksgiving Tips

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Rockwell-Thanksgiving-218x300-1Delicious, Allergen-Free Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving, we gather and we eat for upwards of four hours, all the way from pre-dinner snacks to post-dessert dessert. But a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is literally one of the most allergen-laden meals possible.Whether this is your first allergen-free Thanksgiving or your twentieth, the following tips will help make it festive, mouthwateringly delicious, and safe.

Talking Turkey:

Did you know that many fresh and frozen turkeys contain hidden allergens? Most conventional, “self-basted” turkeys have been injected with butter, water and salt, and may also contain gluten. If you’re going to go the conventional turkey route, always verify ingredients with the manufacturer before purchasing. A safer option is a “Natural” turkey, which hasn’t been treated with any artificial colors or flavor enhancing ingredients. Look for “Organic” natural turkeys at websites like Local Harvest, or stores like Whole Foods.

Another good option: natural “Kosher” turkey. Guaranteed to have no dairy injected, the benefit of a Kosher turkey is that it has already been salted, and thus doesn’t need brining. I recommend Empire, the taste test winner selected by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Empire turkeys are also gluten-free. If you’re a die-hard foodie, take the adventurous (albeit, most expensive) route and look for a “Heritage” turkey, which is one of the pre-World War II breeds of turkey, like Narragansett and Bourbon Red. Slow Food has a great listing of independent farmers raising Heritage turkeys, state by state. Looking for something similar to what our forefathers might have eaten? Save yourself the hunt, check out D’Artagnan, to purchase a wild bird.

Last, to keep your turkey allergen-free, baste with olive oil. There is no need for butter, and in fact I prefer turkey with olive oil.

Savory Side Dishes:

Make baked sweet potato and potato dishes using canola oil instead of butter, and orange juice or rice milk instead of milk or cream. I prefer yams/sweet potatoes without marshmallows, but if like them, look for Allerenergy marshmallows, or try vegan brands like VeganSweets, made without eggs or gelatin, but be forewarned that they contain the allergen SOY. Instead of plain rice, mix and match with old world gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, and buckwheat. All of these combine well with legumes like lentils or chickpeas, and are wonderful when enhanced with fresh herbs like thyme and sage. Dip into the plentiful array of winter squash available this time of year–not just butternut and acorn, but delicatared kuri, and sweet dumplings. For an allergy-friendly stuffing, check out my Cornbread Wild Mushroom Stuffing Recipe.

Gravy can be made with olive oil instead of butter, and alternate flours, such as brown rice flour for thickening, instead of traditional wheat flour. See my recipe for Allergy-Friendly Gravy below.

Try making roast brussel sprouts this year instead of drenching them in butter or hollandaise sauce. To roast, cook at 450 degrees on a baking tray, tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper, for 25 minutes, shaking once or twice until a crispy golden brown on the outside, and tender on the inside.

For cranberry sauce, omit walnuts (tree nuts), and use thinly sliced tangerines or mandarin oranges, keeping the rind on, to add texture and color.

For Pie, check out my cookbook, The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook for any number of wonderful allergen-free pie, crumble, and crisp recipes, from Pumpkin Pie, to Apple Cranberry Pie. Or see my Allergy-Friendly Sweet Potato Pie recipe, or Cranberry Apple Crisp.

Remember: if you’re only doing a few allergen-free dishes rather than a whole allergy-friendly meal, be aware of cross contamination and cross contact while cooking and serving. Consider labeling dishes with ingredient cards. If the meal is going to be served buffet-style, serve the food allergic person first to avoid cross contamination.

creamgravy-286x300Allergy-Friendly (Gluten-Free) Creamy Gravy

Makes 1 1/4 cups

Gravy is one of those things that everybody loves. Even the thought of gravy can make you smile. In fact, the term gravy, in slang, means happiness, stable goodness, and a state of complacency.Gravy also means cool, okay, and all good, as in “It’s all gravy, baby”. If something is better than gravy, it’s gravy on eggos or gravy on rice. Who doesn’t want some of that coolness poured onto their plate?

But beloved gravy is also highly allergenic. Yup, it’s loaded with no-nos for those with food allergies. Butter (dairy), wheat (gluten), and cream/milk (dairy again). It’s also often chock-full of soy derivatives.So I took on the challenge to convert beloved gravy into something allergy-friendly. Just pour this yummy goodness over rice, potatoes, turkey breast, or do like me, and eat it with a spoon!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup fine brown rice flour

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

pinch of dried thyme

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup warm beef (or chicken or turkey) broth or stock (Kitchen Basics is allergy-friendly)

1/2 cup warm rice milk

 

1. Heat canola oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat.

2. Add brown rice flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 2 minutes, until golden and aromatic.

3. Add onion powder, pinch of thyme, pinch of cayenne pepper, pinch of salt, and a couple turns of freshly ground pepper. Cook about 1 minute more, stirring.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Using a whisk, whisk in the warm beef broth, in three batches. Whisk vigorously, to smooth out any lumps. Add warm rice milk, whisking, and bring to a simmer. Cook stirring often, until thick and creamy. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Allergy-Friendly, Gluten-Free Creamy Gravy
© 2010 by Cybele Pascal

(Please note that all my recipes are completely free of all top allergens (wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, and gluten), so as many people as possible can enjoy them. Additionally, all the ingredients are available at Whole Foods, and online at Amazon.com. If you have trouble finding something, let me know and I’ll help you find it.)

SAFETY NOTE: Because each person’s food sensitivity and reaction is unique, ranging from mild intolerance to life-threatening and severe food allergies, it is up to the consumer to monitor ingredients and manufacturing conditions. If manufacturing conditions, potential cross contact between foods, and ingredient derivatives pose a risk for you, please re-read all food labels and call the manufacturer to confirm potential allergen concerns beforeconsumption. Ingredients and manufacturing practices can change overnight and without warning.