By Lori Powell
I‘m definitely on a veggie streak these days! I’m a huge fan and have been since I was a kid – a veggie geek from way back. So excuse me if I don’t understand why people are just discovering them now. Part of the reason, of course, is that we are now more aware than ever of how nutritious and life-extending vegetables are…extending our own lives, that is.
I’m not saying that I am off meat. I still have regular hankerings for a good steak or juicy burger! Growing up, my dad preferred his meat lifeless and overcooked, which resulted in a dry piece of jerky (not that I have anything against jerky) that took monumental effort to chew so that you could actually swallow the nuggets (sorry mom, not your fault).
I still can remember when I had my first taste of properly cooked broccoli – blanched, sautéed or roasted. At first taste I was hooked! It didn’t hurt that the broccoli was prepared with great olive oil and real butter!
I became a regular guest at my first serious boyfriend’s house and also, at a close girlfriend’s. It was mostly due to my voracious appetite which was revered in their households, and that I never gained a pound. Both their families hailed from Italy and they prepared vegetables beautifully.
One of my greatest experiences in my cooking career has been teaching kids food and nutrition for AmeriCorps at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Y and green markets in the Hudson Valley. Actually I was the first chef instructor to start the program in the Hudson Valley.
Kids were not so happy about veggies, in general, but I found that if cooked and seasoned properly they were completely turned on to eating them. My favorite thing was for someone to insist, “I don’t eat broccoli!” And by the end of class they were literally eating out of my skillet saying, “I never had broccoli like that before!?!!?”
So here are a couple of my favorite tips on how to cook the Green Giant of Veggies. Devour the broccoli alone or top pasta, rice or soup with them.
- Toss 2-inch florets in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan in a 450°F oven, stirring occasionally until browned on the edges and tender inside. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Broil tiny florets with olive oil, salt and pepper, stirring often and watching carefully until crispy on the edges and tender inside. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes and good extra virgin olive oil, to taste.
- Blanch florets in boiling salted water until fork- tender. Drain and toss in butter with salt and pepper, to taste.
- In a wok or skillet, stir-fry small florets and peeled stems (cut into ¼-inch crosswise slices) in grapeseed oil over moderately high heat, stirring until just slightly charred and tender. Stir in minced garlic and grated peeled fresh ginger. Toss in a bowl with fresh lime juice, dark sesame oil, and salt and pepper, to taste.
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