No idea if I got the Italian even remotely right there, nor is this an Italian dish in any sense. But mmmmmmmm… did I enjoy this. This maybe the best broccoli of my life. And as I said in my last post, features the unique and mathematically beautiful features of broccoli romanesco–more or less just your average broccoli with only a slight passing for cauliflower too. And as promised, I made it totally vegan.
First thing you need to do is steam the broccoli. That’s just a matter of a pot of boiling water with a steaming basket. Ask you can see, I quartered a carrot too, mostly for color but why not, right?
That sauce you see on the broccoli and the plate is just a standard bechamel sauce with the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Bechamel and its base of a roux I feel can sound intimidating, I imagine, being so French-y but conceptually it’s very simple. First you need a fat, butter is the standard, but I was going vegan so I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan on medium heat (and aim your medium towards low, depending on your stove, burning is the greatest danger here.) When the oil heated I tossed in a heaping tablespoon of regular flour (plus maybe another small half, this wasn’t a good measuring day.) Just as the flour goes in you whisk–with a whisk or a fork–the ever-loving crap out of it. Do this until the oil and flour are mixed into a single substance and you notice some *slight* browning. Then start adding soy milk (or regular milk, either way) a bit at a time, still whisking your ass off, until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.
Comrades! What does it mean “coats the back of a spoon?” This is a common trick for getting sauces to a nice, velvety consistency. As you go you can take an ordinary spoon and run it through your sauce, then pull it up, turning the “bowl” of the spoon upside down. If the spoon is evenly coated–no glaring lumps–good start. Then draw your finger across the spoon, if the sauce holds form, doesn’t run into the gap created where you parted it like the Red Sea. You’re good. Also, as always, just use good instinct and add more milk or keep cooking to reduce liquid content if it seems too dry or too wet. A low heat and lots of stirring will save you.
Finally, at the end, take an orange (I used blood oranges because they’re in season and I love the color, but navel, tangerines, mineolas, etc. are all most exceptable) and juice it it. Add the juice to the sauce, mix to incorporate and serve on your broccoli or other steamed vegetable right away.
I like my work here because the citrus really adds the perfect flavor to the sort of sulphurous and semi-bitter flavor of brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, but without the fat and over-powering taste of cheese. A bechamel sauce also lets you skip on the dairy completely while keeping the texture and much of the taste of a creamy sauce. I give this one an A.
Been trying to account for each penny spent this month, which hasn’t lead to a lot of grandoise kitchen experiments. But I made this yesterday and I thought it was worth at least a mention, if only to serve as reminder that I am still eating food
These purple potatoes made an appearance on my Peruvian steak night, and the co-op by me still has them on special so I nabbed a bunch to roast. For the potatoes, it’s just laying them on a baking tray (preferably metal for more even heating) in a 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the potato size.
For an accompaniment I just made a fast relish out of onions–a yellow onion sliced about the width of a fingernail–which was slathered in olive oil and roasted sitting on top of the potatoes. Chopped it up with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil in mostly equal parts. I also threw a frozen veggie burger in the oven in time to go with this. Was pretty good, but nothing to rock your socks off. But it does reveal my love for one culinary thing: relish.
I have checked dictionaries and seems there really isn’t a very specific term for what counts as a “relish,” but it’s also not just the chopped up pickles as you see in stores or associate with hot dogs. A relish is basically any fruit or vegetable prepared as a condiment to another dish. I have no problems with traditional cucumber pickles in any form, but there are also a lot of relishes that I also adore. Red onions marinated in red wine vinegar and chilis make a great, “cooling” addition to many Mexican dishes. A fast “pickle” of carrot and daikon in vinegar and sugar make the fabulous addition to the classic, Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Cwikla (my Polish keyboard set up seems non-functional, but it’s pronounced “ch’veek-wah”) is a relish of minced beets and horseradish that I’m also highly partial too and owns the crap out of ketchup on hamburgers.
I think the whole concept of a relish is very neglected. In a country where obesity is a national crisis and everyone wants to talk about eating more plants, why not the relish? It’s not the focal point of a dish, but uses the subtle flavors of plants and seasonings to enhance the protein or whatever main staple of a full meal. Along with a side dish it can double your fruit and vegetable intake even if you’re not a fan of plants. And the varieties are quite endless; tart, savory, sweet… it’s a creative cook’s free form design!
And coming later today, speaking of things that are good for you, I’ve seen these at my co-op regularly and I was finally tempted to buy:
Brassica! Romanesco broccoli! Another thing about me, I am sort of a math geek, so a food that perfectly resembles a fractal cannot help but earn my admiration. I don’t want to chop or break its form though, and the only way I’ve eaten broccoli straight up was when my family slathered it in Velveeta. For reasons of want and necessity, I want to dress it with something vegan without resorting to the stand-by vegan substitutes–should you follow this blog regularly you might note on my vegan entries that I am not a fan of “substitution.” So that is my culinary task for the day.
One advantage to living in Oregon is closer access to California produce. And one advantage of this time of year are blood oranges!
So at the store today I just wanted an easy, light salad for lunch. In these situations I usually will wander the produce department looking for things that seem interesting, well-priced and in good quality. And there… today…. were one of my favorite fruits in the world–the blood orange. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they are produced in Italy, are mostly available this time of year and they are…
PURPLE! Vibrantly purple too. Also, sweet and delicious.
I also saw dandelion greens that we’re cheap, not terribly fresh, but I knew how to crispen them up (more on that in a moment.) Dandelions are another food a lot of people are familiar with because they’re mostly known and hated as the most oppressive weed of them all. But here’s the thing, dandelions are weeds because they were first food. In Europe dandelions have been eaten for ages, used medicinally and naturally European settlers brought this with them to America. And we all know what can happen when you introduce a non-native plant to an ecosystem (not that your lawn is in any sense, an “ecosystem.”)
Dandelions have a rather definite bitterness to them, a bit like escarole with a deeper, plant-y flavor. Fortunately, a great way to cut that bitterness down so that it’s subtle is to add sweet… like orange juice. And it didn’t occur to me until I got home that I’d bought: purple oranges, orange carrots and purple-veined greens, plus had purple cabbage in the fridge. So it just turned into:
1/2 of dandelion greens, rinsed and dried.*
1 medium-sized carrot, sliced or julienned
1 loose handful of finely shredded red cabbage
(optional) thin-slices of red onion
*if any greens you have are a bit wilted, but not turning brown/expelling liquid; give them 5 minutes soaking in cold, cold water.
These things just get cut into salad-sized pieces. Next you need a quick vinaigrette of:
the juice of one blood orange
about a teaspoon/dash of yogurt, sour cream or tahini (vegan version.)
salt and pepper
olive oil, or any dressing oil you may have
First juice the orange. The easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and squeeze with your other hand catching seeds as the juice runs through your fingers. Or just juice straight into the bowl and pick the seeds out. Add the yogurt/sour cream, salt pepper and stir. Why not use dijon mustard like most? For one, mustard and orange juice; second the creaminess also tempers the bitter greens; it sharpens the color of the blood oranges. Now you SLOWLY! add olive oil and whisk (whisk or a fork) until you’ve doubled the size of the dressing 1:1 ration. Toss this with the vegetables in a bowl and go.
Again, breaking with tradition of a usual dressing. 1:1 ratio is no way to make a vinaigrette in a classic way. However, these are sweet oranges and not strong vinegar so obviously I don’t need to drown them in oil. Another tip is to actually toss the salad. Salad dressing advertisements pour dressing and serve as presentation; this is great if you want to taste nothing but dressing at first, then have raw greens on the bottom. Final word on this, another way to make a vinaigrette is to add all your items to a small, clean, glass jar and shake vigorously. I don’t find this easier, but if you have trouble coordinating a whisk and slow poor, it works just as well.