Serving familiar vegetables in new ways adds interest and variety to meal time planning. The brussels sprouts pictured above have been sliced and sautéed with shallots and pancetta and finished with Dijon mustard, providing a little zip, and a unique look to an old time favorite. Well, a favorite for some, anyway. Brussels sprouts grow on a plant that is from the mustard family, using a little mustard in the preparation brings out the subtle cabbage flavor of the little heads. Slicing the sprouts from stem to stern allows the strips to sauté quickly, retaining a soft green color.
I sautéed a quarter inch thick slice of pancetta, minced, with a couple of sliced shallots in a tablespoon of olive oil. While that was browning, I washed, trimmed, then sliced about 8 good sized sprouts and added them to the pan tossing to mix with the pancetta and shallots. You may want to add a few drops of water to produce a little steam. Continue tossing and stirring to cook the strips quickly. Once they are done to your liking, crisp/tender but still retaining some green color, stir in a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Fennel was brought to this country by the Italians. This anise/licorice flavored vegetable, with feathery greenery, always intrigued me but it wasn't something I ever had growing up. I admired it from afar, but never brought it home.
After reading about it in food magazines, curiosity got the best of me and I bought a head and shaved it thinly to use in a salad. Fennel is a member of the same family as celery. It provides a nice crunchy element in a salad along with its intriguing anise flavor. Branching out, I decided to give it a stir-fry treatment and after several complicated and disappointing ventures, I've decided this simple, quick sauté in olive oil, over fairly high heat, is perfect for a splendid side to serve with other veggies or a grilled piece of meat, chicken or fish.
Following Crescent Dragonwagon's advice in the Passionate Vegetarian, the mellow flavor of the anise is complemented with a tablespoon of tamari at the finish, along with a piquant burst from a generous dollop of Pickapeppa sauce.
The image above is just one fennel bulb sliced. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan. Let it get hot, so that the slices sizzle when added. Lower the heat slightly and cook until the fennel starts to get limp (4 - 6 minutes). Drizzle with the tamari and Pickappeppa and stir fry for another 2 - 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, if you feel it needs it, and freshly ground pepper. Garnishing it with a few of the feathery fronds adds a little upscale touch. One bulb serves two people or one, if greedy. Not mentioning any names.
Produce departments, farmer's markets and roadside stands offer many interesting fresh vegetables that add flavor and texture along with good nutrition to mealtime. It's fun to try new ones or use old favorites in new ways. And it's better still, if you use vegetables that are grown organically.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking!