Friday, February 22, 2008

Green Comfort Food

Raw Broccoli Salad

Blanched Green Beans with Sautéed Pearl Onions

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

Not everyone is into drinking just green smoothies or eating every meal raw. For those of you who would like to add more greens to your daily diet, here are some vibrant green, tasty treats that make a fine meal by themselves or provide healthy sides.

Melissa Clark's article and recipe for broccoli salad, in the current NY Times, was my inspiration for trying a different take on the broccoli salad I've made in the past.

Quick and easy with a hint of Asian flavors (garlic, cumin seeds and sesame oil) this is a much lighter and healthier version than the familiar broccoli salad made with pancetta or prosciutto and mayonnaise.

Crisp, young green beans, blanched, then tossed and quickly sautéed with tiny pearl onions that have been well-browned in olive oil, provide a wonderful light lunch or supper accompanied by sliced tomatoes and warm whole wheat pita. A glass of fruity Cabernet will add considerably to the culinary satisfaction.

Rapini or broccoli rabe, by whichever name you know it, is a new favorite for me. This was not a vegetable that ever found its way onto the table as I grew up (most of those vegetables came from cans). But once I found it, I fell in love with it. I thought it was some form of young broccoli, but found it's a member of the mustard family. Parts of it do resemble broccoli florets. It has leaves and occasionally you find it with little yellow flowers. This is another lovely green, that does well with a quick blanching and then a quick sauté in olive oil with slivered garlic.

Blanching may seem a pain in the neck, but once you master the technique, which is to bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the clean vegetables, allow the water to return to a full boil, then let the vegetables swirl around, fully submerged, for 3 - 4 minutes, bringing out their bright green color. Drain and cool down immediately under running water, then toss them into an ice bath to completely stop the cooking process. This method will become second nature when preparing most green vegetables to preserve the vibrant green colors and fresh-from-the-garden flavors.

I often blanch vegetables prior to meal preparation. After draining well from the ice bath, slip them into a plastic storage bag and refrigerate until ready to use. This makes meal time prep simple and fast.

Rapini takes on a Mediterranean demeanor if served with slow cooked cannellini beans and a glass of Chianti. It's wonderful accompanying wild or Burmese red rice or some other interesting grain, such as quinoa.

I made a simple boiled, garlic infused mashed potato with smoked paprika to accompany the luscious greens, then used leftovers the next day to fill a quesadilla, adding cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

The quesadilla was made with a split whole wheat pita instead of the conventional tortilla, as that's what was on hand.

Improvising was once again inspirational . This was a mouth-watering meal that could easily become addictive.

I used thinly sliced Monterrey/Jack cheese layered over the mashed potatoes, then added a layer of rapini with a bit more cheese and drops of hot sauce before adding the top layer of pita and warming through over medium heat in a dry skillet.

There you have it, a few ideas for ways to add more greens. Don't miss out on the nutritional boost of fresh greens daily. While you're at it, you'll find some marvelous taste treats in the bargain.


Greg & Darcy said...

That quesadilla looks yummy! =]

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