Articles in Vegetables w/recipe

Jerk Lamb Corn and Fruit Kebabs. Jamaican jerk spices rubbed into the lamb add a Caribbean punch to any grilling. The allspice -- key to Jamaican food -- unexpectedly highlights the juicy fruit and sweet corn. Serve with a rum punch. Credit: Copyright 2015 Tami Weiser

Right now, farmers market corn is as sweet as it gets. Soaked in the husk for a few hours and then thrown onto the grill to steam until tender, the corn is salted and a bit of heaven is revealed. It’s summer, and fresh corn on the cob is what everyone wants to eat.

But don’t stop there. The in-season bounty demands experimentation. Fresh sweet corn is crunchy, sweet, light and versatile. Cut fresh from the cob, corn brightens up salads, stews … even ice cream.

We’ve pulled together 14 fresh dishes that will surprise and delight your family. This is the beginning of your corn adventure. Buy a bushel and let the fun begin!


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» This year, try a corn dish from the first Thanksgiving

Main photo: Jerk Lamb Corn and Fruit Kebabs. Credit: Copyright 2015 Tami Weiser

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Kale is the perfect bed upon which to build a salad, as well as being packed with nutrients. Credit: Thinkstock

Chopped ultrathin in a style called a chiffonade, kale is a perfect bed upon which to build your salad dreams. And since it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium and magnesium to boot, it’s pretty much the Tempur-Pedic of salad beds. Try these simple combinations to become a kale fan for life. And make sure that your kale was harvested correctly — too late and the leaves turn bitter, a winning characteristic for no one.

Apple of your eye

Pair kale with sweet and tart apples, and add in some pistachios and feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Pair kale with sweet and tart apples, and add in some pistachios and feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Sweet and tart apples make kale salads meet all of your taste requirements for sweet, bitter, sour and umami. Try a Pink Lady sliced thin paired with pistachios and feta, and mix gently with a dressing of fig vinegar and high-quality olive oil.

Spinach-less

Update the classic spinach salad with kale instead, adding bacon, tomatoes, eggs and red onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Update the classic spinach salad with kale instead, adding bacon, tomatoes, eggs and red onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

The classic spinach salad combination of bacon, grape tomatoes, hard-boiled egg and red onion gets an updated nutritional boost by replacing the spinach with kale. Toss in a vinaigrette made with warm bacon fat, olive oil and your favorite balsamic.

Citrus is the star

Kale gets a citrus boost in this salad. You can also add pears and thin-sliced fennel.  Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Kale gets a citrus boost in this salad. You can also add pears and thin-sliced fennel. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Citrus is the star of this kale salad, which pairs the leafy green with thin-sliced fennel, shaved Parmesan and vinaigrette of lemon and olive oil. For a sweet touch, add a thin-sliced Asian pear to the mix.

A protein punch

Add turkey, walnuts and avocado for a kale salad with lots of protein. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Add turkey, walnuts and avocado for a kale salad with lots of protein. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

For a dinner salad with a protein punch and good fats galore, add pieces of turkey, chopped walnuts and scooped, diced avocado. Dress with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.

Veggies deluxe

Add carrots, roasted beets, almonds and crumbled chèvre into the mix. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Add carrots, roasted beets, almonds and crumbled chèvre into the mix. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Veggies abound in this kale salad with grated carrot and diced roasted beet. For extra crunch and the perfect mellowing creaminess, add some thin-sliced almonds and crumbled chèvre. Toss in a vinaigrette with fresh dill or make a creamy dill dressing with plain yogurt, olive oil, dill and garlic.

Caesar salad

This kale-centered version of Caesar salad also has sliced sardines and Parmesan cheese. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

This kale-centered version of Caesar salad also has sliced sardines and Parmesan cheese. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

If you’re a fan of Caesar salad, you’ll adore a kale-centered version pairing the leafy green with sliced sardines and Parmesan. Simple and packed with fatty acids, it’s a plated nutrition bomb. Make a dressing of minced garlic with lemon juice and high-quality olive oil.

Rethink the radish

Slice radishes thin and toss them with kale and sliced green onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Slice radishes thin and toss them with kale and sliced green onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Rethink the radish in this design-friendly stunner where the contrast of red and green makes the plate. Slice the radishes as thin as possible and toss them with the kale, sliced green onions (or chives) and a generous handful of pumpkin seeds. Dress with good old apple cider vinegar and olive oil and you’ve got a plate to celebrate early summer.

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Main photo: Kale is the perfect bed upon which to build a salad, as well as being packed with nutrients. Credit: Thinkstock

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To make this sandwich even healthier, substitute lettuce leaves for the bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Summer is on the horizon, so enjoy the short-sleeve weather and spend some time eating outside.

Yes, we’re talking  picnics. We’ve got eight recipes to help you fill your basket: They can be served cold, travel well and taste best eaten on a blanket under a nice shady tree. If spring showers keep you stuck indoors, just spread out a blanket on your family-room floor.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don't like or don't have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don’t like or don’t have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

No more ho-hum! We spice up our chicken salad with tarragon, Dijon mustard, celery and apples. This creamy, crunchy salad can be eaten by itself, used as a sandwich or pita filling, or scooped atop a green salad.

Greek Salad Kabobs

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Of course these kabobs could be made as a simple salad, but eating food off a stick is so much more fun, especially for kids. Layer feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and black olives on a skewer for a snack or picnic appetizer. Each family member can personalize their own by adding whatever salad ingredients they like best. And, if you like, add some bell pepper.

Purple Cabbage Slaw

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This bright purple slaw is super crunchy and tangy. It makes a great addition to sandwiches, tacos or burgers, but it’s just as good when eaten by itself as a side dish. The slaw gets even better the longer it sits, so make some for dinner the night before and plan to bring the leftovers on your picnic.

Lemony Hummus

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Our Lemony Hummus is protein-packed and easy to make. Cut up some raw vegetables for dipping, and you have a great picnic snack. Hummus is super dynamic: It also goes great as a topping to crackers and pitas or on a sandwich.

Rainbow Sandwich

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Here’s a sandwich that challenges everyone in your family to fill their own with as many healthy hues as possible. Pile on the color with everything from red peppers to green pesto to purple cabbage slaw. Then pack them up and take them along for colorful picnicking.

Corny Black Bean Salad

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is perfect for summertime, when corn is in season, but you can also use canned or frozen corn until corn is ready for harvesting. Serve it as a side, or use it as a salsa: just put it in a bowl and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread.

Tasty Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is a zippy Middle Eastern salad made from cracked wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, parley and lemon juice. It’s served cold, which makes it a great food to take along for outdoor eating.

Beet-and-Carrot Slaw Wraps

Beet greens -- the leafy part of the beet plant -- are often discarded, but they're actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Beet greens — the leafy part of the beet plant — are often discarded, but they’re actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

These whole-wheat tortilla wraps are filled with beets, carrots, apples and cheddar. Wraps are perfectly packable and a fun way to roll up a sandwich. Plus, the bright orange and pink colors of this wrap will match the spring flowers you’ll see during your picnic.

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Main photo: To make this sandwich even healthier, substitute lettuce leaves for the bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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Brassica rapa at the Palo del Colle market in Puglia, Italy. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Summer has yet to deliver its full range of vegetables, but one stalwart crop that keeps on giving is Brassica rapa (from rapum, Latin for “turnip”). Brimming with flavor, this vegetable is known variously in its native Italy as cime di rapa (“turnip tops”), broccoletti di rape or just rape (pronounced räp’-eh), rapi, rappini, friarielli, vrucculi and a gaggle of other aliases, depending on local dialects.

And as “if this is not confusing enough,” says Daniel Nagengast — who imports 700 different heritage seeds to the United States for his company Seeds from Italy — “there are perhaps 15 different cime varieties in southern Italy, and I keep on finding more.” Each has its own physical characteristics, growing patterns and flavor nuances. But what they all have in common is a bold, seductive bitterness in their raw state, not to mention a powerful nutritional profile.

Cime di rapa varieties in the greenhouse at Stone Barns Center for  Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Cime di rapa varieties in the greenhouse at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Old varieties are new again

Although most Americans are familiar only with the tidy, commercially grown bunches sold in supermarkets under the name of “broccoli rabe” (a debased form of Italian native speakers prickle at), small-scale farmers around the country are creating a new awareness of Brassica rapa’s formidable culinary powers. A wide range of varieties are  popping up in local farmers markets and CSAs, and chefs are demanding heirloom types whose flavors recall the earth they are grown in. “San Francisco and New York high-end restaurants start the trends,” says Nagengast, explaining why he is crisscrossing southern Italy in search of variants unknown outside their native environment. “Then it takes off.” The idea is that savvy home cooks, like chefs, will seek them out for the same reasons they do certain wines and cheeses: distinctive terroir. Several of Nagengast’s transplanted seeds have been sown by Jack Algiere, farm director at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, who grows them to be served at James Beard award-winning chef Dan Barber’s groundbreaking restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Boiled rapini are flavored with the delicious drippings of porchetta at Mozzarella e Vino in New York City. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Boiled rapini are flavored with the delicious drippings of porchetta at Mozzarella e Vino in New York City. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

The old familiar ways with rapini

As much as the vegetable intrigues people, the extent of most Americans’ experience with Brassica rapa is as a side dish cooked with olive oil and garlic. Properly, this basic preparation involves parboiling the greens before sautéing them. First, peel the stems as you would asparagus legs to ensure that they cook at the same rate as the tops. Next, parboil them for two minutes — just long enough to bring out their sweet overtones. Then drain them, saving some of the cooking water. From here, you’ll sauté them with good olive oil, garlic and (optionally) chili flakes, moistening them with a little of the water you have set aside. (You could also change up the recipe by substituting onion and bacon for the garlic and hot pepper, the way Southern cooks make collards, kale and other field greens.) Now you can eat them as is or use them as directed in the recipes that follow.

Chef Viola Buitioni’s garlicky Umbrian "rapi e patate." Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Chef Viola Buitioni’s garlicky Umbrian “rapi e patate.” Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rapini and potatoes

For a more complex side dish, combine your garlicky sautéed greens with other vegetables: sautéed cime di rapa alongside a puree of fava beans, or ‘ncapriata, is food of legend in Puglia, brought together with the magic of high-quality olive oil. Chickpeas or white beans also make delicious and nutritious purees for the greens. Probably one of the happiest vegetarian marriages is between rapini and richly flavored potatoes such as Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds or fingerlings. I like chef Viola Buitoni’s way of tossing her sautéed greens with crisply fried tubers, an Umbrian-style dish she calls rapi e patate. If the greens are the feisty part of the couple, the potatoes are the sweet-tempered half.

Whole-wheat gemelli with rapini, bacon and chickpeas, which are creamier if you peel the skins off first. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Whole-wheat gemelli with rapini, bacon and chickpeas, which are creamier if you peel the skins off first. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Not just a side dish

In Puglia, it is common to cook the greens simultaneously with pasta in the same pot and, after draining, tossing them quickly together in olive oil flavored with garlic. Per the Italian tradition whereby meat is a second course, sausages might follow; but for a one-dish variation, I sometimes add warmed, crushed anise seeds and crumbled sausage to the pasta and greens. And there are so many other ways to dish out rapini and pasta. For instance, you can toss your garlicky sautéed greens together with diced bacon, chickpeas and just-cooked short pasta in a wide skillet; I like to use whole-wheat gemelli (“twins”) or penne imported from Italy. Be sure to save some of the hot pasta cooking water; combined with the olive oil and juices from the prepared rapini, it forms a sauce. Pass a cruet of your best olive oil at the table for finishing.

Imported Italian linguine with shrimp, Brassica rapa and hot pepper, inspired by a Venetian dish. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Imported Italian linguine with shrimp, Brassica rapa and hot pepper, inspired by a Venetian dish. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rapini and seafood

Or consider seafood. The Venetians have a particular fondness for the charms of bitter ingredients, including cime di rapa (to use their term); surrounded by water as they are, they often combine the vegetables they cultivate on the lagoon islands with their Adriatic catch. Here is a heavenly dish I ate in a trattoria some years ago on the little island of Burano. It was originally made with fresh tagiolini and a local species of prawn called cannocchie, but it is just as good with linguine and shrimp (or other types of fresh seafood, such as clams or scallops). Start by parboiling your rapini (save the cooking water) and sautéeing the shrimp in fragrant olive oil with garlic and red pepper in a skillet wide enough to accommodate the pasta later. As soon as the shellfish is lightly colored, add dry white wine and let simmer gently for a minute or two, until the alcohol evaporates. Finally, toss in the rapini, cover the pan and turn off the heat. In the meantime, cook the linguine in the reserved cooking water. Drain, again reserving a little of the water, and add the pasta to the skillet. Toss the ingredients together gently, moistening them with a little pasta water if necessary.

Rosa Ross’s stir-fried beef and rapini in place of the traditional "gai lan," Chinese flowering broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rosa Ross’s stir-fried beef and rapini in place of the traditional “gai lan,” Chinese flowering broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

When bitter is sweet: An Asian spin

Author Jennifer McLagan has devoted an entire book to explaining why a taste for bitterness is the hallmark of discerning cooks and educated eaters. “Food without bitterness lacks depth and complexity,” she writes in “Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes.” I rather like the gentle Chinese way of describing the yin-yang perfection achieved when balancing bitter, salty or sour flavors (yin) with sweet and spicy ones (yang).

“We love bitter melon and flowering mustard greens and things like that,” says Hong Kong-born American chef Rosa Ross, author of “Beyond Bok Choy: A Cook’s Guide to Asian Vegetables” and other Chinese cookbooks. So, for example, in the original Chinese version of the dish Americans known as beef with broccoli, the bitter green called gai lan must be used — but “when I can’t find it here, I substitute Italian bitter broccoli,” Ross says.

Pizza topped with sweet fennel pork sausage, sautéed rapini, cacio Romano (soft Roman sheep’s cheese) and serrano pepper. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Pizza topped with sweet fennel pork sausage, sautéed rapini, cacio Romano (soft Roman sheep’s cheese) and serrano pepper. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Pizzas and pockets

Many pizzerias offer pies spread with vegetables — but they can be more alluring to the eye than they are tasty. A pizza topped with rapini, sausage and tangy cheese is a different, flavor-packed story. To make it, start by preparing your own dough; while it rises, parboil and sauté the greens per our basic recipe and, separately, sauté some crumbled sausage. Spread them both over the dough before baking; scatter cheese on top only in the last few minutes of baking to prevent it from burning. (Mozzarella is too bland in this case, so best to use a young, melting sheep’s cheese or soft Asiago fresco.) You can use the same ingredients as filling for calzones.

Rapini pie with an American-style crust makes for a twist on Italian tradition. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rapini pie with an American-style crust makes for a twist on Italian tradition. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rapini pie

On a similar theme, last spring I created a new interpretation of the traditional torta pasqualina (“Easter pie”), a savory pastry made of strudel-like dough filled with spring greens such as chard or spinach. Once again, I used an American-style pie crust because I love its structure and crumb — and I also substituted rapini in the filling, mixing them with egg and freshly grated Parmigiano to yield astonishingly good results. They have so much flavor that no additional ingredients are needed, save salt and pepper. Along with a side dish or two, this pie is substantial enough for a dinner; it can also be cut into smaller servings for an appetizer. I’ve been known to improvise with good frozen puff pastry as well, using the same filling to make small hand pies.

Imported fusilli with rapini pesto, almond shards and pecorino Toscano. Fusilli are exceptionally suitable because the coils trap the pesto. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Imported fusilli with rapini pesto, almond shards and pecorino Toscano. Fusilli are exceptionally suitable because the coils trap the pesto. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Purees and pesto

We are nearly there, dear reader, but how can we overlook transforming these mighty greens into a purée for eating as is or making into a sauce? If you will first peel the skin from the stalks, you will prevent its fibrous texture from getting in the way of a silky creamed side dish or a velvety pesto. Then cut the stalks into several pieces to make them easier to work with and boil them, along with the leaves and buds, for at least seven minutes. Be sure to drain the greens well before pureeing them in a food processor with a little softened butter or good olive oil. You can eat them just as they are, creamy and hot, seasoned with another dab of butter or dribble of olive oil, plus a touch of coarse sea salt — they’re as good as creamed spinach, even without the roux.

Or, for a gorgeous and delicious alternative to the ubiquitous basil pesto, blend the purée with a touch of garlic; grated, aged sheep’s cheese or Parmigiano; and a little olive oil — because the cooked stems are full-bodied and naturally creamy, you’ll find it unnecessary to use as much oil as many pestos call for. You can also include pine nuts or almonds if you’d like. Like its basil counterpart, rapini pesto should accompany pasta cuts sturdy enough to carry it — linguine, bucatini, medium macaroni, potato gnocchi — or you can stir it into minestrone.

Rapini butter stirred into alphabet pasta makes ideal baby food. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Rapini butter stirred into alphabet pasta makes ideal baby food. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Back to the beginning

It’s only too well-known that a preponderance of American children and adults alike hate vegetables — a fact that people in other parts of the temperate world find puzzling, especially as plants are the very stuff that humans most need for proper nourishment. I could write a book exploring the reasons for this, but consider just one for a moment. Although the theory that children need bland foods until they are old enough to handle more intense flavors is bandied about in credulous circles, experts tell us that the taste for particular foods is developed in infancy. The fare we are fed as children — whether it is good or not — is what we crave as adults. Pastina (“miniature pasta”) with butter is an Italian baby’s first solid food, revisited in adulthood whenever comfort food is in order. When my children were babies, I stirred rapini puree and butter into pastina for them, and they loved it. (Like any pasta, pastina tastes best served piping hot immediately after cooking — but naturally, it should be cooled down to warm for babies.) This is an ideal way to develop an infant’s taste for these miraculously healthful greens.

Main photo: Brassica rapa at the Palo del Colle market in Puglia, Italy. Credit: Copyright 2014 Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

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Prosciutto over baby spring greens. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

Looking for a new, healthful yet satisfying option for lunch or a light dinner? Skip the old standbys (Caesars, wedges, mixed greens) and upgrade your salad bowl with these 10 tips.

This Mexican tortilla salad features jicama in a tangy dressing. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

This Mexican tortilla salad features jicama in a tangy dressing. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

Make your own salad dressings.

Homemade dressings put store-bought bottles to shame; the flavor is unparalleled. And they’re easy to make, especially if you have a blender of any kind or a food processor on hand. (It’s also easy to bolster the nutrition level by adding a tablespoon of chia seeds or flaxseeds.) Try matching your dressing to a salad based on its regional or seasonal ingredients. Making a Mexican tortilla salad? Whip up a batch of cilantro, lime and pumpkin-seed dressing (recipe below). Or liven up a chilly day with hazelnut-orange dressing over winter greens such as radicchio.

Fresh romaine hearts can stand up to heavier salad dressings. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

Fresh romaine hearts can stand up to heavier salad dressings. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

Practice the golden rule of salads.

The lighter the lettuce, the lighter the dressing. That means pairing hearty dressings such as Caesar, lemon-buttermilk and creamy ranch with heavier greens such as romaine, kale and cabbage. Save the more delicate mâche and baby lettuce for lightweight dressings such as lemon-garlic vinaigrette or three-herb vinaigrette.

Crunchy nuts and seeds can add a whole new dimension to your salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Crunchy nuts and seeds can add a whole new dimension to your salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Add crunch with a handful of nuts.

From peanuts, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts to pecans, macadamias and cashews, nuts can bring a burst of flavor and texture to an ordinary bowl of greens, elevating it from blah to wow. Toasting them is an easy step that boosts their flavor immensely: Just place a pan over high heat, add the nuts and toast for 1 to 2 minutes while shaking the pan (be careful not to burn them). Seeds offer a similar crunch: sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are easy to find and full of flavor.

Take a day off from the olive: nut oils bring an unexpected layer of flavor to salad dressings. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Take a day off from the olive: Nut oils bring an unexpected layer of flavor to salad dressings. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Add an unusual oil.

Give a flavor and nutrition boost to your salad by drizzling it with walnut, pecan or hazelnut oil. Pistachio oil drizzled over steamed asparagus is sublime. (Note that nut oils are highly sensitive to light and heat, so store them in the refrigerator.) Meanwhile, avocado oil is a neutral, healthy option that can be substituted for canola oil.

Swap ordinary proteins for tangy cheeses, sliced prosciutto or roasted chickpeas. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Swap ordinary proteins for tangy cheeses, sliced prosciutto or roasted chickpeas. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Punch up the proteins.

Ditch the roasted chicken breast and try a new source of protein: Roasted chickpeas, marinated feta, roasted pork loin and broiled shrimp make quick and easy alternatives. Chop up leftover ingredients from a weekend cookout — grilled steak, barbecued chicken, grilled peppers or mushrooms — and toss with a hearty lettuce such as romaine.

Broccoli slaw makes for a quick, healthy and hearty lunch. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Broccoli slaw makes for a quick, healthy and hearty lunch. Credit: Copyright 2015 Bigstockphoto.com

Make a side salad the main dish.

Sides like coleslaw can easily achieve main-course status with the addition of a few ingredients. Tossed with roasted turkey and a few tablespoons of homemade poppyseed dressing, chopped or shredded broccoli and roasted walnuts make a hearty, portable lunch or quick dinner. Prepackaged, shredded veggies are available in nearly every grocery store if you’re in a time pinch.

Sweet fruit balances out the bitter and salty elements of a salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kitchen Gardeners International/kgi.org

Sweet fruit balances out the bitter and salty elements of a salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Kitchen Gardeners International/kgi.org

Add fresh fruit.

Tomatoes are the gold standard, but fresh orange segments, sliced pears and grapes add brightness and seasonality to a salad. Sliced strawberries are perfect paired with peppery arugula and balsamic vinegar, while hunks of fresh papaya offer a sweet contrast to crunchy green cabbage. In summer, sliced peaches make a great counterbalance to creamy mozzarella.

Acid is key for any salad dressing, be it a drizzle of vinegar or a tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Credit: Copyright 2015 Freefoodphotos.com

Acid is key for any salad dressing, be it a drizzle of vinegar or a tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Credit: Copyright 2015 Freefoodphotos.com

Remember: A is for acid.

An often-overlooked but key salad ingredient is acid, whether in the form of vinegar, citrus juice, soy sauce or pickled vegetables. Just a few tablespoons of high-quality balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon can brighten the flavor of any salad. And pickled veggies, from kimchi to plain old cucumber pickles, can add oomph to a can of tuna or a plain roasted chicken breast.

With a bit of heat, your salad will sizzle. Credit: Copyright 2015 Freefoodphotos.com

With a bit of heat, your salad will sizzle. Credit: Copyright 2015 Freefoodphotos.com

Spice things up.

Adding chili peppers to a salad or its dressing gives a big flavor boost. Chopped jalapeños, raw or pickled, are a must for Mexican-style salads; you could also try a chipotle dressing. Or add sliced red Thai peppers to cabbage, peanuts and rice vinegar for an Asian flavor.

This vibrant spring salad from cookbook author Maria Speck combines asparagus and kamut. Credit: Copyright 2015 Erin Kunkel, from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck, Ten Speed Press

This vibrant spring salad from cookbook author Maria Speck combines asparagus and kamut. Credit: Copyright 2015 Erin Kunkel, from “Simply Ancient Grains” by Maria Speck, Ten Speed Press

Expand the definition of “salad.”

Go beyond greens to incorporate grains like quinoa, farro and bulgur wheat. Carbs such as rice, couscous and orzo add a little bulk and act as a neutral base for other flavors. Pasta comes in so many varieties these days that even gluten-free eaters can enjoy pasta salad. Cooked vegetables can also star: Brussels sprouts, asparagus and roasted beets become salads with the addition of just one or two other ingredients, such as roasted nuts, shaved ricotta salata or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Time-saver tip: you can cook the grains on the weekend so that they’re ready to go for a weeknight supper.)

Mexican Salad With Cilantro, Lime and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

Note: This is an easy salad that pairs crisp lettuce and jicama with a tangy, satisfying dressing. Add cooked chicken or a handful of shrimp for a more substantial meal.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (about 2 large heads)
1 large jicama, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch pieces
3/4 cup thinly sliced radishes (about 10)
1 cup Cilantro, Lime and Pumpkin-Seed Dressing (see recipe below)
1/2 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 cup tortilla chips, crushed, for serving (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions
1. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, jicama and radishes.

2. Add the dressing and gently toss to mix. Add the avocado and tortilla chips and gently toss again.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Cilantro, Lime and Pumpkin-Seed Dressing
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup avocado oil (canola oil can be substituted)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
1/4 cup unsalted, roasted pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

2. Season to taste with salt. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Main photo: Prosciutto over baby spring greens. Credit: Copyright 2015 Laura Holmes Haddad

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Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

The verdant piles of greens at the market herald the arrival of spring: Bunches of watercress, baskets of baby arugula, heaps of spinach and kale, newborn heads of butter lettuce and curly sprigs of pea shoots are just part of the riot of ingredients out there now that are perfect for your salad bowl.

Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta

 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

6 packed cups of baby spinach leaves

2 1/2 cups stemmed, thinly sliced strawberries (about 1 1/2 pints)

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Put all the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Make the dressing by mixing lemon juice and honey together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil, adding it in a very thin, slow stream and whisking rapidly until an emulsion forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Twisted Niçoise Salad

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

24 asparagus spears, woody ends broken off

4 medium beets

1/2 teaspoon of salt

16 to 20 butter lettuce leaves

4 eggs, boiled to hard or semi-hard, peeled and halved

1 medium cucumber, cut in 1/4-inch slices

2 tomatoes, cored and cut in wedges

20 Castelvetrano olives

2 (5-ounce) cans of Italian tuna in olive oil (such as Genova or Cento), drained

For the dressing:

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Lay the prepared asparagus in a 10-inch frying pan and add about 1 inch of water. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and steam the spears until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. While the asparagus is cooking, make an ice bath in a large bowl using cold water and plenty of ice. Once cooked, plunge the spears into the ice bath to stop them cooking.

4. When cool, remove from bath and drain. Add more ice to the bath and set aside.

5. Put beets in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just cover them, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

6. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer; cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on size.

7. Remove from cooking water and submerge in ice bath until cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins and slice each beet thinly.

8. Make the dressing by placing the garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil in a thin stream until a cohesive dressing forms. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Assemble the salads by arranging lettuce leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make a pile of six asparagus spears on one side, a stack of beets on the other and fill in the rest of the plate perimeter with the egg halves, cucumber slices and tomato wedges. Scatter the olives over the top.

10. Put half a can of tuna in the middle of each plate and drizzle the salads with some of the dressing.

11. Finish the plates with a few grinds of fresh pepper and serve. You can pass more dressing at the table.

Spring Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

1 bunch of pea shoots, tough stems removed, washed and spun dry

1 bunch of watercress, tough stems and roots removed, washed and spun dry

4 big handfuls baby arugula leaves

1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

2 tablespoons of mild, creamy cheese, such as chèvre, farmer cheese or ricotta

3 thin slices of watermelon radish, stacked and cut into little triangles

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon best-quality sherry vinegar (I like O brand)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Tear pea shoots and watercress into bite-sized pieces and put in a large salad bowl.

2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl.

3. Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar with the oils until it comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Mexican Kale Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

1/2 cup grapefruit sections, preferably from Oro Blanco or Melogold

2 packed cups of Tuscan kale leaves cut in thin (1/2-inch) ribbons, from about 5 or 6 large leaves with stems removed

1/4 cup radishes, cut in thin matchsticks

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas), roasted and salted

For the dressing:

1 heaping teaspoon grapefruit zest

1/4 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Zest 1 heaping teaspoon of grapefruit skin for the dressing by cutting the stem and bottom skin and white pith off. Stand the fruit on the flat bottom (not stem side) so it is stable. Take a sharp knife and cut the skin off from top to bottom, cutting the white pith as you go.

2. Over a bowl, cut the sections from the membrane, catching any juice. Save 2 tablespoons of juice for the dressing and 1/2 cup sections for the salad, cutting any larger sections in half crosswise. Reserve the rest for another use — such as drinking it right down!

3. Put the grapefruit sections, kale ribbons, radishes, avocado and cheese in a large salad bowl.

4. Make the dressing by mixing the zest, jalapeño pepper and juice together, then whisk in the olive oil until combined. Taste and add salt and pepper.

5. Toss the salad with the dressing until well mixed. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

Asian Chicken Salad With Peanut Sauce

Prep time: 35 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

4 packed cups romaine, cut crosswise from 1 large heart of romaine

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into half moons

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

3 small sheets wasabi roasted seaweed, cut in strips

2 tablespoons roasted and salted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut flakes

3 tablespoons sesame sticks

For the peanut sauce:

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons tamari

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves

6 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Make the peanut sauce by putting all the ingredients into a food processor or blender jar and combining until smooth. Reserve.

2. Toss the romaine with the cucumbers then mound in the middle of a large platter.

3. Make a crown of chicken around the top of the mound.

4. Place the seaweed, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and sesame sticks in each corner of the platter.

5. Put a large dollop of the peanut sauce on top of the romaine mountain.

6. Bring to the table so everyone can see your lovely creation, then toss all the ingredients together, adding more peanut sauce if necessary.

7. Divide among plates and enjoy.

Cherry Quinoa Salad in Lettuce Cups

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes

Total time: About an hour

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

2 cups water

1 cup red quinoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons dried cherries

1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely broken

1 small fennel bulb, finely diced

1/2 cup finely diced crisp apple

1 head butter lettuce, washed and spun dry

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Zest of 1 orange

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 tablespoon chives

1 tablespoons fennel leaves

1 tablespoon parsley

Directions

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa and salt. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa germ has expanded, about 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the orange and lemon juices with the vinegar and zest. Gradually drizzle in oils, whisking continuously, until dressing comes together. Mix in herbs.

3. When quinoa has cooked, scrape it into a mixing bowl and add the dressing, stirring to combine.

4. Add all the other salad ingredients except the lettuce. Cool to room temperature.

5. Set out lettuce leaves on a large platter and fill with quinoa salad. Serve.

Main photo: Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

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Bright Salmon-Pink Mexican Papaya Table Salsa. Credit: Copyright 2015 Nancy Zaslavsky

The jalapeño vs. the serrano: What exactly is the difference between the two most popular fresh chiles in the U.S. and Mexico?

Both are vibrant emerald green, with the larger jalapeño looking like a serrano on steroids. Jalapeños tend to be beefier, while serranos are more slender. Both have a torpedo shape that tapers to a point and curved green stems and smooth skins with no soft spots or wrinkles.

Bigger not always better when it comes to chiles

And as with almost all chiles, the rule of thumb applies: the larger the chile, the milder it is. In this case, the larger jalapeño is milder than the spicier serrano. But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sometimes bigger is just, well, bigger.

Jalapeños and serranos belong to the common Capsicum annuum family of peppers and can easily be found year round in most supermarket produce sections thanks to domestic and imported crops. Jalapeños (named after the city of Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, sometimes spelled Xalapeños after the local spelling of Xalapa) measure about 4 inches long and an inch wide at the stem end. Serranos (translates to “from the mountains” because they were first grown in the high-elevation mountains of Puebla, east of Mexico City) measure about 3 inches long and a half-inch wide at the stem end.

Their flavors are similar, and I find an excellent way to appreciate any subtle differences is to taste them when they turn bright red. That’s when they are at their peak of ripeness and when their spice intensity drops and they become slightly mellow, almost sweet. I always look for red-ripe chiles in late summer at farmers markets.

Make salsas to compare jalapeños and serranos

A favorite way to understand their differences is to make two simple table salsas (see recipes below). Choose either green or red for both chiles, and remove the seeds from both to control the unadorned (no onion, cilantro, etc.) heat.

When choosing between the two for a recipe, decide whether you’re looking for a lot of green flavor or more spice with less vegetable taste. For example, when I whirl up fresh fruit table salsas I choose serrano because I want the specific fruit flavor to be front and center but with plenty of backup chile heat. I choose green jalapeños for tomatillo salsas where a spicy chile with plenty of green bean vegetable flavor adds to the green sauce. Of course, they can be used interchangeably; add less serrano or more jalapeño and you’re all set.

After jalapeños and serranos ripen and turn red, they are dried and sometimes smoked. For size comparison, there are about 8 dried jalapeños per ounce or 11 dried serranos per ounce. A good rule of thumb is 10 pounds of fresh chiles weigh 1 pound when dried. The dried form of each chile has a different name: a dried, red jalapeño is a jalapeño seco and a dried, red serrano is simply called a chile seco.

Fiery hot, the small, 1½-inch chile seco has a slight citrus flavor and is usually found ground (sometimes called tipico and balin) and added to cooked sauces for heat.

A dried and smoked red jalapeño is a chile chipotle. Other dried and smoked chipotles are called morita and meco. The morita is a dark red, almost black, shiny, smoky, leathery chile that can vary in length from an inch to 4 inches. Many smaller moritas are canned in adobo (a chile-tomato sauce) and called chiles chipotles en adobo. The easy-to-use chiles are readily available in 7- to 8-ounce cans. After removing a few for a recipe, you can freeze the rest. The usually larger meco is smoked at least twice as long and turns medium brown with the look of an old, fuzzy brown tobacco leaf. Aficionados relish its spicy, super-smoky qualities.

The prized red-ripe, fresh jalapeño called huachinango (the same name as the famous Gulf red snapper fish because its stripes simulate the fish scale pattern) comes from central Mexico, mostly around Puebla and Veracruz. Usually found during the hottest summer months, it is easy to identify the coveted, 4- to 5-inch beauty, which has thin white lines running vertically on its skin. When dried and smoked, the thick-skinned delicacy becomes an extra-large, expensive chipotle meco grande with a subtle chocolate aroma.

Mail-order sources

Melissas.com: Melissa’s sells fresh and dried chiles. 5325 Soto St., Vernon, CA 90058. (800) 588-0151. Hours: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays

Spices.com: Spices Inc. is a mail-order company that sells dried chiles. (888) 762-8642

Simple Green Chile Table Salsa Taste Test

If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves while preparing these salsas. Choose either all green or all red chiles for both jalapeños and serranos.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes 1/3 cup of each salsa.

Ingredients

2 ounces (1 or 2) fresh jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

2 ounces (3 or 4) fresh serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

Corn chips or warmed corn tortillas

Directions

1. Put the jalapeño chiles in a blender jar. Measure in 2 tablespoons water. Purée on high 20 seconds until foamy. Pour into a serving bowl.

2. Rinse the blender jar.

3. Put the serrano chiles in the blender. Measure in 2 tablespoons water. Purée on high 20 seconds until foamy. Pour into another serving bowl.

4. Taste with corn chips or warm corn tortillas.

Bright Salmon-Pink Mexican Papaya Table Salsa

If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves while preparing this salsa.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients

1 very ripe Mexican papaya, about 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter

2 Mexican (aka Key) limes, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)

1 medium (3 inches) white onion, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

2 serrano chiles

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Directions

1. Cut the papaya in half vertically. Scoop out the black seeds from one of the halves. Peel it and chop it, measuring out 3 cups chopped fruit. Put it into a blender or processor. (Wrap the remaining fruit in plastic and save for another use, such as smoothies or slices with a squirt of lime.)

2. Pour the lime juice on the papaya. Blend 5 seconds.

3. Add the onion, sugar and salt and whirl again 5 seconds. Pour the slightly chunky mixture into a serving bowl.

4. Stem and mince one of the 2 chiles and stir it (with seeds) into the papaya along with the cilantro. Taste. If you want a spicier salsa, stir in more of the remaining minced chile. Adjust salt or lime juice if necessary.

Notes: Don’t process the salmon-colored papaya, green chiles and cilantro together all at once or they will turn into an off-putting brownish mash (although the taste will still be great).

Save the papaya’s black seeds. Rinse and then dry them on a baking sheet in a low oven (200 F) for about an hour. Cool completely. The spicy seeds can be ground like peppercorns.

Main photo: Bright Salmon-Pink Mexican Papaya Table Salsa. Credit: Copyright Nancy Zaslavsky

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Buy the freshest cauliflower you can find for Cauliflower à la Greque. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rosemary Barron

Although cauliflowers are sold in our supermarkets all year round, this beautiful member of the wild cabbage family (Brassica oleracea) is at its bright and healthy best in early spring. Cauliflowers harvested at that time have had the benefit of a longer growing season (about 80 days, instead of 50 days for their summer-grown counterparts), allowing their valuable nutrients more time to develop.

The cauliflower, whose name derives from the Latin caulis (stem) and floris (flower) is actually a cabbage bred for its flowers. The edible part of the plant, the head of tender stems and flower buds, is known as a curd. Similarly to broccoli and calabrese (close relatives), the cauliflower stores nutrients for the developing flowers at the base of the buds, so a fresh, crisp curd is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Its Latin botanical name, Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (meaning cluster, or grapelike), is an apt description of this remarkably clever vegetable, which grows with a protective layer of leaves curled around its head.

Hats off to the French, though, for giving cauliflower (chou-fleur, or cabbage-flower,) a prettier, and horticulturally more correct name, than the rather pedestrian Anglo-Saxon “flower on a stalk.”

Mysterious origins

There is disagreement over the origin of the cauliflower. Some say it was developed by 11th century Arab gardeners, or by Romans a thousand years earlier. But the wild cabbage grew throughout the ancient eastern Mediterranean and, with its tendency to produce “freaks,” prototypes of the cauliflower probably originated spontaneously in different places. Curious gardeners have since, through seed selection, improved nature’s work and we are now reaping the benefits.

Medieval Italian kitchens and, later, those of Louis XIV of France, served stylish and elegant cauliflower dishes. Catherine de Medici is said to have appreciated the lovely vegetable, and to have introduced it to France to help alleviate arthritis. But its earlier French name, chou de Chypre, suggests it arrived from Cyprus and Cypriots are, understandably, happy to claim its origin. For the past 200 years, the cauliflower has been a popular winter vegetable in northern Europe, but without its former prestige in serious kitchens. Until now.

Hardly humble

With cauliflowers piled high in our markets, this inexpensive and highly nutritious brassica is at last losing its humble status and taking its rightful place on our tables. A reputation for being bland and soggy is the fault of the cook, not of the cauliflower. Its very gentleness is the perfect foil to many fine flavors, and it takes only a few minutes to cook.

“Organic” and “local” have real meaning when selecting cauliflowers: snails, aphids and caterpillars love them, so pesticides are often used and, once harvested, their nutrients and flavor dissipate quickly. Most cauliflowers are attractively creamy-white, but we also have wonderfully colorful varieties. Buy cauliflowers that smell and look fresh, with deep-green, outer leaves and tight heads; avoid brown-spotted white ones, or dull-looking purple, yellow or green heads. Size doesn’t affect flavor, but age does: older cauliflowers taste and smell stronger.

Richer in vitamins and minerals than any other brassica, cauliflowers are an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid and potassium; a very good source of niacin, copper, manganese and vitamins A, K, B5 and B6; and a good source for protein, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamins B2 and B3. Raw, they are even better.

Avoid nutricide

Cauliflower cooks quickly: Keep florets whole or cut large ones in half and simmer in a little water or steam for five minutes. After this time, cauliflower loses 20% to 30% of its phytochemicals; after 10 minutes, 40% disappear. Where possible, cook in ways that don’t commit nutricide – in soups and stews, grilled or baked. In its wonderful ability to host spicy flavors, some of the best preparations for cauliflower can be found in the kitchens of the Indian subcontinent and the Mediterranean. With winter soon drawing to an end, it’s time to enjoy the vegetable that has spent the past three months developing the nutrients we need to take us into a healthy spring.

The cauliflower is actually a cabbage bred for its flowers.

Cauliflower cooks quickly: keep florets whole or cut large ones in half and simmer in a little water or steam for five minutes. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rosemary Barron

 Simple Greek ways to serve

  • Serve raw or lightly-steamed small florets with a dip of mashed anchovy, capers, herbs, and olive oil or with hummus, small radishes and young wild green leaves.
  • Mix thinly sliced cauliflower florets and fine-julienned carrots with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, lightly chopped flat-leaf parsley, and Greek oregano (rigani ).
  • Dip small florets in a light garbanzo-flour batter and gently fry the fritters in olive oil; serve with olive oil and lemon juice mayonnaise, olives, and lemon wedges.

Cauliflower à la Greque

À la Greque (French for “in the Greek style”) describes a method of cooking, one that presumably a French cook/traveler admired and added to his/her own kitchen repertoire. There are many versions of this popular dish, but most are a pale imitation of the original Greek creation. Buy the freshest cauliflower you can find and, for a lightly spiced dish, prepare two hours ahead; for a more mellow taste and texture, leave overnight in the marinade.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Total time: 17 minutes

Yield: 8 for a meze serving, 4 as a vegetable dish

Ingredients

4 cups small cauliflower florets

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons dried coriander seeds

1 cup dry white wine

3 bay leaves

1/2 tablespoon aromatic honey such as Hymettus

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

Coarse-grain sea salt to taste

For serving:

4 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon zest, in very thin strips, optional

Lemon wedges

Directions

1. Trim most of the stem from the florets and cut an “x” in the base of each with a small sharp knife. Blanch 1 minute in boiling water, drain, and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the coriander seeds and florets in a single layer and stir with a wooden spoon to coat with the olive oil. Add the wine, bay leaves, honey, pepper and salt. Bring just to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until tender.

3. Transfer the contents of the pan to a nonreactive bowl and set aside until cool. Cover the bowl and shake it gently to redistribute the marinade.

4. To serve, taste the marinade. If more salt is needed, combine with the parsley. Transfer the cauliflower to a shallow serving bowl and pour over most of the marinade (strain it first, if you prefer). Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest and serve with the lemon wedges.

Main photo: Buy the freshest cauliflower you can find for Cauliflower à la Greque. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rosemary Barron

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