Cat On A Broccoli Spree
A few days ago, I steamed some broccoli side shoots (the last from last fall’s plants!) and covered them in a dish on the counter. Later, I heard a little clunk and saw that my longhair tuxedo cat, Sophie, had pried open the dish and stolen some broccoli. Not only did she scarf it down, she came back for more. I thought it was a bit odd, but she’s certainly on to a good thing; broccoli offers lots of vitamins C and A as well as ample calcium. Like most of its crucifer cousins, broccoli is also exceptionally rich in phytonutrients such as sulforaphane, the somewhat stinky substance that gives overcooked crucifers that distinctive and unpleasant smell, yet which also defends against several cancers.
I love steamed broccoli all by itself; steam for 3 minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, shake dry and there you go. Cooked like this, broccoli doesn’t even need salt, and it’s my favorite go-to snack when I’m working at home. You can toss some into almost anything (soup, salad, sandwich, wrap) at the last minute without getting soggy, mushy results. Change it up with a drizzle of citrus vinaigrette, some Thai sweet chilli sauce, or a little mayo mixed with hot, hot, HOT Spanish smoked paprika (my latest addiction). Yow!
A Blooming Headache
I have developed some allergy issues in recent years, and when bigleaf maple flowers and Scotch broom coincide, I’m doomed. I spent a couple of days at home, nursing myself with steam and sea salt gargles and whatnot. This super soup was the best help of all, opening up my head so I could hear and taste again. Yay! I made a self-broth with carrot peels, onion and garlic scraps, celery ends and etc, but plain water works fine as well (just not too much). Broth can be so heavy tasting that it covers up fresh flavors, especially those delicate hints of spring, while plain water or self-broth lets them shine through.
Head Clearing Spring Soup (Vegan)
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 inches ginger root, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 leeks, chopped (white and palest green bits only)
1 large carrot, chopped
4 stalks celery
1-3 teaspoons hot smoked paprika (start w/less)
water to cover or self broth from trimming/peels
1 cup stemmed Italian parsley
In a soup pot, heat oil, onions, garlic, ginger, salt and lemon rind over medium high heat until fragrant. Add leeks, carrots, and celery, stir to coat, reduce heat to medium low, cover pan and cook until tender (10-15 minutes). This sweats the veg and builds deep flavor. Add paprika, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and water or self-broth to cover, bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve hot. Serves 2-3.
Another Raw Asparagus Salad
One of my favorite spring salads involves thinly sliced raw asparagus blended with some kind of nut, parsley or another fresh herb, and a light, lemony (or citrusy in general) dressing. This tastes especially clean and bright when made with Italian parsley picked moments earlier, but it’s also lovely made with fresh basil (mine grows in a sunny, bump-out kitchen window during the cooler months) and fresh cilantro, so you pick.
This is the place to use your best extra virgin olive oil (never for cooking!). The rich, subtle flavor is the perfect melder for all the others, but you don’t want a heavy, oily taste here. These days, I’m using a fantastic virgin olive oil from an organic grove in the Peloponnesus, imported by a friend whose family has harvested the olives there for generations. It’s amazing to taste a truly virgin olive oil; no oily off flavors, no burn, no aftertaste at all, just a clean, smooth, sumptuous, velvety rich flavor of olives.
Lemon Zest Or Lemon Pledge
However, watch the amount of lemon juice you use: I like lemon, so when I taste the dressing, I usually think it needs a little more, but even a little too much is still too much and hard to adjust for. After adding an extra couple of teaspoons of lemon juice for a little more zip, I ended up with something that tasted like furniture polish. I had to make a whole new batch without any lemon juice and combine them (which made a lot, bummer) to get the right blend of mellow and sharp.
Change up the nuts as you please; sometimes I use almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds, and it’s even good with salty, roasted peanuts (what isn’t?). If you love cheese, you might also add either some fresh goat cheese or a little Asiago, coarsely grated, but this vegan version is utterly satisfying, even mildly addictive (It’s hard to leave it sitting on the table without taking just a few more bites…).
Vegan Raw Asparagus and Mushroom Salad
2 tablespoons delicious olive oil (or any oil you prefer)
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper **
4 brown field mushrooms, or your favorites
8 stalks asparagus, stem ends snapped off
2 green onions
1 cup stemmed Italian parsley
1/3 cup walnuts (or hazelnuts, etc.)
In a serving bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice (start with 1 tablespoon and add more by the quarter teaspoon), salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper to taste (combine the smaller amounts of everything, taste and adjust). Halve the mushrooms and slice them very thinly. Slice the asparagus and green onions on a short diagonal as thinly as you can (I leave asparagus tips whole, your call). Now combine everything with the dressing, gently toss and let stand for 10-15 minutes to mellow before serving. Serves at least one.
** Or hey, try smoked Spanish paprika, not the hottie but the Bittersweet for a milder nip. Yum!