Most Indian meals comprise a medley of vegetable dishes ranging from mixed vegetable curries to simple stir-fried dishes. Fish and meat are usually served as a side item, and often, they aren’t missed at all. During Lent, when I sometimes crave a little meat or fish, it is vegetables with distinct textures, such as fibrous plantains, nutty tubers, or dense elephant yam that stand in for the “meaty” substance to a meal.
It is a good a time to eat more vegetables: Local farmers are growing vegetables that were once deemed exotic, and grocery stores are offering creative plant and soy-based substitutes for meat. “Vegetable butchers,” at food markets like Eataly in New York, give basic lessons on cooking this new produce; you can ask for tips on how to cut artichokes or how to finely slice jicama in order to add it to your existing salad repertoire. Vegetables are even tossed with spice rubs and marinades, and cooked like meat on the barbecue grill.
I was inspired to try the marinade on broccoli (one of my least favorite vegetables), as it is in season and packed with vitamin C. The spiced and roasted broccoli “steaks” were caramelized by the seasonings and flavorful – and the result was (almost) as good as ribeye!
Broccoli – 1 bunch
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Hoisin sauce – 1 tbsp
Rice vinegar – ½ tbsp
Hot sauce – ¼ tbsp
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF
- Mix all sauces (soy, hoisin, hot sauce, and rice vinegar) together.
- Trim the bottom of the stem and discard leaves.
- Slice along the entire length of the broccoli stem and floret. This cut gives broccoli the “steak” texture when cooked.
- Place sliced broccoli on an aluminum foil, spreading them out evenly.
- Roast for 25 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
- Serve hot broccoli immediately.
I was taught to re-purpose things, and I hopefully have passed that message on to A. and N. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn a trick or two in NYC, serving as reminders that just about anything can be salvaged and made fresh again. Although I saw two impressive installations of reprocessed everyday items (Ingo Maurer’s elegant chandelier made from broken white plates and ceramic kettles and Xu Bing’s rising phoenix assembled from remnants of industrialized waste), it was the creative takes on food that inspired me to experiment in the kitchen when I returned home.
I normally discard broccoli stems as I dislike their woody, fibrous taste. Yet, I happily ate a plateful of Chinese broccoli stems at Red Farm. When I decided to give broccoli stems another chance at home, I began by peeling the tough outermost layer to reveal a soft, slightly sweet inner core. I cut the stem on the diagonal, and after eating some raw, I steamed the rest for a couple of minutes (my advice on using a colander as a steamer can be found here). The cooked stems can be dressed up with your favorite vinaigrette or light soy sauce to make a quick veggie side. The dish was both visually attractive as well as light on the palate.
I love eggs, especially when they retain both shape and texture of the white and yolk! I was delighted to see that a house specialty at Red Rooster Harlem was devilled (also known as deviled or stuffed) eggs, a dish that seems to ride in and out of fashion. Deviled eggs are shelled, hard-boiled eggs that are sliced in half; the yolk is removed and combined with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper, mixed to a creamy-smooth consistency and reassembled back. The eggs are often dusted with paprika or decorated with a piece of anchovy or finely chopped red pepper. At Red Rooster, the yolk is mixed with a spicy chicken skin mayonnaise and served with crispy leaves on the side. Devilled eggs could also be spiced up with fried green chilies, ginger, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro leaves, or served with crunchy, baked kale leaves to balance the velvety smoothness of the creamy yolk and the bite of kale for a more filling brunch.
In keeping with color-themed restaurants, Blue Hill served the most amazing beet burger as an amuse-bouche. The “burger” consisted of whipped beet puree placed between two minuscule halves of almond bread. When I experimented with beets at home, I began by roasting beets (recipe here). Grate the roasted or boiled beet in a food processor or with a grater. Season the grated beets with salt and pepper. Shape a small amount of grated beet such that it sits compactly in a toasted brioche or slider roll, or on open-face toasted rounds. Top the beets with goat cheese and a red onion ring for a crunch.