Bring on the Brassicas!
Recipes created for Canadian Health by Steve Pitt
Vegetable of the moment
Despite the elder George Bush’s famous broccoli put-down, this brassica star — resembling mini tree branches on a thick trunk — truly is a superfood. It’s rich in antioxidants (see “Scour Power”), fibre and phytochemicals such as cancer- fighting sulphoraphane and selenium. One cup of cooked broccoli delivers 53 calories, 2,623 IU of vitamin A, 141 mg of vitamin C, 510 mcg of vitamin K, 552 mg of potassium and an undetermined amount of cause for self-congratulation! — Susie Langley, RD
Love those chubby stalks
Broccoli is closely related to wild cabbage and is believed to have been first cultivated in Italy by the ancient Etruscans long before the founding of Rome. Many people think broccoli stems are inedible, but they make good eating, too. In this recipe, I like to steam the florets to give them a bright green colour and cook the stem with other vegetables to provide the base for a low-sodium, great-tasting and nutrient-packed vegetable stock. If the stem is young, just trim off the bottom end and coarsely chop it. If it’s an older plant and a bit woody, trim off the lower skin with a vegetable peeler. The inner stem is tender and full of nutrition and taste. — Steve Pitt
1. Trim florets from stem and steam for 10 minutes until florets are tender. Set aside 12 for garnish.
2. Chop stems from the top and discard last 2 in. Place stems, onion, carrot, celery, and 1 cup (250 mL) water in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Allow to cool slightly, then zap mixture in a food processor or blender to form a smooth purée.
3. In a clean pan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir flour into butter with a whisk 1 minute until it forms a smooth, thick paste (roux). Add milk gradually to roux, continuously stirring so that flour, butter and milk combine into a thick, bubbly sauce. Add remaining 2 cups water, 1⁄3 cup (80 mL) at a time, to allow flour to absorb water. Add 2 oz (60 g) cheddar cheese and stir until cheese melts. Add purée, nutmeg, florets, pepper and salt. Mix lightly.
4. Ladle into four individual bowls. Top each bowl with 3 broccoli florets and a sprinkle of cheddar.
For a well-rounded meal, serve with your favourite whole-grain bread.
TIP For a more robust flavour (but with added sodium), replace 1 cup water with 1 cup chicken broth.
Makes 4 servings
[Per serving 190 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 5 g fibre, 14 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 490 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamins A, C and K and potassium; source of calcium and iron]
1. Add oil to pan and place over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 1 minute. Add black mustard seeds and cook 30 seconds or until seeds start to jump in pan. Add ginger and garlic and stir into onions 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic turn dark brown; this can produce a bitter taste.
2. As soon as the garlic begins to take on colour, add cauliflower florets, pepper, bok choy ribs, soy sauce, water and sesame oil. Stir-fry 3 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through but still crisp. Add leaves and cook 30 seconds or until the leaves are slightly wilted but still bright green.
3. Remove from heat. Serve on rice with a protein side dish such as fish fillets or chicken skewers.
TIP To reduce sodium, omit soy sauce or reduce to 1 tbsp (15 mL).
Makes 4 servings
[Per serving 100 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fibre, 3 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 510 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium; source of calcium and iron]
What you think you’re eating as a vegetable in a head of cauliflower is actually the plant’s immature blossom buds. These buds used to come only in white, but the boring tighty-whitey days are over. Today, this cabbage cousin comes in a colours ranging from from orange to green and purple. To add drama to a meal, I do this easy stir-fry of multicoloured cauliflower and baby bok choy (choy sum in Cantonese), with its bright green leaves and white stems. Clean bok choy like celery, separating the ribs at the bottom from the leaves and rinsing thoroughly to remove grit. The leaves cook more quickly than the stems, so add them to the pan in the last 30 seconds or they’ll turn out limp and stringy. — S.P.
Baby bok choy (brassica chinensis) is a smaller, milder-flavoured member of the Asian cabbage family. A.k.a. Chinese chard or spoon cabbage, it is thought to be the oldest of the Asian greens. Although classified as a cabbage, it bears little resemblance to the European varieties in our supermarkets. Its white stalks are similar to but less stringy than those of celery, and its dark green leaves resemble those of romaine lettuce. The light, sweet flavour and crisp but tender texture of baby bok choy make it a staple in Chinese cooking. One cup cooked has only 20 calories and is an excellent source of vitamin A (4,365 IU), vitamin C (44 mg) and potassium (630 mg). It is also a good source of calcium (158 mg). — S.L.
1. In a large bowl, mix vegetables, chives, ham, pepper and salt.
2. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions and form into patties.
3. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
4. Cook patties until a crisp, golden-brown crust forms on the bottom.
5. Flip patties over. Sprinkle tops with cheese and let it melt while the bottom sides cook to a crisp golden brown.
6. Serve two patties per plate, garnished with watercress (also a brassica vegetable). Add a side of baked beans for a hearty breakfast, or a salad or soup for a midday meal that really sticks to your ribs.
TIP To reduce sodium, opt for a non-cured cooked meat such as
Makes 4 servings
[Per serving (without turnip and cheese) 280 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat,
Brassicas are also known as crucifers because of the cross-like, four-petalled structure of their blossoms. Kale (a.k.a. borecole) is the curly-leaved cousin of collard greens and other members of Club Brassica. With its dark green leaves and long white or red stems, its looks like rhubarb, but tastes mild, earthy and slightly sweet. Notable for containing antioxidants such as beta-carotene (vitamin A), leutein, zeaxanthin and protective sulphur-containing phytonutrients, kale helps ward off cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration of the eye. It reportedly has the most absorbable calcium of all dark green leafy vegetables. One cup of freshly cooked kale has 36 calories, 9,619 IU of vitamin A, 53 mg of vitamin C, 3 g of fibre, 396 mg of potassium, 1,100 mcg of vitamin K and 94 mg of calcium. — S.L.
The name bubble and squeak comes from the sound cabbage makes as it cooks inside this vegetable patty in a hot pan. In the days before refrigerators, the British found that B&S patties were a good way to use up leftover vegetables before they went bad. Traditionally, leftover meat was served cold on the side, but it tastes great mixed in. B&S is usually cooked in one huge cake, but individual patties cook faster and more evenly, and can be customized in case someone doesn’t like one of the ingredients. A Scottish variation adds cheese to the patty and is called rumbledethumps. — S.P.