I've been on a mission since late last year: I am bored with the vegetables I prepare at home and have been searching for ways to make them taste better -- more interesting, more flavorful. Something that will make me yearn for a second helping.
All without an enormous amount of work, though.
I use the word "enormous" because we all get a bit lazy with our weeknight meals. I'm known to broil chicken breasts, toss a salad and steam a bunch of broccoli for dinner. Fine and dandy, but boy am I bored with that. I know I can quickly doctor the chicken with a different rub or marinade. I can whip up that salad with some new additions. But what the heck do I do with the broccoli?
So, I began my quest. Here is the result, culled from a variety of fabulous online food sites, in particular Food52, Special Fork and Cookstr. I swear some of these veggie dishes will make many of you forget all about the meat on your plate -- they are that mouthwatering.
Still, this kind of deliciousness doesn't come without a bit of extra work, as well as buying a few extra ingredients. So, spring for some shallots, nuts, garlic cloves, a chunk of fresh Parmesan cheese (which will last forever), white wine, sea or kosher salt, butter, etc. None of them are so exotic you won't find other uses for them --or store some in your fridge or freezer for future use.
In addition, I will admit that a few of the recipes add some richness to the vegetable, which also adds fat and calories.
My advice, always, is to make the recipe the first time with the original ingredients, then subsequently try substituting low-fat milk when a savory recipe calls for whole milk, and half and half when one calls for cream.
And don't get hung up on having to make a complete recipe. The cauliflower recipe here calls for also making a puree. You don't have to do that; the dish will be outstanding without it. The roasted broccoli calls for expensive Marcona almonds. Buy the regular kind at the supermarket instead.
Adapted from Nigel Slater's cookbook "Tender," consider replacing some of the cream with milk. On mushrooms: For a weightier dinner, try adding a couple of fleshy portobellos.
Spinach, Mushrooms, and Cream for Dinner
1 pound spinach
1 pound cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Warm a tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan, then add the mushrooms. Stirring occasionally, saute the mushrooms until some of their liquid cooks away and they start to brown.
Add the white wine and boil for a couple of minutes. Turn down to simmer. Slowly add cream and milk so as not to curdle; simmer for several more minutes. Turn off the heat. (If you have time, leave this to steep; the cream and milk will get wonderfully mushroomy.)
2. Wash the spinach well and put in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan and let the spinach steam for several minutes. Then drain it and squeeze the water out.
3. Add the spinach and a couple tablespoons of Parmesan to the mushroom-cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until golden. (If the cheese melts but does not crisp, run it under the broiler for several minutes.) Makes 1 gratin.
Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Apples in Browned Butter and Cream
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
4 ounces butter
2 ounces heavy cream
2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
4 teaspoons apple cider
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg; more to sprinkle at the end
1. Wash, cut off the stems, and halve the Brussels sprouts. Discard any discolored leaves. Steam over salted water until tender. Drain and lightly sprinkle and toss with celery salt. Set aside.
2. Fry the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain and set aside.
3. Over low heat, melt butter in a heavy pot. Once the butter is completely melted, turn heat to medium high. It will quickly begin to foam. Keep the butter and foam moving around. As it browns, the foam will subside. Browned butter until it is a dark nutty-brown.
Once it hits the color and flavor you want, immediately reduce the heat to low and slowly add the cream. Stir to completely incorporate the cream. Immediately add the apple pieces, bacon and Brussels sprouts.
4. With a large spoon, keep turning the Brussels sprouts mixture in the cream sauce while the sauce thickens and the Brussels sprouts mixture becomes glazed with the sauce, 5-10 minutes. The apple pieces should be just cooked, not mushy.
Add the apple cider and nutmeg. Continue to carefully turn the mixture in the glaze for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Turn out in a serving dish or individual plates and rub a pinch of nutmeg with your palms over the dish. Serves 4.
Rustic yet full of nuance, this galette coaxes sweetness from the winter squash and roasted garlic, complementing them with the right blend of salty creamy cheese, fragrant thyme and a delicate, buttery crust.
Editor's note: If you do not wish to make the pastry, I would suggest using a box pizza dough mix or frozen pie crust. You have to be able to roll the dough out and roll it over onto the filling in this recipe, so an already-prepared crust, such as Boboli, wouldn't work.
Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Galette
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour*
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
10 cloves, garlic whole and unpeeled
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1. To make the dough: Put the flour, semolina, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form a mixture that looks like small peas. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough sticks together (to test, remove the top and gather the dough in your fingers. If it sticks together without crumbling, it's ready). Add the ice water while pulsing, until the dough comes together, being careful not to over mix. Transfer to a lightly floured board and shape the dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. To make the filling: Cut the squash into two pieces to separate the rounder part from the narrower section. Peel the entire squash, cut both parts in half and remove any seeds. Cut all four pieces into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put in a large bowl and add the olive oil, chopped garlic and thyme. Toss to coat evenly. Spread out on one of the prepared baking sheets. Set the bowl aside. Sprinkle the squash with the salt and pepper. Put the garlic on the baking sheet and bake until the squash and garlic are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and put in the reserved bowl. Mash with the back of a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the ricotta.
6. Remove the pastry from the fridge and spread the garlic-cheese mixture over the top, leaving a 1-inch border. Spread the squash over the garlic-cheese mixture and fold the edges toward the center of the galette. Sprinkle the Fontina over the center of the galette. Sprinkle the edges of the crust with the parmesan and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving. Serves 4 to 6.
*Semolina flour is a hard durham wheat flour typically used to make pasta, but also bread. You can substitute an equal amount of whole-wheat flour.
You can add my name to the legions of fans of Ina Garten's roasted broccoli -- it was a revelation for me! This is my spin on that dish. -- Arielle Clementine
Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
1 pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the broccoli florets on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a hefty sprinkling of kosher salt. Roast 20 minutes.
2. While the broccoli is roasting, prepare the vinaigrette. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until quite warm (about 2 minutes). Stir in the minced garlic and the smoked paprika and remove the pan from the heat. Let stand 10 minutes.
3. Put the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the paprika oil. Try to leave most of the solids (paprika and garlic) in the skillet, if possible.
4. After 20 minutes, remove the broccoli from the oven and toss the almonds on top. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette, toss, and serve immediately. Serves two.
Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Puree
1 1/2-pound head cauliflower
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using sharp heavy knife and starting at top center of cauliflower head, cut two 1-inch-thick slices of cauliflower, cutting through stem end. Set cauliflower steaks aside.
2. Cut enough florets from remaining cauliflower head to measure 3 cups. Combine florets, water and milk in medium saucepan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and cook until cauliflower florets are very tender, about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
3. Transfer florets to blender. Add half of the reserved 1 cup cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Add more of the liquid if desired, and puree again. Return puree to same saucepan.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Brush cauliflower steaks with additional oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cauliflower steaks to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and bake cauliflower steaks until tender, about 10 minutes.
5. Rewarm cauliflower puree over medium heat. Divide puree between 2 plates; top each with cauliflower steak. Serves 2.
Asparagus with Shallots, Chiles and Lemon
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
1 dried red chile, crushed into tiny bits
4 lemon wedges
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1. Combine the shallot with a large pinch of salt. It's best to mix with your hands and to rub the salt into the shallots. Let sit while you cook the asparagus.
2. Heat a large heavy saute pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and then asparagus spears, season with salt, and saute. They will brighten in color. Saute until just cooked through, but still crisp-tender at the center, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Squeeze any excess juices from the shallots. Mix together the shallot and crushed chile and strew across the asparagus. Sprinkle with Maldon or another flaky sea salt, and serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing on the asparagus at the table. Serves 3 to 4.