Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Spring vegetable ragout

This week was a happy surprise cooking-wise. I'd fallen into a bit of a stir-fry/fried rice/salad rut, and Wednesday when I got my veggies there were quite a few interesting things, fennel and fava beans among them. There were also salad greens, carrots, leeks, asparagus and kale. So I get home, put it all down on the counter, and sit down to read the bit of the newspaper I hadn't gotten to, the Taste section. Inside was a whole article on ragouts, which I had neither made nor even tasted before. There were three recipes, and none of them used all the vegetables I had, and I was missing some ingredients for all of them, but since the method of preparation was the same for all three, and since I am a great improviser, I decided to make up my own. It went like this:

2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced thinly plus reserved fennel fronds for garnish
15-20 fava bean pods
1 bunch asparagus
2 leeks
4 small carrots
1 Tbs butter
Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
lemon juice

Bring one large pan of salted water to boil. Split fava bean pods open and remove beans. Drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. When the water is boiling again, drop the sliced fennel bulbs in, blanch for about 1 minute, then remove and set aside. Trim asparagus (break off the woody ends, then break or cut into about 1 1/2 inch lengths. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for aproximately 1 minute, remove, etc. Cut the leeks into chunks (I did slices, and they were a little too insubstantial, I think), blanch 1 minute . . . Scrub the carrots, cut into carrot sticks, maybe 3 inches long and quartered lengthwise. Blanch a little longer, 2-3 minutes. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add all vegetables and cook about 2 minutes. Finally, take about 1 cup of the water you used for blanching and add it to the pan, braising the vegetables for 5-7 minutes. I put everything in a nice serving bowl, sprinkled sea salt and pepper over it, squeezed about a tablespoon of lemon juice over the whole thing, chopped about a tablespoon of fennel fronds finely and threw those over the top, and served it with the remaining saice from the pan.

Some notes: like I said, I kind of took three recipes and combined them. One of them called for stock at the end and another just called for water. I sort of compromised; since the water I'd blanched everything in had some flavor in it, almost like a stock, I used it. It worked fine for me. The simple sea salt/pepper/lemon juice was a really nice compliment. I don't think it would have been nearly as good with table salt, old pepper, and juice from a plastic lemon. We ate it with rice, but when I had the leftovers the next day, I ate it unaccompanied, and it was still great. This is one of those dishes that you have to like veggies to like, because they're not drowned in hollandaise sauce or cheese or something, but if you DO like veggies, it's great!

I figure you could use a bunch of different veggies in this, as long as you follow the basic three step pattern -- blanch, butter, braise. One of the recipes featured parsnips, which I haven't had in a while, but if I make this again soon, I might just have to go get some. The carrots came out sweet and tender, and I imagine parsnips would benefit from the treatment, too.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mighty Miso Minestrone & MMM asparagus

Okay, I just made that up. I like alliteration, and frankly I couldn't come up with anything better.

2 Tbs sesame oil
1 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 large leek, white parts sliced, and some of the green parts, sliced
8 cups water
1/2 cup miso paste or 2 packages instant miso soup
1/2 cup dried onions
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1 bunch chard (about 15 large leaves), ribs removed and leaves thinly sliced
salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add ginger, garlic, leeks and carrots and sautee until fragrant. Add water, miso, onions and mushrooms and bring to a low boil. Then add kale and turn heat down to medium. Cook for another ten minutes, salt, and serve.

It was good -- I really like my soups to have a bunch of stuff in them, not be mostly broth. I would call the mushrooms optional, since I'm not crazy about them. If you use instant miso soup (as I did) try to make sure it's just the powder, not powder with chunks of dehydrated tofu and stuff. I was trying a new brand and didn't expect all that extra junk.

A good way to slice the chard is to take the ribs out by cutting the leaves on either side, then stacking the leaf halves about five high, rolling them up, and slicing the roll. I saw this rolling technique on the food network with basil one time, but it totally translates to bigger leaves.


1 Tbs sesame oil
1 1-inch knob ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch asparagus
Soy Vay Chinese marinade or hoisin sauce

To make this go faster, I snap the ends off the asparagus, then break them into bite-sized pieces, wash them, then throw them in a microwave-safe container and nuke them for 2 minutes first. The water from washing them will help them steam.

Heat the sesame oil over high heat, add the garlic and ginger. Stir for about one minute, then add the steamed asparagus. Stir for about two minutes, then add about 3 Tbs Soy Vay or hoisin. Stir over the heat just until well mixed, then serve. I served mine over rice with a splash of sriracha hot sauce.

Sweetie actually enthusiastically said "MMM" about this one, and I teased him that he was becoming an asparagus convert. He said "If you keep putting yummy sauce on it I am."