When you think of spring, you probably don't think, "Yum, I think I'll roast some broccoli!"
Unfortunately, here in Western Pennsylvania, a lot of fresh vegetables aren't available yet. I've been visiting local farm markets obsessively for several weeks now, just keeping an eye on the early produce and, other than rhubarb, there's not much to offer.
The good news is that farm markets always have something interesting for sale even when nothing's yet in season. My son picked up a bottle of blueberry syrup at farm market and has been in pancake heaven ever since. I bought a beautiful, free-range, organic chicken from in Wexford, which I'll write about next week.
As for fresh fruits and vegetables? Sigh. Not yet.
All is not lost, however. Early spring crops of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts still are being shipped, and these cole products are nice and firm and fresh. Even if you're tired of them by now after eating them all winter, maybe spring, when all things renew, is a good time to try a new preparation method.
Any of these veggies can be served a variety of ways, but I find that spring and fall are the best time to roast them in the oven. It's still cool enough that you're not heating up the house too much, but it's warm enough to open the windows. Face it, these veggies emit a strong odor when they roast that can linger in the kitchen for hours.
But that's the only downside to roasted cole vegetables. When I first started reading about roasting broccoli and cauliflower and Brussels sprouts years ago, the articles kept telling me that even broccoli haters would love it roasted. Same with the other two veggies. And I would sit there and think, "Yeah, right, they haven't met my family." Apparently, I haven't met them either, because they all, without exception, love these vegetables roasted, even my cooked-vegetable-hating son and my "broccoli-should-be-banned" husband.
Roasted cole vegetables are crispy yet tender, salty and sweet. I always toss the loose leaves of the Brussels sprouts on the pan with the sprouts and then we fight over the crisp little nuggets. Brussels sprout leaf potato chips, anyone?
They're also very, very good for you. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower (along with cabbage and kale) are at the top of virtually every nutritionists' list of best foods, regardless if your diet is low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie, vegan or vegetarian. Or if you just want to try eating a little more healthfully.
Best of all -- leftovers. Anyone who reads this column knows I'm the big fan of leftovers. These vegetables can be used on a , in , on sandwiches, in or in wraps. You name it, they can add a little something to it.
And we all need a little something while we're waiting for spring to finally settle in.
Recipe: Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts
There are a million recipes available for all of these roasted vegetables. I think the first one I ever tried was from "The Barefoot Contessa" Since then, I've actually adapted it to just make it as simple as possible.
I prepare and cook all of them the same way, but the Brussels sprouts tend to take a little bit longer to roast than the broccoli. After the step of putting them on the cookie sheet, you can squeeze some lemon juice over them, if desired, and right before taking them out of the oven you can sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese, which I do sometimes.
The recipe below is just as basic and simple as it gets. Also, remember, these quantities don't have to be followed religiously. Use them as a start and adjust to taste as you make the recipe.
- Vegetables, see below
- 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ to 1 tablespoon coarse salt, like sea salt or kosher salt
The important thing about the vegetables is that they must be dry. If you feel the obsessive need to wash them, then do so well in advance and give them plenty of time to dry. Personally, when I'm roasting vegetables I don't bother to wash the produce first. Anything that can live for 30 to 45 minutes in a 400-degree oven is going to eventually take over the world anyway and may as well get it over with now.
- A pound or so of Brussels sprouts, prepare by cutting off stems and removing loose leaves. Discard yellow leaves, keep green leaves and prepare with the sprouts
- One head of broccoli, cut into small to medium florets, discard stems
- One head of cauliflower, cut into small to medium florets
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (can also be cooked at 425, but for less time, if you're cooking something else at that temperature). Cover cookie sheets with foil, as many pans as you need for the amount of vegetables you're roasting. This makes cleanup easier.
Place vegetables in a resealable bag or large bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat, add garlic and toss, add salt, and toss.
Put in oven and roast for 30 - 40 minutes, shaking pan every 10 minutes or so or tossing with tongs. The vegetables should be browned and tender.