Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'll Have a Side of ???

Janet here: Deciding what's for dinner only starts with the main item on the plate (chilis and stews aside obviously). The right "sides", as they say in the restaurant business, make or break a meal.

As a vegetarian, figuring out food combinations becomes even more critical because you don't have the meat entree dictating the meal. You have to become more creative pretty quickly and, frankly, I think making this transition is one of the main reasons people interested in eschewing red meat actually never make the leap: they just figure it's too hard to work out the rest of the plate.

I know I certainly felt that way when I decided to give up red meat over 30 (!) years ago. Without that piece of meat to center the plate, how exactly do you figure out how to put together a meal? Thanks to the Moosewood Cookbook, which was my bible in those beginning years, I realized you don't need a blob of meat on the plate to make a meal work. I got more creative, I think, because I was liberated by the constraints of thinking I needed a meat protein, vegetable and starch staring up at me from the plate in order to have a complete meal.

Anyway, we decided to do a side this week and, no surprise to anyone who has spent any time with me or read much of this blog, I picked broccoli because I am a broccoli freak. It's funny because I didn't love it as a child and I didn't even eat it that much as a child. But now I eat it every chance I get and have to stop myself from serving it more than twice a week with dinner.

Mostly I stir fry it in various ways so I was happy to come across this recipe for Dirty Broccoli in Ellie Krieger's cookbook, The Food You Crave. It's the first time I have ever microwaved a vegetable and I have to say I will probably stir fry it in the future before adding the bread crumb part. I just like my vegetables crispier. That said, it's a tasty, quick way to serve up this wonderful vegetable. What's your favorite way to serve broccoli?

Dirty Broccoli
serves 4

1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch pepper

Cut the broccoli into spears and put in a large microwave-safe bowl with the water. Cover tightly and microwave on high for five minutes. Carefully remove the cover, drain the broccoli well, and set aside.

While the broccoli is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook fo rone minute. Add the bread crumbs, oregano and salt and cook, stirring. Cook until the crumbs are toasted and gold brown, about two minutes. Add the broccoli, toss to coat with bread crumbs and serve. (This is pictured with Ellie's salmon cakes...recipe to come soon.)

Rachel here: So, this post is a continuation of my post from Monday. Below you will find my recipes for black-eyed peas and collard greens. Tune in Friday for cornbread and have yourself a feast this weekend!

Collard Greens

2 bunches collard greens, rinsed, trimmed and chopped
half of a large ham hock (or use bacon instead)
40 oz. of chicken stock
1 T. white vinegar
salt and pepper

Place greens in a large pot with ham hock or bacon. Add chicken stock, vinegar and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour. The greens will get notably darker and the bitterness will be largely cooked out (although you want a little of that bite to balance the sweet pork). The liquid will reduce but never disappear, so just serve with a slotted spoon.

Black-eyed Peas

1 pound black-eyed peas, rinsed
5 c. water
the other half of your large ham hock
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves

In a large pot, combine all ingredients (I cut the ham hock into large pieces and dispersed it throughout). Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until the peas and ham are tender (around an hour and a half). Remove ham and cut meat away from fat and skin. Chop meat up and stir back into black-eyed peas.