This time of year, when our gardens are bursting with ripening vegetables, I search my recipe box for ways to take the usual suspects to a new level.
We will explore the nouvelle cuisine method of cooking cauliflower and a multitude of ways to cook with beets.
When I was a child growing up in the Midwest, my mother was a fantastic gourmet cook, but the cauliflower recipe she used was the old-fashioned cauliflower with corn flakes and cheese sauce!
It truly turned me away from ever cooking that vegetable again, but I recently sampled a new twist on roasting vegetables in a nouvelle cuisine manner.
My friend and fellow gardener, Renata Reed, brought a cauliflower dish to a local potluck dinner, and I have used her method, just adding a few Indian spices.
CAULIFLOWER AND THE BRASSICA FAMILY
Cauliflower is enjoying a new resurgence in popularity, and I must say, I am one of its biggest fans. Steamed, roasted or baked, served hot or cold, it is one of the most versatile of all vegetables.
Because it does take a long time to grow and will take up a space of over 10 inches wide, this is a good time to travel to the local farmers markets, where the old-time farmers and new bee growers have discovered the joy of this vegetable.
A new variety is purple and maintains its wonderful color even after cooking.
Although it is a little late to plant a new crop, the local website for Seed Diego Seed Company has full and detailed instructions to grow all local vegetables as well as informative YouTube spots.
Brijette Peña, owner and farmer at the company, recommends growing cauliflower in large pots so they can be moved to a shady spot in the heat of summer.
• One large head white or purple cauliflower
• Two large shallots, thinly sliced
• 1 tbsp. each curry powder, cumin, paprika, kosher salt
• Hot pepper flakes to taste
• 2 tbsp. each olive oil and unsalted butter
• Cooking spray or olive oil in spray bottle
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray (or olive oil in spray container). Break up the head of cauliflower into small florets. Spread the pieces in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, approximately 20 minutes.
• Heat large cast iron pan over low heat. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. butter until butter is melted. Add shallots, cook until brown. Add cauliflower, 2 tbsp. curry powder, cumin and paprika. Sauté until cauliflower is brown and crisp, adding butter as needed.
• Serve immediately with rice or cooked lentils.
BEAT THE HEAT WITH BEETS
When planting root vegetables last spring, we experimented with carrots and beets and found the beets came through as the star.
Beets need to be picked when the size of a pingpong ball or smaller. Large beets look wonderful on the vine but become woody and rock hard as they mature.
If you don’t have the space to grow your own, all the local North County farmers markets have a wonderful selection at reasonable prices.
BEET, GINGER AND COCONUT MILK SOUP
(Adapted from September 2017 edition of Epicurious magazine)
This light and refreshing soup can be served warm or cold, and sour cream can be substituted for coconut milk.
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 large yellow onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
• 3 large (or 4 small) beets, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
• 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (or 1 cup sour cream, diluted with water)
• To taste — sea salt, pepper, fresh parsley
• In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion for five minutes. Add garlic and ginger, cook until brown.
• Add beets and 4 cups stock, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beets are fork-tender, about 25 minutes.
• With an immersion or regular blender, puree the soup in batches. Add 1 cup remaining stock as needed.
• Pour back into pot and add coconut milk (or sour cream that has been diluted with water), ½ tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.
• Garnish with fresh parsley, an additional dollop of sour cream.
THE INFINITE RANGE OF PICKLED VEGETABLES
If you have the time and inclination to try the old-fashioned methods of pickling and canning, I highly recommend purchasing the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,” which is still available online.
This classic will take you through over 100 recipes and food processing and preservation methods. Cornell University also publishes free preservation recipes through warren.cce.cornell.edu/food-nutrition/recipes, as well as a guide to purchasing canning equipment.
And hidden in The Coast News’ online archives of Jano’s Garden is my recipe for pickled beets.
We hope you have a productive and healthy summer, and “put some food by,” for next year.
Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and Former Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program at Cooperstown, New York. She currently teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center Community Garden and is available for workshops and consultation at [email protected].