Week 7: Cucumbers, Broccoli, Cauliflower and whatever else you have left in the refrigerator

I feel like every year that we have been members of Groundswell we use more and more of our produce and this year is no exception. I am more likely to remember to throw some extra chard or spinach in a pasta dish or a quesadilla or throw some garlic scapes in with the scrambled eggs. So many possibilities! Occasionally I am met with the “Please don’t put any weird veggies in the dinner mom.” However, I don’t usually listen and they don’t usually care.

Cucumbers haven’t ever been something I really looked forward to. I’d eat them but there wasn’t much creativity in the options. Before last year I pretty much only ever ate them as a topping in a lettuce salad or occasionally with hummus. At that rate though they never flew out of the fridge and invariably some would go bad. My family aren’t pickle eaters either so pickling them didn’t make any sense. Most of you may already know of some variation of the following recipe but it was new to me and my husband and I love it.

Marinated Cucumbers and Onions
1 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 large onion thinly sliced
3-4 cucumbers sliced
Peel strips off of the cucumbers so that there is still some green left on the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers. I like them on the thicker side so they are easier to pick up. Slice the onion thinly. Put cucumbers and onions in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl combine the water, vinegar and sugar. The water and vinegar ratio will be to taste. I prefer a more 2:1 ratio but listed it here as 4:1 because it’s easier to add vinegar if it isn’t tart enough. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and onions. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate for a few hours. Voila! Simple, tasty snack! As you eat down the cucumbers throughout the week, you can add more sliced cucumbers to the mixture.
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Broccoli is a favorite vegetable of EVERYONE in our house-kids included so I really don’t need to look for ways for us to enjoy it. Normally I just steam it and we eat it plain. However, several years ago a friend shared this recipe with me and we absolutely love it. Every time I make this I need at last 50% more broccoli than we would normally eat because it is such a big hit with everyone.

Grilled Broccoli
1 small to medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large head of broccoli, separated into long chunks with the part of the stalk attached
Blend chopped red onion with soy sauce, red wine vinegar and vegetable oil. (Basically your ratio her is 3 parts oil to 1 part soy sauce and 1 part red wine vinegar so play with that depending on how much broccoli you are cooking.) Put in lidded container with broccoli to marinade for at least 4 hours. Grill until tender, about 12-15 minutes.
DSCN2568When grilling this, however, be careful because the oil causes flareups. Tonight when I made this, I took the broccoli out of the container and put it on a new plate before it went out to the grill. This helps get some of the oil off which helps. Otherwise if you grill over indirect heat so aren’t putting the broccoli directly over the flame that helps as well. This is definitely not a put it on the grill and leave it project. Someone needs to be keeping an eye on it because of the oil and completely charred broccoli isn’t what you are looking for.
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We have a few favorite ways to use veggies that are catchalls, in that you can put pretty much any vegetable in the recipe and it will be enjoyed and help clean out your refrigerator. They are typically recipes that the kids don’t really care if you put veggies in because they like the dish enough to just keep eating. Pretty much anything with Asian flavors works for this in our house so stir-fry is a fabulous way to use bok choy, peas, carrots, broccoli, scallions, cabbage, zucchini or pretty much any other vegetable that I need to move out of the refrigerator. Thankfully stir fries are pretty quick once everything is chopped and ready. I will give one of our favorite recipes here and then a chart at the end for using other vegetables not listed in the recipe. You can also change the protein to another meat or tofu. This recipe however wouldn’t be vegetarian even with the tofu thanks to the oyster sauce. I did make that mistake once and served it to my daughter. Ooops! Hasn’t happened again. She wasn’t too pleased.

Oyster Sauced Pork and Broccoli (Better Homes and Gardens Wok Cuisine)
1 pound lean boneless pork
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot
3 cups broccoli flowerets
3 cups hot cooked rice
Trim fat from pork. Thinly slice across the grain into bit size strips. For sauce, stir together chicken broth, oyster sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Set aside. Pour cooking oil into a wok or large skillet. (Add more oil as necessary during cooking.) Preheat over medium-high heat. Stir-fry garlic and gingerroot in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add broccoli; stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until crisp tender. Remove broccoli to a plate. Add half of the pork to the hot wok. Stir fry 2-3 minutes or until no pink remains. Remove pork. Repeat with remaining pork. Return all pork to the wok. Push pork from the center. Stir sauce. Add sauce to the center. Cook and stir until thickened and bubble. Return broccoli to the wok. Stir all ingredients to coat with sauce. Cook and stir about 1 minute or until heated through. Serve with hot warm rice.

To use other or additional vegetables, we will base the cooking time on the broccoli in the above recipe.
Vegetables that take one minute longer (cook for about 4-5 minutes) so would be added 1 minute before the broccoli is added above:
Carrots, sliced on the diagonal
Cauliflower, sliced
Snap peas, stringed and tips removed
Vegetables that take the same amount of time as broccoli (3-4 minutes) so would be added at the same time:
Bok Choy, thinly sliced
Cabbage, cored and shredded or chopped
Celery, thinly bias cut
Daikon radish, julienne cut
Onion, thin wedges or rings
Zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Vegetables that would be added one minute after the broccoli (Cook about 1-2 minutes):
Peppers, sweet red or yellow chopped
Green onions, bias cut
Snow peas, stringed and tips removed
Onion, chopped

Greens were something that I really struggled with using the first couple of years that we belonged to Groundswell. Growing up we never ate swiss chard or kale so I had no idea where to begin. Frozen spinach was the only green we ate and that was in manicotti so fresh greens were undiscovered territory for me. This is a recipe that can be a vegetarian main or if you feel so inclined you could easily throw in some cooked chicken, fish or flank steak. Though the recipe calls for mustard greens, spinach, komatsuna, chard, arugula or kale could be substituted. I am testing this on my daughter tomorrow so I will let you know how we fare and I will add a picture. My husband and I really enjoy it. Woohoo! Big hit with my 12 year old. I had to do the recipe with tomato salsa because that is what I had and kale. Delicious!

Potato, Greens and Goat Cheese Quesadilla (recipe from Bon Appetit)
1 1/3 cups 1/2 inch cubed potatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/3 cups packed grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/3 cups jarred salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
4 2/3 cups coarsely chopped stemmed mustard greens, divided
4 8″ diameter flour tortillas
3 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil
Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 275 degrees. On stove, steam potatoes until tender, about 8 minutes. Place in large bowl; sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili powder. Toss to coat. Cool potatoes 15 minutes. Mix in Jack cheese. Meanwhile, blend salsa and 2/3 cup (packed) greens in mini processor until greens are finely chopped.
Arrange tortillas on work surface. Divide remaining greens between bottom half of each. Top greens with potato mixture, then goat cheese and 2 tablespoons salsa mixture for each. Fold plain tortilla halves over filling. Press to compact. Brush with oil.
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas, oiled side down, in skillet. Brush tops with oil. Cook until quesadillas are brown about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to sheet in over to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 quesadillas.
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I know that we have not yet gotten cauliflower but we will most likely start getting it by the end of the month so I thought I’d put in my new favorite recipe. I found this when I was reading Bon Appetit several months ago. Steamed cauliflower isn’t very exciting but everyone at my house would eat it. It was one of those vegetables that I would get in the winter for a break from the broccoli and because it, like broccoli, is also a cruciferous vegetable but cauliflower wasn’t loved. This recipe has changed that for at least 3 of the four of us. My son doesn’t really like the crunchiness that develops on some of the cauliflower as it roasts. Sometimes, if I am feeling indulgent to him, I will toss part of it in a foil packet in the oven so it doesn’t get crunchy. The garlic cloves in this recipe are delicious after everything is roasted, squeezed out on bread!

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower (recipe from Bon Appetit)
1 head cauliflower
1 sliced medium onion
4 thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut 1 head cauliflower into florets; toss on a rimmed baking sheet with sliced onion, thyme sprigs, UNPEELED (I forget this sometimes and its yummier if you remember) garlic cloves, and olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 35-40 minutes(I think this is a little too long, at least for my oven, so I go more for 25-30 minutes). Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated parmesan, toss to combine, and roast until cauliflower is tender, 10-12 minutes longer.

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