Broccoli Gratin

broccgratinToday I brought the ingredients to make Simply in Season’s Broccoli Gratin to my mom’s house for Sunday dinner. Imagine my surprise to arrive and discover that her main dish was very similar to this – she was making a broccoli/chicken bake. I decided to go ahead and make my side dish so that we could compare the two.

For my version:

5-6 C broccoli or cauliflower (I used broccoli). Steam until just crisp-tender and set aside. I did this in the microwave.

Thinly slice an onion and mince a clove of garlic, and saute’ in a small saucepan until fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle 1/4 C f lour on the onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes (you’ll want to stir constantly to keep from browning). Whisk in 2 C of milk and bring to a boil. Add in 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and a pinch each of nutmeg and ground red pepper, and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in 1 C shredded cheddar cheese and remove from heat. Combine with broccoli and put everything in a 2 qt casserole dish.

Combine 1 C bread crumbs, 1 T butter, 1/4 C Parmesan cheese, and 1 T dried parsley and sprinkle on top of the broccoli mixture. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

The verdict: While everyone liked this version, some felt that my mom’s was creamier. She had used canned cream of chicken soup. Some did like my fresh topping better than her Stove Top topping, though. This led to an interesting discussion. Is it any cheaper to make things like cream of soup? Is it really any healthier? My sister thought that making the cream sauce from scratch was too much work, but I didn’t really mind it. One of the benefits I saw to making things from scratch is that I don’t have to keep things like Stove Top or canned cream of soups on hand. I’m sure that as I continue this project I’ll form more of an opinion. What’s yours?

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Broccoli Salad

Potlucks are funny. You never know what you’re gonna get, which I guess is the point. There is a garbage disposal service in our area called “Potluck Pickup.” At my old church, which had lots of older ladies, the potlucks were divine. At my current church, which is mostly 20 & 30 somethings, chips and dip and potato salad from the deli are more common.

DH was invited to a party tonight, and he asked me to make the pumpkin bread from the other night. I will oblige, but I’ll also be taking this opportunity to make Simply in Season’s Broccoli Salad. There are a million versions of this out there, but I have never actually made it.

In a large bobroccsaladwl, mix 3 C broccoli florets, 1 C raisins, 10 slices cooked & crumbled bacon (ok, I cheated and used the option of 1/2 C bacon bits, sometimes ya gotta take shortcuts to keep your sanity), 1/2 C diced red onion, 1/2 C raw sunflower seeds, and 1/2 C cheese (the book says optional but who in the world turns down CHEESE?!?!).

In a small bowl, combine 2 T sugar and 1 T apple cider vinegar and dissolve; stir in 3/4 C plain yogurt or mayonnaise until well blended (I used lowfat yogurt). Pour over the broccoli and stir together.

The verdict: I’ll admit the photo looks like someone vomited bacon bits and broccoli. But the salad was as good as any version I’ve had over my many years of having broccoli salad at potlucks. For some reason it was a bit hidden at the food table. Not many people took it, so I was worried that maybe it wasn’t good. As we were leaving, someone noticed it and said “oh no, I didn’t even see that! And that looks great! Much better than the store bought salad crap!” So that made me feel better.

And when we got home, DH helped himself to a nice big bowl of it. Which made me wonder if he had placed it on an inconspicuous part of the buffet table on purpose. Ha!

Herbed Broccoli Sandwich

I know, a BROCCOLI sandwich? This is another one of those Simply in Season recipes that made me think “you’ve got to be kidding me, Gladys in Pennsylvania. ” But since I had a lot of broccoli from the farmer’s market I thought why not give it a try. Besides, I needed something to go with the gingery butternut soup.

I halved the recipe just in case. I chopped 1 C of broccoli in the food chopper, 1/4 C of onion, and sauted in some olive oil in a skillet until it turned bright green. Then I added a dash of basil, thyme, salt and pepper. The directions say to add cheese andbroccolisandwich broil on french bread, but I picked up some cheddar-filled bilays at the farmer’s market this morning and I knew they would go perfectly.

The verdict: They were very, very good. Substantial, not like you’d expect from a broccoli sandwich. DH thought that a slice of heirloom tomato would have made this perfection.

Gingery Butternut Squash Soup

Over the past year I’ve grown to appreciate fresh ginger. Like garlic, the dried or jarred version just doesn’t compare. In case you aren’t sure what fresh ginger looks like, or how to cook with it, there is a great tutorial at Cookthink.

buttgingersoupGingery Butternut Squash Soup from Simply in Season highlights fresh ginger, and is a simple soup to make on a rainy, chilly autumn afternoon.

Simply chop 2 onions and mince 2 T of fresh ginger, and saute’ in oil in the large soup pot until the onions are translucent. Then, add one cubed butternut squash and two cubed, peeled, cored apples. Add 4 C chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer until the squash is tender. Then puree with an immersion or regular blender and you’re all set!

The verdict: This is a very sweet rendition of butternut soup, and I liked it! It reminds me of applesauce.

Mixed Greens Saute’

greenssauteIt’s funny how your tastes change over time. A few years ago I had no idea what to do with greens. Now, I look for opportunities to incorporate them into the menu. Tonight is a great example. We had leftover red lentil curry to use up, so I made some rice. But I felt the need for green. So I made this recipe from Simply in Season.

  1. Boil 1/2 C of water and add 8 sun-dried tomatoes. Stir and let stand 30 minutes. Drain (you can save the water for soup or stew).
  2. Saute’ 2 C of onion (sliced vertically), 1 sweet pepper (I used green because that’s what I had on hand), and 4 cloves of minced garlic in 1 T of oil in a large frypan and add the tomatoes.
  3. Add 5 C of dark greens, torn, bring to a boil and simmer until the greens are tender (about 15 minutes). I used the beautiful purple curly kale that I got at the last CSA pickup.
  4. Garnish with Parmesan if desired; serve over polenta, rice, couscous, etc.

The verdict: As I was sauteing the kale, I was suddenly worried that DH would be sick of yet another kale recipe. But he and I really liked this; the onion and peppers were equal players in the dish, and the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes was a nice change of pace.

Update on my progress: I’ve almost finished with the autumn kale recipes. Today I realized that I leave for Uganda and Zambia in 12 days! I’m trying to schedule as many recipes into the next week and a half as possible to make up for the time that I’ll be gone. I’m having the most difficulty with desserts, because we just don’t eat them that often.

I commented to DH tonight, “it’s a good dinner if I do say so myself.” To which he responded, “we’ve had a lot of good dinners.” I’m tackling recipes that I probably wouldn’t have before, just because of the multiple steps involved. Yet I’m still enjoying the process. That’s not to say I don’t have evenings where I declare that it’s time for Thai take-out. But for the most part I like being in the kitchen. Another bonus: our grocery bills have gone way down, and so have our eating out tabs. We’ve been able to put some extra money towards bills. Not a bad side benefit to this little project.

Gingered Chicken Bok Bok: A Comedy of Errors

A funny thing happened on the way to making Simply in Season‘s Gingered Kale and Tofu.

I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be using tofu. DH (Dear Husband) originally insisted that “protein alternatives” be used to remain true to the cookbook, but he has since relented as he rediscovered his extreme aversion to tofu. So I knew I’d be using chicken.

Then, when I went to pick up the CSA share tonight,  lo and behold there was bok choy! DH and I LOVE bok choy. As soon as I saw it I said “oooh, bok choy!” And the lady in front of me laughed and said “I’m all about oooh, brussels sprouts. I’ve been loving those.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that bok choy beats brussels sprouts hands down.  On a side note, I was pretty excited about getting romanesca cauliflower and purple curly kale today. Needless to say, I decided then and there that I’d be adding bok choy to the kale in this recipe.

So what stayed the same? The marinade, for one. It’s a delicious combination of 1/2 C soy sauce, 1/2 C dry sherry or broth (I used chicken broth), 1/4 C rice vinegar or wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar), 3 T brown sugar brought to a boil and simmered for one minute.

Then, instead of broiling tofu in the marinade as Simply in Season instructs (which, if you’re a tofu fan, you should check out because it does look like a pretty easy way of doing tofu), I stir fried chicken in sesame oil. Removed from the pan, then added 6 C of bok choy and kale to the pan and sauteed with 3 T ginger until wilted. When I added the jarred grated ginger, I thought to myself, hmmm, I wonder if I should have used a 1:1 ratio. I have no idea how jarred ginger compares to fresh. It seemed like a LOT of ginger.

At this point I wondered what was taking the marinade so long to boil, and DH was wondering what was burning. He came upstairs from doing laundry and noticed that the pot on the back burner was smoking. Let me add a disclaimer that I am not a clean freak but my kitchen is normally fairly clean. However, I have been in Canada for work the past two days so it’s in a hopefully temporary state of disarray. At that moment I realized that I turned the back burner (with an old pot on it) instead of the front burner (with the marinade) and quickly grabbed the old IMG_0376pot and put it in the sink At which point the smell of smoke was replaced with the smell of burning rubber. Oh crap, you know those Pampered Chef plastic spatulas that are supposed to be heat-resistant up to 500 degrees? Apparently a burning pot is more than 500 degrees.

While DH took care of the sink full of burning dishes, I suddenly realized that I was supposed to serve this over rice. Which I forgot to make. Which takes about half an hour because we don’t believe in instant or white rice (only basmati or brown). Luckily I remembered that I had bought some rice noodles at Saigon Market the other day when I was looking for persimmons. I put the chicken back in the pan with the kale and bok choy to simmer while the noodles boiled.

About 15 minutes later, DH and I were eating dinner. I must say, it was quite delicious and reminded me of something at a Chinese buffet (only much, much fresher) and I can’t place it. But it was gingery and sweet and sour all at the same time. The kale was  bit chewy but the crunch of the bok choy made up for it.

I guess I learned my lesson: don’t cook after a long day of driving.

Oh, one more thing. When I went to write this blog, when I was typing in the recipe I realized that I was supposed to have added 1/4 C of lime juice and 1/4 C of fresh cilantro and a pinch of ground red pepper. And top the whole thing with toasted cashews or peanuts. Oops. I didn’t miss it, but to be fair to the recipe I think I’ll be taking a mulligan.

Cranberry Coffee Cake – GUEST BLOGGER

Here’s another cranberry post baked for me by a guest blogger. I’m allergic to cranberries, so I’ve asked a few blogging friends to review the cranberry recipes in Simply in Season for my readers, so that the collection will be complete.

cranberry coffee cakeNote this GORGEOUS photo! Stephanie from Stephanie Cooks did an awesome job photographing this, and from what I read did an awesome job making the Cranberry Coffee Cake. Please visit her blog Stephanie Cooks to read her review!