If it’s January, I must be cooking Broccoflower. I picked some up at the grocery the other day because, frankly, our vegetable larder of turnips, rutabagas, kale, and beets is starting to freak me out. Plus, I can never resist the lime-green color of Broccoflower, and I love its nutty flavor when browned, too. (Also, since we live in a small town and I shop at the same small grocery store every day after my post-office run, I’m beginning to worry that people might think we have a really unhealthy diet, since I rarely buy vegetables at the store any more. Checking out with Roy’s donuts, some Lucky Charms for Libby, and maybe some chocolate chips for me makes me a little self-conscious! Hence the need for the occasional head of Broccoflower.)
I’ve sautéed, roasted, stir-fried and quick-braised Broccoflower, but it’s very cold here today and I thought a ragoût would be satisfying. (When I say it’s cold today, I mean it’s calling-all-mice-inside cold. This morning a mouse was in the compost bowl in the pantry. He’d fallen in, obviously in search of yumminess, but since there was little more than coffee grinds and egg shells to feast on—anything green is going to the chickens or Cocoa Bunny right now—he’d tried to scamper back up the sides of the aluminum bowl. No luck. Roy switched on the light about 6:30 and left the little mouse to do a roller derby around the bowl until I got up. I put him back outside (tipping the bowl to let him escape), where he will most likely find his way straight back inside the house tonight. I feel a little bit like Fred Flintstone putting Dino outside the back door. Oh, well. At least Libby is not here to insist on a warm bed for Mousey.)
Anyway, since it was a ragoût day, I used the broccoflower in one of my Dutch-oven ragouts with some carrots, leeks, and baby kale (recipe follows). My “ragoûts” are not particularly saucy and they’re not heavy. They’re more like delightful “mélanges” of colorful veggies, finished with some bright flavors and a bit of butter to bring everything together. I use a Dutch oven to create some extra moisture, which, along with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, contributes to the final flavor of the dish. Sautéing the hearty veggies in the Dutch oven means they steam and brown at the same time. I’ve used fingerling potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, baby artichokes, cauliflower and carrots successfully in these ragoûts, always adding an allium like onions, leeks, shallots or garlic, and something lighter and greener at the end for contrast, like peas or baby greens. So improvise as you please, using zest, vinegars, herbs and aromatics, and get ready for a satisfying veggie dish that can easily become a main course if served with a grain or over polenta. (The version below uses a small Dutch oven and yields just about enough for two small main dish portions or three sides. I was short on some ingredients or would have made a bigger batch, which you can easily do in a larger Dutch-oven.) And oh, by the way, this is top secret, but there are more of these ragout recipes coming in my new book, The Fresh & Green Table, later this year. But more on that topic soon!
If you want to double this recipe, use a larger Dutch oven (like a 6 or 7 quart). The little bit of tapenade here pairs deliciously with the Broccoflower but if you are not an olive person, feel free to mess around with the finishing sauce. (Use a dash of balsamic, soy or Worcestershire with the orange juice.) Whatever you do, be sure your cooking pot has a lid—you’ll need it to trap moisture to help cook the veggies. You can substitute cauliflower for the broccoflower, but it will take a bit longer to cook and may need a little more butter for moisture.
2 teaspoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon olive tapenade
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon cut into 4 pieces and kept chilled in the refrigerator)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
1/2 pound carrots (or up to 10 ounces), peeled and cut into sticks 1 1/2 to 2 inches long and about 3/8 to 1/2-inch wide and thick
1/2 pound 1-inch Broccoflower florets, each cut in half to have one flat side
1 small leek, thinly sliced and washed (about 2/3 cup)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
handful baby kale leaves or other tender greens
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, tapenade, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon water.
In a small (4-quart) Dutch oven or other deep, wide pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the carrots and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently but gently (a silicone spoonula works well), until the carrots are lightly browned and just tender (test with a paring knife), about 12 to 14 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the Broccoflower and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir, cover, and cook, stirring frequently and gently, until all the florets are browned and mostly tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Don’t worry if the broccoflower absorbs all the fat at first—it will give off moisture as it continues to cook. Return the lid quickly after each stir.) With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoflower to the plate with the carrots.
Turn the heat to low, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, and add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are just softened and a bit browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat or turn the heat off under the pan and immediately return the carrots and Broccoflower to the pan. Add the kale leaves and thyme and pour in the reserved orange juice mixture. Stir immediately, add the cold butter pieces, and continue stirring gently until the butter melts (just a few seconds). Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Serves 2 to 3