Friday, March 2, 2012

Broccoli even a Bush could love

The Democrat in me hates to admit this, but I was solidly in former President George Herbert Walker Bush's camp on broccoli: “I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”

Most broccoli makes me involuntarily gag. I just can't tolerate it. I've tried it cooked to almost mush, but I tend to like it better when it's still bright green. I've tried soaking it in hot sauce, garlic or lemon. Sometimes that helps, sometimes not. Saucing it with cheese usually works pretty good, and I came up with a mash (click HERE for recipe) that goes down good, but cheese has lots of calories and cholesterol, so I don't eat it too often.

But on this week, I saw what may be the perfect broccoli recipe. I made it tonight, and it was wonderful. We didn't even need the lemon wedges. It may even get Jim to try Brussels sprouts, using the same technique.

Roasted Broccoli Bagna Cauda
By Lisa Lavery on

Total time: 30-40 minutes
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 anchovy fillets, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is heating.

Trim about 1 inch off the stem ends of the broccoli. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the woody outer layer of the stalks. Halve the broccoli lengthwise through the stem and florets. Turn the pieces so that they are cut-side down, then cut them lengthwise through the stem and florets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide pieces. Cut those pieces crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Place the broccoli in a large bowl and set it aside.

Place the oil in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until just warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and garlic, stir to combine, and cook until the garlic is softened but not browned and the anchovies are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red pepper flakes; transfer the oil-anchovy mixture to a small heatproof bowl. Once the solids have settled to the bottom, tilt the bowl (being car not to disturb the solids), remove 2 tablespoons of the oil, and drizzle it over the broccoli. Set aside the remaining oil-anchovy mixture. Sprinkle the broccoli with the salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the broccoli in an even layer on it. Roast until the edges start to brown, about 10 minutes. Using a flat metal spatula, flip the broccoli, scraping it up from the pan, and spread it back into an even layer. Continue roasting until it is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 minutes more.

Transfer the broccoli to the large bowl, add the remaining oil-anchovy mixture (including the solids), and toss to combine. Serve with lemon wedges, if using.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Signs of the times

A friend posted this U.S. Food Administration poster from World War I on Facebook. Another of its great posters is below. The posters were geared to sacrifice for the war effort, but the advice is still good for those of us who care about what happens to the Earth and want to be good stewards of it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shad roe - a harbinger of spring in the East

While living in California, I came across several shad fishermen, and even saw the fish for sale occasionally at Taylor's Market in Sacramento. But it wasn't until I came to Virginia that I discovered the pleasures of its roe. Shad roe is only available locally for a few weeks in the early spring. So the season begins very early in Florida, moves up to Georgia, then up the coast to Virginia and Maryland, where it is known as Maryland caviar. 

John McPhee, one of my favorite authors for his journalistic style, wrote "The Founding Fish," an entire book that waxes eloquently about shad, and has provided New Yorker magazine readers with many recipes over the years for both the fish and the roe. By the way, the fish is also at its best during spawning season, when it gets fatter and more succulent. 

On the West Coast, shad don't start up the Sacramento River until late spring. They continue on up river, and group for several weeks near Corning in June and early July.

In the fish market, shad roe definitely stands out among the pale fillets - it's bright red and looks vaguely obscene. It comprises two long egg sacs called lobes, joined together by a thin membrane. Each is a meal for one. Since it is better to eat fresh, it's best to share with someone you love... who also loves shad roe, or is willing to try it.

When cooked, it turns the color of liver, with a grainy interior. But it doesn't taste like liver or caviar. It is much milder and takes on the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with.

Here's a recipe, adapted from DC's Blue Duck Tavern chef Brian McBride, that I cooked last week. I served it with a salad of local lettuces and arugula, dressed with a little olive oil, spices, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Pan-Fried Shad Roe
Serves 2

4 slices of meaty sliced hog jowl bacon (or any lean, hickory-smoked bacon), 2 slices diced, 2 whole
1 large shallot, or 2 smaller shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium-sized set of shad roe (two lobes)
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup vegetable demi-glace, made with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bullion vegetable stock and 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a cast-iron pan over medium heat, sauté diced bacon until the fat renders. Add shallot and garlic. When the onions are caramelized, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan and return it to medium heat.

Raw shad roe
Cut along the center membrane to separate the roe lobes. Pat the sacs dry and season them with coarse salt and black pepper. Melt butter in the pan, add the 2 whole pieces of bacon, and gently place the lobes in the pan. Let the roe brown on one side for 3 minutes, basting occasionally with the butter, then flip it, taking care not to tear its membrane. Place the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes. The roe is done when it is lightly caramelized and feels firm, like a medium-rare steak. Set the roe aside.

Drain the fat from the pan and return it to medium heat. Deglaze the pan with the vegetable demi-glace. Return the onion mixture to the pan, with the mustard and balsamic glaze. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat.

Slice the roe on the bias and serve one lobe per person over a mound of the onions with a curled bacon strip and a drizzle of sauce. Serve with a lemony salad and sliced baguette to absorb the sauce. You won't want to waste any of it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Burgers with a secret inside

Hamburgers may seem a might improper to be promoting during Lent. Well, Sundays are for celebration, even during this most penitent of seasons. And if you want to celebrate with a hamburger, you might as well try these. I used local, grass-fed ground beef because I have lost all faith in meat processors' ability to keep E. coli out of their products and I think local farmers deserve our support. And I love the taste.

Lori K's fancy burgers 
Serves 4
© 2012, Lori Korleski Richardson
1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 pound ground beef or veal
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix cheese and shallots in a medium bowl. Gently mix meat, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in another bowl.
Divide veal mixture into 8 equal portions. Form 4 patties 1/8-inch thick. Place 1/4 cup cheese mixture atop each patty; form 4 more patties and top the first ones. Seal at edges to enclose cheese mixture. Grill burgers and cook about 5 minutes per side.
Serve on toasted buns or as part of a meal. We had a half-plate of salad with yellow bell peppers, avocado, grape tomatoes, pistachios and pomegranate seeds, and a scoop of mashed potatoes.