Organic Spa Blog

Best in Brassicas

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Photo by Sang An

They say you can’t tell a book by its cover, and, when it comes to anything other than actual books, that is true. But the cover of Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, by Laura B. Russell, is so moody and alluring that I couldn’t help but reach for it from the towering pile of new books in our office. And boy, was I glad I did!

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Photo by Sang An

Russell is a food writer and columnist for the Oregonian, as well as a recipe developer. This beautiful book features one irresistible recipe after another, each one easier to prepare, more stunning to look at and healthier than the next.

Russell tackles the Brassicas family—kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli rabe and more—vegetables that are known to be especially high in vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, glucosinolates and fiber. They have been shown to have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and detox properties. Not only that, they are absolutely delicious, in Russell’s preparations. Creamy cauliflower gratin? Kale and sweet potato saute? Broccoli and pepper jack frittata? Yes, please!  And the range is vast. The author also offers tips on ways to accommodate soy-free, vegan and gluten-free diets.

With recommendations by Andrew Weil, MD and Deborah Madison, founder of the renowned Greens restaurant in San Francisco, this is a book that is not to be missed!

Romanesco Summer Salad
Serves 4

Although vibrant lime green Romanesco (sometimes called broccoli Romanesco or Romanesco cauliflower) looks like the love child of cauliflower and broccoli, it is actually closer to cauliflower in terms of taste and how it is used. Its color is fantastic in this lively salad, though you can definitely use white cauliflower if that’s all you can find. Cook the Romanesco just long enough to take away the raw bite, 2 to 3 minutes tops. Normally I would suggest plunging the florets into ice water to halt the cooking immediately, but introducing extra water here will mute the flavor and dilute the dressing. Instead, cook them fast and then spread them on a baking sheet so they cool quickly.

1 cup water
1 medium Romanesco or regular cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-size florets (about 5 cups)
2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons drained capers, coarsely chopped

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. (If you have a steamer insert, put it in the pot to hold the Romanesco. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it.) Add the Romanesco, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Romanesco to a rimmed baking sheet or clean kitchen towel, spreading it in a single layer, to cool.

In a small bowl, to make the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly with a fork to form an emulsified vinaigrette.

Put the Romanesco in a serving bowl. Add the bell pepper, onion, dill, capers, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep well for several hours. Just before serving, taste and add more salt if needed.

Reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).

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