Did you know there is a group of vegetables out there—brassicas—that can help prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and many cancers? These super foods can also promote the removal of excess estrogen and cholesterol from the body and keep DNA functioning properly. The truth is you probably have heard of brassicas—a family of vegetables that includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, horseradish, arugula, and radishes—though you might not be cooking them as much as you should be. While these vegetables may have a reputation for being unwieldy and bitter, author Laura B. Russell shows you how to turn these powerful foods into delicious treats in her knew book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables (Ten Speed Press).
Russell is a recipe developer and cookbook author whose own struggles with years of bizarre neurological symptoms led to her discovery of her gluten intolerance and her passion for spreading the word about healthy cooking. Brassicas is her second cookbook, following The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen (Celestial Arts, 2011). In Brassicas she breaks down and teaches you how to balance the flavor profiles of these complicated vegetables; how to select, store, wash and prepare them; and how to avoid the unpleasant odor often associated with cooking brassicas. Finally, the book includes many delicious recipes that play to each vegetable’s strength and will have you running to your local farmers’ market.
The recipes included below should demonstrate the versatility of this family of vegetables and will definitely leave you hungry for more.
Tropical Radish Rice Salad
This sunny salad makes an ideal partner for grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, or pork. It is perfect for a potluck or even a simple lunch. You can switch around some of the ingredients without sacrificing its tropical feel: try pineapple instead of mango, mint instead of cilantro, or add some fresh chiles. I use black rice, also known as forbidden rice, which looks stunning alongside the vibrant radishes and mango, but a chewy brown basmati tastes just as good. Actually, any variety of rice will work; follow package directions for cooking times and water quantities.
1 cup Black rice or brown basmati rice
Scant 2 cups Water
4 Green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 Mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 Avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 bunch Table radishes (such as Icicle, French breakfast, or a red globe variety), trimmed and diced
Grated zest of 1 lime
21⁄2 tablespoons Freshly squeezed lime juice
1⁄4 cup Olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
3⁄4 cup Chopped fresh cilantro
Put the rice in a saucepan with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes, or according to package directions, until the rice is tender (if you opt to use white rice, it will cook in less than half the time). Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice steam, covered, for five minutes longer. You should have about three cups of rice. Spread the rice on a baking sheet (to prevent clumping) and let cool to room temperature. (The rice can be made up to two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before finishing the recipe.)
Put the cooled rice in a large bowl. Add the green onions, mango, avocado, and radishes. Scatter the lime zest, lime juice, oil, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and cilantro over the top. Using a spatula, gently fold the ingredients together to combine. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lime juice if needed. Serve at room temperature.
Variations: Diced pineapple or papaya can be used in place of the mango; use about 1 ¼ cups. If you are a radish fan and want to showcase this brassica, use two bunches instead of one bunch. Taste and add more lime juice or olive oil if needed.
Roasted Broccolini with Winey Mushrooms
My friend Danielle Centoni, a Portland, OR, food writer and editor of Mix magazine, showed up at a potluck one day with a roasted broccolini dish similar to this one. When I asked Danielle if she would share the recipe, she responded in a way that made me chuckle: “It’s very loosey-goosey. I used what I had around.” I rarely pay attention to quantities when I am throwing something together at home, either, but with Danielle’s guidance—and excellent memory—we were able to piece together what she had done. The broccolini tastes great at room temperature, so you can cook it ahead of time, or you can make the mushroom sauce while the vegetables are roasting.
4 tablespoons Olive oil (divided)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (divided)
1 small Sweet onion, finely diced
8 ounces Cremini or other mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Dry white wine or vermouth
1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the broccolini on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and toss to coat evenly then spread in a single layer. Roast the broccolini, turning once with tongs, for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp-tender. If the broccolini stems are not uniform in size, remove thinner ones as they are done. Transfer the broccolini to a platter. (The broccolini can be cooked several hours ahead of time and kept at room temperature.)
In a large (12 inches or wider), deep frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until starting to soften. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for seven to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are golden brown. (The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid before reabsorbing it and browning. Be patient, as the flavor is in the browning.) Add the wine and cook for about two minutes more, until the pan is dry. Stir in the pepper.
Spoon the mushrooms over the broccolini then scatter some Parmesan over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: You can substitute broccoli for the broccolini. Cut the whole broccoli head—crown and stalk—into long spears.
Reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press © 2014). Photo credit: Sang An.