Basic Broccoli

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I learned a few years ago that broccoli is one of the winter garden vegetables that does not mind cold temperatures, snow, or ice in our area of South Texas.  When everything in the garden seems to be brown, gray, and soggy, it is fun to go out and cut as much as we need for a side dish or stir fry.  And the taste is so bright and fresh that only a sprinkle of salt and squeeze of fresh lemon is enough.  But there are so many ways to use broccoli and many ways to season or top it, that it really can be a go to choice to make a meal special.

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The biggest thing to remember is to never overcook broccoli. It is very tasty raw, added to green salad, mixed with cauliflower and dressed with lemon vinaigrette, or served with other crunchy veggies along with hummus or dip. When you do cook it, it can be roasted, steamed, grilled, or sauteed – just aim at undercooking!

My favorite way to cook broccoli on the stove top is to add 1/2 to 1 inch of water to a skillet, sprinkle with salt and lay the broccoli stalks flat in the skillet.  Bring water to a boil and let simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, then cover and steam to desired tenderness. This lets the broccoli turn bright green before steaming, and it will keep its color.

You can also steam broccoli by filling a pot with a few inches of water and inserting a steamer basket . Be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cover. Steam for 4-5 minutes, until tender.

Broccoli can also be sautéed. Make sure the broccoli is as dry as possible. Add only enough oil to coat a skillet, and set over medium-high heat. Add broccoli florets and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil. Add the sliced stems 1 minute later. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is bright green and tender.

Roasting broccoli is another great way to use the vegetable, and is very easy.  Heat the oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli florets and stems with a few teaspoons of oil and a half teaspoon of salt. Spread the broccoli on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the broccoli is crunchy with caramelized brown spots. Serve immediately.

Any of these methods of preparing broccoli can be used to make a side dish, cold or warm salads,add to a frittata, Quiche, or pizza. And as if that weren’t enough options, you can always dress things up a little by adding cheese or cream sauces.

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

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For all my almost 50 years of marriage, I have planned meals and menus, usually a week ahead.  That doesn’t mean we don’t change the menus around or decide to do something different, but I like this method because it allows me to consider what I have in the pantry or freezer, what is currently growing in the garden or available from the CSA vegetable shares we have picked up. I can more efficiently budget and shop, so I think it saves time and money as well.  But this delicious meal happened because I realized that I had far more arugula than we were going to use in salads before it went bad. Arugula is one of those greens that have become so popular but it wasn’t even listed in any receipe in cookbooks from the early years of my menu planning.  It is a peppery green and is delicious raw in a variety of salads, cooked as an accompaniment to fish or pasta, and as it is used here, in pesto.  I liked using walnuts rather than pine nuts  This pesto can be used to drizzle over grilled meats or pasta.

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

16 ounces pizza dough – make your own, or use frozen dough that has been thawed and brought to room temperature

1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, heated in small sauce pan – I used a spicy jarred sauce.

Arugula pesto, recipe below

1 heaping cup shredded mozzarella or Italian 4-cheese blend cheese.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on floured tea towel.  Separate into 4 parts.  Roll each part into a circle and place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread a thick layer of pesto on one half of each circle and top with  3 Tablespoons finely grated mozarella or Italian 4-cheese blend.  Fold  each circle over to make calzone.  Pinch edges together, roll and crimp to seal. Bake about 18 minutes, or until crust is done and nicely browned.

Ladle marinara into small sauce bowls and serve alongside calzones for dipping. If you have extra arugula pesto, freeze and use for pasta or your next pizza!

Serves 4

Arugula Pesto

2 cups packed arugula
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup shaved parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic,peeled and rough chopped
Sear salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
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Process arugula, oil, parmesan, nuts, and
garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season
with salt and pepper.

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Two Ingredient Bread

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Bread is a symbol of friendship and hospitality. Many ancient cultures believed bread was a gift from God.  A loaf of homemade bread is one of my favorite things to share with a neighbor or to take to a friend.  I love making extra so that I will have some to share.  Hot bread, right out of the oven, crusty and buttery, makes the simplest salad or soup a feast.

Sayings from around the world refer to the way people feel about bread: In English, we say “Bread is the staff of life.”  A Spanish phrase declares “All sorrows are less with bread.” In Italy, one might hear “Bread is all food, the rest is merely accompaniment.”  In a  Slavic proverb I read: “Without bread even a palace is sad, but with it a pine tree is paradise.”

There is a common resistance to making our own bread, however. That lies in the error of believing it is too difficult, or takes too much time.  Some of us have breadmakers that turn out loaves just as tasty as those we knead with our hands.  But there is something very satisfying about  turning and pressing the dough the time honored way, and I love it. Following is one recipe you will find hard to believe.  I didn’t think it would work, either, but it does, and it is both delicious and versatile.  You will think of a number of ways to use it. My favorite is to simply shape a long loaf and sprinkle with herbs or seeds. It makes a great pizza crust or small tart rounds.

Two Ingredient Bread

1 cup self rising flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping

1 cup of Greek yogurt

In a bowl, combine the flour and yogurt and pull together with your fingers  to form a ball.

Turn out onto a floured cloth.
Knead for about 5 minutes. 
Roll into desired shape.

If I make a loaf shape, I like to brush it with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle coarse salt and sesame seeds over the top. Chopped herbs or Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes produce a colorful and tasty topping, too.

This makes one long flat loaf or one pizza.
If the dough seems too sticky when you mix it, just add a sprinkling more
flour. The more you work the dough, the better it comes together and becomes the right texture to roll out.

Adapted from a  recipe by Jennifer Cheung for Kidspot

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Meyer Lemon, Olive ,Rosemary, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Our Meyer Lemon tree’s branches are so heavily laden with lemons that some are bent to the ground.  I love going out to check the ripening fruit as it changes from lime green, mottles with yellow, turns yellow all over as if it is saying “Wait, wait, not yet.”  The right time for harvesting is when the lemons turn egg yolk yellow blushed with orange.  Since this variety is sweeter and thinner skinned than other varieties of lemons, there are many ways to use them.  I have a list from the LA Times that lists 100 ways to use Meyers which I previously posted as a link during last year’s harvesting.

I have used a number of those suggestions.  This week I tried one more:  pzza topped with Meyer Lemons, green olives,  rosemary, and goat cheese.  The recipe is all in the title!

1 12 inch thin pizza crust

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 Meyer lemon, washed and patted dry,very  thinly sliced

Green olives, sliced

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place crust on round pizza pan or baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil.  Add goat cheese crumbled evenly over the top. Remove any seeds from lemon slices and scatter them over the goat cheese.  Add olive slices and sprinkle with rosemary.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is browned and cheese is melting. The lemon slices will caramelize slightly.  Variations:  Add chopped artichoke hearts, a small amount of additional cheese such as provolone or mozzarella, or pine nuts.

 

 

Grilled Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, and Gorgonzola

I have loved to make homemade pizzas for a long time.  One of my favorite pictures is one taken in our kitchen on McCree Road in Dallas back in the mid seventies when our boys were little – all under 7 years old.  The photo is of the 3 of them standing on a bench to the picnic table at the kitchen counter, making pizza.  So we have made lots of pizzas with so many different ingredients.  But we now have a new favorite, and a new way of baking.  I discovered how delicious and fast it is to grill the pizza!  Our fig tree’s bountiful harvest has had me looking for different ways to use them, so it was only natural some of the figs would wind up on pizza. Since I made pesto to use as a base spread, fresh basil from our garden starred in this dish as well.

Grilled Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, and gorgonzola

1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough – I use Il Fornaio dough.

Pesto – make your own, or use a purchased product.

12 fresh figs, washed, stemmed, and halved

3 ounces chopped prosciutto

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese

2 Tablespoons olive oil for brushing on crust

The pizza dough should be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, then set out at room temperature for about 45 minutes while you assemble the ingredients.  Heat the grill, and place containers of figs, cheese, prosciutto, and olive oil on a tray along with tongs,spatula, and a brush for the olive oil.

I like to spread a cloth on the counter and sprinkle with flour before placing the ball of dough on it to roll or press out into an oval .  Lightly flour a baking sheet to transport the pizza crust out to the grill, but you do not cook on the sheet.  Brush the top lightly with olive oil, then pick it up carefull by one long edge and drape it right onto the grill. Don’t worry about making a perfect circle – the rustic shape is part of its charm!  Close the grill, and check frequently, it will cook fast – about a minute and  a half on that side. It will dry out and bubble a bit on top, but you can lift it slightly to check the bottom. Before you turn it, brush the top side lightly with olive oil. Then, using tongs and a spatula, quickly flip it over.  Quickly spread a very thin layer of pesto over the top, adding Gorgonzola, and sprnikling figs and prosciutto.  Again close the grill and cook until the cheese is bubbly.  Remove to the baking sheet and cut into desired number of pieces.

Using this technique, you can make flatbreads with herbs and olives  with the same pizza dough.