Broccoli was born in an Italian cabbage patch. Like other instinctive individuals, it struck out on its own. While it looks like it is related to cauliflower, it remains part of the cabbage’s extended family. It was a popular dish on 1st C Roman tables and the Romans sent it out with their troops to build an empire. This beautiful green bouquet was introduced throughout Europe and North Africa where the vegetable has prospered ever since. The English took it to North America early on, where it developed a following though it was never quite adopted by the mass of North American taste buds.
Fortunately for us, the immigrating Italians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought broccoli to our attention one more time. Most of us finally recognized the rich flavor possibilities this green vegetable contains. These days it is welcome on the majority of American tables. An added benefit is that it is rich source of vitamins C and K, minerals and fiber. Like the rest of its vegetable family, it has been shown to assist the body to defend against some types of cancer. There are those stubborn few, as epitomized by the famous New Yorker cartoon.
What most people consume is the actual unopened flower buds of the plant. The stalks, however, have a mildly sweet flavor and a good crunch. Like so many vegetables, the flavor is enhanced by a light hand in the cooking. Steaming, roasting and stir-frying produce the most rewarding taste. One should not, though, ignore the benefits of raw broccoli, which appears on hors d’oeuvres platters with dipping sauces and it is a good raw snack any old time.
In a past column we published a recipe for Broccoli with Saffron, Raisins and Pine Nut Pasta, from Sicily where the cuisine acquired a North African influence long ago. This remains a great favorite at our table, especially this time of year. Today we are offering unusual uncooked broccoli dish, Broccoli Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing. It is such a fresh and marvelous combination of flavors, your taste buds will overcome your traditions.
It’s that time again. Corn is finally back on the table for the season. In our house, it takes weeks before everyone is sated on the simplest and most delicious method of getting it into the mouth, that is, on the cob quickly boiled and butter-soaked. There are the usual culinary debates about the number of minutes it should roil around in the hot water. The general rule is 7 to 10 minutes, but 8 minutes produces such perfection as to not be worth another discussion.
Corn, called maize by Native Americans, is native to Mexican. However, it had migrated to Connecticut before the arrival of the pilgrims. The pilgrims considered it as a type of grain, like the cereal crops of wheat, barley, oats or rye. Which resulted in them calling it by the common term for all European grain, corn. Today it is a staple crop all across the world. Somewhere along the line, the English brought in John Barleycorn and his knowhow for producing alcoholic beverages. Thus, we have un-aged corn licker or liquor, as you choose, which is uniquely American. As names will, it has acquired a number of AKAs, such as moonshine, white lightening and corn whiskey.
Who doesn’t like to celebrate? Nobody I know. And Americans particularly love to celebrate their corn. The United States hosts almost as many Corn Festivals during August and September as there are corn-growing counties. Each one has its own contest specialty: corn-eating, corn-shucking, and corn-pitching to cite a few. As you might expect, there are corn costumes and corny jokes in abundance.
Perhaps the Mitchell, South Dakota wins the corn celebration prize with its magnificent Corn Palace. Originally built for an exposition in 1892, it has been rebuilt many times. It now sports Moorish minarets and Russian onion domes. Interestingly, the building’s exterior murals are composed of naturally colored corn kernels and cobs and are renewed annually, Each year a new corn theme is selected and artist compete for the winning design. These days the Corn Palace hosts everything from agricultural events to popular concerts.
Our website is overflowing with corn recipes. Once you’ve had your appetite’s filled of those lovely, slippery buttered corn on the cob, check out a few other ideas including a couple of Chilled Corn Soups, Sweet Corn Relish, Corn Tomato Salsa, Corn & Chive Fritters, and Wild Rice and Corn Salad. And don’t forget to freeze a few bagsful for a midwinter reminder, here’s a link to an easy process: https://www.allrecipes.com/video/4067/how-to-freeze-corn/. Today’s featured recipe has us turning to the grill and to corn’s Mexican origins to produce Grill Roasted Spicy Corn,
Finally, even with our erratic weather patterns, tomatoes have returned to our market’s tables. For many of us it is always a long wait, even when lucky enough to see them sooner. If we are even more fortunate the season will extend into late September. In our house, there is no such thing as too many tomatoes. Not even when the peak of the seasonal glut is in play.
The transformative contribution of the tiny Peruvian tomato to the cuisines and tables of the planet is incalculable. That small yellow globe carried to Spain as an ornamental made its way to Italy where it was developed and bred for hundreds of years. It married into the local family of pasta and the rest is history. Except that history never stops happening. Not in Italy, Spain or anywhere. Along with pasta, the tomato has been classically mated with basil, BLTs, a long list of cheeses, pizzas, Saomorejo (tomato and bread puree from Cordoba), and an infinity of sauces and stews. Our fruit-turned-vegetable didn’t stop in Europe. China has become the tomato’s greatest enthusiast, being the top producer to the tune of growing 56.8 million tons a year. The U.S. weighs in 3rd at 14.5 million tons a year. That’s a lot of really good eating.
The generally red globe has fans everywhere. Some states and counties hold festivals in honor of the tomato. Spain, perhaps pouting at having lost the management and control of the edible, holds an annual La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight, in which they cheerfully waste up to 319,670 pounds of tomatoes. Me, I rather take a salt shaker into the garden for a sun-warmed lunch.
The USDA claims that there are 25,000 tomato varieties, though other sources say there is a mere 10,000. Whatever the correct number, growers refuse to be content and continue to develop new, bigger, smaller, better, redder, yellower varieties. The current Guinness record holder for the largest tomato is Dan Sutherland of Walla Walla Washington who literally tipped the scales with his 8.61 pound tomato in 2016. However, a newer breed has appeared in England called the Gigantomo which averages 3 pounds and 10 inches wide. Other folks are sweetening the offering with varieties such as Sungolds. These miniature mouthfuls are candy-sweet and grow in golden orange clusters.
Our website is overflowing with tomato recipes, including: Tomato Goat Cheesecake, Peach and Tomato Gazpacho, Cookless Tomato Buttermilk Soup, Tomato Risotto, Tomato Jam and an uncooked tomato pasta main course known as Old #4. This week we’ve got Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes, which are easy to prepare in advance.