Category Archives: Vegetables

Caramelized Broccoli and Other Vegetables

I have a new favorite way to cook broccoli and I can’t take credit for it. First, let me say that Broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable side. I like the taste, and the nutrient profile makes it an excellent choice for adding some green to a plate. It is easy to cook and lends itself to many styles and flavors. It is available year round without too much of an out of season mediocrity factor. It is also usually a good value. What’s not to love?

All of these factors result in Broccoli gracing our plates several times a week. That means I am always thinking about different ways to prepare it. I admit that I search Google, Pinterest, etc. quite often for ideas and I am sure that I am not alone. That’s when I found what I believe to be the best way to cook broccoli, ever, Caramelized Broccoli

The recipe came up many times in my search and while I can’t be certain, I think it originated with Chef David Gingrass, a well-known Bay Area chef. In one article he said it would make a Broccoli lover out of a hater. If you are a broccoli lover like me you then become obsessed.  It is easy to prepare, but takes a bit more time and effort than putting it in a steamer. This is a small price to pay for the fantastically delicious results.

Now, even though I have made this recipe a number of times, I can’t quite leave it alone. If you can caramelize broccoli, what other vegetables would benefit from this technique? The short answer is lots. And so the experimentation begins…

The requirement of any vegetable is that it can be cut into a good-sized slab creating at least one flat surface. It also needs to be fairly dense since it is going to be under pretty intense heat. While the experimentation continues, here are two vegetables that were wonderful.

Zucchini was my first test. Halving it lengthwise and creating chunky fingers was the perfect shape, The garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice were an ideal complement to the creamy texture that the caramelizing created. To carry the experimentation further, I will be trying yellow squash and perhaps eggplant.

The next experiment was Cauliflower. This was certainly not a huge leap as it is closely related to broccoli. Cut into thick steaks, it too, was a delectable addition to a dinner plate. In this case it joined Steak and Roasted Beets.

I’ve just conducted a mini brainstorming session and have added Carrots, Leeks, Sweet Potatoes, and Delicata Squash to my list of possibilities. I’m sure this is only the beginning.

I think that this calls for a “Master Recipe” of sorts. So, without further ado, here we go:

Caramelized Vegetables

A master recipe to create golden, sweet, and tender vegetables. Cooking times will vary by vegetable. You are looking for golden brown and tender.

Servings: 4
  • 1 Pound Vegetable "Planks"
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive OIl Divided
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. Water
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Sliced
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  1. Cut firm, dense vegetables into flat slices about 3/4" thick.

  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep skillet that has a lid. The heat should be medium high.

  3. Lay the vegetables in the skillet cut side down. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes (depending on the vegetable) until they are golden brown.

  4. Add the water cover again and cook until water evaporates, and vegetables are barely tender, 3 - 6 minutes.

  5. Add remaining Oil, the Garlic and Pepper Flakes. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the garlic is golden. 3 -5 minutes.

  6. Remove to a plate and drizzle with the Lemon Juice and serve.

This technique would make even the most vegetable resistant eater into a fan. Here’s hoping that you will give it a try. I know that I will continue to experiment with other vegetables and maybe even other flavors. It is easy and oh so delicious.


Brussels Sprout Love

I do believe that Fall is here. Pumpkins are everywhere along with what I consider the essential Fall vegetables. In Mama D’s Kitchen the Love extends to squash, sweet potatoes, and those lovely little green cabbages,

Back in our California Days, we would drive by Brussels Sprout fields.Brussels Sprouts, the stalks standing proudly, perfuming the air with their mild cabbage scent. Driving along highway 1, we would keep a lookout for a beat up old station wagon on the side of the road. Every time we saw it, we would stop and greet a man older and more beat up than his car. His name was Dutch and he sold Brussels Sprouts and artichokes out of the back of that old station wagon. Every visit resulted in a bag of sprouts and a baby artichoke or Brussels sprout (Dutch’s gift) for both of my sons. They would each hold on to these treasured gifts all the way home.

These days, we get our Brussels sprouts from the store and at this time of year they seem to be the sweetest of all. I want to share some of the ways that I love these “little cabbages” in the hope that you will invite them into your kitchen. My very favorite way to prepare them is roasting. All they require is a drizzle of olive oil and whatever seasonings your heart desires. Salt and pepper go without saying, but earthy herbs, smoked paprika, and cumin are always welcome additions.

Brussels Sprouts play well with others. Onions have a strong affinity, as do sweet potatoes, Red and Yukon Gold potatoes. Even peppers and fruits like apples or cranberries can co-mingle . By themselves or with other vegetables they make a wonderful side dish, and in the case of this Panzanella Salad, a one dish side.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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While roasting brings out the sweetness and imparts color beyond compare, Sprouts are very happy when they meet a hot skillet. I like the results, too. Did I mention that sprouts enjoy a bit of pork love? Here they join forces with bacon, but pancetta is also delightful.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
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As you can tell, I really enjoy cooked brussels sprouts in various forms, but lately I have come to discover their beauty raw. They make a wonderful salad and though the slicing is a bit tedious, the resulting crunchy sensation is worth the effort. Think of it as an earthier cole slaw. This salad is dressed with a warm Shallot Vinaigrette. The shallots ( and there was a good amount of them) are sautéed in olive oil. Sherry Vinegar and honey give it the perfect sweet and sour sensation that makes this salad a perfect counterpoint to rich meat. Why it could even top a burger and be happy.

Brussels Sprout Salad
Servings: 2
  • 8 Ounces Brussels Sprouts Thinly sliced
  • 1/3 Cup Shallots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey More or less to taste
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Or other herb of your choice
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat up for a minute or so. Add the shallots.

  2. Cook the shallots for 5 - 7 minutes. they should be soft, fragrant and slightly golden.  Add the thyme, vinegar, and honey to the skillet. Allow the dressing to cook for a couple of minutes to let everything heat through and blend together.

  3. Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, and more honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the sliced sprouts and toss to coat evenly. Serve.

So there you have three of my favorite ways to enjoy Brussels Sprouts. There are many other variations on these themes that are waiting to enter your kitchen.

Sprouts have been showing up everywhere. Restaurants as well as social media are jumping on the Brussels Sprout bandwagon. I’ve had a wonderful Brussles Sprout Salad served as a bed for Lamb Pastrami and a frizzled egg for brunch at River Roast in Chicago. I’ve noticed variations on roasted and even fried Brussels Sprouts showing up on more appetizer menus and as a side dish as well.  I just saw a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts that would make an awesome Game Day appetizer.

Nobody is putting this “Baby Cabbage” in the corner any more. Let her grace your kitchen and take center stage.

Bringing Back Summer…Grilled Turkey Tenderloins

Remember a short time ago when I was gushing about Fall coming to the Midwest? Well, this is the Midwest after all and seasons are relative. My last casserole adventure had barely been seen when the weather decided it wasn’t quite finished with Summer. For what seems like an eternity we have been plunged back into hot humid weather and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in the foreseeable future.

Here in the Midwest grills never really get put away. Oh, we may cover them, but we never seal them because we know that we might wake up to another summer day when we least expect it. So, I’d like to share a mostly grilled dinner that happened recently. The protein is Turkey Tenderloin. This has been a staple all summer long.

These come from Aldi. a grocery store chain that is re-inventing itself and the way people look at buying food. These stores have been a “no frills,” limited inventory, house brand, haven for people looking to save money. This year they began a multi-million dollar project of revamping their stores to expand their product line and tap into the shopping habits of more consumers. To illustrate this, everything on the plate came from Aldi; Organic Rainbow Baby Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, and Sweet Potatoes. Even the Memphis Barbecue Sauce that glazed the sweet potatoes was an Aldi find.

I didn’t set out to create an “All Aldi” dinner. It just happened and it is happening more often thanks to the fact that I can once again walk to my local Aldi (the above mentioned re-vamping caused the store to close for a month, yes, a month). They reopened brighter, bigger, and more grocery store like. The quality of their products has been improving over the last few years and this remodel is the final step to compete with, if not the “big boys,” at least the smaller more boutique chains that are expanding everywhere. Yes, they are a cousin of Trader Joe’s.

Now back to this End of Summer, Please! dinner. These tenderloins come marinated. I like the Cracked Pepper Flavor. There are two large tenderloins in each package, so there is plenty for dinner with leftovers for salads and sandwiches through the week. Just open the package, drain off the marinade and they are ready for the grill.

The sweet potatoes went on the grill, too. The wedges browned beautifully and were brushed with a bit of barbecue sauce for a little extra flavor.

The only part of the dinner that didn’t make it to the grill, the carrots and snap peas, roasted in the oven dressed, in a little brown sugar and olive oil. I am in love with Rainbow Carrots. Besides being lovely to look at, they are delicious to eat. Once I had to hunt for them, now I find them everywhere in every shape and size. From 2 pound bags of large carrots to bunches of baby carrots still sporting their ferny crowns, to these baby versions all peeled and pretty and waiting to be cooked.

I even attempted to grow them in my tiny garden this year. My pitiful harvest attested to the fact that “trash gardening” doesn’t work for everything. (magnified to show detail)

Roasting carrots is by far my favorite preparation technique. They only need a drizzle of olive oil and maybe a pinch of brown sugar and some salt and pepper. I like to keep additional seasoning to a minimum so that the sweetness of the carrots comes through. If I want to change things up I may add a little fresh thyme or some cumin, but I don’t often gild this lily.

They can roast by themselves or as in this case be joined by some onions and towards the end of roasting some snap peas. They go with everything color and taste wise.

Non- Recipe, Recipe:

Roasted Carrots

For one pound of carrots you need about one tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2  teaspoon brown sugar ( more is all right, too), salt and pepper to taste. Toss these together in a bowl. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, stirring once or twice. 

This is one dish that really doesn’t have a season. Carrots, rainbow or not, baby or big are available year around and are usually cheap. They will continue to grace the plates of many meals in the Kitchen of Love. Oh, and before I forget….

Fall, please come back. I miss you.

In Praise of Gas Grills…and Roasted Red Peppers

Summer is at its peak and fresh vegetables are overflowing their bins. Grills everywhere are fired up and working up a major sweat. Vegetables and grills have a special affinity that is at its best at this time of the year.

Purists will swear by charcoal and I do love me some char-grilled meat, but there are times when the convenience of gas has many of its own attributes. Disclaimer: I have no choice other than using a gas grill. Apartment living requires it for safety reasons (at least in my complex). That being said, I used gas long before I had to. It is at times a love hate relationship but, lately I love it and here is why.

The biggest plus (in my book) is how quickly it is ready to cook. Turn on the gas and press the button and you have a flame.  In a few minutes it is hot and ready to cook. What I love the most about this almost instant grill gratification is that it allows me to grill only the ingredients that I want. These ingredients can then come inside and become part of a pasta dish, frittata or salad. and yes all of those have happened this past week.

Woodman’s, a local mega grocery store, discounts their slightly sad produce. The discount is deep (think large bags of produce for 99 cents) and it is done daily with Mondays seeming to be the biggest day. While there are often some things that are sadder than others, there is usually enough usable produce to be well worth the under a dollar price. Quick processing then becomes the top priority. My bag of peppers, all of which were usable went in several directions. I chopped up a few and froze them for later, some where good enough for a salad and the rest went on the grill.

Grilling peppers accomplishes two things. The peppers cook into a silky textured scarlet bite of deliciousness and the charring allows the skin to easily be peeled.  This peeling step is a must do. For as silky as the pepper flesh gets the skin becomes tough, chewy and isn’t fun to eat.

As with peeling chili peppers, covering with plastic wrap and allowing the peppers to sit for a few minutes makes the skin easy to remove. The jewel like flesh that is revealed is a thing of beauty.

I opted to roughly chop the peppers for the recipes that I made, but slicing them into strips and adding some herbs, vinegar and olive oil create the perfect star for your next relish tray. As I said they made several appearances in the kitchen. My favorite was their co-starring role in a Panzanella Salad.

Cucumbers, cannellini beans, red onions, tomatoes, and whole wheat baguette joined the peppers and some kalamata olives to create a Mediterranean main dish salad that was wonderful. 

A Mediterranean Vinaigrette laced with lots of Rosemary gave a light yet zesty flavor to the salad. A sprinkling of Feta and it was ready to enjoy.

Mediterranean Vinaigrette

A twist on the classic vinaigrette with plenty of lemon and more than a hint of garlic. Add any fresh herbs of your choice. This is wonderful on a Greek salad, but it would be equally delightful as a dressing for grilled vegetable or a pasta salad. It makes a great marinade as well.

  • 1 Medium Lemon Juice and zest
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Grated
  • 1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes Optional, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Herbs Parsley, thyme, basil, or you choice
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper To taste
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until completely blended. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

As far as Panzanella Salad Recipes go…anything goes. Tomatoes and cucumbers seem to be a must and of course crusty bread has to be present as this is a “Bread Salad.”

Cannellini and Roasted Red Pepper Panzanella Salad

Another variation on the classic Panzanella Salad.  This is totally open to your own interpretation. add or subtract what you want, just make sure the tomatoes and bread stick around.

Servings: 4
  • Can Cannellini Beans Drained and rinsed
  • 2 - 3 Roasted Red Peppers Chopped
  • 1 Cup Sliced Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Red Onion Scliced vertically
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Sliced
  • 1 Cup Grape or Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Crusty Bread Cubes Day Old is best
  • 3/4 Cup Mediterranean Vinaigrette Recipe above
  • 1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  1. If the bread cubes are soft toast them lightly in a 325 degree oven. they should be dry and lightly golden. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives, bread, and beans in a large bowl.

  2. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything nicely. cover and chill for several hours.

  3. When you are ready to serve, re-toss the salad adding a little more dressing if necessary. Sprinkle with the Feta cheese and serve.

So now that I have “said my piece” about grills and peppers, I will leave you with this bit of philosophy: Grills and peppers come in all shapes and sizes. Kind of like everything else in the world. Find what works, find what you love, and make it your own.

Hail Caesar!! The Salad Dressing of Summer

This is shaping up to be the “Summer of Salads” in Mama D’s Kitchen. Posts here and those published directly on Facebook have definitely had a vegetable forward approach. It just feels right because here in the MIdwest we are experiencing a very warm June, in fact it has felt more like August for the better part of a week.

Salads can be easy to prepare and are the perfect light supper for those warm Summer evenings. This post is paying tribute to Caesar Salad Dressing as I make it. This is not the traditional coddled egg and anchovy version though these ingredient are present in slightly different forms. Even with these “shortcuts” the result is creamy, tangy, and worthy of reining over anything.

Caesar Salad Dressing

This is a basic dressing that can be adjusted to your tastes. The recipe can be doubled and because it can be used in many different ways this is a good idea.

  • 1 Clove Garlic Smashed
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1- 1/2 Tsp. Anchovy Paste More or less to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise Olive oil based is nice
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp. White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tsp. Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cayenne Optional, to taste
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  1. Combine all of the ingredient in a small food processor. Pulse until everything is nice and smooth.

  2. Give it a good taste and adjust the flavors to make you happy. Store, in the refrigerator  in a jar with a tight fitting lid. 

Once you have your dressing made, use it in whatever way you like. The two dishes I’m sharing are pretty basic, but they are a great place to start. First there is the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. Classic, easy, and delicious. Marinate Chicken Breast in a bit of the dressing. Use boneless/skinless whole breasts or use tenderloins like I did. Threaded on a skewer they cook in no time and have more grilled surface which means more flavor.Torn Romaine Lettuce, the cubed chicken and a couple of tablespoons of dressing are tossed together. Once plated add some shaved Pecorino (or Parmesan) and a few croutons. Heaven on a plate. Swap the chicken for shrimp or salmon or even leave out the added protein and enjoy it as a delectable side.Caesar dressing is wonderful on any vegetable salad. It can turn grilled vegetables into the perfect accessory for grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

Toss your vegetables of choice with a little of the dressing and let them get well acquainted in the refrigerator for several hours. Cook them in a grill basket over medium heat. For this dish I used zucchini and yellow squash, asparagus. red onion, and Yukon Gold potatoes. You want everything to be barely tender so depending on how hot your grill is, this will take 15 – 20 minutes.

A note here: The potatoes take longer to cook. To even the cooking time out, steam them for about 10 minutes or cook them in the microwave for 3 – 5 minutes.

Toss the vegetables with a little more of the dressing and allow to mellow in the refrigerator for several hours. This type of salad tastes best slightly cool or at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge accordingly. You can add a few grape tomatoes, some chopped fresh herbs and a grating of cheese if you are so inclined. Take as many liberties with the vegetables as you would like. green beans, eggplant, or peppers would enjoy this royal treatment.

There is no need to stop at salad and marinade. Use it as an ingredient in burgers, drizzle a bit on a sandwich, or use it as a dip for artichokes. The possibilities are almost endless and summer is only just beginning.