KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Cook by the Book: Homegrown Pure and Simple
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Cook by the Book: Homegrown Pure and Simple

Michel Nischan is a professional cook and yet his latest book, Homegrown Pure and Simple published by Chronicle Books, is about recipes inspired by and cooked for his family. Nischan has rediscovered the garden and shares his enthusiasm wholeheartedly. His recipes may be "pure and simple" in terms of ingredients but the combinations are often inventive and sophisticated such as Blueberry, Lemon, and Chili Pepper Jam or Baked Fresh Ham with Roasted Apple and Almond Salad. While it's easy to come up with summertime recipes, Nischan does a good job using the bounty of the garden in all seasons.

Nischan specifies organic ingredients and most other ingredients in unrefined versions. The recipes are healthful without sacrificing taste. Only occasionally do they slip into the completely indulgent range such as the Cardamom-Strawberry Short Biscuits with Clabbered Cream. Nischan is never preachy and admits to eating fast food and working for companies that do not always jive with his healthful philosophy.

While not a cookbook for the novice, it does include some basics such as how to make stock, seasoned salt, spice rubs and honey roasted nuts. For the more advanced cook, there are some great unique techniques interspersed, such as his two-skillet chicken roasting method and coal roasting peppers. Don't miss the sidebars on topics such as "why local honey?" and "the benefits and care of cast-iron cookware". Filled with information on how he has grown his garden, this is also a good book for those whose harvest is found at the farmer's market.

Skillet-Browned Broccoli and Cauliflower with Pan-Toasted Garlic

Very few people are indifferent about broccoli-they either love it or hate it! But whichever camp you are in, you will like it cooked this way. Caramelizing it in a hot skillet brings out broccoli's hidden deliciousness. The same is true of cauliflower. Truly! Both of these cruciferous vegetables are extremely nutritious, so finding new ways to cook them will be beneficial to a healthful diet.

There are two simple tricks that will guarantee success. One is to be sure to slice the broccoli and cauliflower thin enough so that they cook through by the time they brown and caramelize, yet they must be thick enough so they do not overcook. The second is to make certain the slices are the same thickness, guaranteeing they cook evenly. Otherwise, there's nothing to it! This recipe is another argument for keeping your cast-iron skillets front and center, rather than stashed in the back of a dark cupboard.

Serves 6

1 large head cauliflower
2 large heads broccoli, stems attached
2 tablespoons grapeseed or rice oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. While it's heating, slice the cauliflower from top to bottom into 1-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of every slice with some of the grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the slices in the hot skillet, pressing them into the pan with a spatula. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes, or until browned and tender. Transfer the slices to a warmed platter.

2. While the cauliflower is cooking, cut the broccoli the same way you cut the cauliflower and brush with some of the remaining grapeseed oil. When the cauliflower is cooked, cook the broccoli in the same way. Make sure both sides of the broccoli slices are browned before transferring the slices to the platter with the cauliflower.

3. Add the remaining grapeseed oil (about 2 teaspoons) to the hot skillet. Add the garlic slices and saute, stirring gently and constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Arrange the broccoli around the outside of the platter and then put the cauliflower inside the circle. Sprinkle the toasted garlic slices over the broccoli and cauliflower, drizzle with the olive oil, and serve.


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