November 3rd, 2017/ BY Nancy Johnson

Gettin’ fresh in the kitchen, with fruits and veggies

Back in the ’60s when I was a teenager, “gettin’ fresh” meant your date was trying to move a little too fast to first base. Sometimes it meant a kid was smart-mouthing an adult, in which case the adult would growl, “Don’t get fresh with me, punk.”

To me, “gettin’ fresh” always meant “gettin’ fresh fruits and veggies.”

I recall the shopping trip I made as a newlywed in 1970, grocery list in hand for my first dinner party. I knew I wanted to make fresh broccoli, but I wasn’t quite sure how much I would need or exactly how I should cook it. Relieved to spot a friend’s mother in the store, I stopped to ask her advice. She confidently marched me to the frozen foods section and suggested I buy at least two packages of frozen chopped broccoli.

This was in the era long before the kitchen microwave, so it’s no surprise she advised me to “just boil it.”

Nope, I wanted fresh broccoli and I bought it as soon as she left the store. At home, I sautéed it with olive oil and fresh garlic until it was crisp and browned in spots, the way my Italian grandmother made it, the way my mom made it.

In my kitchen, “gettin’ fresh” has always meant cooking with absolute best-quality, minimally-processed foods and taking advantage of the rich abundance of seasonal vegetables and fruits from the grocery store or — even better — the farmers’ market. And that’s the way I get fresh, kid.

pasta primavera

serves 4

The stars of primavera are spring veggies — after all, primavera means “spring” in Italian. You can, however, make this dish according to the seasons throughout the year. This recipe is not a science — use as many or as few veggies as you like. Haricots vert are long, slender French green beans now readily available at most supermarkets. If you can’t find them, use green beans. Fresh peas are worth the work it takes to shell them, but if you can’t find fresh use frozen.

1 bunch slender asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
Handful haricot verts, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped 
1/2 cup fresh peas
1 cup heavy cream
1 package fettuccine, cooked
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Cook asparagus and haricots vert or green beans in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Remove and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process.

In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Add onion and mushrooms. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus, haricots vert and peas.

Sauté until vegetables are tender. Add heavy cream. Simmer until heated through.

Add cooked fettuccine, basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Heat through.

Match: Serve with a Pinot Grigio.



French Roasted Vegetables

This is another one of those dishes that can change with the season. All you need is a crusty loaf of bread and a bottle of wine for a wonderful vegetarian dinner. Or serve with roasted chicken and orzo.

3 sweet red bell peppers
Olive oil, as needed
2 small zucchini, thickly sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled, cored and seeded
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Roast the peppers under a broiler until skin blackens, turning as needed. Cool, slice open, remove stem and seeds and roughly chop.

In a skillet, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil. Add zucchini and sauté until nearly tender. Transfer to roasting pan. Add a bit more olive oil to skillet. Add fennel and onion to skillet and sauté until softened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to baking pan.

Add tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and sugar to baking pan. Mix gently. Spread vegetables into one layer. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast 40 minutes.

Match: Serve with crusty bread and a French Bordeaux.



braised and glazed carrots

serves 4 as a side dish

The nice thing about carrots is that they are available throughout the year. This recipe turns them into a lovely sweet side dish.

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

In a large skillet, simmer all ingredients, covered, over medium-low heat until carrots are tender and sauce is syrupy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

beef with broccolini

Stir-frying is one of my favourite ways to enjoy fresh vegetables. Here slender, slightly sweet broccolini pairs with flank steak for a quick-cooking entrée.

For the record, I always use low-sodium soy sauce. You can use the soy sauce of your choice, but if it’s not low-salt, omit the salt.

1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup beef stock
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 beef flank steak, cut into slices
3 tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed
1 cup mixed mushrooms, chopped
Cooked jasmine rice

In a large bowl, combine sherry, broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cornstarch and salt. Add steak. Toss to coat. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

In a large wok or skillet, heat 2 tbsp peanut oil over medium-high heat. Stir-fry steak in batches, reserving marinade. Set aside.

Add 1 tbsp peanut oil to wok or skillet. Stir-fry ginger root and garlic about 20 seconds.

Add broccolini. Stir-fry 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms. Stir-fry 3 minutes or until tender.

Return steak to wok or skillet with reserved marinade. Cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Serve over cooked jasmine rice.

Match: Serve with a Sangiovese.



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