Sauce As A Condiment – Broccoli Cream Sauce

Hello everyone! Remember me? It’s been a summer of activity so far. Many trips, many dependencies, many stories. Not a whole lot of cooking, I must confess. Besides the usual heat that does its best to discourage culinary experimentation, times have just been packed. But we are not dead; not by a long shot!

Shallots and Garlic Cooking Shallots and Garlic

Broccoli is, by far, my favorite vegetables (don’t ask Heather what hers is. one cannot have one if one hates vegetables) and often stars in last-minute dinner dishes, as have been the trend as of late. This pasta dish is in the traditional Italian style, meaning this isn’t some spaghetti with gobs and gobs of sauce on it. The sauce, while prominent in flavor and texture, is a condiment to the delicious pasta. In hindsight, I would go with a larger noodle; perhaps farfelle (bow ties) or conchiglie (shells). The broccoli separate rather easily from the strands of thin spaghetti I used.

Pasta with Broccoli Cream Sauce

Broccoli Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot; chopped
2 large garlic cloves; minced
5 tablespoons cream
1 head of broccoli; chopped into small florets
salt and pepper

Steam your broccoli for about five minutes and set aside. You can also parboil if you’d like.

Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan, then cook your shallot and garlic in medium to medium-high heat until softened; about 4 minutes. Reduce to medium, add your cream and cook for a few minutes. Be sure to stir semi-constantly to prevent burning. Add the broccoli along with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Add your pasta (or vice versa), serve and enjoy.

Experimentation – Orange Reduction Sauce

Broccoli Florets
Orange Juice Simmering Reduced

I had a hankering for something with a citrus taste to it, which is fitting given the plethora of oranges available lately. At first I tried something similar to what I’ve done with lemon: a little oil, a little tarragon, a couple tablespoons orange juice and some minced ginger. The results were lackluster, with very little of the individual flavors coming out and completely missing my citrus-like goal. Sadness.

Broccoli Tossed With Reduction

After mulling it over, thinking of some of the asian-inspired citrus dishes I’ve had (orange chicken), I decided to give it another go. Instead of a splash of orange juice I decided to make an orange reduction sauce. Reductions are great for intensifying flavor, which was really what I wanted, and allowed me to avoid adding too much liquid. I didn’t want it “wet” for fear of lousy roasting.

1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons corn starch
160 grams (~5 1/2 ounces) broccoli florets; cut small

I brought everything from juice to vinegar to a boil in a small pot and simmered until I reduced it by a little more than half; about 20 minutes. I was hoping for the powdered sugar to do a one-two combo, sweetening and thickening, and added additional corn starch after a while when I wasn’t getting the viscosity I wanted. Massive clumping action ensued, reminding me to always prep thickeners in a bit of liquid on the side. Alas.

Tossed And Ready To Roast

This wasn’t a lot of broccoli, which became quite apparent when I tossed it with my reduced sauce. I threw it all in a small 8×8 glass baking pan and roasted for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli was tender. Actually, I could have stopped earlier but there was a lot of liquid.

The result? Mostly positive. This go ’round the orange flavor was preserved and was a major component in the overall taste. The sweetening of the various ingredients was mostly positive, but perhaps a bit too sweet.  though I think it could have been scaled back a bit, maybe with only one tablespoon of honey. I’m not sure what role the ginger and rice vinegar played, whether they were subtle agents in the background or merely ineffectual add ons.

Broccoli in Orange Reduction Sauce

The broccoli was a wee bit chewy and I’m curious if this was a result of the lack of oil or just the wonders of mega mart food quality. I’ve never really sat down and thought hard about exactly what oil does. Something worth exploring.

Overall happy with the results and progress made, and I will be sure to revisit and tweak in future meals.

Not Quite Rice Noodles – Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

The massive snow storm of 2010 appears to have abetted, finally. Forecast predicts a wee bit more snow (argh) but we should returning to normal soon. Have I mentioned that I hate winter? I hate winter. At least there’s squash.

Spaghetti Squash Broccoli Wokly!

Another adventure with spaghetti squash! At 89 cents a pound it’s rather hard to pass up. I didn’t feel like going pasta style and had a hankering for stir fry. I think broccoli is my favorite vegetable. I kinda just ran with this one not knowing where it’d end up. Overall, pretty happy; though I’d leave out the bean sprouts next time. They just didn’t add anything, and took away a bit. Still, quite proud and I shall do it again!


Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry With Broccoli

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion; quartered and sliced
1 green bell pepper; cut into slices
4 cloves garlic; minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 jalapeno pepper; diced
8 ounces broccoli; cut into small florets

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Pierce the squash several times and cook at 350° for an hour. Once done, let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cook the onion and green pepper with the peanut oil in a large wok under high heat for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper and cook, constantly stirring until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add 1/3 cup of water and the broccoli. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until all the water boils away. Add the remaining ingredients and toss, mixing well, and serve.


Potato Skins

I was browsing the foodie blogosphere for some outside inspiration when I came across this delicious looking recipe from Kristin over at Picky Cook. I’m quite fond of broccoli so this was right up my alley.

I upped the veggies (of course. hey, broccoli was on sale) a bit and gave up a bit more of a broil for more of a burn; what I expect from a good bar potato skin. Other than not giving the potatoes enough of an initial bake (making it harder to hollow out and mash), they turned out great! If you’re looking for more potato skin ideas, check out Heather’s recipe with rutabaga.

More faux meat madness! Am I a one-trick pony? Perhaps. It has been a while since I made stir-fry and I was jonesin’. Traditionally I go for the savory and salty over the sweet but I decided to mix it up this time. One convenient thing (or arguably, bad thing) about tempeh is there’s no need to marinate because it won’t really accomplish anything.

Some Wok Smoke Goodness

This dish is loosely based off a recipe in a book a friend of mine gave me a few years back. It calls for some less common items like Kaffir lemon leaves which I’m sure are great, but a little too rare and exotic for me. We like quality food here but hunting high and low for an ingredient I’ll never use again before it goes bad just seems like a waste of time, money and sanity. So some DC-style modifications were in order. What do you think?

Honey Orange Tempeh Stir-Fry with Broccoli

Honey Orange Tempeh Stir-Fry with Broccoli
adapted from Wok Works

8oz tempeh
7 teaspoons oil (2 tablespoons, one teaspoon)
1 garlic clove; minced
1 teaspoon ginger; minced
a head of broccoli; chopped into small 1/2 inch pieces
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
7 teaspoons soy sauce (2 tablespoons, one teaspoon)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rice wine

Steam your broccoli for 4 minutes and immediately dunk in cold water to stop the cooking process. Towel dry. Heat your wok, add two tablespoons oil and (carefully!) swirl around. Add your broccoli and stir fry for 1 minutes. Add your garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds; tossing continually to prevent burning. Add all your remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Continue to cook until liquid reduced to a thick sauce (five minutes, tops). Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy.

Work has been been crazy these past few weeks, forcing me to spend quite a few extra hours in the office. I always feel more slighted about this in the summer months. Why couldn’t this just happen in the winter when I’m all for hiding away in any warm room? True, I prefer hiding under my covers, but hey it beats the cold. But summer? Summer there’s hiking, climbing, picnics, swimming, the list goes on and on. Alas…

Pan-Frying Chickpeas with Broccoli

Of course, a busy schedule is no excuse for lousy eating. All those fast food trips will catch up to you, so it’s good to have some quick and easy options. At only a handful of ingredients and one pan, this sucker fits the bill pretty well. You’re looking at only 10 minutes of prep followed by another 15 of actual cooking. Rachel Ray, eat your heart out (which, by the way, is a ridiculous saying).

Pan-Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli

Pan Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli
This recipe uses very little oil, so be watchful. Stir too often and you won’t get any golden browning. Stir too little and you’ll get some burning.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can chickpeas; drained (or two cups cooked chickpeas)
1 head of broccoli; cutting the florets into halves or thirds depending on size
1 yellow onion; chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large pan under medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and stir occassionaly until the begin to brown and turn golden; 4-5 minutes. Don’t stir too often or you won’t give them a chance to brown. Add the onion and broccoli and continue to saute. Stir more frequently now, but not continuously. After the broccoli begins to brown a bit and the onions have softened (7-8 minutes), add the zest, juice and salt; stirring for one minute for everthing to come together. Remove from heat and serve with salt to taste. Enjoy.

Who Needs Scallions? Mashed Potatoes and Rutabaga

Two dinner posts in one week instead of dessert? This is Ghost Baker blasphemy! And I picked rutabaga to work with; such a bizarre looking vegetable. Maybe hitting our 100th DinnerCakes post this week has made me loopy.


Don’t worry, I’ve just been cooking a lot lately and trying new things… and thankfully they seem to be working out well! Weight loss and weekly baking weren’t really fitting together, though I believe Chef Edwin got a good laugh at my dreams of a pound cake diet (which he sarcastically termed my “pound diet”).

My mother-in-law got me a subscription to Food Network Magazine for Christmas which I have already toyed with before here. This was a really cool gift because now I get great, seasonal recipes delivered directly to my door (er, mail slot). Today’s recipe was inspired by the Nov/Dec 2008 issue featuring some fancy potato recipes.


The original recipe called for a few things that I thought were a little unnecessary for my purposes (a weeknight side dish). And my husband quickly vetoed my quest for fresh parsley and scallions in the grocery store stating incredulously, “Who has ever eaten something and said it needs more scallions!?”

So here we are! I took out some of the “fluff,” used basic Russet potatoes instead of Yukon Gold and added broccoli. This recipe makes a shallow baking dish full of mashed potatoes and rutabaga. We had enough leftover for a full week of dinners and/or lunches… quite a bit, really. But I surprisingly never got tired of it! This dish really is a nice surprise. I’d only had rutabaga once before at Thanksgiving 2008. I thought it had a very distinct, almost bitter taste that didn’t agree with me, but combining it with potatoes makes it much more mild and very enjoyable.

mashed potatoes and rutabaga

Mashed Potatoes and Rutabaga
adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 pound rutabaga (yellow turnip), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons margarine, room temperature (I did half regular butter and half margarine in an attempt to reduce the fat content, but you certainly don’t have to)
3/4 cup half and half, warmed
salt, to taste (I used coarse Kosher salt)
1/2 tablespoon oil (I used Smart Balance oil)
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
3/4 cups plain breadcrumbs

In a large pot, cover cut rutabaga and potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are tender (they should hold there form, but there should be little resistance when pierced with a fork). This will take approximately 30 minutes.

Drain the water and turn the heat down to low. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the butter (not the margarine) and mash (I used a potato masher) until smooth (I like to leave just a few potato chunks in mine, but I know everyone has there own preference!). Add the warm half and half and salt. Keep warm on low setting.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of margarine with the oil in a skillet on medium. Add the breadcrumbs and broccoli and cook until broccoli is tender, stirring so that the breadcrumbs don’t burn.

Pour the potato mixture into a shallow baking or casserole dish. Sprinkle potatoes with the breadcrumb/broccoli mixture and serve.

Note – after discussing this dish with Edwin, we think mashed cauliflower might also be good in here, possibly as a substitute to the Russet potatoes. Let us know if you try it out!

Creamy Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli and Vermont Cheddar

If you caught the cover of the February/March 2009 Food Network Magazine, then you saw a gorgeous Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Pesto. I couldn’t wait to make it.


Except I didn’t know much about broccoli rabe – which turns out to be nothing at all like broccoli. So I decided to go with what I know and see if this recipe works with regular broccoli. I also replaced the parmigiano-reggiano cheese with a sharper, more pungent cheese to give it a bit of zip.

broccoli mixture

Without the bright green contrasting colors this dish may not look as lovely the Food Network Magazine cover, but I really enjoyed it. The orecchiette pasta is a lot like shells, hiding little salty pistashio nuggets in every other bite. It’s like a grown-up macaroni and cheese, with broccoli and pistachio being the more dominant tastes than the cheese.

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, this is for you!

orecchiette pasta

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Vermont Cheddar
Adapted from Food Network

2 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
1 cup Vermont Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, puree broccoli in bowl of a food processor. Add toasted pistachios, followed by Vermont Cheddar. Finally add ricotta and pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add broccoli mixture to a large skillet and add 1 cup of the pasta water. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to the skillet with the broccoli mixture. Stir vigorously to combine and cook until the sauce is creamy and hot. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shredded Vermont Cheddar.

Sometimes I forget that most people don’t have the fondness for vegetables that I do. I think this is largely in part to their childhood memories at dinner. Many a vegetable has been overcooked in the mad dash ritual of the family dinner. What at one point was vibrant and full of flavor can easily become dull and tasteless. Of course this is not an attack on our loving Moms and Dads (mine rock), but life can get hectic when you’re balancing a career, home life and the numerous extracurricular functions of your children.

Quality food doesn’t have to be difficult or overly time consuming. You can still have delicious tasting veggies with minimal effort that won’t leave you shaking yourself (or your child) in rage.

Chopped Broccoli

This is a simple roasted vegetable recipe. With the sesame and soy sauce, it’s easy to peg this as an Asian-only side dish; but I disagree. Serve these vegetables alongside grilled fish or a lightly breaded chicken breast with lemon – add some brown rice and you’ve got yourself a flavorful and healthy meal.

Oh, and did I mention roasting preserves more of the vegetables’ nutrients than boiling? Man, this dish rocks all kinds of worlds!

Roasted Sesame Broccoli

Roasted Sesame Broccoli
This dish works with both the broccoli florets and the stalks. I like a little of both for variety, making the florets that much more enjoyable in contrast. Go with whatever you like. Consider adding sesame seeds before serving, though I find this purely decorative.

One broccoli bunch or approximately 4 cups, with or without stalk; sliced (see below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

To slice the broccoli, cut up into the florets, not all the way through. Then split by pulling the broccoli apart. For the stalks, cut into 1/4 inch slices. Combine the broccoli, olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce in a mixing bowl. Place in a baking sheet as a single layer (this will help you get a good browning). Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove when the tops are crispy. Serve immediately.