Recipe Files: Brassicas
The vegetables of the brassica family—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and more—bring to mind the hearty fare of a cold December night: ribbons of Savoy cabbage simmered slowly in a soup, the burnished crust of a cauliflower gratin, or a salad crafted from the sturdiest kale leaves. Though these vegetables sustain us throughout the winter like no others, the very same family surprises and delights with its springtime treasures, providing some of the most intriguing produce of the year.
Take a stroll through the farmers’ market—an early-season excursion that still warrants a sweater seems ideal—and you’re sure to encounter a bounty of brassicas. Mounds of mustard greens convey a pleasantly spicy bite, but lack the overt sassiness of their warm-weather counterparts. Collard greens, just a bit more tender than usual, beg for a quick sauté instead of a tenderizing braise. All of the leafy brassicas, in fact, are well represented at the spring market: arugula, cress, and even the more elusive delicacies like tatsoi and mizuna.
When you spot mizuna at the market, grab it while you can. Visually, the feathery bunches of serrated pale green leaves beg for special attention. Its flavor, reminiscent of the mildest mustard greens, conveys barely a hint of bitterness. Showcase mizuna in a simple salad with a bright, citrusy vinaigrette, or wilt it gently under the heat of a warm dressing. Finish a stir-fry with a handful of the leaves, or lightly pickle them for a unique side dish. Do take care, however, to enjoy mizuna to its fullest during its fleeting season.
Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, by Laura B. Russell, will be released April 8th, 2014. Reprinted with permission from Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).