Showing posts with label Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics. Show all posts

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cleo Coyle's Mystery Vegetable

For many people, the produce section of their grocery store is a guessing game.

Well, the next time you spy this veggie among the many greens on sale, here are some clues to help you solve the mystery of what it is and how to prepare it...

Clue #1 - Although not yet very common to U.S. kitchens, this baby is very popular in Italian cuisine.

Clue #2 - This veggie belongs to a family whose seeds are used to make canola oil.

Clue #3 - In Chinese cuisine, a close cousin of this vegetable is often stir-fried with ginger and garlic or steamed and served with oyster sauce. In Italian kitchens, my recipe (below) is probably the most common way that it's prepared...

Clue #4 - Known by many names, this veggie shares one name with the famous producer of these movies...

So...what is the vegetable?

If you guessed "James Bond," you would be wrong...


If you guessed "Broccoli Rabe," you would be correct!

(BTW -- My clips of Sean Connery aren't completely gratuitous. The late Albert "Cubby" Broccoli was the producer of all the James Bond films through GoldenEye. :-)

Some say Broccoli Rabe is an acquired taste. Maybe it is...or maybe, If you've had it before and disliked it, the preparation might be to blame. Not every cook knows the tricks to getting the best flavor out of this veggie, which can be on the bitter side.

Because of its pungent edge, Broccoli Rabe is a great gastronomic complement for starchy, sweet, and cheesy main dishes like...spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, mac 'n' cheese, casseroles, and pizzas. It's also a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and potassium.

If made fresh and blanched & shocked, Broccoli Rabe displays a nutty and sweet complexity along with its (admittedly) slightly bitter and pungent edge. Basically, if you've made kale or collard greens, then we're on the same veggie page.

Pictured below is one of my favorite vegetarian lunches:
Sesame seed-crusted Italian bread with melted cheese
and a generous portion of my Broccoli Rabe.

Cleo Coyle's
Broccoli Rabe

For a printable (PDF) version of this recipe, click here.

Makes 4 servings


1 bunch Broccoli Rabe (about 1 pound)
2-1/2 quarts water
1 teaspoon sea salt
24 whole cloves of garlic, peeled (about 1 and 1/2 heads)
4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional finishers:
Lemon slices
Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)
freshly ground black pepper


Step 1 - Select your Broccoli Rabe: Broccoli Rabe has thick stalks like kale or collard greens and leafy green tops with tiny broccoli-like florets among its leaves. (My grocer sells it in 1 pound bunches.) Buy it as fresh as possible. Leaves should be bright green and not yellowing, wilted, or flowering. When you shop for it, note that this glorious green rose might be found by many other names: Broccoli Raab, Brocoletti di Rape, Rapini, Rappi, Rape, Broccoletti, or Cima di Rapa; and (for a Chinese version of it, look for...) Kai-lan, Gai Lan, Chinese broccoli, or Chinese kale.

Step 2 - Cut off ends: Like asparagus, you want to slice off the tough ends of the Broccoli Rabe stalks and toss them. To get the stems even more tender, I sometimes peel them, as well. (The stem is the most bitter part of the vegetable, and you can trim it even more to control this flavor aspect.)

Optional: Although some cooks like to roughly chop the Broccoli Rabe at this point (into 1-inch pieces), I prefer to cook and serve mine whole.

Step 3 - Blanch and shock: Yes, it sounds like a pair of James Bond villains, but in fact this is the step to remove much of the bitter bite. First bring a pot of water to the boil (at least 2-1/2 quarts), next toss in 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Now smash 4 of your whole, peeled garlic cloves and throw them into the boiling, salted water. Finally, add your Broccoli Rabe. Simmer for 5 full minutes. Using a colander, strain the Broccoli Rabe and shock it by running very cold tap water over it until the vegetable is no longer warm. Now drain all water and pat dry.

Step 4 - Heat oil and garlic: Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a large sauté pan and warm over medium-high heat. Add your remaining 20 cloves of whole, peeled garlic (do not slice or smash). (See optional flavor ideas below.*) Sauté the garlic for about 3 minutes or until you are able to smell the aroma of the garlic cooking and see the skin begin to appear translucent. (Note: you do not want the garlic to brown.)

*Optional flavor ideas: In Step 4, when you throw in the whole garlic, try adding red pepper flakes for a spicy note of heat. Or add a few anchovies for an umami flavor.

Step 5 - Sauté the Broccoli Rabe: Add your Broccoli Rabe to the pan. You should hear a slight sizzling (if you do not, turn up the heat a bit). Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring continually to coat the vegetable with the garlic oil. When is it done? Test by biting. The stalks should be cooked al dente (slightly crunchy as you bite down but giving easily as you bite). Continue cooking until texture is to your liking.

Step 6 - Serve: To finish, salt to taste. Or try a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of freshly grated Pecorino Romano, and a bit of ground black pepper. Now you're ready to...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grilled Avocados

Is anyone going to Bouchercon in Indianapolis next month? If so, I hope you’ll consider coming to the “Criminal Consumables” panel at 9:00 AM on Saturday where Sandy Balzo (moderator), Joanna Carl, Ellen Crosby, Nadia Gordon, and I will be talking about Wine, dinner, coffee and murder—the craft and popularity of food and drink in mysteries. I hope to see some of you there!


Grilled Avocados

I love avocados. I love them smashed and cilantro-ed in guacamole, sliced in salads and on sandwiches, and as garnish at restaurants when a chef gets creative. But I had never had them grilled in their jackets before. Well, not until recently that is.

In my neverending quest to find yummy vegetarian snacks for my youngest daughter, I sampled a few items from a great little vegetarian cookbook, called Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics, by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram. What I love about this book is that the recipes are simple and there are pictures for every dish (that always helps!). Not only that but the authors have seen fit to include almost 150 pages of pictures and explanation of vegetables. There are several I’d never heard of before and it gets tough to find something new at the grocery store when you have no idea what it looks like. This book, which I bought at a local bookstore in the marked-down section, is a gem. Over 500 pages, and paperback, it’s great. I highly recommend it.

But before you rush out and buy it, I need to offer one caveat. This book appears to have been written by British authors and while most U.S. measurements and oven settings are included for us Yanks, there are occasional steps that threw me. Five ounces of flour? Um… okay. Can I use my measuring cup with ounces? But that’s volume. Did they mean weight? For the most part, I just used my best judgment. And so far no one in my family has suffered from my attempts.

On page 180 of this cookbook, they provide a recipe for Warm Avocados with Tangy Topping. I made these and served them and they were a hit. Unfortunately, I made 4 whole avocados—which translates to 8 servings—for three of us. A bit too much and although they’re not bad when reheated, I think these are best the first day.

My daughter and I loved the whole concept of grilling avocados, so we played around with ingredients and we came up with two new varieties. She and I both preferred the mushroom to the salsa version but it was very close.

Mushroom Version

1 whole avocado
About 4 or 5 mushrooms sliced
¼ small onion, chopped
1 T butter
2 slices of Mozzarella cheese

Heat butter in a small pan, then sauté onions and mushrooms until mushrooms are nicely cooked. Assemble according to directions below.

Salsa Version

1 whole avocado
1 small tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped/crushed
¼ small onion, chopped
1 t chopped cilantro
1 T Italian salad dressing
2 slices of Pepperjack cheese

Combine tomato, garlic, onion, cilantro, and Italian dressing. Assemble according to directions below.

Assembly for both versions

Preheat your grill. I used a gas grill with the front and back burners on “high,” and the middle burners “off.”

For either version, slice the avocado in half length-wise. Remove pit, but do not remove the fruit from the skin. Score the fruit so that juices from the mixture can seep in during cooking. Divide your mixture in two and use half to fill each of your two “open” avocado halves. Cover each filled half with one cheese slice, ripped into pieces to fully overlap and cover.

Place filled avocados on a grill-proof plate or aluminum pan. Now that they no longer take them back, I used my old leftover Bakers’ Square pie tins with a protective base of aluminum foil.

Grill for about ten minutes. Grills vary, so keep any eye on them. Avocados are done when the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Each avocado half is one serving. Using a knife and fork, they can be eaten right out of the skin. The ones to the left and back are the salsa version. To the right and front are the mushroom verson.

Hope you have fun with these!


My White House Chef Mystery series includes State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime.

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