Preparing Summer Vegetables: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Artichoke

vegetable

Asparagus

There are many ways to prepare the vegetable asparagus — boiled, grilled or in the oven are just a few. All leave you with a delicious side dish or simply a great snack. Try roasted asparagus for a healthy alternative to fries!

Prep

Begin by choosing firm, but not limp, stalks that aren’t browned at the end. Make sure you wash and dry the stalks thoroughly, then break off the ends. To break: grab a spear by both ends and bend — it will snap naturally. Discard the ends.

Boil

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and boil for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Remove and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Remove from water. Sprinkle with salt and serve, or lightly sauté in butter or olive oil.

Grill

Toss asparagus with olive oil and seasoned salt. Place on a tin foil or copper grill mat, then place on the grill. Close the grill for 2-3 minutes. Open the grill, and flip. Continue grilling until the asparagus are tender and charred in spots. Sprinkle with additional salt and top with shaved parmesan cheese.

Roast

Toss asparagus with olive oil and seasoned salt. Arrange on a baking sheet or baking pan in a single layer. Bake in preheated 400°F oven until just tender and golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Roll occasionally while baking. Remove from oven; add additional salt to taste.

Tip: Try adding garlic powder (or minced garlic) when seasoning.

Broccoli

Broccoli is such a versatile vegetable — besides being a quick and easy side dish, it can be used in salads, in stir fries, added to pasta, you name it. Here are a few ways to prepare it that will make your taste buds happy.

Prep

Start by choosing broccoli spears that are a uniform dark green color with no yellowing. The stems should feel firm and the crowns should be tight and springy. Rinse well. Cut off florets; cut stalks in half lengthwise, remove any leaves or blemishes from the stem and cut into discs about 1-inch thick.

Steam

Put about two inches of water in a large pot; add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or a heaping tablespoon of salt. Place stems in a steamer basket inside pot, cover and steam for 2 minutes over high heat. Add florets; cover and continue steaming until desired tenderness, about 4-5 minutes more.

Roast

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli florets and stems with olive oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.

Artichoke

Almost everyone probably has had spinach and artichoke dip in a restaurant, but have you ever tried a plain artichoke? It might seem like an intimidating vegetable, but once you know how to cook and how to eat one (it can take some practice!), you’ll be fixing these yourself.

Prep

Choose artichokes that feel heavy without any browning. The leaves should squeak when you squeeze them. The leaves cover a fuzzy center called the choke, which sits on top of a meaty core called the heart. The heart is completely edible, while the choke is only edible in baby artichokes. Rinse in cold running water, opening up the leaves a bit to get the water in. Snip off the tips of the leaves if they poke you too much. Cut off about an inch off the top of the vegetable and remove the tough, small leaves toward the stem; trim off woody stem.

Steam

In a large pot, add 2 inches of water, 1-2 cloves of garlic, a slice of lemon and a bay leaf (for a little extra flavor). Place artichokes in a steaming basket inside the pot; cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.

Eat

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, preferably with a dip like melted butter or a vinaigrette. Pull off the outer leaves, one at a time. Dip the white fleshy end, then place in mouth and pull, scraping the pulpy petal off with your teeth. When you get to the tender inner leaves with the purple tips, remove them all at once. Dip and eat just the light-colored parts of these leaves.

Scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (the choke) covering the artichoke heart. Cut the heart into pieces and dip into your choice of sauce to eat.

Tip: Try mixing mayonnaise with a little balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.

Source: Simplyrecipes.com

Cauliflower

Another easy side dish, cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be steamed, braised or roasted. You can top with cheese or hollandaise sauce, mash with butter and milk or even make rice. Here are a few ways to try preparing.

Braise

Place 1-inch florets into a large skillet with ½ cup dry white wine and ½ teaspoon caraway seeds. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about four minutes until tender.

Roast

Preheat oven to 500°F. Toss florets with olive oil and seasoned salt. Spread florets on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

Rice

Cut cauliflower into chunks, including the cores. Place in food processor and process until it has the texture of rice. You can use it raw in any recipe that calls for cauliflower rice. Or, to use in place of regular rice, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet and add cauliflower and ½ cup scallions. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, then season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.

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