Monday, October 10, 2011

Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin with Pesto

Today we went to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve. I didn't realize that such things even existed in New York City (in all fairness, it's so far out in Queens that it's practically in Long Island, but still...).

We walked through salt marshes and wooded areas. We saw swans and geese and sandpipers. We saw a strange pile of horseshoe crab shells and New York's only native variety of cactus. I ate a delicious picnic lunch. D ate candy.

The trail where all of the really great views and be more of a hiking trail than a walking path was flooded, but we still had a great time. Way better than the time we went to Floyd Bennett Field--former airport/runway that has been converted into a city park and is the only place in NYC where one can legally camp. Sounds amazing, right? A bit too like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie set in Brooklyn for my tastes. Think After People but with RC planes swooping over your head.

Short verison: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve = Awesome, Floyd Bennett Field...not so much. And if New Yorkers are wondering how we found out about all these little gems, check out Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day. It has amazing parks you've probably never heard of and descriptions of all sorts of non-rat , roach or pigeon wildlife. It's a handy thing to have around.

When we did get home, I took a bit of a nap and then around dinner time I was in the mood for a one pan meal. Or take out. But seeing as I had a large pile of vegetables waiting to be eaten, I opted for a one pan meal.

Flipping through some cookbooks I found a recipe for Broccoli or Cauliflower and Pesto Gratin in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but it was designed to be done with precooked veggies. As much as I love recipes that are designed to use up leftovers, this was not what I had in mind. So, while I didn't modify the ingredients of this recipe significantly, I did modify the cooking methods quite a bit. It's still a one pan meal, but now it's a one pan meal where all of the components are actually cooked in the same pan. This is technically a side dish, but it ended up being my main, with a bit of baked tofu on the side.

Give this recipe a shot (minus the cayenne, of course) if you have a 30 year old man kids at home who don't like to eat their veggies. They'll gobble this up in a minute.

Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin with Pesto
Freely adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t minced Joe's long cayenne pepper or 1/2 t hot pepper flakes
2 c broccoli florets and chopped stems
2 c cauliflower florets
1/4 c water, vegetable stock or dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c basil pesto (I made mine from scratch, omitting the usual Parmesan)
1/2 c Asiago cheese
1/4 to 1/2 c whole grain bread crumbs (I ended up using the crumbs made from one toasted slice of bread)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large oven-proof skillet with a lid. Add the garlic and hot pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is beginning to soften, but not brown. Add the broccoli and cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, pour in the liquid and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, allowing the veggies to steam a bit. Remove the cover and saute a bit longer, until the veggies are crisp-tender. Remove from heat.

Stir in the pesto, sprinkle the cheese over the top and then the bread crumbs.

Place the top rack of your oven 4" from the broiler. Place your gratin under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and the bread crumbs are crispy.

Serves 2-3 as a main, 4 as a side

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