Hey, word dancers! I'm looking for a word, would you help? In a single word or short phrase, I want to instantly convey that this dish is "a whole pile of beautiful rainbow-colored fresh vegetables, lovely to look at, tasty to consume, all in the same dish". 'Medley' is a word that food writers use, 'cornucopia' too. But they don't quite express the healthy wholesomeness that I'd like to express. Is there such a word, in any language?
In the mean time, I'm sticking with "medley", that's the word that Myra Kornfeld used for this recipe for Vegetarian Times' January-February issue. I didn't expect to be knocked over by what is essentially a big plate of vegetables because steamed vegetables, well, aren't they just a little boring? Not here!
Vegetables are usually steamed over nothing more than water. This recipe calls for cooking a little butter (I used olive oil), onion and white wine with vegetable broth, using that to steam the vegetables, then turning the mixture into a sauce to drizzle the vegetables with. KNOCK ME OVER GOOD, this stuff.
It takes some prep work and knife work to trim and cut the vegetables, nothing hard, just a little time-consuming for a side dish. It could be done ahead of time. My grocery store sells pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower pieces, they would be a time saver. But to my taste, this one is totally worth the time for a Meatless Monday or a weeknight meal when the rest of the meal is easy or already taken care of. The trick to success is to cook some of the vegetables longer, the broccoli for just three minutes. That way, each vegetable is perfectly cooked, none raw, none overcooked. Brilliant. I found the fennel and leek especially tasty.
RECIPE for STEAMED VEGETABLE MEDLEY
Time to table: 50 minutes
Serves 4 as small main dish (paired with something else) or 8 as a side dish
STEAMING LIQUID & SAUCE
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used marsala)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable broth
VEGETABLES - BOTTOM LAYER
1 red potato (about 8 ounces), skin on, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 fennel bulb, stems removed, quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces (save some fronds for garnish)
VEGETABLES - MIDDLE LAYER
1 cup butternut squash cubes (about 6 ounces, that was exactly the amount in the "neck" of a medium-size butternut squash), see How to Cut a Butternut Squash, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup cauliflower florets (about 4 ounces)
1 cup white mushrooms (about 3 ounces), halved lengthwise
VEGETABLES - TOP LAYER
1 cup broccoli florets (about 3 ounces)
Chopped fennel fronds
STEAMING LIQUID & SAUCE In a large pot or Dutch oven large enough to hold a collapsible vegetable steamer, heat the olive oil until shimmery, stir in the onion and stir to coat with fat. Let cook for 2 - 3 minutes, just until soft. Stir in wine, garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 2 - 3 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the broth, bring to a simmer, let simmer 5 minutes.
VEGETABLES While the steaming liquid cooks, prep the vegetables, have them all ready before adding the first layer. Warm a serving tray or plates to keep the vegetables warm once they're cooked.
BOTTOM LAYER Place the potatoes in a single layer on the bottom of the vegetable steamer. Arrange leek and fennel pieces evenly on top of the potatoes and gently drop into the pot. Cover and let steam for 3 minutes.
MIDDLE LAYER Arrange the squash evenly across the steamer, be sure to separate the pieces so they'll cook evenly. Arrange the cauliflower and mushrooms evenly across the top. Cover and let steam for 13 minutes.
TOP LAYER Prep the broccoli. Place the broccoli evenly across the steamer. Cover and let steam for 3 minutes.
TO FINISH Remove the steamer from the pan. If needed, cook sauce down to about a half cup. Arrange vegetables on a warm tray or warm plates, cover with foil to keep vegetables hot. Sprinkle vegetables with fennel fronds. Serve sauce in a side bowl or drizzle over top.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
ADAPTATIONS It was easy to adjust this recipe, the sign of a good one. : - ) I used olive oil instead of butter; onion instead of shallot; and went easy on the red pepper flakes. I also omitted a last tablespoon of butter/oil that the inspiring recipe suggests adding to finish the sauce. I found the sauce already plenty rich with flavor, it needed no more.
SUBSTITUTIONS For lower-carb vegetables, substitute turnip for the potato and sweet potatoes for the butternut squash or select from How Many Carbs Are in Vegetables?.
COOK SEPARATELY? Next time, I would make the sauce in a small saucepan while separately steaming the vegetables over water. I just didn't get any sense that the cooking liquid added flavor to the vegetables during steaming. It means an extra pot though. Decisions, decisions!
PLATING I served this as you see in the photo, vegetables arranged on a shallow platter for the table. Another idea is to place potato slices on plates, then arrange the other vegetables partly on top and alongside.
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