The New York Times Magazine published an article last week on broccoli. Titled “Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover”, the author touched on three major topics: (1) we know fruits and vegetables are good for us, but still choose French fries over salad; (2) the government subsidizes monocrops, such as corn, making non-subsidized vegetables more expensive than what they could be; and (3) branding, marketing, and social media could transform broccoli’s image to increase its consumption. The team assembled to develop a hypothetical branding and marketing campaign for the article produced some interesting ads that could make broccoli the next “it” vegetable. The strategy was cleaver, and while it focused on a single vegetable, its agenda was bigger: persuade people to make better food choices.
Because I enjoyed the article, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I think people don’t eat as many vegetables as they should. I don’t usually talk about these kinds of things on the blog, but it is implied through what I cook that I favor whole, local, and non-processed foods over the alternative. I don’t talk about health as much, because, well, I am not an expert. I honestly believe “healthy” it is not always the best strategy to allure people into cooking the recipes I post. If a recipe isn’t delicious and easy to make, most people just won’t make it.
I am surprised that only 5% of Americans eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables. And even though I have been a vegetarian for almost ten years, I can understand why. Traditionally vegetables have been considered a side dish, second best to a starch. They are perceived as the thing I have to eat to be healthy, a sentiment that has created a psychological fortress around vegetables. It’s slowly becoming popular to eat healthy fast food—I love seeing people wait in line for a kale salad—but there is so much room to grow. The most important thing we can do is shift our collective understanding; vegetables aren’t just healthier, they’re straight-up hot-damn delicious.
In order to fully appreciate their full potential we must learn to properly cook it.
We can change how people eat by providing access to already available tools. A multimillion-dollar branding and social media campaign can trigger an impulse to buy a head of broccoli at the super market, but (its tough to inspire delicious with words in an ad). More restaurants are serving as an inspiration for diners by offering dishes where vegetables are as important as the protein, or sometimes even the star. Once you’re hooked on how amazing—and addicting—brussels sprouts can be, you’ll want to cook them every night. It’s easy to start cooking healthy with the abundance of health-oriented blogs that provide recipes for free!
While I dwell on this matter—and hope for a world that better appreciates vegetables—I want to share a simple recipe where how the vegetable is cooked makes all the difference. A little technique goes a long way with this delicious and robust vegetable. Dive in and follow along for an amazing salad that’s ready in less than fifteen minutes.
Brussel sprouts are quickly blanched in boiling water then pan roasted for maximum flavor extraction. Unlike roasting, this method leads to a fully cooked sprout that is bright green and full bodied. As the sprouts cook they soak up the coconut oil they are cooked in, slowly transforming into luscious pockets of absolute amazingness. Chopped broccoli, cashews, and a killer honey sesame dressing are added to make these sprouts extra special. The salad is crisp, warm, and sweet. The perfect combination of fresh, grassy flavors coated with a nutty dressing that brings the best out of these vegetables.
Let’s eat more delicious vegetables and get dirty doing it.
Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli Salad
Cooks time: 10 minutes
Recipe adapted from here
- Florets of 1 medium small broccoli
- 20 Brussels sprouts
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- juice of ¼ of a lemon
- ¼ cup cashews (raw of roasted)
- Large handful cilantro
To clean brussel sprouts, cut the bottom stem, peel away any brown leaves, and cut into quarters. Remove the top florets of broccoli. Chop. The florets should be loose. Set aside.
Add several cups of water to a large pot. Bring to a boil, then add a tablespoon of salt. Place brussel sprouts in boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove immediately using a slotted spoon. Set aside on a sieve. In a large sauté pan over high heat, heat coconut oil until it begins to sizzle. If you do not have a large pan, batch cooks the sprouts. It is important not to overcrowd the pan. Each sprout should have at least half an inch from its neighbor. Add brussel sprouts, cut side down. Cook for two minutes. For best results do not touch sprouts as they book. This will extract the most amount of flavor and allow for it to char black. Before you flip, make sure the sprout its either dark brown or charred. If pan start to look dry, add another tablespoon of coconut oil as needed. As soon as both sides are cooked, add the juice of a quarter of a lemon, and turn heat off. Set aside.
As the brussel sprouts cook, blanch the broccoli florets in the still boil water pot. Cook for one minute. Remove as soon as the broccoli turns bright green. Drain broccoli through a metal mesh sieve. Let drain until as dry as possible.
Honey Sesame Dressing
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. white rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- ½ tsp. sesame oil
To make the dressing, simple mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
To assemble, add broccoli and brussel sprouts into the bowl with dressing. Mix everything together, taste for seasoning, adjust as necessary, then add cilantro and chopped cashews. Serve immediately! (It tastes great cold too, but I prefer it hot!) Should keep for a day or two in a tight sealed container in the refrigerator.