We’ll get to the Mac & Cheese in a minute, but first . . . if you have the chance to get Brassica florets at the Farmer’s Market – GO FOR IT! A lot of us, myself included, didn’t know how delicious they are. Kale, indeed many Brassicas, are great winter vegetables, but their florets are harbingers of spring. A lot like broccoli, maybe better, kale and chard create these edible florets as they begin to go to seed. They’re a wonderful green and another reason to plant Brassicas (kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli). They’ll feed you all winter long, and then in spring serve up bowls of florets on their way out. Steam them, dip them, put them in salads.
They’ll be available in bunches at Farmer’s Markets for the next few weeks.
1. Toss them into salad and eat them raw.
2. Steam and drizzle with shallots and butter.
3. Toss lightly steamed florets with piping hot pasta, sauteed garlic, a few tablespoons of pasta water and lots of cheese. Parm is revered, but for something new experiment with a local hard or semi-hard cheese like Sea Breeze Farm’s Vache de Vashon or Beecher’s cheddar. Melted cheese and Brassicas have a delicious relationship.
4. Mac & Cheese with Brassica Florets
Make a classic white sauce with flour, butter and milk. Melt 2 t butter in saucepan, stir in 2 T flour and cook together for a minute. Slowly add 3-4 C milk while stirring gently. Sauce will gradually heat and thicken. As it comes to a simmer add more milk if needed. I like white sauce for Mac & Cheese on the thin side because the cheese will thicken it up.
When sauce is of the right consistency, add 2 – 3 C grated cheese of your choice. I used 2 C Beecher’s cheddar and 1/2 C Gruyere (a little more of each on top). Gradually stir over low heat while cheese melts. Add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg if you have it, a pinch of cayenne pepper if that’s appealing, and some pepper. Because of the salt in cheese I don’t add any additional. Add more milk if it’s become too thick and taste for cheesiness. Add more if you like. Finally, add 2 C of lightly steamed Brassica florets and stems – they should be nearly cooked through – to the piping hot cheese sauce.
While preparing the sauce, bring water to a boil and cook 12 – 16 ounces of bow tie pasta to al dente. Drain and stir into the cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour into a lightly buttered casserole. Top with a little more cheese and some grated Parmesan. Bake at 350º for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden.
Kids will definitely notice that there’s something green lurking in their Mac and Cheese, but with a coating of cheesy sauce they might be enticed to eat (or remove) the greens. Message to adults: Brassica florets are in season and they’re delicious any which way.
Chive and Brassica florets from the garden.