Good Greens (and Delicious, Too)

Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, by Laura B. Russell, (Ten Speed Press), 168 pages

For ethical and health reasons, my wife and I eat vegetarian/pescatarian. We’re always looking for new cookbooks—especially those that can help us turn simple greens into multi-flavored deliverers of deliciousness. Whether or not you’re working your way to a vegetarian diet, Laura B. Russell’s Brassicas is a great cookbook to place on your shelf of basic cooking references.

Brassicas is actually more than a cookbook. It’s a reference guide to a wide range of vegetables packed with nutrients and phytochemicals galore. The book begins by defining brassicas (you may be more familiar with their other name: cruciferous vegetables) and giving basic info about preparation, storing, and developing your own ability to improvise in the kitchen using these veggies. The subsequent chapters focus on particular types of brassicas—kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage—and begin with general tips for cooking with these veggies.

Then there are the recipes. Some of them are very basic and won’t be necessary for experienced cooks, but there are lots of interesting/unusual ones as well. Earlier this week I made Brassica‘s grilled baby bok choy with miso butter for our dinner. I’m used to grilling many fruits and vegetables, but had never thought of grilling leafy greens like bok choy. The mix of flavors and textures was a delight: soft, wilted leaves, crisp stems, crunchy charred bits, all topped off by the sour-salty tang of miso. The directions were absolutely clear, making prep and cooking easy.

I’ve got a long list of other recipes I want to try soon: Brussels sprout leaves with lemony yogurt dressing (which also involves fresh mint and pistachios); five-spice red cabbage salad; roasted broccolini with winey mushrooms, and watcress salad with ginger carrot dressing, to name a few.

Not every recipe is accompanied by a photo, but the photos that are included are beautiful—the sort of thing I call “food porn” because of the way it gets me salivating. The reference sections also include useful line drawings illustrating prep techniques. This is a great book to help you on your way to a better (and delicious-er) diet.