state of graze, part II: salads and sautés

With my Russian history exam now behind me (!), it’s time I update you on the State of Graze that has sustained me over these last, study-packed weeks.

Lest you worry that with all of the nut munching and yogurt spooning going on around here, I have been skimping on my vegetables, rest assured. Broccoli played a leading role in the graze-y days leading up to the big exam. It’s a highly graze-compatible vegetable: Simply reach into the refrigerator, snap off a stalk, rinse, and eat. However. There comes a time in every State of Graze when the thought of one more snap, rinse, and eat becomes too much to bear. That’s where simple meals – yes, actual meals – in the form of salads, sautés, and cereals, come in.

Since I have already shared with you my everyday cereal, I thought we might move along today to the remaining two categories: salads and sautés.

That raw broccoli is no one-trick pony. Add a tangy dressing, some almonds, and a sprinkling of raisins, and you have yourself a salad that is downright addictive. What’s more, the broccoli remains wonderfully graze-able: Most salads and slaws droop and play dead if left in the refrigerator overnight. The nice thing about broccoli is that it bravely stands up to its dressing. Several days later, this salad will still respond to your bite with a satisfying crunch. Practically speaking, that’s very good news when you find yourself in a State of Graze. One batch of broccoli salad, and you’re set for the next seventy-two hours. Just pry open the Tupperware, pluck out a vinegary, creamy head of broccoli, and consume. Lick your fingers, and you’re good for at least another thirty minutes of tsars and imperial decrees – or whatever it is you happen to be working on. When you’re standing for the thousandth time with your head and upper body engulfed in the refrigerator, it’s nice to have options.

On to the sauté, the one not-so-graze-y meal amidst all of this nibbling. This dish is something that I really, really like to eat. It’s what I make when I don’t know what I want for dinner. Come to think of it, it’s what I make when I do know what I want for dinner. Baby bok choy and tofu. After a long day of studying, or a long run along the river or, frankly, a long day of doing absolutely nothing, it’s what I want to eat. I would say more, but with two recipes now demanding your attention, I don’t want to keep you.

Broccoli Salad, or “That Broccoli Business”
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Deb, over at Smitten Kitchen, dubs this recipe “broccoli slaw.” She suggests using either a food processor’s slicing blade or a mandolin to cut the broccoli – stems and all – into small chunks and ribbons. From her beautiful pictures, you can see that the result is indeed something slaw-like. I decided to use only the flowerets and the very tops of the stems, and to cut the broccoli into pieces no smaller than bite-sized. This technique makes for easier plucking and popping into the mouth during study breaks.

I brought this salad to dinner a few weeks ago. My friend, Jonathan, took a bite and, liking what he tasted, asked, “What’s in that broccoli business, anyway?” We have been calling this salad “That Broccoli Business” since then.

For the salad:
2-3 heads of broccoli (2 if you plan on using more of the stem, 3 if you plan on using less)
1 c. whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ c. raisins
½ of a medium red onion, finely chopped

For the dressing:
1/2 c. well-shaken buttermilk
1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cider vinegar
1 T. granulated sugar
1 generous pinch each (or several grinds) of salt and pepper

Prepare the nuts:
Heat the oven to 350. Pour the almonds onto a baking sheet, and shake them into a single layer. When the oven is hot, toast the almonds for 7-8 minutes, until fragrant. Once they have cooled, dump them onto a cutting board and chop coarsely. I like my almond pieces relatively large in this salad, which means just 2-3 passes with a chef’s knife.

Prepare the dressing:
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Or, shake the ingredients together in a small, clean, mustard or jam jar.

Prepare the salad:
Wash the broccoli and snap off the flowerets (and, if you’re me, about ½ to 1 inch of the stems) into a bowl. Cut the larger flowerets down to just bite-sized as you go. If desired, chop up some or all of the stems, and add them to the bowl. (Watch out – the bottoms of the stems can be woody.)

Toss the broccoli with the chopped, toasted almonds, raisins, and finely chopped red onion. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss well. Season with additional salt and paper to taste.

Makes about six cups of slaw.

I like this salad best after the broccoli has had a few hours to marinate in the dressing. Deb writes that it will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week. I have never had it last more than three days.

Baby Bok Choy and Tofu with Toasted Pecans and Lime

1/2 to 3/4 block extra-firm tofu (If you can’t find extra-firm, you can use firm, or even medium)
4-6 baby bok choys
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 of a lime
1 T. olive oil, plus extra for brushing the tofu
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and toast pecans 7-8 minutes, until fragrant. When they have cooled, coarsely chop them.

Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic, and prepare the bok choy: My preferred method of cleaning bok choy is to break of all of the leafy stalks and throw them into a large bowl filled with water. I swish them around, and use my fingers to push off any dirt caught in the white bottoms of the stalks. Then, I empty the water, and spin or lightly pat dry. Don’t dry them all the way. You want some moisture on the leaves so that they will steam a little in the pan.

Cut off the leafy green parts of the bok choy from the white stalks. (The stalks will take longer to cook, so you will add them to the pan first.) Slice the stalks into pieces no thicker than ½ inch. As for the greens, they will reduce during cooking, so you only need to chop them in half or, at most, into thirds.

Then, over the sink, gently press the tofu between two small plates to get rid of excess moisture. Slice into 4-6 tofu “steaks.” Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil, oiled), and place the tofu steaks in a single layer on the sheet. Brush the top of the tofu with olive oil. (The back of a spoon also works just fine.) Season with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until the tofu is golden on top, and maybe a little crispy around the edges, but not dried out.

When the tofu is about 10 minutes from completion, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, and when the fragrance rises, add the stalk slices. Sauté until they are slightly soft, but still crunchy. It usually takes about 7 minutes. Pile the bok choy greens on top of the stalks, cover the pan, and turn down the heat a bit. Allow the greens to steam for 2-3 minutes, until just wilted. Remove the lid, add the 1 T. soy sauce, and stir.

I serve this dish over brown rice. Scoop some rice onto each plate, cover with the garlicy bok choy, and lay a couple of tofu steaks over top. Squeeze some of the lime juice and sprinkle a handful of the chopped nuts over each plate. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Serves 2-3.


Jennifer said...

I LOVE broccoli salad! this is great!

ttfn300 said...

i have been meaning to make broccoli salad, thanks for the reminder :) Sounds delish!

tastestopping said...

The Broccoli Business. Looks great. Takes me back to grad school when I used to make a polenta dish with broccoli, pancetta and garlic. I'm sure the broccoli was partially cooked though, but I remember thinking how well it paired with the pancetta and garlic...(snaps out of it) Oh! Where was I?

I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


oneshotbeyond said...

I'm thinking about bringing that broccoli salad to my work potluck next week. I have been looking for just the right summer dish since it's a "summer" themed potluck. Thanks for reminding me of how yummy this dish is!

Cate said...

I worked in a deli that made something very similar to this and it was always our best seller. I'm wondering if I could use plain yogurt in place of the mayonaise to lighten it up a little.

Jess said...

Hi, Jennifer and ttfn300 - Thanks for your notes and for sharing in the broccoli salad love.

Hello, tastestopping - Between your warm polenta dish and this broccoli salad, I'd say we have broccoli for all seasons.

oneshotbeyond - Yes, I think this salad would be perfect for a potluck. Enjoy!

Cate - I haven't tried it with plain yogurt, but I have a hunch that it would be great. If you stick with the mayo, take heart in the fact that 1/3 c. in six cups of salad is not very much at all. (And buttermilk has a very low fat content.)

Jen said...

Congrats on your exam!

I went for my first run of the season along Charlie last night, and would have adored being greeted by the ease of both of these recipes upon my arrival home. Beautiful photos.

Melissa said...

I love broccoli salads and this one looks especially yummy! :)

tara said...

Good job on remaining so virtuous in your choice of study snacks. I have made this recipe twice since Deb posted it, once as written and most recently with currants, walnuts and some flaxseed thrown in for good measure. Both times delicious. I do like your use of larger almond pieces, though.

Gorgeous photos, as always.

kickpleat said...

Man, I really want a part of that broccoli business!

Jess said...

Thanks, Jen. That bok choy recipe is an especially satisfying post-run meal, I must say.

Melissa - Thanks for your note. I have a feeling that if you give this recipe a try, it won't let you down.

Tara - Virtuous? That's generous of you, but I'm not so sure. Keep in mind that I'm also the one who ate four chocolate chip cookies for dinner one night after a particularly long day of studying!

I like the idea of adding flaxseed into the mix. Thanks for that, and for your kind words.

Kickpleat - I'll trade you for some of those minted potatoes. Deal?

Kate said...

That Broccoli Business is one of my favorite salads. Love it. Isn't it funny how those names and titles get started? We call lattes "ooot-lots" because my Dad didn't understand this whole coffee house craze and our desire for morning lattes and once said "What's this ooot-lot thing about, anyway, can't you just order coffee?" Soooo, Ooot-Lots and That Broccoli Business, it is!

Jess said...

"Ooo-lots" - I love it, Kate! And I have one more for you. Back when I baked my first rugelach, I brought a few down to my neighbor. The next day, she said, "Those rutabagas were delicious!" Since then, rugelach are fondly known as rutabagas at my house.

deb said...

Aw, glad you liked the slaw! I like your name for it better.

Jess said...

Deb, hello there! Thanks for the inspiration, and for stopping by to check in on me.

Rosiecat said...

Jess, your prose convinced me to try the bok choy dish, and I loved it! Well, I loved all of it except the bok choy part, which I think might be a little too bitter for my tastes (so sorry!). You should be proud, though, because I'd never tried bok choy before, and your words made it happen. Bravo!

I'm thinking that I could swap out the bok choy for a combination of celery and broccoli for a different, yet equally delicious dish. Thoughts?

Jess said...

Hi, Rosiecat. You certainly have no need to apologize! I'm the one who is sorry that the bok choy left you less than thrilled. May I ask: Is it possible that the bok choy was not fully cooked? I notice that any bitterness usually mellows after some time in the pan. Also, did you use baby bok choy, or the big stuff? I have yet to experience bitter babies, but it's also true that I tend to enjoy vegetables that some consider "bitter," so perhaps I am not the best judge.

You are the one who deserves all of the credit for trying something new. Bravo to you, my dear!

I have made this dish with all kinds of greens - kale, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, beet greens - all with great success. Asparagus or green beans also work very well. I have never tried celery or broccoli, but it's certainly worth a shot.

Rosiecat said...

Hello again! I will confess that it's very possible, even likely, that the bok choy was undercooked. What can I say? I was hungry! I believe I picked out babies, but now I can't be sure...they were awfully cute though, so I think they were babies. So the outcome of this dish may have more to do with me than the bok choy!

At any rate, I do think other vegetables would be delicious here, and I'm glad to hear you've tried other greens. Let the experimentation begin!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across the Broccoli Salad recipe today and given I had all the ingredients on hand, decided to make it. Oh Em Gee! Divine does not even come close to describe this. It's a crunchy slice of flavoursome heaven. Thank you, this is now a staple part of our diet. Yummo!

marny said...

This broccoli salad is delicious! We made some for a bridal shower and had none left when it was over. Thanks for sharing the recipe!