The Austin Chronicle

Food, Foodies, Foodways

Cookbooks and cultural conversation starters top our summer reading list

Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, May 23, 2014, Food

Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More

by Laura B. Russell
Ten Speed Press, 176 pp., $23

It was not that long ago that brassicas – better known as cruciferous vegetables – were the pariahs of the kitchen. Then one day, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts went from the most-hated list to chef and health-food darlings, almost overnight. And just like these often-overlooked veggies, this little book would have likely been snubbed by most cooks in the past. But now that home cooks are not afraid to give these healthy vegetables a try in the kitchen, Russell provides an excellent resource to do just that, offering a variety of techniques and recipes to make the best of their singular flavors, textures, and characteristics.

Russell writes recipes that are enticing, simple, and easy to follow, with beautiful photography to match, in a book size that is just right for the kitchen. She starts with a primer on all-things brassicas, including tips on selecting, prepping, best cooking methods, flavor profiles and pairing, and the most important issue for most cooks – how to reduce the sulfuric smell associated with overcooking these vegetables. The book breaks the different kinds of brassicas into individual chapters, giving kale, broccoli, and cauliflower their own chapters, and combining others that have similar flavors, origins, or cooking methods.

Aside from traditional, tried-and-true preparations like cauliflower gratin and steamed broccoli with lemon, Russell offers fresh takes on slaws, salads, casseroles, and more. From bok choy and crystalized ginger Waldorf salad to grilled cabbage wedges with lemon-thyme vinaigrette and roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers and mint, I already have a few recipes earmarked for easy summer suppers, and will be ready come fall when these tasty, formerly maligned veggies will be at their peak.

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