If you take a look at the collection of “it” vegetables over the past five years, they all have one thing in common–they belong to the brassica genus. Kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, and the humble cabbage are all related and share a number of common characteristics. Namely, they’ve got a sulphurous “funk” to them that people tend to love or hate. That same shared funk also means that they all take well to similar applications and cooking methods. Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when working with brassicas to ensure you’re making the most out of these bold veg.
Don’t overcook them
Remember the mushy Brussels sprouts your mom used to boil up for dinner during your childhood? Chances are, if you were subjected to this during your youth, it’s probably a taste and smell pairing you’d rather forget. When brassicas like Brussels sprouts and cabbage are overcooked, they release sulphurous odours that are mildly reminiscent of rotten eggs; not to mention, they also turn to mush, making for an unpleasant taste and texture combination. So, moral of the story, be extra diligent not to overcook your brassicas, lest you want to stink up your entire house for the foreseeable future.
Spice them up with chillies
Pungent flavours cry out for other bold flavours that are strong enough to stand up to the it. This is where chillies come in. Whether you like them spicy or mild, fresh or in pastes and powders, they all work well with brassicas in their myriad of forms. Cauliflower and harissa, broccoli and togarashi, and kohlrabi and merguez sausage are all viable options. Mix and match brassicas and chillies to see which combos you like best.
Char the heck out of them
Carcinogens aside, gently charred food tastes awesome and this is especially true of brassicas. You can toss them on the grill if you want to avoid smoking up your kitchen, you can char them dry in a cast iron skillet, or you can simply crank your oven up to get them roasty in there. Depending on the doneness you are looking for, you can opt to blanch your brassicas first to ensure they get fully cooked through before you char them. If you don’t mind a bit of crunch, you can start them raw. Oh, and another tip, if you want them to be extra indulgent, brush them with butter after charring, just like you would after searing up the perfect steak.
Keep them raw
If you’re not opposed to the pungency of raw brassicas, there are a lot of different application to explore outside of a veggies and dip platter. Take the nostalgic favourite, broccoli salad, for example. Traditionally, it is comprised of raw broccoli florets, mayonnaise, raisins, and slivered almonds. Give it a twist by using kewpie mayo, salted dried plums, and toasted sesame seeds instead. Kohlrabi is also ideal for serving raw, given its high moisture content compared to some of the other brassicas (it is especially crisp and refreshing). Try slicing it thinly on a mandolin and serving it with good olive oil, citrus juice and segments (grapefruit would be a lovely choice), and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.
Everyone is preserving everything nowadays, and the great thing about preserving is that it encompasses a massive array of techniques. While your mind might go straight to kimchi or sauerkraut, there are plenty of other options available. Kale is typically sought after for its leafy greens (which you can definitely pickle), but you can also pickle the stalks, which make for a stellar Caesar garnish in place of the standard celery stalk. Or, you can try adding shredded cabbage to a chutney or relish with dried fruits and mustard. Sweet pickled cauliflower is my personal favourite, with plenty of turmeric to brighten up the colour.