Healthy and nutritious crucifers for cold weather

With the autumn setting in and earth colours becoming prevalent in markets, vegetables and crucifers in particular are becoming the most sought after ingredients. Broccoli and cauliflower belong to the crucifer family which are prepared due to their nutritional value. Moreover, these vegetables are extremely diverse from a culinary vantage point.

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When we think of healthy ingredients, sometimes attractive culinary combinations are not the first thing that springs to our minds. But if you choose the appropriate spices and the right recipe, you can actually turn them into healthy and superb gourmet delicacies you’ll be more than happy to prepare or try out at restaurants. 

When buying broccoli, it’s paramount to make sure that flower heads are compact and bright green without yellow tops. Fresh cauliflower are pronouncedly white with healthy leaves on sides. Both vegetables require very little thermal processing to prepare them. Broccoli and cauliflower are most commonly boiled, sautéed or steamed.

Given its intense flavour broccoli is most commonly prepared in its own right as a side dish to meat or fish dishes. It goes great with beans, which complement its intense flavour, pine nuts and nuts. Broccoli’s authentic taste gives you plenty of options when it comes to preparing cream sauces, soups, casseroles, warm salads, risottos or pasta. With a little bit of garlic, olive oil and chilli peppers, these invigorating dishes will take you back to the warm Mediterranean in this cold autumn weather.

Unlike broccoli, cauliflower has a much milder taste which is almost neutral. Cauliflower goes great with all kinds of spices and ingredients. Aside from a wide range of casseroles, cauliflower can be a standalone meal if you fry it or use it to make fritters. You can also use it to prepare hot or cold salads, especially with more pungent vegetables such as red chicory or rucola. In the autumn season you can also prepare it with Brussels sprouts or pumpkin as a side dish with meat or fish, but you can also try out preparing fine cream soups.

Broccoli and cauliflower are common ingredients in autumn menus in restaurants right across Croatia. Mon Ami is a famous fish restaurant located in Velika Gorica where you can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and light fish meals typical of continental cuisine.  Restaurant manager Bruno Ceronja walked us through their broccoli and cauliflower specialties.

Broccoli and cauliflower are mostly served as a side dish with fish. The preparation is akin to preparing chard Dalmatian-style. You boil potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, add some olive oil and you got yourself a nice side dish with Adriatic whitefish or squid. We also prepare a broccoli and cauliflower vegetable soup. We make a stock on red onion to which we add a fresh parsley leaf, a bit of celery, broccoli and cauliflower. We also add a cauliflower leaf to be cooked with the vegetables. When it comes to spices, we add salt, pepper groats and olive oil. When the soup is done, we serve it in bowls and sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley on top. We don’t add pasta to the soup because we don’t want it to overpower the vegetables.

Restaurant Leut is located in the middle of Cavtat’s harbour. The Bobić family is stubbornly preserving their region’s culinary tradition. Head chef Ante Bebić shared his fine broccoli and shrimp soup recipe with us.

First we braise the vegetables we’ve previously chopped into larger chunks: carrot, celery, potatoes and onion. We fry them all in olive oil, then we add some garlic, white wine and fish soup. Once the stock starts simmering, we add the broccoli. When the broccoli is done, we leave the soup to cool down, we add some salt, pepper, olive oil and blend it all into a nice creamy mixture. We pour some olive oil into another pan in order to fry cleaned shrimp tails. The shrimps don’t take long to be ready so they should only be half done. First we place the shrimps and then parsley at the bottom of the plate. We pour it all over with cream broccoli soup. It takes 40 minutes to prepare everything.

At Split’s restaurant Zrno soli guests have the opportunity to relish superb seafood prepared using daily fresh catch. In addition to numerous fish specialties, head chef Stjepan Vukadin let us in on their autumn cauliflower specialty.

Cauliflower soup with roasted pine nuts and roasted prawn tails definitely ranks as one of the restaurant’s top three soups. Cauliflower is great because its thermal processing doesn’t take long. Cauliflower is done in just five to seven minutes. It should always be cooked al dente so as to preserve its nutritional value. Cauliflower flowers are cooked in fish stock. Once the cauliflower is done, we blend it and add a bit of butter to make it nice and creamy. We drizzle everything with a few drops of olive oil and chopped garlic. The second preparation stage consists of braising prawn tails in olive oil and white wine. When the prawns are done, we pour the cauliflower soup into the pan and mix it all up. When the soup is served in plates, we roast some pine nuts in an another pan and sprinkle them on top together with two drops of olive oil.