Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Garden to Table

For my first post, I wanted to share a nutritious and delicious recipe for broccoli salad that I made tonight for my family's dinner.  This was no ordinary broccoli salad because the broccoli was grown in our backyard, from heirloom seeds, in organic soil. I want to take you on a journey from farm (or in our case, backyard) to table. My wife, Jeanette, has led the charge in our family not just to grow our own food but to grow it well. I get regular earfuls from her about the importance of soil quality, why we should grow organic as opposed to conventional, and why she starts with pure, non-genetically modified, heirloom seeds.

Now most folks don't know what heirloom seeds are. I certainly had no idea until Jeanette told me. So I want to stop here and offer her quick explanation. Heirloom seeds are seeds that are passed from generation to generation. They preserve our agricultural biodiversity. So for example, most grocery stores and even many farmers at local markets sell only a few variety of apples, even though there are over 10,000 different varities of apples in the world. Those chosen few apple types exist because they hold up well in certain growing climates, are most acceptable for pesticide application, and do better when shipped. If organic farmers and backyard gardeners do not pass down heirloom seeds, we will lose the great diversity the earth has offered us. So let's consider our broccoli. Have you ever seen purple broccoli?  I hadn't, until we grew it.

Homegrown Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The funny thing is that our "Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli" sprouted early, but then went dormant in the summer heat. We were about to give up on the patch of broccoli and cauliflower when the weather started to cool and the first heads appeared, just in time for a hearty fall meal.

The nutritional value of broccoli and the health benefits attributed to it make it a true super-food. Phytochemicals in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are linked to prevention of cancer. It's vitamin and mineral profile make it akin to taking a multivitamin in a meal. My advice is to eat more of it and if you can, eat it organic.  I'm sure there are plenty of posts to be written about the importance of organic gardening methods - I'll leave that to another day and get to the good part - the recipe!

Being the main cook in the house, I've grown to appreciate not only the beauty of the heirloom veggies we are growing, but their outstanding taste. And this broccoli was no different. I didn't want to diminish either its pure taste or nutritional load, so I decided to make a raw brocolli salad, bringing together other tastes of fall after raiding our pantry. I invite you, especially if you are one of those people who DON'T like broccoli in general, to try it and leave me some comments with your culinary experience!


1 Head Early Sprouting Purple Broccoli (Don't worry about waiting until next spring to grow your own purple broccoli -  a nice head of organic green broccoli or broccolini will work just as well)
1/2 cup Craisins
1/3 cup slivered, raw almonds
3 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled (omit for a lower fat, vegetarian version!)
1/3 cup chopped Vidalia onion


2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp New York Pure Clover Honey
Salt & Pepper to Taste

PREP: Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Clean and chop broccoli head into small florets and pieces (especially if serving to children). Put broccoli in large bowl, add chopped onion and crumbled bacon. Add dressing and mix well. Add Craisins and almonds. Mix again and serve immediately or chill. (Serves 4-6)
The most important part of this recipe was sharing it with my wife and two daughters, at the family table. I served it with roasted garlic sausage and baked sweet potatoes, which were enjoyed by all, as my oldest led our discussion, as she always does with "Mommy, can you tell me about your day?"  

We don't eat nutrient dense meals like this every night. Like many American families, we are running in different directions all too often, finding ourselves ordering in or going out. However, we are trying harder to join the "slow foods" movement by growing our own food, cooking, and eating together. This allows us time to nourish our bodies and our relationships with each other. It's one of the steps we're taking toward wellness.


Colimama said...

Great blog Mark! This year I joined a local CSA and it is amazing the difference between what I find in my share and what I find at the grocery store. I've changed my mind about some of the foods I have tried in the past and not been so crazy about. Finally I have access to food that tastes the way food should taste!

BTW, I make a very similar broccoli salad, except I use raisins instead of craisins!

Dr. Mark Koncikowski said...

Thank you Colleen! Jeanette and I are excited to start our second season with our CSA. We get a plethora of colorful fall and winter greens, root veggies, etc. You can't beat the value both financially and nutritionally. Plus the girls are learning about where their food comes from and trying a lot of vegetables they might otherwise have missed.

Sasha Pais said...

It's a great recipe Dr. Mark! A yummy way to enjoy fresh broccoli for sure. I've also only used golden raisins in mine, so I'll have to try using the craisins next time for a little more tartness. Also, adding in or substituting sunflower seeds for the almonds is a nice twist too!

Dr. Mark Koncikowski said...

Thanks Dr. Pais, I'd considered those ingredients as I believe they are part of the originating recipe for this dish. I often just use what's available to me when making dinner, because it's the love of playfulness with the ingredients that leads to either really great tasting food or in equal measure the not so great tasting dish, and I really dig that fine line of trial and error.

YourFriendBen said...

This is fantastic and quite tasty looking! My girlfriend, Sohee would be quite impressed with your cooking and knowledge and Jeanette's garden guru-ness. ... i'll have mine with he crumbled bacon please.

Rebekah said...

Yum! I love broccoli slaw and my version is quite similar but I've never seen purple broccoli-I'll definitely be looking for it now:). Great first post-I'm looking forward to reading more!

Dr. Mark Koncikowski said...

Thank you Ben! We'd like to meet Sohee, too bad we're worlds away. Someday perhaps it will line up. I never omit the bacon either. Everything in moderation.