By February 11, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Repurposed Vegetables*

I sometimes watch Ina Garten, television’s Barefoot Contessa, and she has me sold on vegetables.

She’s an interesting person. She worked for Presidents Ford and Carter writing nuclear energy policy, and she is married to Jeffery Garten, a professor at Yale and author of several books.  A lot of her cooking show episodes are set in her North Hampton home with Jeffery sampling the goodies.  Years ago, she started a Hampton restaurant called The Barefoot Contessa, and after the restaurant closed, the television show and many best selling cookbooks  followed.

Formerly three of my least favorite vegetables were fennel, brocolli, and brussel sprouts, but now these are among my favorites. All these recipes are from the Food Network’s Ina Garten section or directly from her television show, The Barefoot Contessa.


I’m acquiring a taste for fennel.  Although I’ve not liked it in salads – too much licorice-like for me – I  find it a very interesting roasted vegetable.  The recipe is to serve three people, but I halved it and used only one bulb as fennel is very expensive.  Halving the recipe served us two nicely. ( I love MY H.E.B. store, but found fennel to be very expensive, about $3.80 a bulb)

  • Use 2 large fennel bulbs, trim off the leaves and stems; slice the bulb in half lengthwise; with the cut side down, slice the bulb vertically into 1/2 inch thick slices, cutting right through the core.
  • Spread slices on a baking sheet, coat with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss with your hands;
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and roast the fennel for about an hour, turning once, until the edges are crisp and brown;
  • Remove from the oven and cover with Parmesan shavings, taste for seasonings and serve.


Fry 6 oz. pancetta ( or bacon) in a little olive oil until crisp; drain  on towels and save fat.

Wash and trim 1 1/2 lbs brussel sprouts; cut in half and saute about 5 minutes in the pan with the reserved drippings.  (MY H.E.B. has nice  one pound sacks of brussel sprouts.)

Add 3/4 ts kosher salt and 1/2 ts freshly ground pepper, toss around for a minute or so;  add 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, 3/4 cup golden raisins and cook until sprouts are tender -about 15 minutes. (Might keep extra chicken stock or a little water handy in case the sprouts get too dry before fully cooked.) Then add back the pancetta/bacon; Stir, taste for seasonings  and serve.  This full recipe will easily serve 5 or 6.


Brocolli3Cut the 4-5 lbs broccoli florets from the thick stalks, living an inch or  so of the stalk attached.  Split ends of  these stalks. You should have 8 cups of florets.Place florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

Toss them with 4 peeled and thinly sliced garlic cloves and about 5 tablespoons olive oil.  Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Roast in 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until tender crisp and tips are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice, 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan and 2 tablespoons (about 12 leaves) julienned fresh basil leaves.  Serve.

* Repurposed as these were usually my side dishes, but now they are the stars of my menu.


Ben was one of  our first “foodies”.  As a young man he was a vegetarian, and later, on his trips around the world and the extensive time spent in France, he developed more sophisticated tastes.  And, of course,  he famously said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  His wife Deborah would send him barrels of apples wherever he was.

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About the Author:

I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

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