The large KALE signs made us stop.
You never know what you get when you stop at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand. This one was out in the sticks, a blur wedged amongst woody vineyards and bare orchards in California’s Central Valley farmland. Leaving Fresno, we reminded ourselves we were going to stop on the way home.
It’s toward the end of January, and we still had the urge to eat healthier. This is the longest we’ve kept a new year resolution.
Displayed on the makeshift tables was an assortment of bundled kales. The young lady behind the table educated us as we oogled the bunches of short, dark bluish greens. “Russian kale. We grow that and all of the vegetables out there.” She pointed to the rows of short plants hunkered under protective white plastic.
Back on the tables we found baseball-sized cream colored cauliflowers hiding deep in the tough dusty-green leaves. Our eyes kept moving – Napa cabbage, yellow onions, and citrus fruit. And small tomatillos! “Yes, even now. They didn’t stop growing.”
We left with an assortment of Cara Cara and blood oranges, half a dozen small potatoes, green cabbage with a flattened loose head, and a large bunch of long, dark green broccolini.
What’s broccolini? A hybrid between two members of the same species – broccoli and Chinese broccoli (which is also known as gai-lan; pronounced guy’-lon). Broccolini has the long tender stalks of gai-lan and smaller florets than broccoli, and is sweeter than either one of its parents.
Back in Sacramento, a large sauté pan was heated with a thin layer of vegetable oil, smashed garlic cloves were tossed in and scooted around. Handfuls of the greens topped all with sizzling fanfare. Sautéed until tender crisp, the broccolini received a light drizzle of oyster-flavored sauce.
The kale wasn’t missed at all.
Recipe: Sauteed Broccolini, Broccoli, Gai-Lan
Meat can also be a part of this dish. See Winter Cabbage.
- 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- bunch of broccolini, broccoli or Chinese broccoli (gai-lan)
- ground black pepper for seasoning
- oyster flavored sauce or light soy sauce (optional)
- Prepare ingredients: peel and smash garlic cloves; set aside. Rinse greens thoroughly and drain well. Trim about 1/4″ off the stalk bottoms. Cut the greens into bite-size lengths. Cut apart any bunches to allow for even cooking.
- Sauté: heat a large frying or sauté pan over high heat. Add a thin layer of vegetable oil. Heat until oil shimmers, add garlic cloves, cooking for about 20 seconds, turning the cloves a couple of times. Add greens by the handful into the hot pan, stirring and turning frequently. After 15-20 seconds, splash in 2-3 tablespoons of water and cover pan with lid. Check every 20-30 seconds, stir greens around. Adjust heat as necessary – broccolini gives off moisture as it cooks. After a minute, taste a stem for your liking. Continue cooking if necessary.
- Serve: plate up the greens, dust lightly with ground pepper and drizzle with oyster-flavored sauce or soy sauce.