Sunday, June 12, 2016

The politics of broccoli ...

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” George H. W. Bush

Remember that quote?

Seriously, #41 ... you should never have dissed the glories of broccoli.

"Let's put broccoli in the White House again."

Broccoli lovers everywhere believe that Hillary Clinton hit on something with that sign in 1992. After all, her husband, #42 ended your presidency.

Ten years later, your own son #43 feebly attempted to defend the family honor by flashing a thumbs down on broccoli. He had to think fast and instead tossed cauliflower under the bus when he remembered that his host Mexican President Vincente Fox was a broccoli farmer.

Finally, broccoli has found real love from #44 with President Obama claiming broccoli as his favorite vegetable. Coming full circle, he's endorsed fellow broccoli lover Hillary Clinton. Her position on the beautiful Brassica oleracea well known since her days campaigning back in '92. A detail not unnoticed by California where broccoli farmers are an important constituency and let's face it, she did pull off a primary win there recently.

One cup of broccoli has just 31 calories, zero fat, 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It's has been reported to decrease the risk of many cancers, and has been shown to prevent stroke, and minimize risk for cataracts. But how to eat it?

Well, here's an idea I think you'll really go for when you want to try a meatless and satisfying meal.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta
2 cups broccoli florets
½ cup whole raw almonds
½ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh parsley
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper to taste
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb. thin linguine

Boil broccoli until tender, about 4 minutes in a large pot of salted water. Remove broccoli and save water to cook pasta. Save a few florets for garnish before you put the broccoli, almonds, basil leaves, parsley and salt into a food processor. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of oil, and pulse to make a coarse pesto.

Start cooking the pasta in the broccoli water. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Once the garlic starts sizzling, scrape in the pesto. Cook and stir a few minutes. Add 1 cup of pasta water. Simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. When pasta is al dente use tongs to add linguine directly to sauce. Toss gently. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in Parmesan, garnish, and serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

REALLY good rice pudding.

The news from U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark that Nazda Alam was to be her guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address brought a round of cheers in Democratic party circles here in Massachusetts. 

My first introduction to Nazda started with a phone call. She was running for Democratic State Committee and hoping I would consider voting for her as an Affirmative Action add on candidate. She talked about the importance of encouraging civic and electoral participation in immigrant populations and communities of faith. She talked about her own experiences as a Muslim American and her love of this country that she chose to pledge her allegiance to as a new citizen. She was gently insistent and passionately sincere. I said yes.
Her hard work and advocacy has led to an appointment to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Immigration and Refugee Policy and the State Treasurer’s Diversity Council. Nazda is a great Democrat and even more impressive she is a faithful American patriot. She says her dedication to voter participation is driven by her belief in “core democratic values and fundamental human rights.“ 

So what's that got to do with rice pudding? Nazda throws a women's luncheon picnic every year for women in politics. The ethnic dishes are always the best. So tonight, I'll be enjoying a sweet treat from Bangladesh, where Nazda was born. On birthdays, for weddings and other big days, we Americans most often opt for cake, but in Bangladesh this rice pudding is the dessert of choice, Fortunately, it's not necessary to wait until a birthday or wedding to enjoy this dish. All we need is a reason to kick up our heels. 

Tonight I celebrate my friend, Nazda Alam.


1/2 cup rice (basmati is best)

1 cup whole milk
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons sugar (adjust to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon slivered almonds
1/4 cup white raisins
1 teaspoon ghee*
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Rinse the rice, changing water until the water appears clear. Heat the ghee in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add the rice and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the whole milk and the coconut milk, cook until the rice is tender and the milk creamy and reduced to about half. Stir often to ensure the milk does not burn in the bottom of the pan. Add sugar, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, raisins, and almonds and let simmer for a few more minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange zest. The pudding will become thicker in texture as it cools. Payesh can be served chilled or warm.  

*To make ghee: Cut one stick of sweet butter into cubes. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted. Cook for 8-10 minutes on low. Let cool slightly for 2-3 minutes and then slowly pour through a wire mesh strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth. Store ghee in a covered container in the refrigerator.