Eat your vegetables. Perhaps as a kid, you heard them from your mother, father, or grandmother. I believe we knew veggies were good for us, but there wasn’t much focus on finding a way to play veggies up. They were always boiled, steamed, and on occasion, roasted.
Then there was a Renaissance for vegetables that I credit to Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. France, like many other European countries made vegetables stand out whether as a part of a dish or on its own. Veggies could go from being good for us, to being good to eat. YUM!
Now that being a vegetarian isn’t just for health nuts and kooks, chefs and home cooks are doing more to honor vegetables by giving them a starring role for dinner. Veggies aren’t just supporting players, vegetables are stars. To that end, we have seen a number of celebrity and television chefs incorporating more veggie focused meals in the programs and cookbooks. One of the chefs is Jamie Oliver. It’s obvious that Jamie enjoys cooking, and I am sure that as a dad, he loves to make good food for his kids to eat. For his program Jamie’s Ultimate Veg, he kicks up vegetables a couple of notches by focusing on bringing out their inherent flavor with spices, herbs, and cooking techniques that won’t leave the family looking for a steak.
When I saw the episode with Green Mac-n-Cheese, I was intrigued by the flavor profile. Leeks, garlic, and thyme, are all flavors that appealed to me. Combine it with cheese and broccoli, and you have a recipe for a party in my mouth. I decided to make it and share with my dad and vegetarian uncle. Everyone was happy. Although, I have to admit, presentation wise all that green, isn’t as pretty as some dishes, but it certainly is delish.
In the interest of being inclusive, I’ve tested different ingredients for vegan and dairy-free diets too.
Green Mac-N-Cheese by Jamie Oliver, Ultimate Veg (adapted by C. Canton)
1 large leek
3 cloves of garlic
(1 3/4 cups) purple sprouting or you stem broccoli
40 g (2 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter (vegan butter, margarine)
½ a bunch of fresh thyme , (15g)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, brown or sweet rice flour)
4 1/4 cups of 2% milk (rice or soy milk)
450 g (1 3/4 cups) macaroni elbows (gluten-free elbows)
30 g (3/8 cup, 6 tablespoons) Parmesan cheese (Daiya parmesan cheese or Daiya provolone slices)
150 g (5.29 ounces) Cheddar cheese (Daiya Cheddar Shreds)
100 g (2/3 cup, 4 ounces) baby spinach
50 g (1/2 cup, 1.3 ounces) flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 350ºF
Trim, halve and wash the leek and peel the garlic, then finely slice with the broccoli stalks, reserving the florets for later. Place the sliced veg in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with the butter, then strip in the thyme leaves and cook for 15 minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly. Stir in the flour, followed slowly by the milk, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain.
Grate the Parmesan and most of the Cheddar into the sauce, and mix well. Tip into a blender, add the spinach and blend until smooth – you may need to work in batches. Season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper, then stir through the pasta and broccoli florets, loosening with a splash of milk, if needed. Transfer to a 25cm x 35cm baking dish, grate over the remaining Cheddar and scatter over the almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, or until beautifully golden and bubbling.