Making a case for slow cooking vegetables in the age of the de rigueur blanched and cooled crisp vegetables is not going to be an easy sell. That said, some of you may recall a quick and easy “modern” mid last century canned green bean mushroom casserole that home cooks whipped up in America using canned mushroom soup and topped with fried onion rings. Those beans were cooked to death but everyone, including kids, really loved those green beans.
O course, slow cooking fibrous vegetables in Italy has been practiced for centuries and is my favorite method for turning tough fennel bulbs into tender flavorsome silky morsels of unctuousness.
I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled When to Cook your Vegetables Long Past “Done” by Samin Norsrat (click here) which really peaked my interest. Needless to say, slow cooking a whole Dutch oven full of fibrous vegetables together is a perfect way to transform late summer’s produce into a main attraction for a meal with very little fuss. Doused with some olive oil, flavored with a few garlic cloves, and generously seasoned with sea salt transforms these vegetables as they slowly cook over a very low flame for several hours with little attention required. Contrary to what you may think the deeply flavored results will be a revelation…I promise!
The recipe that follows is meant to be a basic slow cooking guide that will work with almost any fibrous vegetables you choose to use, be it two varieties or a whole selection. When using fennel, which infuses the vegetables with a lovely scent and flavor, no other seasoning is required, but feel free to include herbs to compliment the vegetables you choose to cook with.
Slow Cooked Vegetables (Basics) serves 6
- ½ cup olive oil plus more as needed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 young fennel bulbs
- 5 leeks
- 1 pond green beans
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 head green cabbage
- 2 heads radicchio
- 1 pound collard greens (or kale), leaves only
Equipment: a large Dutch oven or roasting pan with tight fitting lid
Prepare and portion all the vegetables as described.
Trim the fennel leaving several inches of stems in tact. Trim the root and peel away the tough outer layer of the bulb. Quarter each bulb lengthwise.
Remove the tough strings and snap off the stems from the green beans.
Separate the broccoli head into florets. Peel the main stem and slice.
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter the head and cut out the core.
Remove any wilted outer leaves of the radicchio if necessary and quarter the heads lengthwise.
Remove the stems from the collard greens and discard unless the collards are young and tender.
Place the Dutch oven over a very low flame on the stove top. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves and stir until the oil is hot. Add the shallots and stir for several minutes. Then add the fennel, leeks, and green beans. Season generously with salt and toss until the vegetables are well coated with olive oil.
Add the broccoli, cabbage, radicchio, and collard greens, nestling them into the other ingredients. Again season generously with salt and add freshly ground pepper to your liking. Using a large spoon or tongs turn all the ingredients until bathed in olive oil and are snugly fitting into the Dutch oven. Cover with the lid and reduce the flame as low as possible and cook for 1 hour undisturbed. Don’t worry about burning as the vegetables will release liquid as the cook.
After an hour, remove the lid and gently turn the ingredients over and add a little more olive oil to evenly coat the vegetables. Taste and season with salt as needed. Return the lid to the pan and continue to cook for another hour undisturbed over very low flame.
After 2 hours of cooking the vegetables should be transformed. The fennel should be very tender. If not cook another 15 minutes or so.
Serve promptly with pan juices spooned over the vegetables. The only additional seasoning I might suggest would be a splash of best quality balsamic vinegar if served along with red meats.