Am I nuts? Well maybe. But until I got to the cleanup part, it really wasn’t that bad. Really.
How on earth did I manage to get the idea in my head that I could make a soufflé on a weekday during a time when I am working harder during the day then I ever have? It all started last night. No scratch that. It all happened on Sunday if you really think about it. But then again, it was probably Michael Pollan’s fault. Who is that? You mean that guy who wrote the Omnivore’s Dilemma? That guy? Well yeah. I bought his new book: In Defense of food: an eaters manifesto. While not as engaging a read as OD, his new book was full of factoids. Facts I know already because I read everything. Facts that should make me a healthier person, that is if I paid any attention to the facts. But I don’t. This book opened my eyes to the fact that although I buy a lot of veggies, I am not so successful at getting them into my body before they melt down to a little smear in the bottom of my refrigerator’s crisper. The fact that I am perfectly happy to cook healthy meals at home and then supplement these meals with god knows what at a restaurant.
Well. I am trying to be better. So I bought beets on Sunday. I bought beets because beets are a bargain. You get two veggies for the price of one (as long as you don’t let them melt in the fridge)! You’ve got your sweet orbs of red, orange or yellow root for cooking or crunching up raw. You’ve got your vitamin-enriched greens to eat like chard or kale. This is a spectacular veggie that nobody is eating.
Last night, I suddenly remember that I need to cook the greens before they melt. I know how to make cooked greens taste pretty good but I wanted some inspiration. I started leafing through the stacks of cookbooks. I picked up Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Yes!! This has got to be the right book. I found the recipe that would do it: You boil beet greens for a couple of minutes and then sauté them in olive oil, sliced garlic and tomatoes. Add a touch of dried oregano and top with Asiago (which I didn’t have so I used Parmesan). I Plopped this ethereal mixture onto the top of a warm piece of leftover cornbread and I was in heaven. It was the best thing I put in my mouth in a long time.
While I was looking for the beet recipe, I stumbled onto her soufflé section. Ms. Madison has this recipe for Goat Cheese Soufflé with thyme that she follows with a half dozen veggie infused variations. I couldn’t stop obsessing over the possibilities. As you know, I am a sucker for the bonus meal, the meal you make that comes about from the serendipity of having just the right things in your kitchen that aren’t on a shopping list that becomes something really amazing. I thought about this recipe all day while I was at work. You see, I never thought I could make a soufflé because I don’t own the right dish to cook it in. Deborah Madison cooks soufflés in a gratin dish. I have a gratin dish; I could do this!! I could finish up that little bit of cream from last week. I have plenty of eggs. I can substitute Rosemary for the thyme and green onions for the white onion slices, etc, etc. My mind kept rewriting the recipe to suit my needs. This would work!
Well. Let me tell you! You need to make a soufflé. Even if it is a weeknight and you are tired. It was that good. It was flavorful and it had a texture that was both fluffy and lightly bready.
Being the crazy gal that I am, I made a salad of two lettuces, thinly sliced yellow beets, radishes, grated carrots, green onions, avocado, and blood oranges. I also made homemade buttermilk dressing. Aren’t you jealous I didn’t invite you over? Well, I’m kinda peaved I didn’t invite you over because the kitchen was grotesque and I could have used your help cleaning!
The moral of this story is, read in Defense of food. It will make you a better eater. Make sure you have a copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It is one of the best cookbooks I own.
Broccoli Cheddar Soufflé
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Butter for greasing the pan plus 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan for coating the dish
1 ¼ cups milk or cream or milk and cream (which is what I did)
Aromatics: Rosemary (or thyme), fresh bay leaf (or dried), 3 2” pieces of green onion
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
Dash of cayenne
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup steamed and then finely chopped broccoli
½ cup sharp cheddar, grated
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
Minced parsley and cilantro for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an eight-cup gratin dish and coat the butter with the Parmesan. Heat the milk/cream with the aromatics until it just boils then remove it from the heat and let it stand 15 minutes. Remove the aromatics.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat until foamy. Stir in the flour and cook over low heat for a few minutes (it should get thick and aromatic but don’t let it burn!). Whisk in the milk all at once, stirring vigorously for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard. Mix well and remove from heat. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended. Fold in the broccoli and the cheese.
Beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until they form stiff peaks. Mix a quarter of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture to lighten it up. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture being careful not to over mix and deflate your egg whites. Transfer the soufflé from the mixing pan to the gratin dish. Put the dish into the center of the oven and lower the heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and cilantro.