Thursday, October 30, 2008

Broccoli-Millet Croquettes, modified

Iv and I are members of an Amish CSA, which has been great this summer, as we've gotten some incredible produce. But to be honest, we've had a problem from time to time because we get vegetables in unpredictable quantities, and sadly, some food has gone bad before we've had time to get to it. In an effort to stem the problem, I looked in the bag Iv brought home this week, and spied a nice head of broccoli, which naturally led to the question of what to do with it.

Since I just made the butternut squash spring rolls a couple weeks ago, the Broccoli-Millet Croquettes, which appear on the same page (51), came to mind.

So Wednesday I resolved to make these. The only ingredient for this dish I didn't already have in the house was millet, plus canned navy beans for the accompanying sauce. At the store, I discovered, however, that my Kroger, despite having a fairly sizable natural foods section, does not carry millet. I was left to improvise -- abandon ship, or come up with a millet substitute? (The possibility of driving 16 miles round-trip to the nearest Whole Foods for millet crossed my mind, but the incremental expansion of my carbon footprint seemed antithetical to the project.)

I recalled a mention in the recipe suggesting that the millet should cook to a risotto-like consistency, so I picked up some arborio rice. Upon coming home, I re-read the recipe and saw the consistency should in fact be polenta-like, but I'd come this far, so there was no stopping me now.

So you start by chopping your broccoli into pea-sized pieces.

Then you fry some garlic and herbs, drop in the dry arborio rice, and fry it for a few minutes until it achieves a measure of translucency, then dump in some vegetable stock and cook the rice for a 10 minutes.

Add in the broccoli, stir it up, and cook it for a while more. During this process, I found that the amount of water the Veganomicon suggests for millet is too little for arborio, so I added water periodically throughout the cooking process.

In any case, the end product of the rice and broccoli cooking together, ended up as a nice mix, with the rice fully cooked and sticky, and the broccoli retaining just a slight bit of crunch.

From here, you let the mixture cool for a while, and then put it in the fridge for 45 minutes or so.

While this cooled off, I started on one of the sauces Terri and Isa suggest for it, the white bean aioli. It's just canned navy beans, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a few cloves of garlic sauteed in a hefty amount of olive oil. Put it all in a blender, and puree until smooth. I doubled the amount of lemon juice called for, because I like a bit of extra acidity.

Once the rice and broccoli mixture had cooled, I formed them into little patties, ready to be fried. The mixture was still a bit warm, but the end result was ok, so don't freak out if this happens to you. The method the Veganomicon suggests -- forming into a golf ball shape and mashing down a bit, works nicely.

So then, I just poured a thin layer of olive oil into my favorite cast iron pan, and fried these babies away. Probably 4-5 minutes on each side over medium heat.

Terry and Isa said to serve these things immediately, so I took them at their word. Here they are, piping hot, in the company of the finished aioli.

This, it turns out, is the first recipe where Terry and Isa really sell themselves short. They say, "They are delicately flavored, so definitely include a sauce when you serve." Which I took to mean...they're pretty but about as interesting as a Miss America contestant. But this turns out not to be true. The combination of garlic, tarragon, and red pepper gives these a really nice flavor on their own, and the texture is decidedly akin to a crab cake. The thing I can't tell you is whether this is dumb luck due to using arborio rice instead of millet, but I really liked these a lot. The crust turned out nice, slightly chewy, with a pleasantly caramelized flavor in the darkest spots. The white bean aioli also turned out to be a nice complement, with the flavor of the garlic intensified after spending 30 minutes in the fridge.

The other nice thing was that while Terry and Isa say you have to serve these immediately, they actually work really nicely the next day for lunch. They were little worse the wear for coming out of the microwave at the office the next day.

No question, these are great, at least using my variation. I'll let you know when I actually try them again using millet. But my variation using supermarket ingredients worked very nicely.


juliette said...

I've made them a couple times and found they do taste like crab cakes - and I made them with millet. Also you mention the Persian soup Aush somewhere on the blog. I recommend najmieh batmanglij "new food of life" for Persian cooking. I really love her recipes. I'm enjoying reading your blog. Slowly working my way through veganomicon as well.


lisacohen said...

Thank you for your write-up on this recipe. I own the book but don't have it near me at the moment so googled it and came across your blog. I am a vegetarian but now that my kids are back in school, want to start eating more vegan foods (my hubby is omni and my kids are varying degrees of veggie/picky) and am using a few of Isa's books (as well as some others... I have two of Donna Klein's opened in front of me while I'm menu planning - her rosemary lentils were delicious and easy) so I'm SO HAPPY to have found your blog. I'll be sure to go through some of the archives as you do a great job of documenting what you change in the recipe and commenting on what you think! I appreciate you taking the time to have done this project and your honesty. Are there other books that you are loving these days or would you be willing to share your favorite cookbooks? I love Deborah Madison's, Ottolenghi's Plenty, and The Sprouted Kitchen lately but am always interested in what other veggies/vegans actually USE and LOVE on their shelves. Thanks!