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22 March 2009


broccoli puree

Island time moves slowly.

We drive down long, curving roads, expansive fields out the window, talking and laughing, sitting in silence sometimes. Ramshackle wooden barns, horses tossing their heads toward the sky, placid ponds surrounded by pygmy goats — they all flash by the window. Little Bean giggles and trills this new noise at the back of her throat, something like singing and purring at the same time. We are headed to the store.

The morning stretches long. Little Bean awakes somewhere near 5, but after a bit of patting and dancing, she stretches out in her crib, talking to her mobile while we sleep, a bit more. The coffee smells good, coming from the kitchen. Our new house may be strewn with boxes, but the kitchen is ours now. With cookbooks lining the shelves, and pots and pans in their places, the sunny yellow room at the heart of the house feels spacious and calm. We have cooked and cooked, from the first morning we awoke here, to the sound of Douglas firs swaying in the wind.

Tiny diced potatoes roasted in lard (from an island farm) and slow-scrambled eggs with goat cheese make the morning very fine indeed.

As I do the dishes, I see bursts of daffodils out the kitchen window, little fistfuls rising, splashes of yellow against black dirt. So welcome.

We amble slowly through the back yard, finding scraggly patches of thyme and purple sage. Raised beds lie waiting, for the Italian plum tomatoes we are planning, the bunches of lettuce greens, the kale and leeks, the green shoots we anticipate pushing through the earth. We have never really gardened before. This year, we will learn. (I'm not expecting much, though.)

We read the newspaper. Little Bean plays on the floor, rolling like a skirmish of a dust storm, grinning. We talk through the day, plan menus, take a few more books out of boxes and find a home for them on shelves.

Stately green trees against grey-sky wind. Birdsong seeping through the window. No airplanes overhead or cars going by. A napping baby.

It's nearly noon. Time to venture into town — three or four streets' worth of businesses, past it in the time it takes to turn toward each other in conversation and then look out the window again. We pull into the grocery store parking lot, again, already familiar with all the aisles. We're shopping in small portions, each day, for now. We just like the excuse to drive along the water and watch the seagulls rise off whitecaps. (Every day, about 20 times a day, we look at each other and say, "Wow. We live here.") And when everything feels new, the grocery store feels familiar.

At home again, I read Little Bean books on the floor of her new room — finding a sunny patch unencumbered by boxes — and watch her eyes widen. She reaches when we are done, holds the edges in both of her hands and holds the book above her head, studying it. And then, slowly, she brings it toward her face...and tries to chew on the corners, slobber running down her chin.

The Chef is in the kitchen, just outside the little one's bedroom, blanching the broccoli we bought at the store. He dunks it in the boiling water and lets it bob for a moment, until it yields tenderly to the fork. I hear the big blender whirling on, a slow-building sound that becomes the loudest one in the neighborhood, for a few moments. He comes in the room, brandishing a plastic dish full of bright green. He pureed the broccoli with the blanching water for Little Bean.

The next morning, she leaned her entire face toward me, mouth open wide and tongue out flat. She cannot get enough of the cold broccoli puree. The little red spoon goes in her mouth mounded with the green and comes out clean. Within a few moments, the entire bowl is gone.

We're not silly enough to think she will always love her vegetables. But in this first week of living on the island, before our work begins in earnest again, we're grateful for the time to blanch and puree some broccoli, just to watch our daughter's delight in eating another new food.

And you? What are you doing with your broccoli?

p.s. The magazine you see next to the broccoli puree is the April issue of Kiwi magazine, a lovely magazine for parents. This is their annual food issue, and I'm proud to say that I have the final essay of the magazine, a piece about feeding Little Bean food for the first time. Everything in it makes this issue worth buying.

p.p.s. I thought I was going to faint with exhaustion this week, but it was this surprise instead. This website was named one of Gourmet magazine's favorite food sites. Gosh a mighty, thank you. This was such a lovely gift the week after moving.


At 12:21 AM, Blogger Pearl said...

congratulations on being recognized on gourmet's website! you TOTALLY deserve it :)

At 2:08 AM, Blogger confessionalista said...

Island life sounds very appealing, I must admit . I chop my broccoli into big chunks (a bit smaller than my fist), and throw it into the pot with rice spaghetti . Drain , mix through some butter (this makes GF pasta Good and stops it slicking to itself). Toss it all in a pan with some olive oil, garlic, and chilli . The end result is a combination of deliciously smooshed garlicky broccoli , and some al dente broccoli. The stems are the most delicious part of this always love it , and ask what it is. Not just kids.

At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds delightful there. Living the slow life vicariously through you.

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my favorite is oven roasted until almost charred. Lately though I have been cutting into large-ish pieces and tossing into a hot skillet with a glug of olive oil. Let it sit until it browns and toss to mix. repeat until you can't wait anymore.
Brocolli has been one of the easiest things for me to grow in the garden. I buy starter plants since I always forget to start seed in time. Once the brocolli is ready to harvest cut the top off at the uppermost set of leaves. Leave the rest of the plant and it will start to grow smaller heads. I can usually harvest at least 3 times off of one plant.

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Caitlin said...

Congrats on the kudos to you in the magazine. And welcome to your new home!
Now, Broccoli. I am prolly the most boring broccoli eater ever...I microwave it for about 2 minutes until it is cooked soft, none of this crunchy business for me. Then I either add butter and maybe salt, or I eat it plain. Yeah. I know. No sauces??? Nope. Just the food, ma'am.

At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear shauna - congrats on moving to your island. It has been our long term goal to move to our beautiful Salt Spring Island, B.C. Many reasons we are not there yet...but haven't given up on our dream. We will get there one day. luv your site, all the best, Ina Gawne, Sooke B.C.

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again your prose delights! What a wonderful start to the next chapter in your lives. Little Bean may always love her veggies; when I was pregnant with our eldest, I could not get enough broccoli. To this day he loves it and will eat almost any veggie and fruit I serve him, and always makes a good veggie choice. Having celiac helps him make these good decisions. All the best,
Suzanne in Austin

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it sounds like you live on some kind of lovely paradise!
i like broccoli blanched in salt water and eaten at room temp with a drizzle of olive oil. or roasted in a pan with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Taylor said...

I love brocolli any which way, but especially roasted in the oven with some garlic.

Thank you for your wonderful blog!

At 6:54 AM, Blogger gfe--gluten free easily said...

Congratulations on being a favorite food site! You certainly are one of mine. :-)

You can tell that your new home will be wonderful for you all. Slowly, but surely the boxes will disappear. ;-)

We eat broccoli just steamed with a little butter or olive oil and seasonings most of the time. But, I also like it in dishes like a GF chicken divan, occasionally. I bet Little Bean will always love broccoli. My son used to call brooccoli "trees" when he was little.

BTW, that second link didn't work for the Gourmet listing, but I found it and enjoyed seeing some other familiar sites there.


At 7:54 AM, Blogger Nicole McLaughlin said...

Every day i read your blog, it puts a smile on my face. I enjoy it soooo much. Cant wait for the book!

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MMM....I've loved "trees" since childhood. It's fabulous in coconut milk curries, because of the way it holds the sauce in the florets. I shred the stalks into slaw (or eat them steamed along with the rest), or stir fry it, or steam it... My new method of steam/saute has been to throw broccoli or cauliflower into a pan with a drop of oil over med-high heat. Once it's browned a bit, I pour in about 1/2 cup of water and cover, steaming for a couple minutes, then take off the cover and finish it up. (sometimes with cheese).

An entire stalk of broccoli, cut up and nuked for 45 seconds with the washing water, turns frozen rice mac 'n cheese into healthy comfort food at the office (and I pour hot sauce in, too...)

One more thing: I agree with Rachel, it's great to grow!

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your move to the simple life. Pictures of your island??? Please????

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Crystal said...

I'm envying your Island...and suddenly craving broccoli just barely steamed, with parmesan and taosted sesame seeds.... oh yes.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Courtney said...

Maine island four years ago and it is the best decision I ever made...congratulations on leaving "America" (as we say here on North Haven!)

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back to your "other home"- the online one!

We love broccoli soup. It's a great way to use up the chunky stems. Booth only eats the crowns when I do a stir-fry. So I save the stems and peel off the stringy, rough outsides, and then dice the tender pale green centers. When I have about two cups of it, I put the broccoli chunks (you can throw in crowns, too) into a four quart saucepan and add:

4 or 5 cloves of garlic (if you love it garlicky)
1/4 cup white rice (raw)
4 cups of chicken stock (homemade if you have it)

Bring it to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is soft and the rice is cooked.

Puree in the blender and add salt and pepper to taste.

Voila! Broccoli soup. Less broccoli makes a nice brothy soup, and more gives you a thicker version.

...and you are going to get more black plum tomato plants from me, my seeds have been growing for a couple of weeks and the little plants will need more homes than just mine!

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life on the island sounds fantastic.
Babies and food… my little one eats like a NY Times food critic, but I can see the budding picky eater there too ;)
And, Wow! You’re on Gourmet with the big guns. Nice!

At 9:47 AM, Blogger young said...

Congrats on the two mentions/publication! Hopefully the settling in process continues to go well.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

I love making broccoli potato soup on cold nights. It's just simply the vegetables, stock, water, salt and pepper, and a little cream - all pureed together.

And I know this is not going to sound in any way amazing, but I swear it gives me the best results every time: broccoli, olive oil, salt and pepper in a glass dish, microwaved for a few minutes. Totally not the elegant way of making broccoli, but it is so tasty.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this will sound completely boring but I like my broccoli raw best. I am studying nutrition and have been convinced to eat as much raw foods as possible, that all the enzymes are killed when you cook it. So I eat it chopped in salads and also add it to my juicer when I make fresh juice. Of course one can't live on raw broccoli alone so I do like it sauteed with a little garlic and ginger. That's basically all it needs. Plus there is a container soup at the health food store that is pureed broccoli basically and is delicious.

Congrats on your achievement. That is wonderful!

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Essss said...

Broccoli steamed and tossed with a soy-sauce, sesame, ginger vinaigrette and walnuts. Its good hot or cold.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I have that issue of Kiwi magazine -- my husband brought it to me but I had no idea you had a piece in it (I hadn't read the mag yet).

As for broccoli, my girls (ages 4.5 and 2.5) LOVE it. They always did, and still do. I just steam and add a little sea salt. It has to be just right though -- not too crisp, not too mushy. And if they ever hesitate, I tell them to look for the teeny tiny squirrels in the little trees before they eat them. When it's all clear, they chomp!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

There is so much in this post. But, I just have to say last year was my first year gardening. It was lots of fun, and I look forward to knowing a bit more this second time around! Enjoy.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger LittleRedAmes said...

What wonderful recent achievements! As for broccoli, the best I've ever eaten was steamed a little, then cooked with a smidge of butter, lots of fresh garlic, and topped off with lemon juice and parmesan. Mmm. The lemon juice adds the perfect brightness!

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Island life sounds delightful! Slow life and slow food.

I imagine you all will have an amazing garden before long and will enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. Our kids LOVE to garden with us. It's a wonderful way to get them to try new vegetables. Purple broccoli and purple carrots are favorites of theirs.

My Gardening bible when I first started my own garden 19 years ago was (and still is) Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades - Steve Solomon's Complete Guide to Natural Gardening (Sasquatch). I'd highly recommend it and seeds from Solomon's Territorial Seed company - they're wonderful. He's got great words on maritime gardening advice, cloche and cold frames.

Our favorite broccoli recipe is spicy tofu with broccoli. The kids like the purple broccoli lightly steamed with a bit of butter - very simple.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger B said...

Steamed broccoli. With a slurp of sesame oil. Finished with smoked salt.

Nutty, smoky, yummy.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger raiuchka said...

"We're not silly enough to think she will always love her vegetables." You never know! You and the Chef are certainly going about it the right way to give her the best chance of not being a picky eater: exposing her to all kinds of smells and tastes at a young age. That's what we did, and our six-year-old will eat absolutely anything, unless it's spicy-hot.

My favorite way to eat broccoli is stir-fried with some noodles! Or cream of broccoli soup; it's so comforting.

Thanks for the glimpses of island life. Keep it up, please! I am counting on you for an island life fix every once in awhile!

At 1:34 PM, Blogger rebelgirl7 said...

Congrats on moving to the island and your continued writing successes. We visited Seattle last Spring for only two days and stared out at the islands from the Ferry Terminal and said to each other "next time"... Living in a small community is a wonderful thing. I lived in a town of only 1000 for ten years and loved it. You will love the quiet.
Broccoli? I boil it until its dead.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on the recognition and the move. Life sounds good!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger ccr in MA said...

The island life sounds lovely, and I'm happy for you. Being where you belong is mighty good, isn't it?

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Not Another Omnivore said...

Everything sounds truly amazing!


At 8:28 PM, Blogger rlbuckwalter said...

I love broccoli steamed in the microwave until tender, then quickly sauteed in olive oil with slices of garlic. Squeeze half a lemon over it to finish, add salt and pepper to taste. Oh yum.

At 2:52 AM, Blogger Redhead said...

Steamed broccoli with ginger, garlic, and oyster sauce... in fact, I ate it today while my son is sleeping in his pram outside!

We, too, moved out to a small town after R. was born... Now I cannot imagine how I would return to our city apartment... how he would cope without the grass and fresh air. Life is simpler here. More easy-going. Now you have to take up knitting or sewing... bet your fingers are itching to learn it, if you don't do it already.

And by the way, our favourite baby food vegetable is pumpkin!

At 5:27 AM, Blogger Sus & co said...

ah but she WILL always love her veggies if you keep on "making" her eat them. i've always allowed my kids one thing they don't like. for one it's butternut squash, for another it's mashed potatoes (so sad!) and for the last, it's radishes. other than that, they've got to try it! i've also talked to them every day of their lives about how important fresh whole food is for their little bodies. when my son was 7 he told his teacher we didn't eat hydrogenated oils. too funny. they are 11, 10 and 8 now and really do "get" it.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many congrats on all fronts! Seems like your new Island life is very inspirational---your writing sings its praises!

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Nimble said...

My kids (almost 5 and 7 y.o.) love plain steamed broccoli. They try to reassemble the florets into larger trees and bushes before eating them. I take whatever's leftover and make salad with olive oil, balsamic vineagar and salt and pepper. Delish! My husband loves it thoroughly stir fried with tofu and black bean sauce.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger CDM said...

I saw a contest for your book on a blog not that long ago. Having wheat allergies, I didn't feel compelled to get the book. I saw it again at the library and decided to give it a go. I must say, I have been ADDICTED to your book. I've read your blog before, but didn't make the connection between the book and blog until I was out in my hammock reading. I love learning about food, reading about food, cooking food, and eating food. I have spent the past few days devouring your book and then regurgitating everything to my husband. The poor man must think I'm crazy (or at the least, obsessed with you). Its so nice to read a book about eating fresh food and moving away from 'comfort food' products that aren't even made of real food. I'm so happy to find someone who can appreciate how to eat amazingly with simple natural ingredients. I fell into a food rut this winter with the combination of cold weather and miscarrying, and am feeling amped up about kicking off spring with an array of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Thank you for the inspiration I needed to get back in gear. I'm ready to move back away from my GF girl scout cookies and back to fresh salsa and guacamole in lettuce wraps.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This collage of your day on the island is so incredibly evocative. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

And broccoli, indeed, rocks. It's one of Noemi's favorite foods. People always look at me strange when we're talking out our kids' favorite foods and I say, "Noemi can't get enough of sauteed broccoli with toasted garlic." But honestly, who wouldn't love that?

It's so lovely that you're so tuned into--and enjoying--each of Little Bean's first tastes.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Broccoli steamed with italian seasoning and fresh garlic and then topped with a bit of parmesan cheese!
The island is beautiful (I think that I am thinking of the right one) and hearing you write about it makes me want to visit my family that live on it...

At 3:59 PM, Blogger shady charbonnet said...

Yesterday, we had fried broccoli to go along with the roasted chicken thighs and artichokes over lemon fettuccine. I lightly steam the broccoli, cut into large bites, then saute in olive oil flavored with garlic and red pepper flakes until golden and somewhat crisp. Then I throw in a handful or so of my rice chex "bread-crumbs" which I toast in the oven then process with Italian herbs, spices and garlic powder. My favorites are the slightly charred stems!

When my girls were little, their favorite was a super simple broccoli soup. I would boil a few handfuls of broccoli florets along with some g-f pasta (a chunky shape) in a mixture of water and chicken stock. It was seasoned to taste with salt and garlic. Easy-peasy!

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Broccoli is my daughter's favorite veggie. Tomorrow, I'm going to steam a small head with a larger head of cauliflower and pour my homemade roasted red pepper sauce over it, slather it with some grated Parmesan and toss it into the oven until the cheese bubbles a little. I hope there's leftovers. Congratulations on a successful move!
~Jenn Norwalk, OH

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean about the island. We live on one too and loooove it! Nice to have you back since your move, Shauna. I like putting broccoli into rice with mushrooms, too. Yum! Or, sauteing it real quick on high heat for just a couple of minutes in butter and garlic and tossing a handful of pinenuts on it.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Janel said...

Congrats on moving home! It's a special time when you make a place your own.

I have 2 ways that I love to eat broccoli - one is a salad with red onions and feta after the broccoli has been blanched and cooled.

The other way is broccoli & cauliflower soup which I made up after having a head of each and running short of time when a pregnant friend was coming over to lunch.

1 head of broccoli - roughly chopped, no stems
1 head of cauliflower - roughly chopped, no stems
2-3 cups potatoes, 1-in cubes
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
water to cover

put everything together in pot and let it come to a rolling boil. let it gently
boil until you can easily spear the veggies with a fork. take off the hob to
blitz until smooth

add 1 cup shredded cheese and 1 piece of mozzarella broken into pieces.

The best part was my friend going back for seconds without even asking!

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting read you might enjoy:

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Island life sounds great! And congratulations of the Gourmet rec. Well deserved!

My daughter used to love pureed spinach and pureed zucchini--just could not get enough of those. We ended up buying a bunch in season and pureeing and freezing so we would have some throughout her first winter of eating.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray for islands, and hooray for broccoli! My daughter's favourite dinner has long been roasted potato wedges (russets + olive oil + salt + pepper + oven), topped with steamed broccoli and cheese sauce made with nice sharp cheddar and a blast of cayenne pepper. My mom used to make the same thing for me, except she used to actually deep fry the fries. Absolute comfort.

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In January, my fella and I left Portland, OR for a town east of the Cascades - for the sun, a smaller town... The longer we're here, the more we realized we moved for the lifestyle - we're much more relaxed and happy. Congrats on listening to your hearts and making a wonderful choice.

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Nadya said...

What a wonderful move! & what lovely word pictures you paint of your new home!
I'm so glad to see the cooments onkids loving broccoli - my grandkids (3-8) all love their veggies, too!
Last summer I picked some lambs quarters in my son's garden, & offered to cook some, he said that Em was his 'greens girl,' & indeed, we picked & cooked TWO more batches before she was satiated!

Creamy broccoli soup (similar to the last, but with 2 parts green cabbage to the broccoli, & carrots & celery added in) at one of the local slow food restaurants is a FAVORITE FAVORITE lunch for the 4 & 8 year old.
My kids also had one veggie they didn't have to eat ('pick it out POLITELY' at others' homes!) & were 'one bite club' members - reminded try a bite of anything they were unsure of. My dau. cooks green & just soft, usu. puts some butter on.
I'm using coconut oil & milk more & more for cooking - so curry things come to mind :) & love the CSA turnip & kale florettes just steamed at the end on top of other veggies (esp roots: Jersulam artichoke & salsify today - YUM! With onion & garlic, in coconut oil, & added a bit of coconut milk & curry)

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

your blog is well regarded in the UK too!

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

What a great story, I love to hear about kids eating their veggies and loving them!!! That is what I do. Keep up the beautifully cooked food for the little bean!!

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

What a great story, I love to hear about kids eating their veggies and loving them!!! That is what I do. Keep up the beautifully cooked food for the little bean!!

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the taste of broccoli, cooked well!

PS. Something I found out recently, Pinkberry, in all its swirly fresh goodness, is gluten-free! Your New York and Californian readers can now enjoy it :)

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous LaurieA-B said...

I was/am looking forward to reading your articles in Martha Stewart Living and Kiwi--now I have the MSL. (It's the one with Easter eggs on the cover, people.) I was happy that you included both the fabulous foods that are naturally gluten-free, plus the baking recipes so readers will know that yes, you can have birthday cake. (And the cake pictured is a charmer.) After reading an email recently from an acquaintance who thought her celiac diagnosis condemned her to a dreary existence, I was so pleased to read this article and will share it with her.

It's great fun to read about all these kids who love their broccoli.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Just readig this made me take a deep breath nad relax. We love our broccoli steamed, maybe with a fresh squeeze of lemon, sometimes with some garlic. My hubby loves them with garlic and red pepper. 2 great things at my blog:
meyer lemon round up AND
PEEP contest

At 9:53 AM, Blogger a kelly said...

oven roasted with olive oil and herbamare seasoning....mmmmm

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Sarah Caron said...

Your new life on the island sounds so beautiful and peaceful. How blessed you are. Congratulations.

And many congrats on the essay and the mention by Gourmet. Yay!

I like my broccoli tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and romano cheese and roasted until it's crisp. My kids love it that way too ...

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Young and GF said...

I know this is coming late, but major congratulations on being chosen by Gourmet! It is nice to see our alternative community coming to the head of the pack!

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Elana said...

Like you I started my boys on veggies early. They are now 9 and 10 and still devouring their broccoli. And I know your little bean will too :-)

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Dave Jones said...

Congratulations on your achievment...that broccoli sounds delicious.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Amanda on Maui said...

I don't know what I'll do with the broccoli yet. Maybe just enjoy it steamed and in all of its own delicious, fresh, local glory. I visited the new farm stand yesterday, and there in a small metal wash tub floated beautiful green broccoli in cool water.
When I get it next week, you'll definitely see it over at my blog:


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