By Lauren Rothman
As soon as the air takes on a chill and I pull my favorite wool sweater from the back of the closet, I find myself craving the sturdy, earthy flavors of the season: Yes, I get excited for cruciferous vegetables. Also known as Brassicas, this group of veggies includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts, as well as hearty greens like collards, kale, and mustard greens.
Brassicas sometimes have a reputation for being bland, but if your last memory is of mushy, overcooked Brussel sprouts or bland broccoli, it’s time to give this under-appreciated family of vegetables another chance. These clever recipes use cabbage, Cauliflower, and the like in creative ways that are anything but sad.
The Nutritional Benefits of Brassicas
Brassicas tend to be low in fat and sugar and high in vitamins and minerals. In particular, they are good sources of Vitamin C and E and bioavailable calcium. They’re also high in antioxidants, which may help lower the risks of cancer and heart disease. And cruciferous veggies contain carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein, which help protect your eyes against free radicals and prevent macular degeneration in the elderly.
How to Buy and Store Brassicas
When shopping for brassicas, you want to look for firm, unblemished specimens whose leaves, if any, remain green and sturdy. For Brussels sprouts, make sure all outer leaves remain tightly wrapped around the tiny cabbages, and check the bottom stalk to make sure it’s not brown or dried out. For broccoli, look for tight, bright green florets that haven’t started to yellow or shed, and for cauliflower, look for a creamy white color without any brown spots. And look for a cabbage that feels heavy for its weight; this indicates that it’s still got plenty of moisture within its leaves.
Brassicas like cool, rather than cold temperatures. For those among us who don’t have a root cellar, they’ll do well in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator or even cool, dark cabinet. They should last at least a week.
1. Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad from Kitchn
This smart twist on the classic Caesar calls for pre-shredded Brussel sprouts, making it a quick and wholesome weeknight salad — or a special-occasion salad that feels like it took much longer to make.
Related: 5 New Ways to Make Brussel Sprouts
2. Vegan Cauliflower-Creamed Spinach from Serious Eats
Here’s what you should do with that enormous head of cauliflower taking up space in your fridge right now: Lop off a chunk to create this creamy, hearty dish from Serious Eats’ mastermind J. Kenji López-Alt. Puréed with a dash of non-dairy milk, the cauliflower turns into a velvety sauce ready to enrobe garlicky, grassy spinach. This creamy dish is vegan, but you’d never know it.
3. Broccoli Rubble Farro Salad from Smitten Kitchen
Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman has a way with vegetables, as evinced by this warm salad which stars a “rubble” of bright green broccoli. Paired with farro and garlicky olive oil brightened with lemon zest and red pepper flakes, it’s hearty enough to be dinner and is flavorful enough to eat for lunch all week.
4. Indian Cabbage Bake from Food52
Shredded, raw cabbage is all very well for the summer months, but when you want something cozy and comforting, try this Indian-by-way-of-Indianapolis “cabbage bake,” from writer Lavanya Narayanan. Cooking cabbage at high temperatures brings out a nutty sweetness, while Northern and Southern Indian spices such as turmeric and coriander make it a festive, fragrant addition to the fall kitchen.
5. Turnip Latkes from Real Simple
Growing up in a food-obsessed, non-practicing Jewish home, I ate my fair share of latkes at Hanukkah each winter — of the classic potato variety, of course, but my mom also fried up some alternatives. She’d use zucchini or sweet potatoes or carrots instead, and these improvisations often outshone the standard spuds. One year, she decided to mix grated turnips into her potato batter, and the result was memorably delicious, with an earthier, almost bitter edge. This recipe from Real Simple is a close approximation of what my mom made, and the perfect choice for a fall brunch: Post-frying, the turnip-tater fritters are topped a slice of smoked salmon and dollop of tangy crème fraîche.