Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Funny Farm Stuffed Broccoli Leaves - a new Southern Tradition

Last spring was the first time i heard of people eating broccoli leaves. It makes sense though, for a couple of reasons. The first is that they are tender and delicious, tasting like a cross between kale and collards. Also, it provides an additional crop for farmers to sell thus using more of the broccoli plant than just the flower bud. The flooding rains this September washed away or caused root rot on much of our first planting of broccoli. We re-planted but it was really too late to get large crowns. We hope the winter will be mild enough that we can get them through til spring when the crowns will finish filling out. In the mean time we are thankful that we can get some food from the crop this fall and early winter.

We offered the leaves for sale last week and sold some and we brought the rest home for us to eat. We found that some of our customers did not know what to do with them so I decided to create a recipe or two to share hoping to boost sales.

We've had stuffed cabbage leaves a time or 2 when I was in grad school in Massachusetts where there is a large population of people of Polish decent. I figured why not make some stuffed broccoli leaves. Typically cabbage is stuffed with some type of meat, rice and egg mixture and topped with a tomato sauce.

I started with some steamed medium grain brown rice i got for Massa Organics whom i met on twitter. They are awesome! They live in a house they built out of their own rice straw bales. We love ground buffalo because it has great flavor and buffaloes eat grass so i browned it with some garlic and some Indian spices to give it some punch (depth of flavor in foodie-speak). I mixed the rice and the buffalo together in a bowl with an egg from our friends at Carlton Farms up in Rockmart Georgia. The sauce i made from some organic ketchup, balsamic vinegar, a little ground chipotle pepper (kicking it up a notch ala Emeril) and a couple of splashes of carrot hooch into which i had added some sliced lemons and pickled some carrots. You probably don't have that handy in you fridge so you can substitute fresh squeezed lemon juice.

The first time i tried to make stuffed cabbage leaves i didn't know that you needed to blanch them first to soften them up enough to be able to roll them up. This time i put the broccoli leaves into the rice steamer after the rice was done and steamed them for about 5 minutes. They came out beautifully bright green and pliant. I spooned some of the filling and started to roll the first one up. Those fu..(um sorry Joyce. (my mother-in-law)) guys are not the easiest things to roll. Kinda like when you are first learning to roll a joint, practice makes perfect. The key is to not put too much filling on the leaf and put it in the center so you can fold the sides over the filling first, then press the filling back tight against the end of the leaf and roll it up so that the filling stays inside. This will allow you to create a beautiful presentation when you go to plate the dish (foodie-speak for spooning it on the plate).

About a year ago Robin went to an estate sale at the neighbor's house after the old lady who lived there passed (Southern for died). She came home with a pile of aprons (she loves aprons) and a box full of casserole dishes. As she was unpacking the dishes i saw one that was exactly like the one my mother used to make macaroni and cheese in. That was about the only thing my mom cooked that i liked (or anybody else in the family liked for that matter). You see my mom got a degree in home economics but she was a terrible cook. She could turn a beautiful beef roast into shoe leather. I asked her one time why she cooked it so long. She said she could not stand to eat pink beef. She had to compete with her mother-in-law who was a great country cook. Grandmama Marcus could make the best pies and yeast rolls, and apple sauce and head cheese and all kinds of stuff. She never made it past the 4th grade in school but man could she cook.

So anyway, i used that red dish to cook the broccoli in. Green broccoli leaves, red casserole dish; how very festive.

Here's the recipe: Funny Farm Stuffed Broccoli Leaves

- pre-heat oven to 350º

3/4 lb. broccoli leaves ( about 24 leaves)

1 cup dry brown rice
1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 lb. ground buffalo (or grass fed beef)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 large egg
Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
juice of 1 lemon

Steam the rice in the chicken stock until done. In a cast iron skillet saute´ the garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add the ground buffalo and brown.

Cut off the stems of the broccoli leaves and save for stock or juice or compost. When the rice is finished steam the leaves for 5 minutes to make them pliable and bright green. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking and make them safe to handle.

Combine the tomato sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer gently while you stuff the broccoli leaves.

In a large bowl combine the rice and buffalo and taste to see if you need to add salt. Add the egg and mix everything well.

Lay a leaf face up on a cutting board with the stem end pointing toward you. Spoon about 1-1/2 tablespoons of filling onto the leaf just above where the stem met the leaf. Fold the sides over the filling, press the filling tightly back into the leaf and roll it up as tight as possible. Place in an oiled casserole dish. Continue until all the leaves are filled.

Spoon the sauce over all the stuffed leaves. Place the cover over the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes at 350º.



Bren Haas said...

Yummo.. thanks for sharing this!
Enjoy your Holiday... I might try this for New Years celebration!

Unknown said...

These are called halupki (sp?) in Hungarian. Made a lot by my relatives when I was growing up!

M. Thome said...

Thanks for this. I usually am stuck just striping them off the stock, cutting them into strips, tossing them with fennel seed, EVOO, salt and pepper and putting them in the over at 400 for 30 minutes. It's good but a little boring; you recipe will help me punch it up a bit.

Eric said...

I started selling broccoli leaves at the Saturday farmers market here in Athens in the spring of 2002, after planting a few hundred plants (my first season of growing for market) and not getting a single head when it warmed up too quickly.

Didn't sell a lot that first season, but made a few converts who then converted more the next season, and so forth. Now most of the growers here sell broccoli leaves to a large customer base.

They're really good, and even people who don't like collards or kale are won over by the mild sweetness and background broccoli flavor.

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Anonymous said...


Thanks for the recipe. I'll see about trying it over the weekend, sans broccoli leaves using leaves from one of the kales instead.

In mid- to late-Spring, be sure to harvest those broccolis' mini-florets before the flowers pop. Same, by the way, for all the kales too.

Happy gardening.

Bill Boyd

Unknown said...

I'm trying this tonight with lentils instead of beef. Crossing my fingers that it turns out and that my folding skills are up to par. Thanks for the recipe, great use of broccoli leaves!