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Cooking at Home with Brassica oleracea

By: Elizabeth Dickey, Education and Visitor Engagement Director | 04/09/2020

Many of us are spending more time at home cooking. Now is a great time to capitalize on the situation and look for ways to improve our diet and have less impact on the Earth by featuring plants as the main dish of a meal. Each article in this series will examine a plant, or group of plants, and provide some ideas on how to prepare them.

Similar to how the dog species has become breeds with a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, the plant Brassica oleracea is now many vegetable varieties including kale, collard greens, cabbage, savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. See this wonderful Botanist in the Kitchen post for greater detail on the development of this species.

Kale Pita Pizzas. Serves 4

Pitas- 4 flat Greek (for a soft crust) or 2 pocket pitas divided into tops and bottoms (for a crispy crust)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup shallots or sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
5-10 ounces baby kale, rinsed and drained
½ cup pizza sauce, or tomato sauce with 1 tablespoon of dried Italian herbs mixed in
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella and parmesan, or any cheeses of your choice
16 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Optional ingredients: sliced salami/pepperoni, crushed red pepper flakes, shredded basil

How to Cook
Preheat broiler to high. Place oven rack 4” or so below the heating element. Place pitas on a baking sheet, brush the top surface with olive oil (reserving the extra) and broil for 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted.

Heat the remaining oil in a skillet. Add the sliced shallots/onions and sauté them until soft and beginning to brown. Add minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add kale and cook, stirring, until wilted and water has evaporated, 3-5 minutes.

Coat the pitas with a thin layer of pizza sauce, about 2 teaspoons on each.

Top each pita evenly with the shallot/kale mixture. Sprinkle cheese and tomatoes on top. Add optional toppings as desired. Place baking sheet in the oven and broil the pita pizzas 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with a green salad. Yum!

Roasted Broccoli, Cabbage, or Brussels Sprouts Serves 4-6

Roasting turns these slightly bitter vegetables into tender, sweeter, deliciousness.

2 pounds broccoli florets, rinsed, dried, and divided into bite-sized pieces
or 1 head of green cabbage, outer leaves removed and cut horizontally into 1/2-inch thick “steaks”
or 1.5 pounds Brussel sprouts, outer leaves trimmed and then halved lengthwise
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
Optional: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder

How to Cook Option One
Place rack in the middle of the oven, heat to 400 degrees.
Coat your vegetables in olive oil. If using cabbage, try to keep each steak in one piece. Place vegetables on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and other seasonings if desired.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast your vegetable for 10 minutes. Flip them over and roast for 10 more minutes until browned with crispy edges.

How to Cook Option Two
Use air fryer to cook broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Coat them with oil and spices as described earlier. Cook at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, shaking or stirring twice. Remove when they are soft in the middle and crispy on the edges.

Serve with baked potatoes (400-degree oven for 40 minutes). Alternatively, the potatoes could be cooked in a microwave oven or air fryer.