Purple reigns at the table

September 15, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Football season has started and Ravens fans are putting on their purple hats and pulling out their pennants.

This year, you can extend the purple passion to your table as well.

We've pulled together a panoply of trendy purple vegetables, suitable for your next tailgating party or simply a family dinner.

You can pick up purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, purple Peruvian potatoes, purple carrots, purple (maroon) cabbage and even purple asparagus.

Ponder the possibilities. Steak and potatoes can take on a new hue. Carrots and hummus can be coordinated with team colors.

But how do they taste? Some may be disappointed to learn that purple cauliflower, broccoli and carrots taste the same as their traditional brethren.

With these veggies, if "you close your eyes, you can't tell the difference," said Robert Schueller, a spokesman for Melissa's World Variety Produce - an online grocery store.

But, according to Zac White, a produce expert at Whole Foods, purple asparagus is sweet and can even be consumed raw.

Purple cabbage (also called red or maroon cabbage) is more bitter. "Green cabbage should not be substituted for purple cabbage," said Schueller.

And purple potatoes, which are purple all the way through, "are a little bit more starchy," said Schueller. Although purple carrots taste just like the orange ones, they do provide a particular delight. "When you cut them, the center is orange like a traditional carrot," said Schueller.

These veggies aren't dyed and they're not genetically engineered. In some cases, they've been purple all along and in others they've been cross-pollinated for color.

The primary benefit of purple veggies is presentation. "Chefs demand purple vegetables," said Schueller.

Many purple veggies come in "baby size" rather than the traditional size. Purple cauliflower, for example, is only available in "baby."

Purple vegetables also might have particular health benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is just wrapping up a clinical study to determine how well anthocyanins (or purple colorant) from purple potatoes and purple carrots are absorbed in the body.

"Research has suggested that anthocyanins may reduce heart disease, cancer, reduce inflammation, act as antioxidants," said Janet Novotny, a research physiologist at the USDA.

The findings of the study are expected to be published later this year.

But, the more immediate benefit of the purple veggies might be closer to home. Maybe, just maybe, the nonveggie eaters (and they know who they are) will try purple produce.

"I know my niece for years would never eat mashed potatoes," said White. "But when we got the purple ones and mashed them up, she loved them."

Roasted Purple Peruvian Potatoes and Artichokes With Feta

Serves 4

2 pounds purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes, sliced into bite-size pieces

two 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

cooking spray

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl, tossing well to coat. Arrange potato mixture in a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Combine the potato mixture and feta cheese, and toss well.

-- Melissa's World Variety Produce

Per serving: 320 calories; 14 grams protein; 7 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 51 grams carbohydrate; 11 grams fiber; 13 milligrams cholesterol; 1,661 milligrams sodium

Miso Soup With Maroon Carrots and Tofu

Serves 6

6 cups water (divided use)

1/8 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 medium maroon carrot, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

1/3 cup shiro miso (white fermented soybean paste)

1/2 cup tofu, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

Bring 5 1/2 cups water with salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add carrot, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Whisk together shiro miso and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth, then whisk into carrot mixture. Add tofu and serve immediately.

- Melissa's World Variety Produce

Per serving: 53 calories; 4 grams protein; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 6 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 608 milligrams sodium

Pasta With Spring Garlic, Asparagus-Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

1 pound asparagus (tough ends trimmed)

salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 spring garlic, sliced thin

1 pound penne pasta or pasta of choice

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

pepper to taste

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces, reserving tips separately. Cook asparagus stems in 5 quarts to 6 quarts boiling water with 2 tablespoons salt until very tender, 6 minutes to 8 minutes.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander, reserving cooking water in pot, and rinse under cold water. Drain asparagus well and transfer to a food processor or blender.

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