I’m a huge fan of broccoli in all its forms. I love it steamed just until it turns bright-green and crisp, but I also adore it cooked long enough so that becomes meltingly tender and velvety, blending its flavor with the ingredients around it. I grill it, roast it and stir-fry it, and even chop or grate it to meld into everything from soups to salads to pancakes. Raw it’s one of my favorite dippers, and cooked and pureed it also makes a fine base for the dip itself. It’s a year-round staple in my kitchen, and I’m happy to eat it everyday.
Broccoli was one of the first vegetables that came to my attention as particularly healthy, way back when I was in college, and I’ve sought it out ever since. Like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, it features a huge array of vitamins and minerals, a great amount of fiber, and modest amount of protein. And although the discussion of antioxidants predates my love affair with broccoli, I’m happy to say that researchers say it’s packed with them too.
Choosing & Using Broccoli
- Look for broccoli with firm, dark-green to purple-green clusters of florets without yellow blossoms, a sign of age. It should smell fresh and earthy, not sour or cabbage-like.
- Refrigerate broccoli in a paper or plastic bag, preferably in the vegetable drawer.
- Although broccoli will keep a fresh appearance for a week or more, it loses sweetness and crispness rapidly, so try to use it within a few days.
- Cut florets into uniform size for consistent cooking. Use a paring knife and follow the branching structure of the head.
- Remember that broccoli’s thick, woody stalks are also delicious–don’t throw them out! After you’ve removed the florets, trim the base of the stalk and peel off the fibrous skin. You’ll have a tender bit of sweet, juicy flesh that you can slice and cook along with the florets, munch on raw, or grate for salads or slaws.
Nothing could be easier than a quick steam or sauté of broccoli to serve up as a side dish. Typically you’ll want to cook the florets just until tops are bright-green and the stems are barely flexible. That means just 4 to 5 minutes of steaming or grilling, about 3 minutes of sautéing, and about 2 minutes of boiling or microwaving.
A little salt, a touch of pepper, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil and some lemon is all broccoli needs. But delving deeper into this great veggies culinary possibilities can be terrifically rewarding. Here are some of my favorite recipes for this cruciferous crusader.
Broccoli as comfort food? Absolutely! Add cheese and you’ve got an irresistible combination. A classic is Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Sauce, a contrast in flavors and textures that charms palates both young and old. This same duo updates wonderfully in this Broccoli, Rice and Cheese Casserole, featuring brown rice, and Warm Broccoli and Cheese Dip, a three-cheese combo that’s fabulous for parties or game-day snacking. Or explore broccoli’s affinity for blue cheese in this creamy Penne and Broccoli with Zesty Gorgonzola Sauce.
Everyone Loves Quiche
Its flavor melding qualities and crisp-tender texture make broccoli is a favorite addition to quiche. Add a few cups of florets to your favorite recipe, or try this super-easy Crustless Broccoli and Onion Quiche, quick enough for weeknights, or this deliciously vegan Tofu and Broccoli Quiche that sports an unusual crust made from whole-grain bulgur wheat.
Short cooking in sizzling hot wok or skillet is one of the best ways to preserve broccoli’s crisp texture while highlighting its natural sweetness. This recipe for Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry is an easy classic that gives broccoli a starring role, as does Kung Pao Broccoli and Tofu with Pineapple, a delicious, nutritious update of a take-out favorite.
This terrifically healthy recipe for Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Currants calls for steamed broccoli, but you can also try recipes like this with raw florets if, like me, you’re a fan of this veggie raw. The same goes for this wildly popular Broccoli Salad with Almond and Chile Dressing, a super-healthful salad that brings out broccoli’s nutty side with a creamy almond dressing. And for a pasta salad, you can’t beat Artichoke and Broccoli Pasta Salad, packed with Mediterranean flavors and perfect for a potluck or picnic.
Hungry for more? Check out the collection of terrific recipes and share your favorite recipe in the comments section.