Friday, February 17, 2012

Broccoli - Give it a makeover

My new Burg article on Broccoli talks about some ways to makeover that familiar green vegetable. It also spends 3 entire paragraphs discussing roasting, because roasted broccoli is god's gift to our dinner table.

Check out my recipes for Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon & Feta as well as a great way to use those stalks - Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano!

Broccoli – Rethinking an old standby (originally printed in The Burg)

Broccoli is one of the most ubiquitous green vegetables on the American table. It has been there since we were kids, alongside mashed potatoes and a piece of grilled chicken. In my experience, it also tends to be one of the few vegetables that kids are willing to eat – simply because of its familiarity.

And yet, even though this veggie is an old standby, I find that sometimes we don’t use it to it’s full potential. When I was young, my mother would serve me boiled broccoli with little flavor that completely disintegrated when I put it in my mouth. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t exactly ask for seconds.

And then, when I became interested in cooking, I discovered something that made broccoli a vegetable that I now crave, as opposed to tolerate: roasting.

What’s so special about roasted broccoli? I have no idea. All I can say is that by giving the broccoli crispy brown edges, and keeping some of the firm texture of the vegetable, a whole new flavor is created. It reminds me of popcorn. And as proof of its power, I once made simple roasted broccoli for my father-in-law, a former broccoli nonbeliever, and I am told he know requests it for dinner. That is evidence enough for me.

To create your perfectly roasted broccoli, simply remove the florets from the stems, cut into somewhat equal size, toss in olive oil (about 2 tablespoons for each head), salt and pepper, and roast on 425 for 12-14 minutes. It can be eaten as-is, or tossed with any number of different ingredients for a delicious side dish. My recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon, & Feta is quick, easy, and completely satisfying.

Of course, there are many other ways to cook broccoli florets. Boiling is not the enemy to this vegetable, but what is important is to do it briefly to allow the texture and the flavor to remain intact. It can also be fried, sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, or eaten raw.

But what about the stems, do we just throw them away? Heck no! Although they may seem tough and fibrous, their insides are tender and tasty. After peeling the thick skin from the stems with a pairing knife, slice or shred the tender stalk and use it much like cabbage or zucchini. Or, you can cook the stems to make broccoli stock for the classic cheddar broccoli soup. My recipe for Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano is not really a recipe at all – just a way to eat the stems that allow their bright flavor to shine though.

Broccoli in all its forms goes well with a number of flavors & ingredients, including butter, almonds, pasta, cauliflowers, mustard, garlic, lemon, chiles, capers, red pepper flakes, cheese, anchovies, olive oil, rice, scallions, soy sauce, ginger, and more. It is a staple in Italian cuisine as well as many Asian foods.

Broccoli is a vegetable that certainly deserves a second look. I hope these recipes help you transform this familiar vegetable into something new and exciting for your dinner table this week.

Ingredients1 Head Broccoli, stems removed and florets evenly cut
6-8 cloves garlic, thoroughly smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 lemon, zested
2 oz Feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Toss broccoli florets, garlic cloves, olive oil, red pepper flakes & sea salt in large mixing bowl. Spread out onto large baking sheet evenly.

3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are brown and crispy.

4. Meanwhile, in the same mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, & anchovy paste.

5. Once broccoli is cooked, transfer to mixing bowl and toss briefly with anchovy mixture, lemon zest and feta.

2 heads broccoli stems
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Peel fibrous layer from broccoli stems and slice into thin rounds.
2. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve.

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