Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting Fired Up About Broccoli

At risk of sounding like a gardening snob, nothing bought in a store or even from the farmer's market comes close to broccoli picked just minutes before cooking. I'd heard that was the case but became a believer when we cut our first home-grown crowns a few weeks ago. It's sweeter and has a wonderfully crisp, firm texture.

We've topped four plants now and have about four more, and each of the topped broccoli plants will grow two smaller shoots. We also have some purple cauliflower on the way (but only one is really thriving).

I usually like to cook broccoli "Roman" style, which involves high heat, garlic, lemon zest and some charring. But I've been cooking these garden fresh crowns gently in a small amount of water with only a dash of salt to really taste the freshness (learned about it from Alton Brown's "Good Eats" on the Food Network):
  • Cut the crown(s) into smaller florets
  • Save the stems (except the tougher portions), cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • Arrange stem pieces flat in a wide saucepan or deep skillet, fill with enough water to just cover them, arrange florets on top evenly
  • Sprinkle with salt
  • Turn burner on HIGH heat for three minutes (don't wait for it to heat up), then turn it to LOW for three minutes.

Super-simple and cooks it just right. It's basically just steamed, but having the stems on the bottom immersed in water cooks them that extra little amount while the tender florets don't get too saturated or overcooked. It's one of the more healthy ways to prepare it (CookingNook.com) and that's how we do it up for most weekday dinners (be forewarned, though, that this method doesn't enhance the blandness or hide the "offness" of older or lesser-quality broccoli).

Roman-style probably scorches a lot of the nutrients away, but man it's really good. I learned this method from How To Cook Everything, but I'll paraphrase it below:

  • Cut the broccoli much as you would in the above recipe
  • Mince the zest of about half a lemon, squeeze the whole lemon's juice.
  • Chop or mince a few cloves of garlic
  • Parboil cut broccoli for just a couple of minutes, drain and submerge in an ice water bath (this will halt the cooking process, for now)
  • Heat oil (canola, grapeseed, something that holds up to high heat) to MEDIUM, add garlic, fry until at least translucent
  • Increase heat to HIGH, add broccoli, stirring occasionally at first and then reguarly as it gets smoking hot
  • When broccoli is cooked (slightly charred and fiery), throw in the lemon zest and mix it in
  • Remove from heat and add lemon juice, plus salt, mixing it all together

And probably the best piece of broccoli advice? Don't eat it raw. It tastes bad and gives you gas.

So go cook some kickass broccoli, especially if you can find some super-fresh, super-local stuff. When we get a critical mass of cauliflower, I'll share some more decadent recipes (I like to either drown it in cheese sauce or deep-fry and sautee it in hot, spicy ketchup).



1 comment:

  1. I love broccoli. We do it in stir-fries a lot. Sometimes we steam them or even nuke 'em in the microwave. Occasionally we'll roast them.

    I also love that you're growing your own broccoli. I would like you to enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month. Full details at