All About Broccoli
Pick broccoli that feels heavy for its size, has firm florets and stalk, and with neither stalks nor florets exhibiting slimy spots. Any attached leaves should be vibrant in color and unwilted. The florets ideally are tight, compact, uniformly colored, dark green, and unbruised. The stalks also should be unbruised and are slightly lighter in color, with the cut-ends fresh and moist looking. Yellowing, opening, or blossoming of the florets is a sign of aging and indicates a stronger taste.
Store broccoli unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (I have read suggestions for either an open or tightly closed plastic bag). If bought very fresh or harvested at home, broccoli can keep up to 10 days, though it’s best to eat soon after it’s picked as the nutrients degrade quickly.
Partial heads of broccoli should be placed in a well-sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerated. Once broccoli has been cut, it is best to use it within a couple of days.
Best uses: Broccoli is best roasted, sautéed, or steamed. As with many cruciferous vegetables, longer cooking tends to bring out bitter or unpleasant tastes, and it likely also decreases nutrient content. Broccoli can also overpower preparations with mixed vegetables, such as soups and stews, and should be added in moderation and towards the end of cooking.
Separate the head into florets to encourage even cooking. Peel the stems to make them more tender. The cut florets and sliced stems can be blanched in boiling water until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Once removed from heat they will continue to cook. Serve immediately while hot, or plunge into ice cold water to arrest cooking before dressing cooked broccoli for salads.
How to freeze broccoli:
Complete instructions for freezing broccoli are given here and here. The principles and procedures are similar to those for other vegetables: freeze the very freshest, high-quality broccoli by cleaning it (by soaking in water or brine); blanching in salted, boiling water (for 2-3 minutes) or by steaming; plunging into ice water (to arrest cooking); and freezing.
Broccoli and Brown Rice Salad
In the summer of 2008, Mark Bittman offered 101 simple salad recipes. One combination he suggested made it to my hit list and has stuck there ever since. It's easy to make a large batch for potlucks or dinner guests, and people tend to like this one. This is a great way to use broccoli for the spring and early fall when days are warm. It can be easily adapted depending what grains and nuts you have on hand and what the salad will accompany. For example, peanut and sesame oils could be used in place of olive oil, rice vinegar and lime juice in place of lemon juice, and sesame seeds in place of walnuts, to accompany an Asian-influenced slaw or curried salad.
Instructions (adapted from Idea #37 from Mark Bittman in the New York Times):
Combine cooked brown rice with small, barely cooked broccoli florets and chopped pecans or walnuts and parsley. Dress with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. I toast the nuts first, and I also use peeled broccoli stems, which aren't as pretty but taste delicious.
Jackie Starr is a LexFarm founding member who has been a flexitarian home cook for 25 years. Her recipe selections and adaptations are informed by experiences living abroad, by having spent many years in the Bay Area and Seattle, and by a delight in local, seasonal bounty.
More Ideas for Broccoli
Use this recipe as a template for a simple pureed broccoli soup. Tailor it to your own taste, omitting cream or carrots if you wish.
Here is another simple broccoli soup that adds leeks and potato.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup is another classic.
What about coconut broccoli soup? Spinach gives this one a vibrant green color, and this one is topped with black lentils.
Make pasta with chicken, garlic, and broccoli with ziti to enjoy a North-End standard at home.
Pasta with broccoli, peppers, and olives makes a quick meal with jarred roasted peppers.
For a twist on mac-and-cheese, try this baked rigatoni with broccoli and Gorgonzola.
Add roasted broccoli to lasagna.
Green noodles match the broccoli in this one. You can use all broccoli if there isn't cauliflower on hand, but it certainly is pretty with both. If you have time to make it, homemade pasta is wonderful here.
Use raw broccoli and hazelnuts to make pesto, which you can use on pasta, in salad, or on a sandwich. Here's another version of pesto made with cooked broccoli.
OTHER MAIN DISHES
Make this black bean shrimp, substituting broccoli for the Chinese broccoli.
Instead of ordering takeout, make your own beef with broccoli.
Use steamed fresh broccoli to stuff a stromboli (like a calzone).
Try one of these abundance bowls with broccoli. There's a spicy rice bowl with kimchi, a quinoa bowl with broccoli and broccoli pesto, mixed vegetables with miso dressing and tofu, or a plate of savory miso broccoli and spiced lentils with tahini dressing.
Blasted broccoli is roasted until it's nearly burnt.
Top roasted broccoli with a Caesar-like dressing.
Sauté broccoli with garlic & hot pepper.
Make a salad from roasted broccoli with raisin vinaigrette.
Top salad greens with broccoli, avocado, and pistachio for "the greenest salad."
Here are even more broccoli recipes from Food & Wine, Martha Stewart and Real Simple.