Broccoli, often eaten for its nutritional value and health benefits, is hardly known for its deliciousness. This humble vegetable is used to being overlooked, contented to play an unassuming role in our dishes, quietly complementing its richer and more flavoursome counterparts. Today we are going to give it the credit that it deserves, to elevate its status from calefare (extras) to the best supporting actor, and to let it walk the red carpet with its head held high.
Broccoli, cut into florets*
* To prep the broccoli, cut it into bite size florets. For the stem, use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough exterior and cut it into 1-inch segments. To wash the broccoli, prepare a vegetable wash by combining 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp baking soda and a cup of water. Dilute some of the vegetable wash in a big pot of water and soak the broccoli florets and stem for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and use as intended.
Boiling – Boiled vegetables do not have a good reputation. Often associated with baby or hospital food, they are thought of as soft, bland and unappetising. Loving my vegetables green and crunchy, boiling has never been my choice of preparing vegetables. That is, till I came across this book by Tamar Adler. In the book, she imparts sound advice and lessons about day to day cooking through lovely writing, teaching home-cooks that simple ingredients could and will translate to stunning dishes; that good food doesn’t require skills and frills. Her passion and love for cooking is truly inspiring, and the advice she gives – enlightening. With a whole chapter dedicated to boiling vegetables, I learnt things that I never knew, banishing misconceptions I once had. It really is astounding how delicious boiled vegetables could taste when they are prepared properly.
Start by bringing water to boil in a pot and salt the water generously (in Tamar Adler’s words, till it tastes like sea water). Not only will this help to flavour the broccoli, it seasons the cooking liquid, turning it into an all-rounded vegetable stock. Next, boil the broccoli florets till fully cooked and tender (a fork should be able to pass through the thickest part easily). This brings out the sweetness of the vegetables, even if that means risking losing their bright green coat. Once done, drain the cooked broccoli and toss in good EVOO while hot*. Simple, but mind-blowingly delicious.
*There is no need to plunge the broccoli in an ice bath (to retain its colour). Cooked vegetables should look as it is, cooked. 🙂
Steaming – A comprehensive guide to steaming vegetables can be found here. Serve the steamed vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of flaky sea salt like here for an elegant side dish, or dress it up with a drizzle of truffle oil and lemon zest like here. I made the latter for my family one day, and the brother, who is usually slow to dish out compliments, had nothing but praise for it. The truffle oil introduces a rich earthy flavour, while the lemon zest adds a refreshing touch. Combined, it’s a dish set out to impress.
Roasting – Heat oven to 200 degree Celsius. Toss broccoli florets in olive oil, and season with salt & pepper. Roast for about 10-20 minutes till its edges are lightly charred and crispy. Roasted broccoli will lose it’s pretty fresh green coat and take on a dull unappetising brown. But don’t let this deter you! The browning imparts a nutty caramelised flavour, and tossed with more EVOO, some roasted pine nuts and grated parmesan, it is a side dish that you will be proud to serve to your guests. Alternatively, make it the complete meal with some brown rice, roasted sweet potato and delicious miso dressing, as in Smitten Kitchen’s version here.
With so many ways to enjoy this humble vegetable, you are bound to find one that you fancy. Who knows, you might never want to eat anything else for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ever again!
What is your favourite way to eat broccoli?