Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Inner Life of Broccoli

Last summer, I read this article about a Cornell plant scientist who is trying to breed a better broccoli. Most broccoli is grown in moist, cool, foggy places, like coastal California, and doesn't tolerate warm temperatures, particularly at night. As broccoli is near the top of my favorite veggie list, I was keenly interested in his quest to breed a better broccoli, one that reaches the market sweet and crisp. Though he has successfully bred an improved broccoli, it may be a while before it reaches a market near you. Until then, is there a take-away from this work? Sure is - cook your broccoli soon after you buy it! Like that same day. No, it will not taste like fresh picked but every day it sits in your crisper is another day towards increased funkiness, something most people find off-putting about broccoli. You can steam it, chill it down quickly in ice water, drain, and refrigerate it until you need it. Heat it up in the microwave or quickly sauté it. Steaming is better at preserving nutrients than boiling, so I don't usually boil green vegetables.

Remember the stems are tasty too (in fact, they are often sweeter than the florets), but the lower stem has a thick fibrous layer that should be peeled off. Start from the bottom and pull upwards towards the florets on the thick outer layer. It will peel off in pieces. You don't need to peel all the way up; just the lower part is fibrous.

Also, learn to pick the freshest bunches: not limp and rubbery, and with tight green heads and no yellowing.

Here's a recipe, originally for asparagus, that works just as well on broccoli:

Broccoli with Goat Cheese Sauce
(serves 4, costs $2.75)

1 pound broccoli, trimmed, and cut into florets and stem pieces sliced ¼" thick
1 oz. creamy goat cheese with herbs
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ Tablespoon hot water

Combine goat cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, black pepper, and hot water in a medium bowl. Whisk until the sauce is smooth.

Steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes until just tender. Dress with sauce and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Nutrition Action.com, Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Dill Sauce

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