Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

The Remarkable Versatility of Broccoli

There’s a lot to love about this big green vegetable.

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By Tejal Rao

I’m on a broccoli-cooking spree, and last week, I was mesmerized by a whole head of chartreuse-colored romanesco — the whirling, psychedelic, beautifully repetitive structure. When I posted it to Instagram, the cookbook author Domenica Marchetti called it “the M.C. Escher of vegetables,” and the journalist Julia O’Malley told me she refers to it as “acid broccoli.” Perfect descriptions, I thought.

Plain old green broccoli has less obvious visual interest, but it’s still a remarkable vegetable. I mean, every head is a cluster of teeny-tiny green flower buds held on thick, juicy stems — a marvel! You can toss the florets into a pot of stovetop mac and cheese, letting then soften directly into the sauce, or purée them until super smooth, almost creamy, for a vegan soup, bright with fennel and dill.

And because of the airiness of the florets, all that space between the buds, you can also get broccoli wonderfully crisp. Roast it on really high heat, in a single layer, to brown the stems and frizzle the ends. You can dress that broccoli simply, and have it as a side, or, use it to make Ali Slagle’s delicious new grain bowl with nooch dressing. The nutritional yeast gives the sauce a mellow, cheesy flavor, and the powdered garlic tips it almost into ranch dressing territory. I liked it with farro, but you can use wheat berries or quinoa, too.

If you’re ever left with any raw broccoli stems, slice and sauté them. You can snack on these as is, or you can toss them in everything bagel seasoning and add them to a bowl of scrambled eggs on rice for breakfast the next day.

Let’s move on to broccoli rabe. I love it so much, but it isn’t related to broccoli — it isn’t a broccoli at all! It’s a turnip variety, which explains its slight pungency, its edge of bitterness. It’s also why it does really well with a little extra fat and sweetness.

Take this gorgeous, simple dish, where it’s braised in lots of olive oil with chickpeas, for example. Or Melissa Clark’s garlicky beans with broccoli rabe, where red onion is cooked slowly, until it’s golden, sweetening the greens. (The recipe calls for an electric pressure cooker, but if you don’t have one, just simmer the beans on the stovetop until they’re tender.)

Roasted Broccoli Grain Bowl With Nooch Dressing

Go to the recipe.

One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Go to the recipe.

Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas and Broccoli Rabe

Go to the recipe.

One More Thing!

Are you sick of me going on and on about mushrooms? Well I’m sorry, but I saw Bettina Makalintal’s cool story about squishing her mushrooms, and now I want to tell everyone I know about it, including you.

Bettina cooks oyster mushrooms or maitakes — any variety with what she calls a more frilly shape — in a cast-iron skillet with a second pan on top. This presses the mushrooms down against the hot surface, getting them superbrown and crispy-edged. So smart!

Thanks for reading the Veggie, and see you next week.

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