Basic Broccoli

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I learned a few years ago that broccoli is one of the winter garden vegetables that does not mind cold temperatures, snow, or ice in our area of South Texas.  When everything in the garden seems to be brown, gray, and soggy, it is fun to go out and cut as much as we need for a side dish or stir fry.  And the taste is so bright and fresh that only a sprinkle of salt and squeeze of fresh lemon is enough.  But there are so many ways to use broccoli and many ways to season or top it, that it really can be a go to choice to make a meal special.

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The biggest thing to remember is to never overcook broccoli. It is very tasty raw, added to green salad, mixed with cauliflower and dressed with lemon vinaigrette, or served with other crunchy veggies along with hummus or dip. When you do cook it, it can be roasted, steamed, grilled, or sauteed – just aim at undercooking!

My favorite way to cook broccoli on the stove top is to add 1/2 to 1 inch of water to a skillet, sprinkle with salt and lay the broccoli stalks flat in the skillet.  Bring water to a boil and let simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, then cover and steam to desired tenderness. This lets the broccoli turn bright green before steaming, and it will keep its color.

You can also steam broccoli by filling a pot with a few inches of water and inserting a steamer basket . Be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cover. Steam for 4-5 minutes, until tender.

Broccoli can also be sautéed. Make sure the broccoli is as dry as possible. Add only enough oil to coat a skillet, and set over medium-high heat. Add broccoli florets and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil. Add the sliced stems 1 minute later. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is bright green and tender.

Roasting broccoli is another great way to use the vegetable, and is very easy.  Heat the oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli florets and stems with a few teaspoons of oil and a half teaspoon of salt. Spread the broccoli on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the broccoli is crunchy with caramelized brown spots. Serve immediately.

Any of these methods of preparing broccoli can be used to make a side dish, cold or warm salads,add to a frittata, Quiche, or pizza. And as if that weren’t enough options, you can always dress things up a little by adding cheese or cream sauces.

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