Ingredient Profile: Broccoli
Broccoli –botanical name is Brassica oleracea cv.italica—comes from the highly nutritious Brassica family and considered to be a cruciferous vegetable. Brassica family also includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach and chard.
Broccoli is originated from Italy more than 2000 years ago. From there, it spread throughout Europe and was introduced to the US by Italian immigrants. However, it did not gain popularity until 1920s.
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli:
• Calabrese broccoli (the most familiar variety)
• Sprouting broccoli
• Purple cauliflower (a type of broccoli although its head is shaped like cauliflower)
Choose vibrant green firm, tight broccoli heads. The small buds in the florets should not have opened or flowered. When you look at the end of the stalk, if it’s brown or very dry, then the broccoli is not at its freshest.
Put unwashed broccoli in a plastic bag, seal and refrigerate in the crisper section of your fridge. Use within 3 to 4 days.
Both stalk and head of broccoli can be eaten. Wash broccoli in cold water when ready to use, then trim off just the end of the stem. If outer layer of remaining stalk is tough, peel it with a potato peeler. Cut the remaining stalk into thick slices. Cut off florets, leaving some stem on each. Slice large florets lengthwise through stems to make pieces even.
• One thing you need to know about broccoli is, it is most nutritious if eaten raw. However, if you cook it, the actual cooking method you use will determine how much of broccoli’s nutrient content is maintained. For example, the nutritional loss of broccoli is the highest if it’s microwaved.
• The stalk takes 2-3 minutes longer to cook than the florets, so remember to add the stalk slices to the pan first.
• Cook broccoli in water at a rolling boil. If serving with pasta, cook it in the same pan with the pasta. Sprouting broccoli is more delicate than broccoli, so it’s best steamed rather than boiled.
Steaming broccoli: Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water. Place the steamer basket on top, making sure that the level of water is not high enough to touch the bottom of it. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and cover. Steam for about 5 minutes.
Blanching broccoli: First of all, prepare a bowl of ice water and have it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add broccoli florets and cook until crisp-tender. That should take about 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge immediately in the ice water you prepared earlier.
Stir-frying broccoli: Heat the oil in a frying pan or a wok over high to medium-high heat. Add the florets and toss to coat with oil. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is bright green and tender.
Roasting broccoli: Heat the oven to 220ºC/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Make sure the broccoli is as dry as possible. Toss the broccoli florets and stems with a few teaspoons of oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Spread the broccoli on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli is crunchy.
Where to Use
Cooked broccoli can be eaten hot or cold. It’s delicious in cold or warm salads, side dishes, frittatas, soups, pasta dishes, risotto, curries, stir-fries and vegetable bakes.
• Blue cheese
• Corn, baby corn
• Hard-boiled egg
• Roasted red pepper
• Spring onion
• Feta cheese
• Black pepper
• Vegetarian tuna
• Sesame seeds
• Balsamic vinegar
• Rice, especially brown rice
Broccoli is known for its high concentration of sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound with disease-fighting capabilities –the smelly part. Other than that, it is a good source of vitamins C, A, K and B6, calcium, folic acid, chromium, manganese, phosphorus, choline, potassium, zinc, iron, niacin and copper.
Broccoli is also concentrated in phytonutrients. One in particular: glucosinolates. It is believed that glucosinolates play a major role in preventing cancer.