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Try Joyce's recipes for two broccoli soups and two pastas.

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Versatile Broccoli
by Joyce Goldstein

Broccoli is the most popular member of the cabbage family which includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi. While cooking, it has the least cabbage-y taste and aroma. Broccoli is high in vitamins A, C and iron. Despite the fact that it's actually good for us, almost everyone loves it. Young children take great pleasure in eating this vegetable because it's easy to pick up the tiny green "trees" with fingers. In the battle to get them to eat green vegetables, fun eating comes first; manners can come later.

Broccoli By Another Name

There used to be only one kind of broccoli at the market: the large dark green headed variety with flowering clusters of buds, a few leaves and edible thick stems. Today we can choose between the standard green head, a purple-headed broccoli which turns green upon cooking, the smaller broccolini (which is sort of a broccoli/asparagus cross) with thin longer stems and no waste. There's also Chinese broccoli with longer leaves, thinner stems and a fewer bud clusters that are pale in hue. Recently we have been able to buy the original Roman broccoli called romanesco which is a bright chartreuse color and has spiral pointed florets. Most markets carry broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. And in this category, some would include the pungent and bitter leafy green called broccoli rabe, or rapini, which is a member of both the cabbage and turnip family, much beloved by Italian cooks as a foil for mild tasting pasta and beans.

Perfectly Stir-Fried or Steamed

To store broccoli, keep it in plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days. Broccoli can be boiled, steamed or stir fried. To stir fry, however, it's best to precook it a bit by one of the former methods. To prep broccoli for cooking, cut into florets, close to the main stem. As with asparagus, you want the stems to cook long enough to be tender, but don't want the flowery tops to overcook while you wait for the stems to soften sufficiently. To have both parts of the vegetable cook in the same length of time, you have to treat the stems in one of two ways. You may peel the thickish main stem and cut it into strips or batons. If the floret stems are thick, peel them with a vegetable peeler too. If they are thin but you don't want the heads to become mushy, cut a slit lengthwise starting at the bottom of the stem to a point midway. This will enable the steam or hot water to penetrate the stem from both the exterior and the interior, thus speeding cooking time. Arrange florets on a steamer rack above boiling water and cover the pan. Or parboil broccoli in a quantity of boiling salted water, drain. Some cooks refresh it with cold water to set the color.

Get Off the (Cream) Sauce

Broccoli is most often served hot and takes to a number of different sauces. Years ago, before we became more health conscious, the most popular sauce for broccoli was the classic, butter-and-egg-yolk rich hollandaise. Or sauces made with melted cheese. We have now learned to serve broccoli with olive oil based sauces. Because broccoli has a mildly assertive taste, it can support pungent additions such as garlic, anchovies, capers, olives and hot pepper. It also can be served at room temperature or cold, dressed with a lively vinaigrette.

Try Joyce Goldstein's Recipes:

Curried Broccoli Soup
Broccoli Soup with White Beans and Pasta
Orecchiette with Broccoli, Chickpeas and Tomatoes
Rigatoni with Broccoli, Garlic, Anchovies, Lemon, Pinenuts and Breadcrumbs

About Joyce Goldstein

Joyce Goldstein is a consultant to the restaurant and food industries. For 12 years she was chef/owner of the ground- breaking, award-winning Mediterranean restaurant SQUARE ONE in San Francisco. In addition, she taught cooking for 18 years. Joyce is the author of many cookbooks, including Sephardic Flavors Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Cucina Ebraica, Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, and The Mediterranean Kitchen.

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