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In praise of broccoli
For the first time in many years, I decided to grow broccoli in my garden. I’ve always loved it, and know that eating it frequently is good for my family and me.
In fact, broccoli has more vitamins A and C, lots of calcium and potassium, than virtually any other vegetable often eaten in this country.
Broccoli may have gotten a less than stellar reputation for a variety of reasons, including cooking it too long so that it becomes limp and dull green. If it is cooked at all, broccoli is supposed to be bright green and still crisp. Many people let it boil for far too long, when the best texture results from no more than five minutes. Steaming is even better, at about 6 to 8 minutes.
This nutritious vegetable is great raw as a green salad ingredient or for dipping. It’s a staple in a huge number of stir –fries, as anyone who has ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant or prepares their own at home can attest.
A significant portion of a broccoli bunch also gets thrown away. Most of the thick stem, unless woody, can be peeled and either cut up and cooked with the florets, or peeled, then cut finely for adding to salads and other dishes. The leaves are also filled with vitamins and minerals and can be used, too.
Many people smother a perfectly wonderful bunch of broccoli with cheese or other calorie-laden sauce. I like to prepare mine simply, with a little olive oil and perhaps a dash of garlic powder, or a couple of sautéed garlic cloves. Thyme or oregano also go well with broccoli.
Broccoli contains about 40 calories per cup. Although the broccoli heads in my garden are small this year, the florets
and stems are really tender. I plan to cut some of them up, blanch for a minute or two in boiling water, and freeze them. I am an advocate for canning most of the produce that comes from the garden, but canning any member of the cruciferous family not only results in a soft vegetable, but an unpleasantly strong flavored vegetable, as well.
Canning is also not a good way to preserve spinach and similar greens, because they turn into almost mush. Freezing is the way to go with them.
Broccoli is a close relative of cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli rabe. Its name is derived from the Italian for branch – brocco.
Here is one of our favorite broccoli salad recipes. It is served while still warm.
Broccoli, Bacon and Black Olive Salad (serves 6)
1 bunch broccoli, (about 1 and a half pounds) stems and florets cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked for about 5 minutes, drained
1 head endive, or similar green, sliced
one-half pound bacon (I use turkey bacon), diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons golden raisins (regular raisins work well, too)
1 cup black olives, such as kalamara, pitted and halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a splash of olive oil (optional)
In a large bowl, toss the warm broccoli with the endive. Set aside. In a skillet, cook the diced bacon until crisp. Remove bacon bits with a slotted spoon, leaving about one-third cup of the fat in the skillet. Saute’ the garlic in the bacon fat for a minute or two. Stir in the vinegar and raisins and simmer for about a minute. Pour the garlic mixture over the broccoli mixture and sprinkle with bacon bits and halved olives. Toss well, then season with salt and pepper.
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