Broccoli, Mon Amour

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Who doesn’t love broccoli?

OK there’s the name, for starters. It’s frilly and diminutive; perhaps its parents wanted to call it “Brock” but changed their minds once they saw the crooked arms and poufy extremities (even more adorable is “broccolini”, broccolli’s smaller cousin, but that’s another story). In fact, broccoli, from the Italian brocco, which means shoot or stalk, is a diminutive of that word (thus, little stalk).

Broccoli is in season now, but you don’t see many food writers or bloggers extolling its virtues. Seduced by corn, tomatoes and summer squash, the plain-Jim broccoli is ignored until winter, when its fair (or foul) weather friends come calling.

Me, I always go for the underdog.

But broccoli’s actually more like Clark Kent, a mild-mannered, self-effacing superhero.

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It’s high in vitamin C and fiber and has many potent anti-cancer properties that work to boost the immune system.It ‘s also a good source of Protein, Vitamin E Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Selenium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese. Broccoli leaves are edible, too, and contain way more betacarotene than the florets. Broccoli’s also full of Vitamin K, a little known super-vitamin that helps blood coagulate and strengthens the bones.

I ate broccoli a lot when I was a low-income artist and sessional instructor. I was on a tight food budget. I’d go into a shop and think about what I could make for, like, four dollars. Stir-fry. Chili. Minestrone soup. My good friend broccoli agreed with every dish.

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And then, I sold my soul to the devil and got myself a decent job. (Academic by Day, Artist by Night, I call myself, but even that’s stretching it). Broccoli went by the wayside as I spent the big bucks on heirloom tomatoes, stripey and orangy beets, or enormous mushrooms with fancy names. Oh, and then there was my dalliance with frozen foods at the height of the semester: dreadful mushy organic cannelloni, or bland vegetarian burritos.

Breaking my wrist as well as encountering some of serious back pain this past year brought me to my senses.

Broccoli, I’m back.

Lately I’ve been eating a lot of the quinoa salad I created, recipe below. But I’m needing some new approaches. Do you love the unsung hero broccoli as much as I do? How do you cook it? What deliciously healthful, plain or exotic, complex or simple dishes have you created in homage?

Tabouleh a la Broccoli

1 cup uncooked quinoa (you could substitute bulgur if quinoa is too hard to find)
About 2 cups chopped broccoli
A handful or 2 of finely chopped parsley
1 block of firm tofu
1/2 cup sliced olives
1 clove garlic
2 glugs of seasoned rice vinegar
1 small glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa for about 15 minutes in 2 cups salted water, until tender yet firm. You can either steam the broccoli separately or throw it in with the quinoa at the seven minute mark or so (you don’t want the broc to be too soft). (If using bulgur, you don’t have to cook it, just steam according to directions).

Meanwhile, chop the parsely, slice the olives (I use pre-sliced! shhh!), smash the garlic. Throw it in a bowl.

About the tofu: I like to chop it into chunks, arrange it on a baking tray, and pour soya sauce and a bit of veg broth over all. Roast at 350 degrees for about ten minutes or until lightly browned and un-soft.

Throw in the tofu, the quinoa, the broccoli, and pour the vinegar and olive oil over all. Toss, chill, and eat. Stores well for a week or so in the fridge. Great with chicken. Great on its own.

One Comment

  1. Moments before I opened this post I had I just finished eating some cold, leftover steamed broccoli as a snack – freaky!

    Broccoli is always in our shopping cart. It’s on our dinner plates at least twice a week and I often make lunch time salads with broccoli slaw. I’m a huge fan. But, not everyone loves this veg. I’ve often heard it maligned when I do demos.

    Apparently George Bush hates it, too. I guess that’s good reason to like it as well.

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