I’m cooking broccoli and last week I was mesmerized by a whole head of chartreuse-colored romanesco – the swirling, psychedelic, beautifully repetitive structure. When I posted it on Instagram, cookbook author Domenica Marchetti called it “the MC Escher of vegetables,” and journalist Julia O’Malley told me she called it “sour broccoli.” Perfect descriptions, I thought.
Plain old green broccoli has less obvious visual interest, but it’s still a remarkable vegetable. I mean, each head is a cluster of tiny green flower buds held on thick, succulent stems – a miracle! You can toss the florets into a pan of mac and cheese on the stove, then soften them directly into the sauce, or puree them until super smooth, almost creamy, for a vegan soup, clear with fennel and dill.
And because of the lightness of the florets, all that space between the buds, you also get broccoli wonderfully crunchy. Roast it over very high heat, in a single layer, to brown the stems and fluff the ends. You can simply dress up that broccoli and use it as a side dish, or you can use it to make Ali Slagle’s delicious new grain bowl with nooch dressing. The nutritional yeast gives the sauce a smooth, cheesy flavor, and the garlic powder almost takes it into ranch dressing territory. I liked it with farro, but you can also use wheat berries or quinoa.
If you ever have raw broccoli stems, slice and fry them. You can snack on them as they are, or you can toss them in all bagel seasonings and add them to a bowl of scrambled eggs on rice for breakfast the next day.
Let’s move on to broccoli rabe. I love it so much, but it has nothing to do with broccoli – it’s not broccoli at all! It is a type of turnip, which explains the slight sharpness and bitterness. It’s also why it really does well with a little extra fat and sweetness.
Take this wonderfully simple dish, for example, in which it is stewed in lots of olive oil with chickpeas. Or Melissa Clark’s garlicky beans with broccoli rabe, where red onion is slow-cooked, until golden brown, sweetening the greens. (The recipe calls for an electric pressure cooker, but if you don’t have one, just simmer the beans on the stovetop until tender.)
Chickpeas and broccoli stewed in olive oil Rabe
Go to the recipe.
One more thing!
Tired of me going on and on about mushrooms? I’m sorry, but I saw Bettina Makalintal’s cool story about squeezing her mushrooms, and now I want to tell everyone I know about it, including you.
Bettina cooks oyster mushrooms or maitakes — any variety with what she calls a more frilly shape — in a cast iron skillet with a second pan on top. This will press the mushrooms against the hot surface, turning them super brown and crisp. So smart!
Thanks for reading the Veggie, and see you next week.