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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Broccoli Revisited

Broccoli Revisited:

About:

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head is eaten as a vegetable.  The word "broccoli" is the Italian plural of the word "broccolo" referring to the flowering top of the cabbage plant.  It most closely resembles the cauliflower which is another variety in the same species.  Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable.

Varieties:

 There are three common types of broccoli  including the most familiar which is the Calabrese broccoli from Calabria in Italy with its large green heads and thick stalks.   Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many small stalks.  Purple broccoli is sold in southern Italy, Spain and the UK and has a head like cauliflower but with tiny heads.  There is also what is called broccoli rabe.  Another name for it is rapini.  It has small heads like broccoli but is actually a turnip.

Uses:

Broccoli can be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked, or eaten raw.  It can be prepared countless ways.  My favorite is steamed and then sauteed in olive oil, garlic and onion. 

History:

Broccoli has its roots in Italy.  In ancient Roman times it was developed from wild cabbage , a plant more resembling collards than broccoli.  Thomas Jefferson first brought broccoli  seeds to Monticello from Italy.  He was not particularly fond of broccoli.  It wasn't until the Italian immigration of the 1920's that broccoli became more popular here in America.  The Italians knew the proper way to cook it.


My Story:

One of the dishes my Grandma Schiera would make was broccoli and macaroni.  She made it soupy with lots of oil and garlic.  My father told me that one time a cousin was eating over and asked what those floating  little green pieces were.  My father answered  that they were pieces of the broccoli, but his cousin insisted  they were bugs that came out of the broccoli when it was cooked.  My father did not like broccoli and macaroni for a long time after that.

Nutition:

Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium, and folate.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pentothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A, potassiumj, and copper.  It is a good source of magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and serlenium.

Health Benefits:

 One of the compounds in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response with anti-bacterial, anti-virus, and anti-cancer activity.  Broccoli has anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidant benefits and pro-detoxification componenets.   Broccoli is usually boiled  or steamed, but may be eaten raw.  Researchers found that boiling reduces the anti-cancer compounds, but  steaming, stir frying, or microwaving has no significant effect.  Steamed broccoli is better for binding with bile acids which help the body eliminate cholesterol.   An average of 1/2 cup of broccoli per day or 2 cups twice a week is enough to show benefits.  Broccoli research has shown decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and overian cancer. 

Season:

Broccoli is a cool weather crop that is planted in the spring or fall.  It is available all year, but peak season is March through November.

Selecting and Storing:

 Look for firm, clean stalks with tight bluish green florets, that are compact and not bruised.  Check the stems to make sure they are not too thick or hard.  Those tend to be woody.  You can peel off the outer skin of the stems and then slice it up to cook and eat with the florets.  Broccoli should have little or no fragrance.  Broccoli will keep up to ten days if refrigerated and kept moist in an airtight plastic bag.  Once it starts to get spongy you can slice off some of the bottom of the stalk and soak the broccoli in ice water to firm it up and extend the life.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:


Broccoli with Farfalle:

1 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
2 heads broccoli trimmed to florets (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tbs butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and cook stirring occaisionally.  After 5 minutes add the broccoli to the pasta and cook another 4 minutes.  Drain the pasta and broccoli reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  
Meanwhile in a large skillet heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli, pasta, salt, pepper and toss.  Add some of the reserved water if necessary to make a light sauce.  Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. 
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