Broccoli, a relative of the cabbage, is widely grown in temperate climates in many parts of the world, particularly in the cooler regions. Like its cousin the cauliflower, it is made up of the unopened flowerheads of the plant. In the familiar dark green broccoli, also called calabrese, the buds are tightly packed in large, pebbly heads, whereas in sprouting species the buds, which may be purple, white, or green, are in groups on individual long, slender stems. Very similar, although more leafy, is broccoli raab, also called broccoli di rape, or cime di rapa in Italy. Dark green broccoli has a fine texture and a light cabbagelike flavor with a hint of sweetness; sprouting broccoli is sweeter and more tender. Broccoli raab is the least sweet of the types, with a pleasant, zesty bite.
Although available year-round, the best broccoli is in the markets in fall through winter to spring. With dark green broccoli, the heads should be dense, with no separation between the green buds and no yellow flowers showing: the presence of even one flower means the plant is turning fibrous and woody. Sprouting-broccoli types should have firm stems and fresh leaves. Cut ends should look moist, not split and dried out.
Broccoli will keep well in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator for 3–4 days.
Broccoli can be separated into small florets and peeled strips of stem to eat raw, in salads or as crudités.
Boil or steam, bake in sauce, braise, coat in batter and deep-fry, stir-fry, or sauté.
Bacon, anchovies, cheese, pesto, hollandaise sauce, lemon, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil.
Chinese stir-fried broccoli; broccoli alla Romana; à la crème, à la polonaise; al burro e formaggio.
The most common variety of broccoli, this is rich green with a meaty flavor and, if not overcooked, a crunchy texture. It is packed with nutrients that are best retained by steaming.
The elegant spears have a chewy texture and full-bodied flavor. In Italy, sprouting broccoli is served in the same way as asparagus—with olive oil, melted butter, or hollandaise sauce.
Serve this easy Chinese vegetable dish with grilled meats, poultry, or fish, and some steamed sticky rice.
- 1 large head of broccoli
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/8 tsp crushed hot red pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the stems and cut them crosswise into thin slices.
Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and cook, stirring almost constantly, about 1–2 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate.
Add the oil, soy sauce, and hot pepper flakes to the hot pan and stir to combine. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
Pour in the stock and cover. Cook for about 2 minutes longer, or until crisp-tender. Stir in the sesame seeds and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.