Broccoli is one of those vegetables you may have not wanted to eat when you were younger. Simply boiled, it can be mushy without much flavor. But artfully prepared, it becomes a versatile ingredient that can be the star of any dish. Even President Obama declared his love for the vegetable earlier this year at a recent school appearance.
We know, broccoli isn't exactly in season, but it's still available at the store, and still tastes great. LA Times Food editor and California Cook Russ Parsons's recommends "baby" broccoli, broccoli rabe or whatever is crisp and stiff. The flower buds should be closed tightly and be a dark green color.
Here are 5 recipes that will make it easy to get you and your kids to eat your green vegetables.
Pasta with broccoli and Italian sausage
Total time: 25 minutes
1 head broccoli (about 3/4 pound)
2 links fresh Italian sausage ( 1/4 to 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound dried short pasta, such as fusilli, penne, or ziti; or long dried pasta such as spaghetti
1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, clean the broccoli: Separate the florets from the stems and set them aside. Remove the tough peel of the stems with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, then cut the stems into half-inch cubes. Remove the casings from the sausage.
2. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and crumble the sausage meat into the oil, flattening each piece slightly so it will brown better. Cook until the sausage browns and crisps. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic turns pale brown, about 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic scorch; if it begins to brown, remove the pan from the heat.
3. Add the pasta and the diced broccoli stems to the boiling water and cook 6 to 7 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and cook until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes total. Scoop out the pasta and broccoli and drain; keep the water at a boil.
4. Place the skillet over high heat and add the drained broccoli and pasta to the sausage and garlic. Add one-half cup boiling water from the pasta pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the water mostly boils away, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
5. Divide the pasta evenly among 6 warmed pasta plates and shave pecorino Romano over the top with a vegetable peeler.
Each serving: 406 calories; 15 grams protein; 62 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 12 mg. cholesterol; 263 mg. sodium.
Broccoli rabe with burrata
30 minutes. Serves 4 to 6
1 pound broccoli rabe or baby broccoli, bottoms trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if necessary
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 (4-ounce) balls burrata cheese
1. In a big pot of liberally salted rapidly boiling water, blanch the broccoli rabe. Cook just until it's tender but still crisp, 2 to 5 minutes, then remove from the boiling water and transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry in a kitchen towel.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, gently, until the garlic toasts and crisps, about 10 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. It's better to have it undercooked than over.
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the broccoli rabe. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice and toss in the flavored oil until lightly coated.
4. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a platter. (The dish can be made to this point several hours in advance and left at room temperature.)
5. Divide each burrata ball into 4 to 6 pieces, being careful to preserve the filling. Scatter the burrata over the top of the broccoli rabe. If there is no more olive oil in the skillet, add another tablespoon and swirl it around. Spoon the olive oil over the top of the burrata pieces and serve.
EACH OF 6 SERVINGS
Protein 9 grams
Carbohydrates 5 grams
Fat 17 grams
Saturated fat 7 grams
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sugar 1 gram
Sodium 23 mg
NOTE: This recipe is inspired by a dish Gary Vitti made, though it's not identical to it.
Andrea's broccoli casserole
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 12 to 16
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onions
2 cups sliced mushrooms, about 1/4 pound
1 (10¾-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese, divided
2 pounds frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 (6-ounce) can French-fried onions
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large saute pan heated over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Stir in the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the mushroom soup, mayonnaise, eggs, 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup parmesan cheese until thoroughly combined. Stir in the thawed broccoli, then the cooked onions and mushrooms. Place the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cheddar and parmesan cheese along with the French-fried onions to form the topping. Scatter the topping evenly over the broccoli.
5. Bake the casserole until bubbly and the topping is golden-brown, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Each of 16 servings: 297 calories; 10 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 25 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 56 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 471 mg sodium.
Roasted broccoli rabe with white beans and ricotta salata
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 to 12
Note: Reserve half of the bean and wine mixture in Step 3 for use in the green chile and chicken stew, or add all of the bean mixture to the broccoli rabe, if preferred. Ricotta salata can be found at Bristol Farms, Whole Foods and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 shallots, roughly chopped
2 medium bunches broccoli rabe (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed and cut into 2-inch and 3-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 ounce ricotta salata
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, place 2 tablespoons of the oil, orange zest, shallots and broccoli rabe along with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper and toss well. Spread the broccoli rabe in an even layer on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast, tossing halfway through, until the broccoli rabe is wilted, tender and some leaves are just crispy, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the thyme, pepper flakes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add the beans, one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper and cook, stirring often, until heated through and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, stir gently and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until most of the liquid has evaporated but the beans are still moist, 3 to 5 minutes more. (Reserve half of the bean mixture for the green chile and chicken stew, if you like.)
4. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a large serving bowl when done. Toss with the beans and shave the ricotta salata on top. Serve immediately.
Each of 12 servings: 122 calories; 6 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 6 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 3 mg. cholesterol; 184 mg. sodium.
Broccoli and roasted garlic soup
Total time: 1 hour, plus 45 minutes roasting time for the garlic
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: Adapted from "Autumn Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy With Family and Friends" by Rick Rodgers. He notes, "Roasted garlic is a great thing to have in the refrigerator, ready to perk up your everyday cooking. I often take a few seconds to prepare a couple of heads and toss them in the oven when I am roasting something else. One autumn Saturday, when I wanted a warming soup after gardening, I made this soup from what was on hand, and now it's a staple."
1 large, plump head of garlic
Olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch broccoli, about 1 3/4 pounds
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. To roast the garlic, cut off the top one-half inch of the garlic head to make a "lid." Drizzle the cut surfaces with a little olive oil and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Replace the lid. Wrap the garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until the garlic is tender and a rich golden color, about 45 minutes. Unwrap and cool. The garlic can now be used for the soup, or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated until ready to use, up to 1 week.
2. Meanwhile, cut the florets from the broccoli stalks. Coarsely chop the florets, then peel and coarsely chop the stalks.
3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the onion and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped broccoli and potato.
4. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Simmer until the potato is very tender, about 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pot, discarding the hulls. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Puree the soup in batches using a blender, or in the pot using an immersion blender. Serve hot. This makes about 2 1/2 quarts soup.
Each of 8 servings: 132 calories; 5 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 8 mg. cholesterol; 334 mg. sodium.